- I Opened My Own Spin Studio at 23. Here’s What a Week of My Life Looks Like Now.
- Get wellness tips, workout trends, healthy eating, and more delivered right to your inbox with our Be Well newsletter.
- Location and Spin Studio Decor: Advice From Renowned Fitness Center Designer
- Picking the Right Location for Your Spin Studio
- Spin Studio Decor
- The 80/20 Rule of Spin Studios
- It’s All in the Details
- Latest Research: Cycling Studios Generate 55% More Revenue Than Other Fitness Studios
- How to Start a Gym or Fitness Center
- The fitness industry in America:
- First, ask yourself: Why do you want to open a gym?
- Step 1: Get trained and accredited
- Step 2: Identify your fitness niche
- Step 3: Find the location
- Step 4: Figure out what additional staff and equipment you will need
- Step 5: Get financed
- Step 6: Market your gym
- Sample business plans and further resources:
- How to Start Your Own Gym
- Starting a Fitness Facility in a Small Town
- Small Town Fitness Plan
- Start a boutique gym by following these 9 steps:
- STEP 1: Plan your Business
- What are the costs involved in opening a boutique gym?
- What are the ongoing expenses for a boutique gym?
- Who is the target market?
- How does a boutique gym make money?
- How much can you charge customers?
- How much profit can a boutique gym make?
- How can you make your business more profitable?
- What will you name your business?
- Find a Domain Now
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- STEP 2: Form a legal entity
- STEP 3: Register for taxes
- STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
- STEP 5: Set up business accounting
- STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
- STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
- STEP 8: Define your brand
- STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
- STEP 1: Plan your Business
- What I learned starting a small fitness business
- My tips
- A Guide on How to Open a Gym
- Being a Qualified Gym Owner
- Target Audience
- Choosing a Location
- Funds for Opening a Gym
- Branding & Marketing
- Retaining Members
- How To Start a Gym
- I Want to Start a Gym!
- Fitness Center
I Opened My Own Spin Studio at 23. Here’s What a Week of My Life Looks Like Now.
When Allison Bradley first opened Chestnut Hill Cycle Fitness, she taught every class herself. Now she teaches 12 classes a week.
By Caroline Cunningham· 5/24/2018, 8:00 a.m.
Photographs courtesy Allison Bradley.
Welcome to Sweat Diaries, Be Well Philly’s look at the time, energy, and money people invest in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle in Philly. For each Sweat Diary, we ask one Philadelphian to spend five days tracking everything they eat, all the exercise they get, and the money they spend on both. Want to submit a Sweat Diary? Email [email protected] with details.
Who I am: Alli Bradley (@alli__bradley), 27, from Chestnut Hill
What I do: I own, operate, and am a full-time instructor at my indoor cycling and barre studio, Chestnut Hill Cycle Fitness
What role health and fitness plays in my life: I never feel more at home in my own body than when I am exerting myself and getting out of my comfort zone, connecting with my breath and breaking my own barriers. I began as a runner through high school and my young adulthood, completing five marathons and a handful of halves. But what I realized at age 23, when I opened my own studio, was that I had to somehow give others this incredible feeling I am rewarded with. Fitness isn’t about the statistics or the screens and numbers — it’s about connecting with yourself, mind and body. It’s about finding that part of you that can overcome a temporary struggle, to be rewarded with this incredible sense of achievement. Every single class. And the community that comes with it, well that’s just the best part.
Health memberships: No memberships! Like so many other full-time instructors, I work out for free at my studio, which is wonderful. I also tend to go on runs outside more than take classes when I can.
Photograph courtesy Allison Bradley.
7:30 a.m. — I wake up to my phone alarm. I have a rule that I don’t sleep with my phone near me, and I try not to be on it after 9:30 p.m. every night. I go straight for coffee. I pour a cup into my blender, and then add six ounces of Califia almond milk and a teaspoon of organic coconut oil. I blend, and it creates the prettiest and most delicious frothy drink. I also pour some homemade gluten-free honey granola into a small bowl, and top it with almond milk and strawberries. I take a swig of my probiotic coconut water and I eat my breakfast.
8:30 a.m. — I throw on my running shoes and a sweatshirt. I head over to the studio across the street from my apartment and run around the studio gathering dirty towels that are ready to be washed and making sure the studio is tidy. Then I head out for a quick three-mile run around Chestnut Hill.
9:30 a.m. — Back home, I change into dry clothing and make myself a smoothie consisting of Vital Proteins collagen, Califia almond milk, frozen banana, and spinach. I sit down at my computer and prepare for a meeting.
1:30 p.m. — I grab a hardboiled egg, a handful of almonds, and I head out to the grocery store before my evening classes. Our studio just began a detox group for spring called the “Spring Equinox Detox.” My grocery list is both gluten-free and dairy-free to help eliminate inflammatory foods for the next six weeks. I head to Whole Foods, where I spend the next hour.
4:45 p.m. — I teach a 45-minute barre class.
5:30 p.m. — I head out to the reception area and do what I love most: hang out with the Chestnut Hill Cycle Fitness family. I say hello to everyone coming in for classes, and I dance to the sound of the spin class upstairs, and take pictures for social media.
6:30 p.m. — I teach a Full Body Spin class. It’s my favorite class to teach: 30 minutes on the spin bike, then 15 minutes on a mat next to your bike for anything from squats to lunges to arm workouts with free weights to core workouts and planks. We end in a mindful meditation.
8 p.m. — At home, my boyfriend, Adam, and I make rice noodles with chicken, sautéed veggies, lots of garlic and onion, and a peanut sauce on top. Lots of lime!
9 p.m. — Showered, in bed, reading a book, and drinking a cup of detox tea by Mighty Leaf.
Daily total: $0
Photograph courtesy Allison Bradley.
8 a.m. — I wake up and head to grab my normal coffee blend. I make old-fashioned rolled oats with cashew milk, hemp seeds, blueberries, and blackberries, and some gluten-free granola.
8:30 a.m. — I love taking my time in the mornings and today I savor it. I get dressed slowly, and I head out for class around 8:45.
9:15 a.m. — I teach a barre class and end with mindfulness. I love my 9:15 a.m. ladies; they’re some of my closest clients so we have a great time together.
10 a.m. — After class, I chug a Glowing Green juice from Top of the Hill Markets, who we partnered with to stock the studio with fresh juice daily ($6).
10:30 a.m. — I spend the rest of the late morning running errands for the studio. While I’m out, I swing into Starbucks for a matcha iced white tea with coconut milk ($3.65).
1 p.m. — I teach a private barre and stretch class to one of my clients for an hour.
2:30 p.m. — I take my dog on a long walk around the neighborhood and I grab fresh salmon at Top of the Hill Markets to cook for dinner. Their fish is the absolute freshest I have had, and I love treating myself to it weekly ($19).
3:30 p.m. — Back at home, I’m getting really hungry and I know I wont be eating dinner until late. I cut up a cucumber and grab some baby carrots and have some hummus. I also grab a hard boiled egg and eat that, too. I wash it down with some beet-flavored Health-Ade Kombucha.
5:30 p.m. — I head over to the studio to hangout with my front desk manager and catch up on the week’s tasks.
6:30 p.m. — I teach a barre class, and we have a lot of energy for an evening class! We steam up the mirrors and really go to work on our glutes.
7:30 p.m. — I close up the studio and head home.
7:45 p.m. — Dinner is waiting for me! I’m a lucky gal. It’s baked salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatos. It’s probably my favorite dinner after a long day.
9 p.m. — I take a hot shower and get ready for bed. I love The Ordinary skin care’s Rose Hip Seed Oil. I always lather up on this at night.
9:45 p.m. — I read my book and doze off.
Daily total: $28.65
Photograph courtesy Allison Bradley.
5 a.m. — I wake up and go directly for the coffee. I am not typically an early-morning person. I pour black coffee into a mug and top it with some almond milk. I eat half of a banana and some almond butter. Then I get dressed for my Full Body Spin class, and head over to the studio.
5:30 a.m. — I open the studio by lighting candles, setting the lighting, getting my mic ready, and making sure everything is good to go. I BLAST my playlist on the studio system so that I can listen to our playlist while I set up.
6 a.m. — We are off and riding! My 6 a.m. Full Body crew is one of my favorites. As much as I dread waking up so early, this class is worth it.
7 a.m. — Back at home, I grab the dog and take her on a walk.
7:45 a.m. — I eat some gluten-free granola with berries and coconut milk. I do some work on the computer for the studio.
9 a.m. — I head back to the studio to prepare for a personal training client. This client broke her elbow over a year ago and is still working on gaining strength and movement in this arm. I am so proud of her when she completes a few push-ups. She is a rockstar.
10:30 a.m. — I grab a juice and head back home to work more on my website and some scheduling for the studio ($6).
1 p.m. — I make a salad with kale, strawberries, and almond slivers. I make a quick balsamic dressing (extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, a tiny bit of dijon mustard, and sea salt) and whip the salad up! It’s so good and fresh.
2 p.m. — Finished with work, I grab my foam roller and spend about 40 minutes on it. While I do this, I go over my playlist for the early evening barre class.
3 p.m. — I am in need of a pick-me-up, and I am helplessly addicted to that matcha drink at Starbucks. I walk my dog on the way to get my drink ($3.65).
4:15 p.m. — I head over to the studio and set up for my barre class.
4:45 p.m. — Barre class begins and we are off! I make this class particularly challenging with lots of arm work and push-ups.
5:30 p.m. — It’s an early night for me to be off, so I take advantage of this and go home to make dinner: a veggie bowl with brown rice, sauteed kale, mushrooms, butternut squash, black beans, and guacamole.
7:30 p.m. — We take our dog on a walk.
8 p.m. — Back home, I take an epsom salt bath and put on a bentonite clay face mask.
9:45 p.m. — I stay up to read the rest of my book and then doze off.
Daily total: $9.65
Photograph courtesy Allison Bradley.
7:45 a.m. — I wake up late today, and I love it! I head for the coffee machine and make my favorite blend. I also make another bowl of gluten-free oatmeal.
9 a.m. — I head over to the studio and begin to check in the ladies arriving for my class. Some ladies from the 8:30 a.m. spin class come downstairs and hit my barre class — they’re amazing because that’s an intense 90 minutes of working out!
9:45 a.m. — I teach a 45-minute barre class and as always, it’s a lot of fun and a lot of shaking.
10:30 a.m. — I run over to my apartment and have an energy ball made of pressed dates, almonds, and hemp seeds. Then I grab my pup and head over to the Wissahickon trails for a run.
11:45 a.m. — I head to Rebel Yoga for their noon Flow & Reflect class ($17). I grab a kombucha after class at their canteen ($6).
1:30 p.m. — Back at home, I sit down to do some work. I promise myself after I’ll go to Lululemon to get a shirt I’ve been eyeing for two weeks.
3:30 p.m. — Leaving Lululemon, I head to Sweetgreen. I order their new guacamole chopped salad with grilled chicken to go ($9.95).
4:30 p.m. — At home, I eat part of my salad, then I head over to the studio to get things clean and ready for evening classes.
6:30 p.m. — I teach barre class and I personally take part in a good bit of the workout tonight.
Photograph courtesy Allison Bradley.
7:30 p.m. — At home, I more of my Sweetgreen salad and make a big salad for dinner with chicken and chopped veggies and almonds.
8:30 p.m. — We watch some Bob’s Burgers and I keep sneaking into the kitchen for spoonfuls of peanut butter. I am craving something sweet but trying to stick to this detox!
9:45 p.m. — I hop in the shower and get ready for bed. I am so tired.
10:20 p.m. — Bed. No book tonight.
Daily total: $32.95
Photograph courtesy Allison Bradley.
7 a.m. — I wake up and stretch. I’m a little sore from yesterday’s barre classes. I make my coffee concoction, grab a banana, and take my probiotic and vitamins.
7:45 a.m. — I get ready for my class and I head over to the studio a little early to clean and set up.
8:30 a.m. — I teach one of my longest-running classes on the schedule, a Full Body spin class. I have to give my bike up since our class is overly full, and although I wanted to work out, I definitely do not mind. I teach from the floor and coach.
9:30 a.m. — I have a private session with a client and she crushes it.
10:30 a.m. — I grab an orange turmeric juice ($6) we sell at the studio and head out for a run around town.
11:10 a.m. — I run a quick three miles and then I am back at the studio in my barre room to work my arms and core.
12:15 p.m. — I head out to run errands for the studio and I fall prey to Starbucks’ matcha drink once again ($3.65).
1:30 p.m. — On Fridays, I like to blast music in the studio, have some coffee, and clean the whole place.
Photograph courtesy Allison Bradley.
4 p.m. — I am back home, and I’m starved. I make myself sweet potato toast by throwing a slice of raw sweet potato in the toaster top with avocado and a sunny-side-up egg on the side with some berries.
4:30 p.m. — I walk my dog and grab some fresh cut flowers at the co-op.
6 p.m. — I hop in the shower and throw on jeans and a sweater (rare occasion; I live in yoga pants). Adam and I head to Top of the Hill Market for their grand opening party.
7:30 p.m. — We load up on mussels and shrimp, and I even have my wine for the week (he detox only allows for three glasses at most). It’s such a beautiful evening under the string lights and we have a really lovely time ($25).
10 p.m. — We walk home, and I get all ready for my classes in the morning by laying out my outfit and washing my face, setting my alarm to wake up early. I’m ready for bed and we bring our laptop into bed and watch a movie before dozing off!
Daily total: $34.65
Money spent: $105.90
Matcha drinks: 3
Fresh juices: 3
Classes taught: 9
Private training sessions: 3
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Location and Spin Studio Decor: Advice From Renowned Fitness Center Designer
When you decide to open up your own spin studio, it’s important to pick the right location and decor to make your space stand out. In 2016 there were nearly 1,000 spin studios across the US with more opening up every day.
While the rising popularity of spin studios is great for business, it also means that you are going to have a lot of competition.
In order to have your studio stand out from the crowd, you need to think about what makes you different. Are you in a prime location? Is your market different in some way? Does your studio have a look and feel to it that can’t be found anywhere else? Finding your studio’s “it” factor early on in the process of opening one will be essential to your business growing exponentially down the road.
We spoke with master fitness center interior designer Cuoco Black about what it takes to open up a stunning fitness studio. Read on to find out.
Picking the Right Location for Your Spin Studio
If you’re trying to open up your first spin studio in the Upper West Side in New York City, home to the first SoulCycle studio, competitors vying for the same members may feel impossibly tough. It will be difficult to draw in customers from places where spin has already established a presence.
Feelings are hard to quantify, though. One exercise you can do to standardize your assessment of a given location is to use publicly available data on population density per square mile. Taking this information into account will help draw objective conclusions on the total addressable market of a region.
Opening up your studio in a small town or suburb away from the hustle and bustle of the big city can give you an opportunity to reach an audience that is often left out of the latest trends. On the flip side, opening your studio in an up-and-coming area of a large city is an optimal choice as well. You want to be able to market to those leaving work, or to those that live nearby.
Consider the businesses and companies around your spin studio. Is the location for your spin studio next to a trendy cafe, a juice bar, or a fitness-focused clothing store? Those could all potentially work as a business opportunity. Are you in a location next to a steakhouse, a liquor store, or a high-traffic shopping strip? You’ll want to establish a brand that represents wellness, happiness, and healthy competition. Make sure where you decide to open makes sense for the company you want to run. Your area and the exterior of your space will say a lot about your business to first time and potential customers. Most people do judge a book by its cover.
Don’t forget to stay visible. Is your studio easy to see from the road? Are there adequate parking spots to accommodate an entire class, or will customers have to park elsewhere and walk? Does your space have enough room to hold a full class’ worth of bikes? What about room to expand and grow your studio if you want to in the future?
These are the type of things you should be pondering before opening a spin studio.
Spin Studio Decor
If you’re already a club owner and are looking to expand, adding to your gym is a great way to add immense value to your club. If you have the room for the right number of spin bikes, ventilate the space properly, and can install TV/music hookups, you could have a spin studio on your hands.
The design of your studio can make or break your customers’ experience in the class. To set up your space for success, think about what you want your clients to feel when they walk into one of your classes. For most spin studios, their vibe evokes excitement. Get your guests pumped up, energetic, and like they’re at a party. This is opposed to a more relaxed form of exercise like restorative yoga.
According to Black, one of the key factors is recognizing the “better sameness” in the industry, and building from there.
Black expanded on the idea that most of your clients will have a preliminary thought behind what they believe a spin studio should look like. Some dimness, with club-like LED lights. According to Black, it’s something like a formula. He mentioned the importance of recognizing this but creating a concept that is unique to you and your brand.
“We ask our clients to pick key interests in their lives. Star Wars fan? Do you love fine art? We look for sources of inspiration of a concept,” Black said. “Most of the time what happens is people are inspired by Hollywood film. We like to integrate iconography, colors, lighting, and architectural geometries as an example. That allows you to integrate client’s logo colors and graphic design into the space.”
In order to create this feeling for your clients, you need to consider certain aspects of decor and design when crafting the theatrical stage that is your spin studio. Your goal in designing your spin studio is to make your clients forget that what they’re doing is, well, painful, sweaty, and hard work.
The 80/20 Rule of Spin Studios
One of Black’s key focuses for designing world-renowned fitness centers is spending 80% of your budget on 20% of your fitness space. Think of ways you can truly wow your customer. This will probably not include something your customer won’t notice you spent a ton of money on – like lockers or toilets.
Put your money where you can see it, Black says.
“I like to make one or two big architectural statements,” Black said. “This could be a bright podium that’s illuminated behind the instructor. Invest 80% of the construction into 20% of the space.”
Decide what would truly wow a customer when walking into your spin studio. Evaluate the cost-effective options, and build something that grabs attention immediately.
It’s All in the Details
How your clients interact with your space is the most important way to build brand loyalty. Below are a few vital details to consider when picking the right decor for your spin studio.
- Lighting—This is a detail you shouldn’t overlook. Lighting sets the mood and can give your clients an exceptional spin experience. Install a bright, overhead lighting option for cleaning and repairing your equipment, warmer overhead LED lights with a dimmer, and wall lighting that you can control with a remote. Always try to incorporate your brand colors into your lighting, too.
- TV Screens—Having TV screens in your studio is a great way to offer video rides or performance tracking for your clients. Position the TVs where riders won’t have to crane their necks too far up or down. Having your TVs at eye level, tilted towards the floor helps with ergonomics while biking, and the imminent glare.
Want to encourage some healthy competition? Integrate your spin bikes’ software to the TVs. Then, show how many calories each spinner has burned, how far they’ve traveled, and their explosiveness.
- Sound System—This is what makes the magic happen. Having a state-of-the-art sound system is the best way to engage your spin classes and create a fun and energetic atmosphere. Some sound system essentials include speakers with individual volume controls, a small subwoofer, and waterproof microphones for your instructors.
According to Black, make sure to test your speakers against additional options.
“Don’t just hire someone and throw speakers in – you might have reverberation problems.”
Be sure to check out the possibility of purchasing RGB DMX controls. Have you ever been somewhere were the music synched with the lights, amping up the experience for you and guests? This is worth an investment, according to Black.
Additionally, have fun making your own playlists – or subscribe to music services like Spotify or iTunes where you can save automatically created playlists aligned by beat per minute – perfect for workouts.
- Flooring—This might not be the first thing you think of when picking the right decor for your spin studio, but the flooring of your studio is very important. While most people will automatically be drawn towards concrete or hardwood, keep in mind that floors will quickly become slippery with sweat and hard to walk on in cleats. Thinking of installing carpet? Back away… this can quickly become sopped with sweat and is difficult to clean effectively.
Some of Black’s favorite flooring choices for spin studios? Choosing a bright, vibrant, rubberized option. Cool flooring is essential – but remember the slipperiness factor, and make sure it is easy to clean and maintain.
- Ceilings– Grab a customer’s attention quickly with high, elevated ceilings. Industrial-style ceilings can make a small, tight studio feel open and airy. Remove the 2×2 ceiling tiles to create an open-air effect. Black noted an inexpensive yet engaging way to wow customers could be through painting your ceiling and corresponding wall the same color. This color should compliment or match your brand colors.
When picking out the right location and decor for your spin studio, start with an original concept that you love. With the right space and attention to detail, you can create an immersive experience that will leave your members wanting more.
“It’s not easy. It’s complex. But that’s how you stay distinctive,” Black said.
Eager for more spin studio tips? Check back next week to learn how to make a brand experience your clients will never forget.
Latest Research: Cycling Studios Generate 55% More Revenue Than Other Fitness Studios
By Chuck Leve, Executive Vice President of Business Development
If anybody is wondering why the indoor cycling phenomenon continues to grow at a seemingly non-stop pace, they need look no farther than the numbers. Based on research from the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS) 2016 Marketing Best Practices Research Report, indoor cycling studios generate 55% more revenue than other types of fitness studios.
What’s key about this percentage, is what it’s not. It’s not profitability. Nor has it anything to do with expense. It’s pure revenue – meaning if you own a cycling studio and you have a handle on your expenses, you should be doing very well.
Why do cycling studios generate so much revenue than non-cycling studios? The answer likely has to do with class sizes and frequency along with customer expectations.
Cycling studios are structured for class size flexibility. A decent class can be had with a small group (3-6 people) all the way to a very large group (20+). Multiply each client by the class fee and there’s your basic revenue model. Obviously, the larger the average class size, the greater the revenue. Add to that the ancillary revenue opportunities (beverages, snacks, apparel, etc.) and you have the revenue boost.
Customer expectations are a little trickier, but once the social component is realized (“I’ll see you at cycling…”) you’re well on your way. Keeping classes fresh, motivating, and fun – often with the help of supplier programming – makes all the difference in the world.
Compare this with a one-on-one training studio, or even small group, where the studio is “locked in” to its physical footprint, thus limiting the revenue ceiling due to the number of clients that can be serviced on a daily basis. In this case, fees normally need to be much higher (often more than double) for a single workout.
According to Jeffrey Scott, Lead Master Trainer for Schwinn, “The indoor cycling industry (and cycling studios) has always been a good revenue generator. Cycling is an activity that everyone is familiar with and produces results when taught correctly. Owner/operators need to make sure they have the right mix of substance and style to have longevity in the marketplace. Substance meaning educated instructors who provide solid & motivating coaching so participants feel successful and know what is expected of them. Style is the studio environment with a great sound system, compelling music and a feeling of community amongst the riders.”
Also keep in mind that a studio making a decent profit is a studio that can afford to be cutting edge. It can hire the best instructors, invest in the best technology, and provide the best customer experience. In the fitness studio industry – this is a luxury.
Certainly, as more and more cycling studios open, the marketing battle that’s sure to come will cause owners to confront larger issues such as brand differentiation, ancillary revenue, and retention. The customer experience – delivery of the brand promise – will become an even more prominent consideration.
For now, if you’re running a cycling studio – keep up the good work!
Chuck Leve is a 40-year veteran of the fitness industry and proven successful developer of fitness industry associations. Currently he serves as the Executive Vice President of Business Development for the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS). He’s been involved in the creation and development of some of the most successful trade associations in the history of the fitness industry.
AFS Research Sponsored by Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness is the world’s fifth largest marketer and distributor of commercial fitness products to health clubs, community recreational centers, hotels, government, educational facilities and more. Core Health & Fitness markets its products under the Star Trac®, Stairmaster®, Schwinn®, and Nautilus® brands. Headquartered in Vancouver, WA, Core employs over 400 people worldwide and serves a global customer base. Core maintains sales, and engineering service offices throughout the U.S. (Vancouver, WA, Irvine, CA, Independence, VA, as well as in the United Kingdom (High Wycombe), Germany (Munich), Spain (Barcelona), and Brazil (Sao Paulo). Core operates its primary warehouse locations in the U.S., the Netherlands, and China. Visit us at CoreHealthAndFitness.com.
How to Start a Gym or Fitness Center
This article is part of our Fitness Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your fitness business!
You wake up at sunrise to teach the first class of the day at your new fitness studio. You love motivating your clients to reach optimum levels of health and wellbeing. This is what keeps you going when you face challenges or get overwhelmed in the nitty gritty of running your own fitness center.
If this sounds like something you would love to do, then this article is for you! I’ll walk you through how to start your own gym or fitness center, as well as give you the resources to help you start your dream business.
Starting a gym or fitness center is not easy, but it can be extremely rewarding if you’re willing to put in the hard work.
To supplement this guide, I’ve interviewed two successful fitness business owners, Kaylee Cahoon of SMARTCore Method, and Marcela Xavier of Bread and Yoga. What struck me most about both interviews was the clarity and vision the owners had surrounding starting their businesses in the first place, and how specific they were about who they wanted to impact through their fitness services.
The fitness industry in America:
The fitness industry has exploded in recent years. In the U.S., total revenues reached 27 billion U.S. dollars last year. Recent marketing aimed at fighting obesity, as well as trends toward improving health and fitness, have contributed to this market rise.
The low level of market concentration has made a variety of fitness niches accessible in local communities. Only 18 percent of total revenue in 2016 was from the top four largest players in the fitness industry, while small speciality gyms and independently-owned fitness businesses made up the rest.
In addition, many of these gym and fitness centers employ very little to no staff, which makes startup costs and barriers to entry low. With the proper mix of skills, training, and commitment, starting a gym or fitness center can prove a successful business move.
First, ask yourself: Why do you want to open a gym?
Kaylee Cahoon, the creator and owner of SMARTCore Method in Franklin, Tennessee, says that starting a fitness enterprise must come from love and passion, or you won’t last very long in the industry.
With over thirty years of experience in movement, including professional modern dance, choreographing, teaching, and various somatic movement modalities, Cahoon developed the SMARTCore Method to teach clients how to move smarter for optimal health and wellbeing. The method is a blend of somatic movement education, strength, balance, and functional and body weight training.
Her business is driven by her passion to educate clients to pay attention to their bodies for optimal function, not just follow fitness fads and trends that often end up being harmful to the body in the long run. “The fitness world needs to take a much harder look at what’s happening in the body, how the body functions, and how it relates to other parts of the body,” she says.
In 2009, Marcela Xavier, the owner of Bread and Yoga, saw a need for a yoga studio in the Inwood community in upper Manhattan. She started the studio with the intention of creating a gathering space for the community that was inclusive of all ages and people. In addition to the many types of yoga offerings, Bread and Yoga offers a wide array of holistic programs for children and adults aimed at encouraging them to maintain overall health and wellbeing.
Get clear on why you want to start a gym or fitness center
Your reason behind opening a gym will help you maintain the focus, clarity, and drive it takes to become a successful enterprise.
Be honest with yourself. You may find that instead of starting a gym, you want to become a personal trainer or fitness instructor. Make sure you think through the possibilities and determine if starting a gym is really the right choice for you.
Don’t skip the market research phase
Talk with fitness center owners to find out what it took to get their business up and running. Learning from those that are already successful in your given field is a priceless education that can save you lots of time and energy in the long run.
Resources to help with market research:
- What Is Target Marketing?
- How to Do Market Research
- Practical Market Research Resources for Entrepreneurs
Step 1: Get trained and accredited
First and foremost, make sure you have the proper training, accreditations, and experience to start your own gym. Your clients will be counting on you not just to help them look great, but to keep their bodies healthy and safe using your services.
There are several different personal training certifications you can choose between, and other types of fitness offerings (such as yoga, Pilates, or aerobics classes) will come with their own certifications as well. You’ll also be responsible for making sure any staff you hire has proper certification.
Step 2: Identify your fitness niche
There are a variety of fitness niches to choose from. Explore these niches below to determine what kind of fitness center you’d like to open.
Specialty fitness center:
- This niche typically focuses on one specialty fitness class or activity. Some examples include aerobics, yoga, dance, Pilates, cycling, and much more.
- Specialty fitness centers often offer a variety of class options during the week based on differing levels, intensity, and complexity.
- Instructors are certified in a particular niche.
- Specialty fitness centers can often be more expensive due to the boutique experience, intimate design, and quality instructors.
- Monthly packages or memberships are often offered as an option.
- Traditional gyms often provide a variety of workout options in one location, including fitness classes, strength and cardio equipment, and personal training.
- They may provide additional amenities including massage, sauna, tanning, steam rooms, childcare, and more.
- These additional services are often offered for an additional fee.
Medical fitness and wellness center:
- These fitness centers often provide physical therapy and other medical services to help clients manage, recover from, and prevent health issues.
- Usually associated with a doctor’s office or hospital that makes program recommendations.
- These centers often have professional staff specialized in managing, tracking, and measuring the progress of clients.
- They often provide a variety of educational services for physical and mental wellness, in addition to the typical group fitness classes and gym equipment.
Family fitness and wellness center:
- Family fitness and wellness centers include athletic and country clubs.
- They often provide a variety of workout options, including group fitness classes, strength and cardio equipment, and personal training.
- Family fitness and wellness centers include exercise options for adults, seniors, teens and children.
- These centers often provide classes and programs for youth such as swim lessons, sports clubs, summer camps for kids, and childcare.
- May offer additional wellness amenities including massage, sauna, tanning, and steam rooms, sometimes for an additional fee.
Should you start a for-profit or nonprofit fitness center?
It’s worth considering whether or not you’d like to start your fitness center as a for-profit business or a nonprofit.
A nonprofit family wellness center, such as the YMCA, will provide services and programs for community members who cannot afford to pay full price. Often this is done on a sliding scale, based on income; students and seniors also typically get a discount at nonprofit family wellness centers. For-profit wellness facilities do not offer these discounts.
Resources to help you find your niche:
- How to Create a Unique Value Proposition
- How a Buyer or User Persona Can Improve Your Business
- How to Start a Nonprofit
Step 3: Find the location
Once you determine what kind of gym you want to open, you will have to determine how much space you will need.
First, get clear on how many clients you want to be able to serve in your facility. Knowing how much space you will need will help you find a location that best suits your requirements. Do you need street access? Access to parking? Are you in an area with a lot of foot traffic? Will it be hard for people to find you? Are you on a bus route?
Initially, a good location is key to getting clients to your gym. Many gym owners believe that location is worth paying more money upfront so that your business gets seen.
For Kaylee Cahoon, finding the right location was extremely important. She wanted to be in an area that was still developing and where many things were happening. It was also important for her to be around a more highly-educated population, and to have nearby medical facilities since her fitness niche focuses on “educating” the whole body.
Resources to help you choose a location for your gym or fitness center:
- How to Choose a Business Location
- 13 Ways to Find the Perfect Business Location
Step 4: Figure out what additional staff and equipment you will need
Before hiring fitness instructors and personal trainers, check their training and accreditation carefully. Ask thorough questions during the interview, and consider “auditioning” the person before hiring them. You also may want to consider hiring them temporarily for a few test classes or personal training sessions before committing to keeping them as an employee.
When Bread and Yoga first opened its doors, Marcela Xavier taught about ten yoga classes per week. Eventually, she secured a strong group of teachers so that she could fully focus on the leadership aspects of the business. Finding a strong group of quality yoga teachers was extremely important to her when it came to fulfilling her overall mission and vision, and she did this by holding auditions for yoga teachers to see how they taught, who they were, and what they were all about.
Some questions to ask yourself in terms of hiring staff:
- Will you be the primary fitness instructor at your gym, or will you need to hire fitness instructors and personal trainers?
- Will the staff be employees or independent contractors?
- What are the accreditations and training that potential staff, fitness instructors, and personal trainers must have?
Will you need fitness center equipment?
If you need fitness equipment, you will need to decide whether to buy or lease. Leasing can help you stay current on the latest fitness technology, can give you an opportunity to assess your needs before purchasing, and will often include maintenance of the equipment.
However, if you lease equipment, you give up ownership interest, which might end up costing you more in the long run. Do your research and check with a lawyer before making a decision on whether or not to lease gym equipment.
If you decide to lease equipment, you can check to see if the company is a member of a leasing association such as the National Association of Equipment Leasing Brokers or the National Association of Equipment Finance Professionals.
Resources on hiring employees:
- How to Hire Your First Employee
- Do You Really Need Full-Time Employees?
Step 5: Get financed
You will want to make sure your finances are in good shape so that you can get financed. Most financing groups and landlords want to see two previous years of tax returns and financial statements, and before starting your business, you should have enough money saved for personal expenses for at least 12 to 24 months.
Having a strong business plan in place can help solidify funding for your gym or fitness center. Be sure to check out our planning resources, as well as the sample business plans at the end of this guide.
Resources on funding for your business:
- 35 Ways to Fund Your Business
- The 10 Best Side Businesses to Fund Your Startup
- The Complete Guide to SBA Loans
Step 6: Market your gym
Once you hone in on your customer base, market and promote your business in places customers spend time. This sounds simple, but it takes consistency and dedication over time to build a solid customer base.
Consider hiring someone to take on a marketing, PR, or social media management role, and if you can’t afford that, do some of it on your own. By coming up with a marketing plan for your gym or fitness center, you’ll be able to focus your efforts and get the word out about your new business.
You may want to offer free guest passes, membership discounts, and other incentives to keep and attract new clients.
Resources to help you market your new gym or fitness center:
- Help! My Business Needs a Marketing Plan and I Don’t Know Where to Start
- 4 Social Media Mistakes Your Business Should Avoid
- 5 Marketing Mistakes I Made as a New Entrepreneur
Sample business plans and further resources:
These sample business plans are an excellent resource in starting your own gym or fitness center.
Having a well-thought-out business plan can help you solidify your financing and give you the clarity of mind you need to achieve your business goals.
Surprisingly, many people do not take the time to write a business plan and are unable to move forward with their business goals—so make sure you don’t make this mistake.
Below are some free sample business plans to help you get started:
- Yoga Center Business Plan
- Health Club Business Plan
- Multi-Sport Complex Business Plan
To find out more about various loan options, contracts, and other forms of assistance for small businesses, check out The U.S. Small Business Administration.
To learn about pertinent tax information for businesses, check out the businesses section on the IRS website. You will need to sign up for an EIN (Employee Identification Number) for federal requirement purposes as well.
Find out what documents, registrations, and licenses your state requires for opening a gym online via the Small Business Administration’s Licenses and Permits Resource.
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Michele Richardson is a writer, actress and entrepreneur living in New York City. Her writing has appeared in a variety of web sites, and as a published playwright. As an actress, she is currently shooting the indie feature, Serious Laundry. Her newest adventure is developing an online business with her partner, launching in the summer of 2016. She is passionate about creating a life of freedom and meaning for herself and others. For more information, please visit www.inspiredbyamoment.com and www.michele-richardson.com
How to Start Your Own Gym
If you’re into exercise and on the hunt for a new business opportunity, starting up your own gym is definitely worth a look.
The global health club industry rakes in a cool $81.2 billion each year. American gyms alone enjoy a market size of just under $26 billion a year — and they’re not struggling for customers, either. Approximately one in six adults have got at least one gym membership. But just because the market is great does not mean you should dive into the industry without doing a bit of research and planning.
Opening a gym could potentially be a great business opportunity, but there are quite a few factors you’ll need to bear in mind before you’re ready to start up. So here’s a handy how-to guide in order to help you get started.
Unfortunately, earning a bronze medal at your local fun run does now qualify you to run a gym. You don’t necessarily need to obtain a professional fitness qualification before starting your own gym. But accreditation from groups like The American Council on Exercise or the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association could ultimately bolster your credibility and make it easier to obtain a business loan.
More important still, it’s definitely worth obtaining a personal trainer or fitness certification and trying out these roles in a non-management capacity before you hop right into the deep end by starting your own gym. Not only will you be able to test the waters to ensure you’re happy with the industry, but you’ll also be able to make contacts and develop a client base that will follow you to your new gym.
Once you’re content within the industry and know what type of gym you’d like to set up, you’re going to need to suss out where you’ll find the money to start up. Experts say it usually takes around $50,000 in order to set up a gym — but a lot of that will depend on where you’re setting up shop. In New York City, for example, it could take more than $500,000 to get started. Other places may be less expensive.
Either way, you’ll need to produce a concise and well-organized business plan before investors or loan providers will touch your business idea with a thirty-foot pole. It’s worth checking out The U.S. Small Business Administration website, which offers a free service to help out with business plans and loan advice.
Be Strategic About Location
Location will most likely be a key factor within your business plan, since location is often critical to a gym’s survival. First and foremost, you’ll want to do a bit of market research about your anticipated client base. Figure out what key demographics will account for the bulk of your foot traffic, and figure out where a high concentration of those individuals can be found. Accessibility and convenience are important to most gym members. Try and find somewhere readily accessible by car, foot and public transport.
Meanwhile, you’ll need to be thinking about rent. Unless you have acquired some major financing, chances are you’ll need to rent space. This will vary from location to location, and has got to be factored into your initial operating expenses. You must also ensure that you’ve got written permission from your landlord or the building’s owners to make alterations or conduct building work. After all, you may need to alter the property layout in line with regulatory guidelines.
Source the Right Equipment
Once you’ve got financing and the perfect location, you’ll need to turn your empty space into a vibrant gym. That will take a lot of equipment — and it won’t come cheap.
You’ll definitely need to purchase basic free weight equipment for serious lifters. That includes bench presses, squat racks, dead lift mats, dumbbells and racks for curls and dips. You’ll also want to have cardio equipment like bikes, rowing machines and treadmills. For reference, you can track down a decent treadmill starting at around $150 each. But depending on your startup size, you may want to buy multiple machines. Isolation equipment like leg press, tricep extension and chest fly machines are also popular gym staples.
Don’t forget to think about classes, either. If you plan on leading (or hiring someone else to lead) Zumba or yoga classes, you’ll need studio space and communal equipment for these classes. It all adds up very quickly, but it’s all essential in order to ensure you have the equipment your members will expect.
Consider Licensing Requirements
As a gym owner, you’ll be expected to apply for most of the permits and licenses that any other business owner would need to obtain. You’ll need to register for an Employer Identification number and local and federal taxes. Unlike most businesses, you probably won’t need to apply for a federal business licence, but you will be forced to comply with a range of state oversight. In California, for example, licensed gyms are required to have automated external defibrillators and staff trained in CPR. You’ll also need a written emergency plan developed by a physician.
On top of various state licensing guidelines, you’ll also need to observe municipal rules on building and business zoning. When in doubt, you should always consult a legal expert before firing off permit applications willy-nilly.
Understand Your Insurance Needs
If you plan on starting a gym, insurance is absolutely crucial. It’s important for any business owner. But loads of people are going to be taking part in potentially hazardous activities on your premises on a daily basis. High-intensity exercise can be unsafe for some, and so you’ve got to ensure both patrons and your business are legally and financially protected from major accidents.
In addition to your ordinary, run-of-the-mill business insurance, it’s worth taking a look at gym liability insurance. Depending on state or municipal laws, liability insurance might even be an operational requirement before you’re allowed to obtain a permit. If you’re forking out a reasonable amount of money on equipment, you may also want to consider equipment coverage as part of a separate policy.
There are several insurance providers that specialize in these types of coverage. It’s also worth including a clause within member contracts that will prevent them from pursuing legal action against you or your business in the event of a self-caused injury.
Most startup owners spend an unhealthy amount of time on the job — but you can’t possibly run a gym without some help. And you’ll need to ensure you’re hiring qualified and accredited individuals to join the team.
You should aim to have multiple in-house personal trainers or bring in trainers on a freelance basis to offer your patrons guidance. That said, you should vet each individual and ensure they are properly certified. Likewise, if you’re offering classes, you’ll want to bring in licensed or accredited instructors who know what they are doing. If you’re bringing them in as independent contractors, you should make sure they are personally insured, too.
Once you’ve got insurance and have met all permit and licensing requirements, you’re almost ready to get started. As you’re setting up your new premises, be sure to consult municipal authorities to ensure you are meeting any layout requirements that may exist. You’ll also need to ensure you’re properly supplied in terms of utilities, get everything set up and provide adequate induction training for staff to ensure everyone is on the same page prior to your start date.
From there, it’s simply a matter of marketing your business and doing everything else you can do get people in the door. As outlined, it always helps to have your own steady client base handy in order to have an initial, built-in customer base. That may also be a deciding factor in the personal trainers or class leaders you ultimately bring on as staff.
But in terms of appealing to new clients to win your local market share, you should always start online. Social media and the web can be very helpful in marketing your business. That being said, traditional local advertising is also something you will likely need to consider. Be creative. Know your demographics, and reach out to those individuals wherever possible.
Just remember that no two businesses are alike, and you may run into a few unanticipated hurdles along the way. You’ve just got to roll with the punches — and when in doubt, never be afraid to seek out professional advice.
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Starting a Fitness Facility in a Small Town
Small towns have pros and cons for fitness entrepreneurs. Are you a fitness professional living in a small-ish town? Do you have the desire or dream to open a studio or gym? Are you afraid a small town may limit you? Small towns might have limitations in some respects, but there is also great potential.
I live in a very small rural town (population is approximately 17,000 people) and the largest city is about 130 miles north or 150 miles south. Although our city is classified as “rural”, I consider it “frontier” because it is geographically isolated and sits at the base of our mountains. Dude ranches and farming communities sprinkle the countryside.
Although it’s small by census standards, my county has at least 12 gyms, fitness centers, and studios. Some are nonprofits (YMCA and Rec Centers) while others are for profit. Most are flourishing and experiencing an increase in memberships. Somehow, they manage to coexist and still compete successfully. How? Careful planning, thoughtful integration of services, and – of course – financial support and, as my realtor friends would say, an emphasis on location, location, location. So, before you hang your shingle check out these “must do’s” to help you organize and successfully execute your plan of attack.
Careful planning, thoughtful integration of services, and – of course – financial support and, as my realtor friends would say, an emphasis on location, location, location. So, before you hang your shingle check out these “must do’s” to help you organize and successfully execute your plan of attack.
Small Town Fitness Plan
Get your business organized. This is done through a solid business plan. Through this process, you are able to identify a mission, an “elevator pitch”, a funding plan, marketing strategies, etc. Whatever you do, don’t skip this step. It’s tempting to charge full speed ahead when you’re excited and passionate about your decision, however, do not fail to plan and do so with attention, intention, and confidence.
Research is a must
Start by examining what your “competition” will be. Try asking and answering these questions during your research.
- What other businesses similar to yours exist and where are they located?
- What are the services available?
- Is it a for profit or nonprofit (huge difference between these types of entities)?
- What are the hours of operation?
- Do they have certified personal trainers available or is it an “at your own risk” type of gym?
- What’s the niche? What’s the “golden egg”?
- How do they market? Do they leverage social media?
- Do they have investors or is it self-sustaining (this may be tricky to find out)?
- Who is my target audience and how can I communicate with them? What’s their preferred method?
The next part of your research phase is to pay a visit to the gyms or studios you feel may offer the biggest competition to yours. Check out the facilities, take a class, as about the credentials of the trainers. Identify what you like, what you don’t like, and what you can do differently. This will help you carve the niche necessary to draw people to your services.
Envision the Space
Unless you have large investors or a bank of cash saved for just this purpose, start small and evaluate the feasibility of leasing, buying, or building. The key here is to avoid spending money you don’t have. It’s even possible to start a traveling trainer business to build up income and savings before launching into a buying or building a physical space.
Consider what you could do with a large one-room studio. A facility doesn’t need to be big to be effective and lucrative. By adding some mirrors and using space-effective equipment (medicine balls, kettlebells, mats, bands, etc.), you can create fun and calorie-torching strength and cardio workouts.
Develop an Active Voice
Small towns function on personal, professional, and political connections. What organizations, boards, or community entities can you become involved with to be an active member of the community? Is there a small business owners group, a chamber of commerce, or a business after-hours event that you might join to build new or strengthen existing connections?
There may even be opportunities to offer “fee for service” to other business owners as part of a small corporate or employee wellness program. Whatever route you choose, keep in mind that you need to invest in your community if you want your community to invest in you.
Keep it Legit and Legal
This is something that is part of the business plan process, but it warrants a separate mention. Absolutely cover your legal bases. Invest in the services of an attorney to look over rental/lease agreements, business owner and/or employer responsibilities and duties, contract legalese, and determine the risks and benefits associated with the various types of business – LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc. Spending financial resources on the front end will save you from costly legal services in the future should something go awry or fall through.
Success is possible in any town – large, medium or small. Find your purpose, fuel your passion, and deliver on the promises you make to yourself, your business investment, and your patrons and success will be yours.
Do you have other tips for making it big in a small town? Let us know in the Facebook Community Group if you’re NFPT certified. If you’re not, come chat with us here!
Start a boutique gym by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your boutique gym. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a boutique gym?
Your costs will be determined by your location, type of workout program offered, and equipment and machinery needs. Depending on these and other factors, you could spend anywhere from virtually nothing, all the way up to one million dollars in startup costs. A realistic middle range might be $25,000-30,000.
For instance, a barebones operation might involve you running a small boot camp class a few times a week in an outdoor public access area, such as a beach or park. If your workout primarily consists of calisthenics, running, and other cardio drills, your only equipment needs might be jump ropes, stretch bands, and lightweight dumbbells. (Don’t even attempt this approach unless you live in an area where the climate is conducive to frequent outdoor training.)
On the other end of the scale, you could offer only state-of-the-art stationary bikes, treadmills, and lifting equipment, with surround-sound music and an upscale juice bar for after-workout mingling, in a newer building in a high-rent commercial district.
Here are a few of your leading expenses, regardless of your exact gym type.
- Space rental – This will depend on the city, but can run $4,000-5,000 a month for 3,000 square feet. Don’t skimp here, as your members won’t want to pay top dollar to attend classes in a too-small space, or a questionable part of town.
- Equipment – Again, this is highly variable, but can run from a few thousand dollars for several sets of dumbbells, to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the newest and most technologically advanced exercise machinery.
- Liability and other insurance – You’ll want to make sure everyone signs waivers (here’s an example), but you’ll still need liability insurance. You can find out more about gym insurance coverage needs and costs here.
- Employees – For starters, you might be the sole employee, so either have savings so you don’t need to initially pull any salary from your operation, or figure your minimum needs. If you have a head trainer, this person can be an independent contractor on commission (like 25% of membership fees) to motivate his or her sales efforts. Sessions can be led by trainers, who are also independent contractors and get paid about $20 per one-hour session.
What are the ongoing expenses for a boutique gym?
Your largest ongoing expenses will tend to be space-related: rent and utilities. It’s important to keep workout spaces at a comfortable temperature, no matter how hot or cold it is outside. In many places, $500 per month for utilities might be typical.
Your employee costs will depend on your weekly number of classes, and their scheduling. At first, you might want to try to schedule classes in such a way that you can handle the training yourself for most or all of them. This will significantly cut down on your operating expenses.
Also, figure in costs for inventory if your gym offers smoothies, healthy snacks, coffee, or merchandise.
Who is the target market?
In general, your members want to improve their health, appearances and/or lifestyles, and are passionate about fitness. This is apparent in their willingness to take direction, show up for scheduled classes and pay more than what standard gym membership might cost in your area.
Since boutique gyms can be much costlier than conventional health club memberships, you’re likely to attract an upscale clientele, along with members who simply feel that the cost is justified. Your customers likely prefer forming a community with like-minded members rather than working out alone, and will help you recruit new members with positive word of mouth.
How does a boutique gym make money?
Your main source of income will be memberships. You’ll sign up new members to six-month or one-year contracts, for rates that will likely be higher than gym memberships in your area—perhaps $100 a month or more. A smaller number of specialty gym owners charge on a per-workout basis. However, this fee schedule doesn’t encourage participation as much as a monthly payment, which is owed regardless of attendance.
Some boutique gyms also sell nutritional juices or smoothies, or offer coffee and healthy snacks after workouts for additional revenue streams. Some also have small gift shops where logo t-shirts, towels, or other apparel can be found. Other services can include childcare during workouts and nutritional guidance.
How much can you charge customers?
If you can figure out what conventional health clubs cost in your area, use this as a starting point. You can charge a higher rate, based on the fact that your programs are more personal and expertly led. While people in your area might not spend much more than $30 monthly for traditional health club memberships, they might spend three times that amount for the services, environment, and peer group you offer.
How much profit can a boutique gym make?
Boutique gyms like Soul Cycle and CrossFit have opened multiple locations nationally and have even gone public, proving that there’s no ceiling to your success.
Here are average revenue figures for clubs large and small in 2014.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Consider the whole range of your customers’ needs. If their goal involves weight loss, for example, you might offer the expertise of a nutritionist to prepare meal menus. You might also consider exploiting a small but underserved niche in your community. For instance, one boutique gym only serves pregnant women, offering a range of exercises and nutrition advice that’s safe and effective for that distinct group. The better you know your target audience, the more ways you can find to provide the solutions they need. It will keep your group loyal while providing a steady revenue stream.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google’s G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your boutique gym is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC’s, and DBA’s.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, and it’s easy enough to form by yourself, or check out the top business formation services.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It’s really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company’s assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: You can get $200 when you open a Chase business checking account with qualifying activities. Learn more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business’ expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company’s credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Recommended: Read our guide to find the best small business credit cards.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a boutique gym. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Boutique gyms may also wish to look into applying for a resale certificate, if they plan on selling refreshments or other items, as a resale certificate allows retailers to purchase goods intended for resale without paying sales tax.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
It is advisable to provide clients with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency. These agreements are necessary because clients may be exposing themselves to potentially dangerous equipment/physical exertion. Here is an example of such an agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your gym when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
In order to play music in a business setting, permission must be acquired from the composer or license holder. The easiest way to do this is to obtain a “blanket” license, allowing your business to play music owned by a large catalog of artists and recording studios. Such licenses can be acquired from performance rights organizations, such as ASCAP or BMI.
- Learn more about music licensing requirements
Labor safety requirements
It is important to comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements. Relevant requirements include employee injury reports and safety signage, among other important standards.
Certificate of Occupancy
A boutique gym is generally run out of a studio. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a boutique gym.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your boutique gym will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a boutique gym
Social media is critical. Have a Facebook page and an Instagram account, at the minimum. Let prospects hear from members who are like them, and show plenty of photos promoting the equipment, as well as the cleanliness of the space.
You might also consider renting a booth during health expos, though the cost can be $1,000 or more. That’s steep, but you might achieve payback with just one or two new members who stick around for a year.
Some marketing efforts are as simple as leaving flyers on windshields, or on bulletin boards at coffee houses, shopping centers, and schools where your prospective members might be found.
How to keep customers coming back
How many people do you know who have made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, only to abandon the goal by mid-January? Many of your members sign up because they know they need the support of a professional trainer, and a community of like-minded peers. Create that community experience for your customers, and they are likely to stick around.
Provide interested members with a free trial, lasting a week or two. One boutique gym manager said that she was able to retain about 67% of prospects who accepted a trial, and attended at least three or four classes.
Also, encourage positive feedback and word of mouth. Offer membership discounts, or free/discounted products and services (perhaps a complimentary t-shirt, or $25 in smoothies) to anyone who gets friends to sign up.
And finally, really listen to your members. Are they finding a class that comfortably meets their schedule? Is the program received positively? Make sure you solicit their true views, and you’ll be less likely to lose them when their contracts expire.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
What I learned starting a small fitness business
Offer to contribute your expertise to local publications and columns; create articles on getting fit, eating well or losing weight. Unsure what to write about? Think about the common or reoccurring questions that you are asked by your clients. No doubt more than just your clients want insight into these things. Write blog articles with at-home workout ideas or well-being tips; use your experience to your advantage!
Be active in your community
My business partner and I also entered many local fitness events, sporting our Barre Base t-shirt wherever we went. Get involved with your community and make yourself visible at events that matter to you and your clients. Support local charities, and rally your clients to support them too.
Creating a strong online presence
Very early on we created a quality website. Your website is a reflection of you and your business. Looks do matter: if your site looks professional, then your clients will assume that your services will be too.
Good website design and content also reflects the legitimacy of your service, and of your business, making your package more attractive to both clients, and potential partners. Not all that techy yourself? Check out this blog, to help you simplify the process.
Social media presence
People want to see, to believe. Good photography is vital for your social media pages. Not only does it create a visual interest point, but it also demonstrates the services on offer. We are very snap happy! We take photos of our studio, our classes, and ‘technique tips’ to better demonstrate what is on offer.
People like to see others in class, and identify with those attending. If your clients are willing, get testimonials from them and share these on your social media pages. You want people to think “If he/she can do it, why can’t I?” This is much more effective then using imagery of photo-shopped fitness models.
The goal is to get your name out there; and the best way to do this online is to create interesting stuff that people want to read.
We created healthy recipe ideas, with beautiful imagery, to attract people to our pages. Many of our Barre Base clients had found these recipes before they built up the courage to try one of the classes. Keeping people engaged by making helpful content has been a very effective marketing tool for us.
We also gave back to our clients with downloadable motivational guides and ‘Summer Holiday’ workout ideas to keep them motivated (and thinking of us) even when they weren’t in a class with us.
People love to be inspired. Use your knowledge to create content that draws people to your website or social media.
Be your authentic self
If you are accustomed to a sneaky bag of chips from time to time, that’s OK! It is OK to be real when you are a fitness instructor. In my experience, clients like to know that you too have health ‘flaws’, as it makes you much more relatable and approachable. Nobody is perfect, and no one needs to pretend to be.
Believe in your product
If you love what you offer, others will too. With barre fitness being such a new concept to our small town, it did take time to fill our classes. We were consistent with our marketing and produced great content, but we also held on to the belief that what we were offering was important and would be valuable in our community.
Owning a fitness business is hard yakka; but if you love what you do, it won’t feel like ‘work’.
A Guide on How to Open a Gym
By Simret Samra
Published 20 June 2019
So you’ve made up your mind: you want to open a gym. But do you know what it takes to accomplish your dream?
Being a successful gym owner requires more than just some equipment and a nice location. You will be taking a big risk by opening a business, meaning that you’ll have to deal with making decisions about your marketing strategy, finances, hiring process, among other important aspects.
But how do you make your dream happen? To help you get on the right track, we have compiled a guide on how to open a gym – including all the basics you’ll need to think about before you spend a single penny. This includes being a qualified gym owner, understanding your target audience, choosing a suitable location for your gym business, having enough funds in place to start your business, ensuring you have the right equipment and staff, effective branding and marketing tools in place, and a retention strategy in place.
Being a Qualified Gym Owner
First of all, make sure you have adequate training, certifications and personal experience to start your own fitness center. Just like in any other gym, your members will expect you (and all the other trainers you hire) to be professionals that can help them to get into shape.
If you feel like you’re missing some knowledge or expertise, you should consider doing market research and involving a business partner. Working with someone with qualifications that fit the type of gym you want to open can provide more direction to your vision and aspirations.
Maybe you’ve decided to open a CrossFit studio, but in your time as a trainer, you had more experience with Pilates. Whether it’s learning how to run your classes better or enhancing your marketing campaigns, working with a partner who is more knowledgeable in the CrossFit space can be invaluable.
Besides, being a qualified professional can have a positive effect on the reputation of your gym. As the owner, you are one of the main representatives of the image of your gym. Your expertise and professionalism can potentially inspire confidence onto your clients, and if you become known this might boost your gym’s reputation during its first stages.
In order to bring value to your members, you have to figure out what makes your gym unique. So, ask yourself: What type of gym business do you want to be? CrossFit? Pilates? Or would you like to focus on group classes and circuit training?
Amy Saltmarsh, an owner of a CrossFit gym in Florida, emphasizes the importance of this: “Figure out what makes you really different because the market place is UBER competitive.”
One of the things that should inspire this decision is the kind of customers you are planning to attract. If you provide the perfect environment for heavy weightlifting and bodybuilding, don’t expect the moms from the surrounding neighborhood to pass through your gym anytime soon. Likewise, trying to become a high-end fitness center will require a different approach compared to a gym that is targeted at more budget-conscious members.
However, the competitive landscape should help you to decide on your target audience. Opening another Crossfit studio might not be the best option if there is already fierce competition in town. With this in mind, remember that you don’t have to be a fitness giant in order to be successful. Niche gyms can also attract a lot of members if they target the right people.
Think of a gym for people who don’t like traditional gyms, where some of the trainers are long jumpers, dancers or musicians. Or maybe a ‘Ninja Gym,’ full of obstacles to make the workout sessions more fun and engaging. Depending on your situation, thinking outside of the box and having a unique proposition could help your business to stand out among the crowd.
Choosing a Location
Consumers’ choices tend to be fueled by factors such as costs and convenience, so make sure that most of your customer base doesn’t have to drive for half an hour to get to your facilities. Keep in mind that people tend to come up with multiple excuses for skipping the gym, so a bad location can impact your business.
Always look for an accessible place with good visibility. Staying close to streets with high foot traffic is a plus for bringing in new members. Also, don’t make the mistake of choosing a location in the wrong neighborhood. Most people prefer going to a gym based close to where they live, but they won’t if it’s too expensive or if it doesn’t match their demographic.
With that being said, don’t forget to keep an eye on your rent. A place with the perfect location might charge you an astronomically high price, and this will become a problem when you need to cover your expenses during the slower seasons. It might be difficult, but make sure you’re not paying too high of a price for having your ‘ideal’ location.
Funds for Opening a Gym
If you’ve found the perfect location and you’re ready to open your ‘dream gym’, you’ll need some funds before you start investing in the rent, buying some equipment, hiring adequate trainers and building a marketing campaign.
Whether you’re using your own savings, trying to raise funding or getting a loan, having a business plan will be essential for having a clear overview of your short-term and long-term vision. This can help you uncover some start-up costs necessary to open your gym.
Consider hiring professionals or using software services that allow you to track your finances and evaluate your business performance. Understanding some financial and performance metrics can really help you at working smarter. You’ll be able to decide where to allocate your resources and how to optimize them in order to meet your projections.
Getting your hands on the right equipment for your facilities is also a crucial step. You will want to have adequate equipment for the type of training you want to implement, as well as the right quantity for the number of members you’re expecting.
Some equipment depreciates fast, so having unused treadmills and spinning bikes lying around would be a waste of resources. Invest in things that add value, and serve multiple purposes. Equipment that can be used by multiple people will also prove itself very useful during busy times.
If you don’t want to pay too much for it, consider starting small and acquiring used equipment that is in good condition. Since this will be one of your biggest initial investments, it’s better to start slow and not get too excited about buying things that won’t be used in the future.
Additionally, teach your clients and promote an atmosphere in which they are expected to take care of what they use. This way, you’ll prevent equipment from breaking down.
Finding the right staff for your gym can be a challenge, but it will be necessary if you want to provide your customers with a positive experience that will encourage them to come back. At the end of the day, the instructors will be also a part of your gym’s identity.
During the hiring process, make sure to find qualified coaches who believe in your vision and your brand, as they will be a better fit for your business. But most importantly, don’t forget to monitor their performance and see how much value they could bring to your community. You can make use of software tools to gain insights on which instructors are attracting more attendees, how many bookings they get, and which classes are the most popular. Additionally, you can survey your customers about your staff. With this information, you will be able to give them feedback and encourage them if they’re doing a good job.
Experience is good to have in any field, so you should look for people who have it. But go beyond just looking for anyone who’s worked in a gym before. Look out for applicants who have run a weekly yoga class or spin class, for example. Even if you aren’t planning on holding classes right now, you might want to in the future, and having someone on hand who has done it before will be helpful. Furthermore, when you choose to hire people who were leaders in their previous positions, you can feel confident that they’ll take initiative and assume leadership roles while working for you.
Branding & Marketing
Before your official debut, creating awareness and promoting your gym among potential customers is crucial for establishing your business in your town or city.
Shelley Grieshop works at Totally Promotional, an online retailer that works with fitness centers for their marketing ideas: “With gyms of all kinds opening up at a rapid pace, it’s important to start branding your business before your official debut. Start by hanging or posting customized banners at or near the site of your new gym. Let people know who and what you are and how they can contact you.”
You can make use of traditional advertising, but don’t forget to start building a strong online presence. Social media is a very powerful channel in which you can start promoting your gym and build a following, especially if you’re targeting a younger demographic.
Partnerships and promotions can also help you gain some public attention. Think about offering branded sports bottles for the first 50 clients, or maybe a promotion in which they get a discount on their memberships if they sign up in the first week. Let people know who you are and what you have to offer!
Last but not least: retention! Even if you land 100 new memberships during your first week, this doesn’t mean that they will continue being your clients over the following months. Member retention is extremely important if you want to keep a healthy business performance.
Besides providing a nice atmosphere at the gym, motivating and engaging frequently with your clients will increase the chances of them making return visits. Building a strong community should be one of your main priorities as a gym owner, and there are different ways in which you can achieve this.
Start by introducing fitness challenges, where you could track your members’ progress and reward those who hit the weekly or monthly goal. If you want to make it more competitive, you could include leaderboards and rankings to make it more interesting. Just remember to always keep it fun.
If you wish to take it a step further and engage with them outside of the gym, consider having your own branded mobile app. Thanks to this, you could communicate with your clients through the app, send them reminders, set up challenges and have your own online community. All of this under your own brand. Whether your gym caters to the hardcore CrossFit enthusiasts or to those who want some light exercise a couple of times a week to balance things out, a mobile app can make sure that your product gets marketed to the people you want to buy it. It’s not enough to only offer your product at a physical location. Gym consumers are looking for a personalized experience, not just a fitness program. High-value and informative SEO based content is essential.
Although there many other things you’ll have to think about as your business starts growing, this guide should put you on the right track and give you a checklist of things you should consider before making your final decision. Opening a gym is not an easy task: you will be starting a gym business from scratch and taking lots of risks during the first stages. However, now you know what the basics are for committing to this project and ensuring a solid start!
How To Start a Gym
We get between 5 and 10 requests every month from people who want to start a gym in their community. And that really doesn’t come as a surprise, with more and more people wanting to live a healthier lifestyle the gym industry is booming! It is no wonder that these young entrepreneurs have spotted the opportunity and now want to take advantage of it. So we have decided to provide some advice on starting a gym.
I Want to Start a Gym!
It’s all fine and dandy to say “hey, I want to start a gym” but there is a lot more to it than just a light-bulb moment. Just like starting any business from scratch there are many challenges to conquer, hurdles to jump over and brick walls to demolish! We have simplified this process into 4 main steps or phases:
- Business Plan
Step 1 – Do Your Research
This is the make-or-break phase of your entire business plan, concept or idea. It is during this period that you will do intensive research, and investigation in order to establish whether or not your gym will be viable i.e. make a profit! However, research is not an exact science – it can only give you enough data to guide you towards an educated decision. You will only really find out if a business idea is successful or not when you actually start it! That being said, it is still vital to do this research – which would include things like:
- Location & Gym Size – You need to identify a space that is large enough to cater for the people in the area, safe & convenient enough for people to want to visit it, and cheap enough so that you don’t break the bank before you even start! Some would say that the location of your gym is the most important aspect, and we would tend to agree. A gym that is highly visible (like in a shopping centre or next to a main road) will naturally attract more people than a gym tucked away in an industrial area. Size is also important, because you want to ensure that the space you choose caters perfectly for the amount of members you expect. When you start a gym, the location of your gym really depends on the following points:
- Potential Clients – Good businesses thrive because they fulfill a need! You can go about this in 2 ways: 1) Either you first decide on what kind of gym you want to open and then you try find a space where there is a need for it. 2) Or you first find a space and then try to identify what kind of gym would thrive there. Either way it will require you to do research in that area to determine the needs of the people living/working there. This is the only way to really determine whether or not people will come to your gym.
- Competition – What other gyms are in the area? And are they offering the same services as you are? If you want to open a Pilates studio in an area filled with Pilates studios, chances are you won’t thrive (unless you offer a spectacular service). Identifying your competition plays an important role in determining where you want to situate your gym and what services or products you can offer to set yourself apart from your competitors.
- Type of Gym – Another important aspect to research when you start a gym, is what kind of gym will thrive in an area. Perhaps the Pilates studio you were so set on opening doesn’t seem feasible anymore, but you identified a need for Yoga classes – so from a business point of view, the Yoga studio seems more viable. As we mentioned earlier, identify the need of that neighborhood/community and build your business around that.
- Start-Up Costs – Knowing how much money you need to get your venture off the ground will give you a good idea of what you are getting yourself into. We aren’t going to butter this up or beat around the bush – starting a gym is expensive! This is because it requires a relative large piece of land and expensive commercial machinery. It is VERY hard for us to tell you exactly how much it will cost you because it depends on the size of the gym, the amount of equipment you want and the type of equipment you want. You would also need to decide between renting equipment and buying it cash.
- Gym Equipment Costs – Most manufacturers have more than one range of equipment – they generally have an entry level range, which is more affordable, and then a premium range which is obviously more expensive. The benefits of entry level gym equipment is that you save money, but then you need to beware that this equipment isn’t always the best quality and might not come with a quality guarantee. The benefits of premium equipment is that it will last, it generally has a good warranty and your members will love using it. The prices below will give you a broad idea of what entry level and premium equipment can cost you:
- Commercial Treadmills: R30 000 – R150 000 per treadmill
- Commercial Bikes: R20 000 – R90 000 per bike
- Spinning Bikes: R10000 – R80 000 per bike
- Ellipticals: R30 000 – R130 000 per elliptical
- Rowing Machines: R10 000 – R20 000
- Selectorised Strength Machines: R25 000 – R75 000 per machine
- Cable Crossovers and Multi Gyms: R50 000 – R130 000 per machine
- Barbell and Dumbell Racks: R10 000 – R30 000
- Dumbells (2kg – 60kg): R400 – R16 000 per dumbbell
- Barbells (10kg – 50kg): R1200 – R6000 per barbell
- Rubber Flooring: R200 – R400 per square meter
Step 2 – Build a Business Plan
Unless you have a couple of million Rands lying around, you would need an investor to help you start a gym. But any investor who is even partially successful would want a detailed breakdown of how their money will be invested and when they will see a return. This is done with a business plan. A well researched, thorough business plan could be your golden ticket – it could help you secure that funding!
Business Plans have a specific format that needs to be followed – here is a template. Typically you would take all the research you did in Step 1, structure it, refine it and use it to build the business plan. We aren’t going to get into the nitty-gritty of writing a business plan as there are hundreds of websites out there that give you step-by-step instructions, and you can even pay some sites to do it for you. But the most important part of your business plan is:
- “Financial Statements and Projections” – More often than not an investor would skip right to this section, because it is here where they will see whether this business is viable. In short, you need to show the investor how your gym will make a profit, but more importantly how you intend to pay them back the money they gave you to start a gym. In order to do this you need to work out your Start-up Costs vs Income vs Expenses:
- Start-Up Costs – By this stage you should know exactly how big your gym is and how much gym equipment you need, and it is only at this stage that you should approach a company like Matrix Fitness with a list of equipment to get an accurate quote. You would do the same with other companies to get accurate costings on furniture, building costs (if you are building), flooring etc.
- Expenses – What are the day-to-day running costs of your gym? Staff salaries, water & lights, maintenance, loan repayments, bond repayments, equipment rental etc.
- Income – How much money will your gym bring in each month? How many members you will get? What should their membership fees be?
Now, double your estimated expenses and cut your estimated income in half for the first six months, because this is most likely what’s going to happen when you start a gym. If you can still succeed in this scenario, then you’ve got a chance.
Step 3 – Funding Your Gym
So you have done your research, and you have your professional business plan in your trembling hands – now you need to look for funding. This can be daunting but there are many websites in South Africa that offer funding for young entrepreneurs. Opening up a decent sized gym will cost a decent chunk of money (anything from R5m – R20m), but if you have done your research correctly and really identified a need in a community or area then investors would be willing to fund the project. As you can see, the research that you conducted is really what will make or break your venture – if it’s thorough and accurate then you have a chance, if its sloppy and brief then you should go back to the drawing board.
Step 4 – Implementation
Everything up to now has been theory! You have estimated your start-up costs, expenses, income and member numbers – now you need to put it all into action. By now your investor has most likely provided you with the start-up capital which is at your disposal, ready to be used. As we mentioned earlier, the only REAL way to see whether a business is successful or not is to start it! Yes there will be hurdles in the way, and unforeseen challenges to really test you – but being able to overcome those challenges is what being an entrepreneur is all about. There is no reward without risk. Good luck!
Startup Costs: $10,000 – $50,000
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? Yes
Online Operation? No
In the past 20 years, fitness centers have not only proven to be popular and very much in demand by fitness conscious consumers, but they have also been proven to be very profitable as a business opportunity. Opening a fitness center requires careful planning and research, and the following are aspects of the business that should be considered: Location. Where will the fitness center be located, how much square footage will be required, what are the leasehold improvements going to cost, is there good visibility, access, and parking, and is the business located in an area comprised mainly of the target market customers? Operating format. Will the fitness center cater to all people, or will the focus of the business target one specific group of people? Will the fitness center be full service, meaning optional aerobic classes and one-on-one personal training for clients? Staff. Is there access to trained fitness instructors and staff in the community where the fitness center is being established, and if so what are the wage and benefit demands, as well as expectancy of staff in terms of career opportunities? Marketing. How will the fitness center be marketed? Will it be by way of membership drive or a drop-in rate established? What enticements or services will be used as a marketing tool to draw members from competitors’ fitness clubs or facilities? Competition. How much local competition is there in the fitness industry, and is the competition in the form of a chain fitness center, community-operated fitness center, or independently-operated fitness centers? How much does the competition charge? Is there the possibility of a price war? Can the proposed business gain enough clients to be profitable? What is the effect on the business from potential future competitors? There are many aspects to carefully consider prior to starting a fitness center. However, with careful research and proper planning a fitness center can be a fabulous business to start, operate, and own, not to mention that it also has the potential to be very profitable.