We’ll bet you didn’t know this: The first Weightwatchers meeting was held over a pizza shop!
Coming up the origins of the most famous weight loss company in the world.
Jean Nidetch was an overweight woman obsessed with eating cookies. At 5 foot 7 inches tall, her frame was struggling to support 214 pounds in 1961. That’s when the 38-year-old Brooklyn housewife recruited friends to help her stay on a diet.
It was a stroke of genius – group support – one of the underpinnings (if you will) for what became Weight Watchers International.
It started when Nidetch invited several overweight friends to go on a sensible diet — and join her for weekly check in meetings at her small apartment. Within two months she had 40 women in her group. A year later, Nidetch had lost 70 pounds and her first public meeting in Queens NY attracted 400 people.
And here’s a bit of trivia. Some of those early Weight Watchers meetings were held over a pizza parlor. The poor owner wondered what all the people lining up outside were going – they certainly weren’t eating anything.
Nidetch was soon holding meetings three times a day, seven days a week, and was near exhaustion. That’s when Al and Felice Lippert, a couple the Nidetchs knew, suggested recruiting group leaders to franchise the business. In 1963 they formed a 4-person partnership and incorporated as Weight Watchers International.
Two years later, they contracted with food companies and began marketing Weight Watchers meals in supermarkets. Next they started a magazine. Soon they marketed scales and other equipment for Weight Watchers meetings.
Within 10 years of its start (1973) Weight Watchers was truly international — with 102 franchises worldwide
Today Weight Watchers helps millions of dieters in more than 30 countries through meetings, meal plans, cookbooks, Weight Watchers Online and Weight Watchers foods.
But what about that Pizzeria owner who had all those dieters meeting upstairs? He profited too. Nidetch worked with him to create a highly successful Weight Watcher’s milkshake.
Jean Nidetch exemplifies Axioms for Entrepreneurs: Think around your frustration. She pioneered the group support concept central to modern weight loss regimens and founded WeightWatchers.
Now Why Didn’t I Think of That?