Fitness entrepreneur Joe Wicks recently shared a video that will be inspiring for any would-be fitness business owner. In the video, Joe gives a speech to newly graduated students of his alma mater, St. Mary’s University, London.
Joe tells the story of starting his fitness business, a boot camp in a park in Richmond, London. Not even able to afford a van, he hitched a trailer to the back of his bicycle and rode across London every morning at 6am to the park where he set up his class.
Laying out 15 stations in a circuit, some days he would have all 15 people show up, some days two or three, and other days no-one would appear. He would spend his afternoons handing out flyers outside a train station and, more often than not, was completely ignored.
Slowly but surely, his first boot camp in Richmond grew and he then opened a second location. He also built personal training business. Stepping up to the next level required using social media to help him become the star fitness entrepreneur he is today.
The lesson that can be learned from his experience is that everyone starts somewhere, no matter how small.
As a fitness business owner starting out, you may feel like everything needs to be a success straight away. It’s never that simple. The reality is that the first year or two (and maybe more) will be tough and you will come close to breaking many times.
When you are a small business, you need to get into that startup mentality of being resourceful, resilient and wearing different hats. Some that may not fit too well initially. And most importantly, like Mr. Wicks, never give up!
At Glofox, we talk to thousands of fitness business owners every year who are in the same position as you may be at the moment. From these conversations, we have learned a lot about what it takes to start up a studio and the key things you need to put in place to make sure your journey is as successful as possible.
So, here are five hard truths worth knowing before you embark on your fitness business journey:
- You Need a Plan
- Know the Cost
- At the Start It’s all on You
- Your Timetable is Vital
- You Can’t Be Quiet About Your Business
Let’s get started!
You Need a Plan
“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”, is a quote usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin. A while the Founding Father was a man of many talents, historians do not record fitness as one of them. However, his words are just as crucial in starting a fitness business as they are in any walk of life.
What this really boils down to it this:
Have a plan.
More specifically have a business plan. Think of the business plan as a roadmap for your fledgling fitness business. A roadmap that hopefully will take you from a having couple of dumbbells and matt in a hall to a being major player across multiple locations.
In your plan describe the following:
- Your vision for the business
- Your short and long term goals
- What your target market is
- Marketing to this target market
- Operation of the business
- Your financial projections
Glofox customer Ibrahim Mohammad describes the necessity of the business plan perfectly. “What I believe is that once you write down what you are going to do, you know exactly how you are going to go about it,” he says. “You know how you are getting from A to B to C.”
For your own business, it makes clear what your “why” is. Your “why” is something that successful fitness professionals hammer home constantly as one of the most critical aspects of starting your fitness business.
The business plan puts this into clear perspective. For more information on how to create your own business plan check out our gym business plan article that was published late last year.
Know the Cost
There are two main ways that you can cover startup costs.
Raise It Yourself
If you raise the cash yourself, you have total control over the direction of the business. Have at least three months worth of savings in place to cover start-up costs – both visible and hidden. The downside is that the financial burden all falls on you and the reality is the road is never smooth in the first couple of years.
Raise from Investors or Co-founders
Raising money from an investor or partnering up with a co-founder can have the advantage of sharing (or in some cases completely lifting) the financial burden. While this may be a hell of a lot easier than investing the cash yourself, you may lose some control of your vision for the business – your “why.”
Weigh both options carefully before going forward. In any case, the crucial thing about starting a fitness business from the ground up is:
It takes a sizeable amount of cash to start up your own fitness business and there hidden costs that will pop up along the way.
Starting in a 4,000 sq foot state-of-the-art fitness facility is likely out of the question. In reality, you will need to find a rented hall or a park like Joe Wicks.
Rented premises will bring in two of the biggest expenses – rent and liability insurance.
Other costs that you will encounter are:
- Fitness equipment plus the insurance to cover them in case of theft
- Monthly expenses like electricity, heating, water, internet, waste disposal and cleaning
- Office supplies
- Wages for staff
At the Start, It’s All on You
As we said at the beginning of this article you are going to wear many hats as a fitness business owner. It is the reality of running your own business.
Here some of the main things you will have to manage on your own:
Paperwork is an unfortunate by-product of any business venture, and fitness is no different. From following up on leads to managing and tracking your class attendance, you are guaranteed to be spending time on admin. Consider using gym management software to help you manage your admin successfully.
At the beginning of your fitness business journey, it is unlikely that you will be able to hire a cleaner to do things like vacuuming, laundry, mopping, and general cleaning. On top of that, you have to make sure the gym equipment is of a decent standard and in good shape.
Sales and Marketing
Generating those precious leads is a full-time job which and is the lifeblood of your business. To make sure you have people coming in the door, so you don’t have to shut the doors, you need to develop an effective sales and marketing strategy. While you can hire someone to do this for you, the majority of startup fitness studio owners find that learning and doing it for themselves works best.
Your Timetable Is Vital
Something that often flies under the radar, but is still very important, is building out a timetable for your fitness business. This is important for attracting and retaining members. Remember that in the beginning, it will be just you running the classes, so you need to create a timetable that works for both you and your members.
From talking to our customers, these are the main factors you need to think of when putting together your timetable:
- Put on evening classes at the beginning. You will have a higher chance of attracting first-time attendees.
- Have your schedule run from Monday to Thursday. As seen from our unique data insights people are most active on our app and booking on those days.
- Use those other days for general admin and marketing.
- As your business grows and you are able to hire extra trainers, add early morning and Saturday classes to your schedule.
- Avoid running classes at lunchtime in the beginning as attendance can vary, even in more prominent urban locations.
The most important point is to put on a small number of high-quality classes that will build up a core client base.
You don’t want to burn out by trying to put on as many classes as possible, lessening the quality of the class and increasing your churn rate.
Remember that in the beginning, less is more.
You Can’t Be Quiet About Your Business
AKA The Marketing!
One of the key things your business plan forces you to do is lay out your target market. Having a clearly defined target market is hugely important for a fitness business. The classes you teach will not be for everyone and settling on a defined demographic will help you form the type of messaging you want to communicate through your marketing.
Remember that, as a fitness studio, you need to spend your marketing budget wisely to maximize profits and that means having a well-defined target customer.
Once you have defined this, you can begin marketing your business effectively. One of the most proven ways of doing this in the beginning is pre-selling memberships.
Having a pre-sales strategy in place leading up to the grand opening ensures you have income and bodies coming through the door on day one. This should be just as high on the priority list as choosing the location, hiring staff, and ordering equipment.
Consider these two key factors when drafting your pre-sales strategy.
Offering three to six-month discounted membership can help incentivize potential members who don’t know anything about your business.
Also, think of using low-cost trials to attract potential members and filter out time wasters, something we discussed in more detail in a previous article about successful fitness entrepreneurs.
To build up as much awareness as you can, you need to market your pre-sale offer on as many channels as possible, be it handing out fliers, putting posters up in the area, or promoting your offer online.
While the critical focus of this effort is to acquire new members before the gym opens, the knock-on effect is to build larger brand awareness in the area. If your name is out there in your location through your pre-sale marketing efforts, you have made a good start in making potential members aware of your fitness business.