Sandy Springs has been chosen for a new and innovative business concept that blends health with shared workspace. Called Wello Works, its creators coined the phrase “where wellness meets coworking.” This U.S. prototype will open in Fountain Oaks Shopping Center on Roswell Road in February.
The man behind the business model is Australian native Tony de Leede, who is no stranger to Sandy Springs. He first moved to Sandy Springs in 1981 and opened his first Australian Body Works fitness center in the Chastain area, although its headquarters was in Sandy Springs. “So, this is a bit of a homecoming for me,” he said. He recalled that he came to Atlanta to work for a friend on what he thought would be a temporary basis. “I came for two weeks and stayed 20 years,” he laughed.
In June 2000, his 22-club chain with the kangaroo logo was acquired by L.A. Fitness Sports Clubs. But the serial entrepreneur kept creating new business ventures, even after he returned to Australia. In fact, that country’s culture is even responsible for the new venture’s name. In the country Down Under, to take a smoking break is to take a “smoko.” Hence, to take a wellness break is to take a “wello.”
According to de Leede, only 20 percent of the population is really dedicated to exercising. The other 80 percent hesitate to go to fitness centers because they are afraid, intimidated or just uncomfortable that the instructor or other participants will look at them.
The idea behind Wello Works is that healthy movement can be had in small bites, of maybe 10, 20 or 30 minutes. “That’s better than nothing. I say between one hour and 10 minutes is good. My goal is to try to cater to that 80 percent.”
Not far from the new Wello Works are four fitness facilities, including one focused on boxing. In the same shopping center is a bridge club that caters to those in their 60s or 70s. “That socialization makes their day,” he said. According to de Leede, loneliness is a major killer, with suicide high in the 70-age group. “Their partners have died, and digital devices have driven us to loneliness.”
What he, along with his Atlanta-based daughter Nicole de Leede Harmon, are offering to the Sandy Springs community “is critical to people’s ongoing life.”
According to de Leede, there are five pillars of wellness: what you eat, how you move, getting sleep, socialization and head space or mental wellbeing.
There are two major aspects of Wello Works: wellness and coworking. For the latter, customers will have a choice of permanent desks with locking offices, or more communal spaces where people can bring in their computers to work. Boardrooms and “quiet areas” will also be available. Free coffee and mineral water will be available to both, as well as access to a variety of wellness options.
These include an extensive array of meditation pods, hydromassage, wellness pods, hot and cold therapy, infrared saunas and LED light therapy. The amenities are designed to help people feel good while they are working and growing their businesses.
Two-thirds of the 10,300-square-foot property upstairs on the south side of Fountain Oaks is planned for workspace.
De Leede said that his daughter, who will primarily be running the business, has a marketing background. And “she’s a bit too much like me,” so they often have “robust conversations about the business.”
Their biggest challenge is to “explain what we are and what we do.” To surmount that obstacle, the father-daughter team plan to use the “try before you buy or test drive” marketing tools. Pricing for customers will have a large range, although a “founder’s price” will start at $19 per week.
To reach the target audience, Harmon plans to use visual marketing with videos, as well as YouTube and Google advertising. She intends to “tease the market” in the next few weeks with the help of partnering influencers.
Looking longer term, de Leede believes the model center can be duplicated elsewhere. “It’s a scalable model for suburbs around the world.”
Certainly, the concept of workspace has changed over the last few years, partly as a result of the Covid pandemic, which forced many people to work from home, but also limited their need for socialization. De Leede predicted that restaurants where people have brought their computers to work, but oftentimes purchased little food or drink, will start limiting how long people can occupy those tables.
“The world is changing rapidly,” he said. And he anticipates that Wello Works will fit the needs of that new world.