Is Owning Your Own Fitness Studio As Easy As It Looks?
I have met hundreds of fitness professionals, trainers and general population who share an interest in opening their own studio. Whether a person is in the fitness industry currently, and thinks that opening their own studio is the best option compared to working for a corporation, or a person switching careers and getting into fitness for the first time, I often hear the same story. The expectation is expressed like this. “I want to open my own gym/studio so I can make more money and have more free time to do what I want.” Or, ” I want to hire other trainers to work for me at my own studio so I can increase my earnings.”
I always support people with a vision and a dream. To be an entrepreneur and business owner takes tremendous focus and resolve. The challenges and pitfalls that arise will test a person’s commitment and dedication. I spoke to Melissa Rishel, Owner of MBS Fitness Studio, Sonora Calif., who shared some interesting insights into her experience as a gym owner.
Location, Location, Location
The location of the studio can make or break you. Melissa took time to find a space that was visible to passing traffic and was centrally located to prospective members. If a studio is hidden inside a building or business park, it’s possible that nobody will know that the studio exists.
Know Your Demographic
Melissa wasted money and time on marketing the studio. A few months after opening, she realized that word of mouth was the best marketing for her area. However, marketing CAN be a vital way to business build (social media, newspaper ads, flyers and open houses are all great avenues). Do your research.
Research Your Membership Plan
Be attentive to the needs and wants of the membership. If a gym offers Yoga, Pilates, GRAVITY, TRX and Personal Training, for example, be sure to offer all at a high standard. Most large corporate gyms can handle high turnover in membership. However, if a small studio under-delivers on programming and customer service, it will quickly go out of business.
Beware of Hidden Fees
Every small business has to pay taxes that you may not be aware of. Melissa was charged taxes on all parts of her business: licensing, square footage and many other taxes a new business owner rarely knows about. Her business insurance was also a large expense. Some landlords and insurance companies require mandatory security systems that increase costs. Know the ins and outs of the location before signing a contract or lease.
Utilities – know the rates. Melissa was shocked in her first month with a heating bill of over $500! Water, gas, electricity and cable/internet are all added expenses to the business.
Appreciate Your Membership
There is a plethora of fitness outlets from the large “big box gyms” to the small boutique and everything in between. The cost of a monthly membership can vary from $10-200+ per month. What keeps small fitness businesses afloat is a sincere appreciation for the membership and clientele. Offer incentives to long term members, host member appreciation events and create a positive and motivating culture at your facility to create longevity for the business.
A studio can represent a person’s “third space.” One space being their home, second being their place of employment. To create an inviting and positive studio/gym takes a solid foundation and a solid staff.
Create a Culture
Lastly, have a mission statement that encompasses why your business exists and display it boldly for everyone to see. If everyone in the studio knows why the space exists, it will create a strong culture and ultimately create a thriving fitness business.
When choosing to create and own a fitness studio there are many factors to consider. The rewards can be tremendous and rewarding, as you can impact so many lives positively through fitness. However, be aware and extremely diligent when you do decide to open your own business. Planning your strategy and learning from others who have gone before you can save you time, energy, money and most importantly your own sanity and health. This blog offers a small glimpse into the pitfalls of studio ownership that I was glad to share with you.
Special thanks go out to Melissa Rishel for her contributions.
Hire quality/qualified staff and pay them well! Build a relationship of trust. Although you may trust your staff, nobody will care about the studio as much as you, the owner. Always know that whatever happens in and around the studio, the owner is ultimately responsible for everything and everyone. Being the boss brings great responsibility. Be prepared for everyone to come to you even if you have the appropriate staff on sight to handle a situation.
Neil Mallinson is a Master GRAVITY Instructor, Master TRX Instructor and holds numerous certifications through NSCA and NASM, and has presented domestically and internationally for decades.
He studied Kinesiology and Sports Medicine at the University of Maryland College Park and specializes in sports performance training with a focus on mobility and recovery. The ability to change a person’s life through fitness education and living a healthy lifestyle are what keeps Neil passionate.