10 Hard Truths to Face Before Starting a Fitness Business

Eamonn Curley
15 August 19
12 min read
5 Hard Truths to Face Before Starting a Fitness Business

Starting a fitness business from the ground up is by no means an easy task. Like any business, it’s going to take hard work, time and effort to keep it running. When you’re a small business, you need to embrace that startup mentality which means being resilient, resourceful and wearing many different hats.

On your journey to success, you will face a lot of obstacles. In this article, we will discuss what it takes to launch a fitness business and the hard truths you need to be aware of before diving in first. 

Starting Your Own Fitness Business   

More and more people are leaving the sofa in favor of regular physical activity. There’s a huge opportunity to get into the fitness industry and truly help people and change lives. If you have a passion for fitness and are interested in owning your own business, you have the chance to create a fitness empire. 

The first step in owning your own fitness business is determining what type of business you want to build. Make your gym or fitness center a destination, an experience with a niche offering that is going to attract your audience and target market. You need to research and think about every decision along the way when starting your own fitness business. 

4 Incredible Entrepreneurs That Built Fitness Empires   

Transitioning from fitness entrepreneurs to fitness empire is an incredible accomplishment. Research from the IHRSA shows that health clubs served a whopping 70 million consumers in 2017. Some entrepreneurs are all over this trend, using innovative business models and passion for fitness into million-dollar fitness empires. 

Joe Wicks, The Body Coach 

The founder of The Body Coach, Joe Wicks started his fitness business off in Richmond Park in London. He couldn’t even afford a van, he hitched a trailer to the back of his bicycle and rode across London every morning at 6 am to set up his class. With 15 stations in a circuit, some classes would only attract 15 people but he persevered. 

He later grew in popularity opening a second location then building a personal training business before taking it to the next level. Making full use of social media, Wicks is now the star fitness entrepreneur responsible for bringing followers The Body Coach. 

Payal Kadakia, ClassPass 

It took several attempts for ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia to get the model right for her business. Originally a search engine for fitness classes, the company now offer monthly subscriptions where members can sign up for classes at multiple studios. ClassPass has secured $173 million in funding since being founded in 2013. 

Mark Mastrov, 24 Hour Fitness

You’ve probably visited a 24 Hour Fitness gym at one point or another. The largest privately-owned fitness chain started out as just a single health club. Back in 1983, Mastrov injured his knee and relied heavily on Nautilus machines at a local health club for his rehab. When the owner went to sell the club, Mastrov jumped at the chance to buy with the idea of turning into an all-day gym. Years later, the company has over 18,000 employees with more than 300 million members at 400 locations. 

Alberto Perez, Alberto Perlman, and Alberto Aghion, Zumba

The team that bought Zumba to the world were initially looking for a new way to work out. Zumba combines different types of dance for a fun workout session. The brand launched in 2001 and started teaching Zumba instructors for a fee. In the following years, it really took off and the workout is taught in an estimated 200,000 locations. 

10 Hard Truths to Face Before Starting a Fitness Business   

Owning your own business is incredible and being your own boss definitely has its own perks but there are a lot of things you need to take into consideration before making the leap into business owner. Here are some hard truths that you need to understand before you open your own fitness facticity. 

1. You Need a Plan 

Have a plan but more specifically have a business plan. Your business plan is your roadmap that will ideally take you from your first business to successfully owning multiple locations. The business plan forms the foundation of your business, it’s something that you will constantly refer to and update as you go on. A business plan formally lays down who you are as a business and gives you a realistic idea of where you will be heading in the future. The plan will need to include a ton of detail so make sure your it includes the following:

  • Research – if you’re a personal trainer then you already have a bit of knowledge about training in a fitness facility but are you a fitness expert? Do you know if there is a popular niche in your area? Think about your target audience and your local reach. Will you have clients from the start and how much money do you need? Your research should answer your questions which is why it needs to be so thorough. 
  • Mission statement – no matter what industry you are in, every business needs a mission statement. Your mission statement will guide you and be your philosophy that will form the basis of every decision you make.
  • Investments and finances – working out the costs for your business venture is essential. Potential investors will scrutinize this part of your business plan so make sure it’s accurate. You need to know how much money you have and where it needs to go as well as future financial projections.
  • Goals – Your goals include both short-term and long-term goals. This could be where you want to be each month as well as your predictions for the first three years of the business.
  • Competition – What makes you stand out from the competition? Is there competition in your area? It’s vital to understand who your competition is, what they offer and how you can separate yourself from them before you start your fitness business.

2. You Need to Define Your USP

What is your unique selling point? What makes you different? This is the one thing that separates you from the competition even if your products or services are similar. Look at your competition and identify strengths and weaknesses so that you can offer something a bit different. The fitness industry is a highly competitive marketplace and one of the best ways to stand out is to craft a unique selling point that connects with your clients and delivers on a big promise. 

Creating a USP is not new advice however it’s still relevant in today’s highly competitive world of business. Your USP will attract your ideal client so use a powerful message that will speak to the needs of the audience you are trying to reach and offer a solution to their problem, whatever it may be. 

3. Know the Cost    

When you’re starting a business there are two avenues you can down to cover the startup costs. The first being that you can raise the funds yourself. If you’re solely funding the business, it means you have complete control over the direction of the business. However, the downside is that you are responsible for all financial burdens and the road is never that smooth in the first three years. 

The other option is to raise money from investors and co-founders. This can be beneficial as you’re sharing or in some case completely lifting the financial burden of starting a new business. While this may be an easier option than saving and investing your own money, you run the risk of losing some control at the business level as your investors will have some say in the direction of the business. 

It takes a large amount of cash to start a business, you will encounter costs from:

  • Monthly expenses like heating, water, etc. 
  • Rent 
  • Fitness Equipment 
  • Office supplies 
  • Insurance 
  • Staff wages 

You Will Wear Many Different Hats 

The reality of running your own business is that you will wear many different hats, especially in the beginning. From marketing to accounting, you will be in charge of various areas of the business. Whether you decide to outsource these roles or take them on yourself is entirely down to your situation and available finances. 

No matter what you decide to do, paperwork will form a large part of your time and is unavoidable with any business. Tracking class attendance, following up with leads and keeping track of memberships are all things you’ll need to do. If you’re in the process of setting up your business, consider investing in gym management software to streamline your admin and management from the very start. 

You’ll likely also be in charge of maintenance before you get the chance to hire a cleaner. You’ll be mopping, vacuuming, doing laundry and keeping the equipment nice and fresh for clients. It requires long hours and different skills to run a business and at the start, you’ll be on your own. 

Your Timetable Is Vital    

Building out your timetable is a crucial part in starting a fitness business. Your schedule is what will attract new clients and retain members. It needs to work for both your clients and yourself, especially if you’re the only one teaching classes which is very likely in the beginning. 

When you’re putting your timetable together, really think about your target audience. In the beginning, try putting on evening classes as this will give you a higher chance of retaining first-time members. As your business continues to grow, you can add on more trainers and fitness instructors and introduce weekend classes as well as fill up early morning spots. Avoid running classes around lunchtime as attendance can really vary even in more urban areas. 

You Can’t Be Quiet About Your Business  

When we say you can’t be quiet we mean you need a marketing strategy in place. When you create your business plan, you identify your target audience. This means that your marketing can be targeted. This will help define the message you’re sending and the way you communicate to potential members. 

In the build-up to the grand opening, you should be promoting the event as well as offering discounts to future members. Your pre-event marketing should tie in with your overall marketing strategy and make full use of social media, a user-friendly website, and any other marketing collateral.   

You’ll Need to Take Risk 

When starting out on a new business venture, there is always risk involved. You might be taking a financial risk investing your life savings into your dream business or perhaps taking an entirely new direction in career. Either way going in a different direction usually means that you have to change something else. Risk is a part of it but by doing your research and creating a solid and strong business plan, you can do all you can to make your business as successful as possible from the start. 

Here are a couple of resources to take a look at before starting a business:

You’ll Develop Unique Friendships With Your Clients 

Once your business is off the ground with clients starting to come more regularly, you’ll start to know more about your client than their personal bests and fitness goals. It’s common for clients to open up a bit between the burpees and sit-ups. There is more to running a fitness business than giving fitness advice. 

There might be times where you will need to motivate your clients like never before or simply listen to their problems. Over time you will develop unique friendships with your clients that will be one of the main reasons they keep coming back to your business.   

You Will Value Every Single Hour  

You will soon realize the crazy hours it takes to run and manage a successful fitness business. In between the early mornings, late evenings and weekend working, you will have seldom time left for anything else. Your family time or social life might take a bit of a beating when you start your own business. You need to be prepared to spend a ton of hours working your tail off to get your business off the ground, especially at the beginning stages. 

Is This Your Passion?

You need to ask yourself, is this your passion? Those with a passion for training and fitness will shine through and persist. Persistence and resilience are integral in business, it’s what helps you keep going when you’ve been knocked down and how you find an alternative solution to a problem that makes you come out on top. Those with a deep passion will make it through the scrubbing, vacuuming, early mornings, weekends, late nights and sacrifices. 

In Summary 

Opening a fitness business on your own is a huge step and involves a lot of planning and responsibility. If you’re doing it with passion and it’s what you love to do then you can make it happen. It’s a tough journey and the obstacles along the way can make it difficult but the grind will make the rewards even more worth it.