A HECTIC session chasing after his young son at children's fitness centre My Gym planted a seed that eventually changed the life of former corporate high-flier Eric Lim.

That fateful gym visit in 2005 came at the right time for Mr Lim, who was aching to get off the infocomms technology treadmill.

Back then, he was living a fast-paced, exhausting life, working long hours that could stretch until 4am. Then it was home for a shower, some sleep - hopefully - before the cycle started again at 9am.

When he realised he was so busy that he could not remember what he had done in the previous week, he decided enough was enough.

"One day I went to the beach and asked myself, 'If I died today, what would I regret?', because my life was a blank page every day."

Mr Lim, 45, quit his high-paying corporate job with a plan to start a child-related business so he could spend more time with his then two-year-old son.

Using their son as a "guinea pig", Mr Lim and his wife accompanied him to various enrichment programmes.

They focused on physical activities: It was a niche market that was not fully explored and was in line with their philosophy that children should have fun and be fit.

Though there were other gym programmes on offer, Mr Lim found that his son was highly engaged by the activities run by My Gym, where a session could be akin to a fun trip to the circus.

Kids from the ages of four months to 10 years take part in various activities, including hanging in mid-air on rings, flipping around on bars and balancing on beams.

My Gym and its proprietary programmes, which were developed in the United States, already had a master franchise in Singapore, which meant it had the rights to sub-franchise outlets here.

Keen on the potential, Mr Lim forked out about $200,000 to start a first outlet in Marine Parade in 2006.

"We took the franchise route because it shortens the learning curve. We do not have to research the programmes or the content and the risks are lower since it's already a proven business," Mr Lim notes.

Times were not easy. As it was his first outlet, it took a while for the business to get off the ground.

To keep costs low, Mr Lim handled all aspects of the operations, including mopping the floor, cleaning the equipment and cleaning up after the children.

The outlet went into the black after nine months and he was able to recover his capital investment to break even in less than three years.

Encouraged by that success, he opened a second My Gym outlet in Tampines in 2009. This time, the branch took just a month to be operationally profitable and 18 months to get back its capital investment.

My Gym charges parents $425 for a 10-week package, which gives children a one-hour session twice a week.

Each outlet sees between 300 and 600 customer visits a week.

Not content with just looking after his outlets, Mr Lim then bought the Singapore master franchise rights in 2011 for between $500,000 and $700,000.

He soon set about expanding the chain's presence, finding a franchisee to set up shop in Rochester in 2011.

Three other franchisee outlets were opened last year - in River Valley, Ang Mo Kio and Jurong.

There are six outlets, two run directly by Mr Lim and four by his franchisees, who pay about $200,000 to get going.

This includes franchise fees and renovation and equipment costs.

They also get help in looking for a location, training instructors and designing the gym's floor plan.

A flat monthly rate is levied on franchisees instead of a cut of the earnings as a way to help new franchisees grow.

Mr Lim declined to reveal the rates.

To ensure standards are high, spot checks by mystery shoppers are conducted to see how staff speak to customers and how lessons are carried out.

These sorts of checks are also being done by the parent US company, which requires outlets around the world to regularly submit video sessions on the classes they hold.

Mr Lim is now taking a more strategic view of the business.

"As a franchisee, I just had to take care of my own centres. But now I have to worry about other people, plan roadshows and nationwide marketing to improve our brand awareness."

He is also setting his sights on regional expansion, having bought the master franchise rights in other countries, which cannot be named owing to confidentiality clauses.

"The fastest way for me to spread my wings is really through the franchise, rather than opening up every single outlet myself."