Thousands of people trying to lose weight are out of pocket and 30 employees have lost their jobs after the collapse of Scottish Slimmers.
The Aberdeen-based business – owned and led by north-east businesswoman Amanda Boyle – said yesterday it had ceased trading at midnight on Friday and was going into liquidation.
But Ms Boyle, who in 2015 was made an OBE for her services to business, vowed to revive the venture and its 140-strong national network of slimming classes as a social enterprise.
She acquired the weight loss and healthy eating business from private investors for a six-figure sum just over a year ago, becoming chief executive.
But it soon became clear its operating model was “unsustainable”, and reporting and company data from before the acquisition were unreliable, she said yesterday,.
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The 54-year-old added: “Despite an encouraging start to 2019, it has become impossible to sustain a model where the costs of running the class network are twice the level of the annual revenue generated by these classes.
“We are not alone in facing a significant decline in members who want a class environment – this is being experienced across the sector.”
Blair Milne, restructuring partner in the Glasgow office of accountancy firm Campbell Dallas, was last night poised to become provisional liquidator.
All Scottish Slimmers classes have been suspended, while the firm said refunds on membership passes costing £9.99 per month “cannot be provided”.
It added: “All existing members affected by this action will be given free access to the Scottish Slimmers online service and digital service which are run by companies unaffected by the liquidation.”
Scottish Slimmers’ food range is also unaffected, and products will continue to be available through the usual outlets.
Ms Boyle said: “This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make as I know how much the network of classes means to our members, and how our community of members has valued the support of their class coaches in their healthy living and weight loss programmes.
“Many of our coaches have years of enthusiastic and loyal service and I understand that this decision is a very difficult one for them.”
She added: “I sincerely hope that creating a social enterprise which meets a genuine need in many communities can successfully provide a class network of support for those who want to adopt a healthier eating habit and lifestyle.
“This should mean that, following a short period where there will be no classes, members will be able to once again access the support and encouragement they have had from Scottish Slimmers.”
In 2017, Ms Boyle was appointed entrepreneur in residence at Aberdeen Business School at Robert Gordon University.
She is also the founder of crowdfunding venture Bloom VC, which she launched in 2010 to fill a funding gap for start-ups, early-stage businesses, communities, and art and culture.
Projects supported by Bloom VC include the Fishwives Choir, whose fundraising 2013 rendition of When the Boat Comes In/Eternal Father was in the running to be Christmas number one.
Ms Boyle has won a string of business awards over the years, and is also a former chairwoman of Scottish Enterprise Tayside.
Other businesses she has either founded or led include Dundee-based interior fit-out firm Caledonia Contracts, management consultancy Accelerate 90, of Aberdeen, and Techmums, an initiative aimed at encouraging more women to pursue careers in technology.
She is a former governor at Abertay University and has been on the boards of DYW North East, Emtrepreneurial Scotland and Young Enterprise Scotland.