Kevin Betts is the senior executive director of the newest center at the Daniels College of Business

Like any good startup story, Kevin Betts’ begins in a basement.

At Arizona State University, Betts was working on an English degree, with a plan of becoming a teacher. But as he attended classes, he took a job as a personal trainer at a facility called Fitness For Life.

Kevin Betts

Before long, he became a manager. And soon, the business began to expand to other locations. From their “underground headquarters,” Betts and the founder of the company started to franchise the business.

“I bought into the vision hook, line and sinker,” said Betts, who was soon promoted to vice president of the company. “We thought big but were small. As soon as I graduated from college, I had to make a decision as to whether I was going to go right into the world of education and teaching, or stick with what I’ve been doing.”

Betts chose to stick with Fitness For Life, a decision that would spark a love for franchising and, eventually, carry him to the senior executive director position at the Liniger Center on Franchising, a new entity within the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business.

“I am really passionate about franchising,” Betts said. “I really like the opportunity of being able to pull a community of people together and allow them to benefit from each other and feed off each other and learn from each other.”

The Liniger Center is the first institution of its kind west of the Mississippi River. It bears the name of Dave and Gail Liniger, who co-founded local real estate giant RE/MAX and provided the funding to get the center off the ground.

The Liniger Center is designed to bring franchisors and franchisees together for education, networking and thought leadership. Through a variety of workshops, classes and events, members of the community can build connections, seek advice, and learn more about franchising and the best practices to ensure success.

“Whether you’re a franchisor or a franchisee, owning a business can be lonely at times,” Betts said. “Having somebody to go to that’s gone down that path before or has dealt with some of the challenges a business owner faces is important.”

Betts moved from Arizona to Colorado in 1999 to grow the Fitness For Life (now Fitness Together) brand. He also helped launch and grow another brand, Elements Massage. Combined, they currently have hundreds of locations throughout the country. Both are part of a parent company known as WellBiz Brands Inc. 

He’s still settling in at DU, but Betts is already building his knowledge and developing his vision for the Liniger Center.

But for now, he’s learning more about DU’s existing infrastructure and studying opportunities for collaboration with some of the College’s other divisions, like Executive Education and the Bailey Program for Family Enterprise. Academia may be new territory, but the process of launching a new entity feels familiar.

“That’s really what franchising is: entering into a situation where someone’s already gone down the road,” Betts said. “So rather than reinvent that road yourself, you can piggyback and cut the learning curve and the success curve.”

Outside of the office, Betts enjoys spending time with his wife of 25 years and watching his three boys play the various sports they’re involved in. He also likes snowboarding, backpacking, hiking and mountain biking.

On campus, Betts says he is collaborative—always open to talking business, kicking ideas around and refining what’s already in place. He’s focused on creating something that’s professional, practical and meaningful to those who use it.

“I want to build something that can represent the Liniger name well, that can represent the franchise community well, represent the University well and, I think, ultimately [become something] that those involved in building this can be proud of.”