– Words by Lauren Cramer Photography by Lia Crowe
Owning your own business can seem glamorous to outsiders.
Visit Brandt Fralick’s 24,000-square-foot health centre in Kelowna and you might be dazzled by what it offers. PRIME is a multi-disciplinary integrated health, fitness, medical, pharmaceutical, musculoskeletal health, rehab and functional movement facility. It buzzes with nearly 70 practitioners and support staff, among them family doctors, specialists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, kinesiologists, occupational health and rehab experts, athletic coaches, personal trainers and nutrition consultants, and serves over 45,000 members of the community.
At its helm sits Brandt, 36, the driving force behind PRIME. He has an impressive number of accolades, including being named a Top 40 Under 40 businessperson of the year twice by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, and being nominated for awards for small- and medium-sized business of the year in his region. PRIME was awarded the Consumers Choice Award in three of the last four years, and last year the Canadian Business Review Board designated PRIME as one of the best businesses in Canada.
The path to reach this point was anything but easy, though, and it’s a message Brandt wants readers to understand. He’d planned a completely different trajectory for his life, when one day, in 2007, everything changed.
Brandt, a Kelowna native, became an avid sprinter at the age of nine after watching Donovan Bailey sprint for Canada in the 1996 Olympic Games. Inspired and determined, he qualified to the World Juniors (U20) in 2003 to represent Canada as a member of the sprints and relays team, and continued to compete for Canada in the European circuit after graduating from Kelowna Secondary School in 2004.
On November 27, 2007, the 19-year-old was in the peak of his health and gearing up for the 2008 Olympic season. He was driving the Coquihalla highway from Vancouver to Kelowna to visit his family when a car accident sent his vehicle on a 200-foot downhill spiral over the hillside. Miraculously, he survived the fall. With a burst fracture in his lumbar spine and a sequestered L4 and L5 disc, he somehow found the strength to crawl through four feet of snow back up to the road, where he was found by an off-duty member of a local search and rescue team.
After a week of hospitalization following surgery to repair his ruptured spine, Brandt was told he’d likely live in chronic pain and walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
“I had to accept that this was my new normal and figure out how I’d carry on,” he said.
Brandt relearned how to walk and eventually started training through his pain in hopes of competing again. He worked with a team of medical practitioners, rehab specialists and physiotherapists daily, and in August 2009 he competed at the Canada Games in Prince Edward Island.
One year later, he lost his father to a battle with cancer.
“It was a lot to go through as a young man,” he reflected. “First to have that extreme high as an athlete, and then after the accident, wondering what I could possibly give the world that held any value. Then losing my father… I had to try to rebuild and redefine myself.”
In 2008, Brandt formed Nitro Velocity, an athletic performance company where he built his brand and personally coached over 2,500 athletes from a wide range of sports, helping them compete at every level from developmental, amateur, collegiate, semi-pro to professional.
The 20-hour workdays were a pleasant distraction from the physical pain that haunted Brandt daily, as well as the emotional pain from the loss of his father.
“The pain pushed me to extraordinary heights and allowed me an ability to hyper-focus on helping people as much as possible,” he recalled. “I thought, if I gave up my life to help others, I would be giving value to the life I still have and nearly lost in my car accident.”
As Nitro continued to grow, Brandt began working towards opening a small integrated health facility. In 2014, he opened in his first location, rebranded as PRIME. It consisted of a small gym and physiotherapy clinic offering sports medicine, physiotherapy, kinesiology, athletic training and small group-fitness classes. His goal was to treat as many people as possible through collaborative and integrated health care, in the same way others had helped him in regaining his physical health.
By 2016, he began drafting designs for a new facility that would become one of the largest privately owned, integrated health care clinics in Canada, and within three years it became a reality. In August 2019, PRIME opened its new space, consisting of a family medical practice and walk-in clinic, physiotherapy and sports medicine services, a pharmacy and gym.
COVID-19 came months later, and unlike many other businesses, PRIME did not qualify for government support or additional bank loans through the mandated closures. That forced Brandt to near bankruptcy in the first several months of being open. Turning to alternative lenders at over 30 per cent interest rates, he says it was a deeply stressful period in his life, and one devoid of any glamour.
“PRIME had a waitlist of over 20,000 people for our family physicians, so I couldn’t just walk away from the path I was on. I had promises to keep,” he recalls. “Not only was there immense financial obligation, but I was also carrying the weight from the demands and commitments I made to physicians, physiotherapists and employees, as well as thousands of residents of the community. It was beyond overwhelming.”
He adds: “I got lost in this monster, trying to survive in business, and it’s been an incredibly lonely journey with a huge personal toll.” He credits his friend and employee, Tamara, for helping him tremendously for four years, noting, “I will be forever grateful for all she did.”
He also attributes his strength to persevere through these times to his long-time friend Melani McBratney.
“She was the single pillar holding me together at times. PRIME provides health care to over 45,000 residents of Kelowna today because of the emotional support and strength she gave me to continue to push day after day.”
Over the past several months, Brandt has been forced to acknowledge the true personal cost of achieving his dream and has regrouped and reflected on his future priorities. With the support of his team at PRIME, he is learning to restructure portions of his company, providing more time for his next chapter in life.
“I boarded this train because I wanted to leave a legacy. I wanted to impact my community in a way that would exceed my lifetime,” he reflected. “But along the way, I made many mistakes. I pushed away the person I love most and thought I would have for my lifetime and consequently, some of the other people who truly matter most in my world to me.”
Now, he adds, he wants to make the most of his time with the people he loves, and he’s dedicated this new-found perspective on his life and future to a special woman, who he says he’ll always hold cherished in his heart.
“I’m ready to evolve in my life and learn what the next chapter holds for me. I’m incredibly proud of PRIME and what I’ve created in terms of integrated health, and we will keep expanding and providing more services over the years to come. There are massive things on our horizon.”