Are you a health guru? Do you take pleasure in showing people how to change their lives for the better by moving their bodies?
Then starting a gym may be the right business venture for you. But it’s not as easy as buying some equipment and mounting lockers. You have to think through the whole user process before you as much as apply for a loan.
Start asking yourself the questions below and you’ll be well on your way!
Niche or Not?
When you’re starting a gym, you have to think about your personal interests. There’s a difference between an all-family gym and a CrossFit box.
The same is true for gyms that cater to cycling and those that are for hardcore weightlifters. We’re not saying you can’t integrate them all – but that’s a bigger project to take on.
Ask yourself if there’s a market for your specialization and if there’s a need for a niche gym like that in your area. If there is, then why not market yourself as a specialization?
The hottest new cycling gym, with cycling classes, and special weight classes for bikers? Sure, you’ll have less clientele, but you can charge more because you’re offering unique services.
What About Childcare?
One big thing, and a big expense, insurance wise, is gym childcare. The big gyms around the country almost always offer childcare, for parents who need an exercise break.
If you’re a small gym, you may not have to budget for this. But it is something you might want to offer in the future, once you save up for it.
The costs involved with childcare at a gym are insurance, setting up space, hiring and paying employees, along with managing all that.
Parents do and will pay extra to have access to this service, so it’s not a business loss – it’s just high cost at first.
If you let your members know that you’re working to open childcare, they’re more likely to pick your gym and wait, than if you’d never mentioned it at all.
Where Will it Be?
Too many times, we see gyms that are in a strange part of town, in an old warehouse. While that may work for people that need to build-their-own equipment, like for CrossFit, is it accessible?
The majority of gym goers have trouble motivating themselves to go to the gym in the first place. If you’re out of the way and it takes a long time to get there, why would they bother adding the extra time?
Thomas Plummer says that your gym should be 15 minutes away from your target market, in peak traffic. People won’t drive or stay in the car longer than that.
And yes – that may mean a smaller space or higher rent than you were planning. But you can’t open a gym with no clients and you’ll see a lot of drop off after the initial client’s excitement drops off.
The Gym Culture
This goes along with what niche or non-niche you’re opening a gym for. But what is the culture you’d like your gym to have?
Many women don’t feel welcome in weight rooms since they’re generally filled with grunting dudes.
How can you create a welcoming space, if that’s your goal? If your goal isn’t to integrate the whole family – then that’s fine, make your man weight cave and be on your way.
Will there be more structured classes at your gym? If you’re integrating a yoga or pilates studio, then you don’t want it too close to (or below) the weight space.
It’s hard for your clients to concentrate on their meditation when there are weights being dropped above their heads.
It won’t make them feel welcome and they’ll assume the yoga program isn’t valued.
It’s things like this that take a gym from rookie to classic.
What’s Your Layout?
Continuing on that note, when you’re working on your layout, don’t think about just the practicalities. This machine will fit here but not there etc.
Yes, that’s important and necessary – but think about how your clients will access the space.
You want the locker rooms to be accessible, not randomly placed where you had room. Can you make the locker rooms central enough to have two entrances?
Then there’s the idea of cardio and weight rooms. Where will they go? General machine exercisers want tvs and fans that may not work for a certain room.
Imagine you’re walking through your gym as you plan it. If someone’s walking to yoga class, do they want to feel like all the people in the weightlifting room are staring at their spandex-clad bodies?
Plan Your Personas
Once you’ve thought about the rest of the questions on this list, it’s time to create your marketing personas. These are actual characters that you can name people you want to join your gym.
They’ll differ depending on the niche you’re targeting. Mary may be a stay at home mom with two kids, who works out after she drops her kids off at school. She has $30/week budget and cares about accessible cardio machines and weekly pilates classes.
That’s one example. You should have at least three, but more like 5-7 different marketing personas. You need to know what your customers want, and creating different people makes that feel less overwhelming.
What Software Will You Use?
Finally, you need to think about the day to day operations of the gym, and how you’ll track them. There are options out there for everyone, no matter their technology level.
MIS Gym Software is one example.
Starting a Gym
The most important thing when you’re starting a gym is that you have a drive behind wanting to make money. Do you want to train athletes? Show people the benefits of weightlifting when they wouldn’t generally try it?
Starting a gym is starting a place that makes people feel better, so treat it as such.
For more advice on businesses, specific niches, and individualized advice, click here.