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  1. #1
    Registered User waugusta's Avatar
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    Post Opening A New Gym

    Hi Gym Owners,

    I'm looking to open up a gym in the next year. I live in Washington, workout a lot and have worked hard to save some dough to do this.

    I want to know how you all did this, so i go in prepared and know all the requirements that help or are needed. I'm not looking for this to be a huge money maker right off the bat, as i have a couple different streams of income. My goal is to open up a dope gym that i can turn into a great spot for users, and really try to build a brand. It would be great to eventually build it out to be my main income, since working out and health are things i'm passionate about.

    I'd also love to connect with any people trying to seriously help out and show me the ropes.

    Thanks,
    Will
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  2. #2
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    Unless you are considering Crossfit or 'Boot Camp' style gym like Fit Camp, which are low cost startups with high monthly memberships, I'd say abandon the idea and just continue on with your passion for lifting on the home front. The main issue you'll struggle with is, "Location, Location, Location". How is the demographic where you live? How many gyms are within close proximity? What type of gym do you plan on opening and how would it be more appealing than any other gym on the market? Because LA Fitness and Planet Fitness type gyms are DIRT cheap, why would anyone want to train at your gym when you likely can't afford a space 1/2 their size or with equal quality equipment? Respected members here have tried and failed with gym ownership, one especially with incredible skill in locating affordable commercial equipment and was still unable to make it a viable long term source of income.
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  3. #3
    Registered User chucknorris251's Avatar
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    Alan Thrall has a long video on how he opened his. like him, id expect you to be strapped for cash until its up and going for a while. Be resourceful, get big tires and axles from a junkyard, make stones if you want them, build your own deadlift platforms etc... you can do it, it will just be hard. He started a barebones gym in cali with 10k for context.
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    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Good advice above, OP. In the end a gym is a business like any other, success will boil down to cash flow & not how "dope" the gym is. The same way a restaurant's success often isn't that dependent on having great food.

    You need to figure out your startup & ongoing costs/expenses related to space, equipment, supplies, staffing/benefits, insurance, marketing, licenses/fees, other services, etc. - then your potential membership revenues. That'll give you an idea if it's a worthwhile venture or a likely money pit. Keep in mind that even with a solid business plan & a great gym setup, it's still possible that customers don't end up walking through the door.
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    Honestly, if you're asking strangers in a bodybuilding forum for business advice, it may not be a good idea to begin with.

    I do wish you luck, though. The world needs more real gyms and less Planet Fitness. But Planet Fitness has brand recognition and national marketing.
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    It’s all in the name OP. You need something clicky , like Smack City Barbell
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    Your gym membership shouldn't account for the majority of your cash flow, selling smoothies, protein shakes, merchandise, and other supplements should account for a good part of the gym's income. Having said that unless there's no Planet Fitnesses or places like that around you'll be hard pressed to lure enough clientele away from those places since you won't be able to compete with their prices and services they offer. The only people that will probably want to come to your your gym are the people that hate the Planet Fitness type places, basically powerlifters or hard core bodybuilders. You don't want those type in your gym if you want to make money. They'll abuse your equipment, scare away the type of customers you want, and they won't buy anything from you.
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    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by thedickus View Post
    The only people that will probably want to come to your your gym are the people that hate the Planet Fitness type places, basically powerlifters or hard core bodybuilders. You don't want those type in your gym if you want to make money. They'll abuse your equipment, scare away the type of customers you want, and they won't buy anything from you.
    Exactly. Successful gyms make $ on the masses of people who sign up but never show up, and those that sign up for training sessions. The regulars on both the lifting/cardio side are the ones that drive their equipment, repair, cleaning, laundry, free class instruction & supply costs.

    Plus you need a wide membership group if you want any minimum customer base for products/nutrition you also offer for sale.
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  9. #9
    Registered User waugusta's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the input. I guess i phrased this wrong and might be asking the wrong crowd. This isn't a "should i?" question. This is a where did you start question. I'm looking for any gym owners, not just feedback on if i should or not. I have my own businesses already, so i'm not just a wishful thinker who likes to lift. This gym would be a business first, but a business that i enjoy since fitness is a fun and exciting industry. No business ownership is easy lol, but if i wanted easy, i'd go work a part time job, workout 24/7, and play video games in my free time.

    With that being said, if anyone on here owns a gym, I'd love to talk to you about the starting process. Thanks!
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  10. #10
    Registered User waugusta's Avatar
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    This is the kind of info I'm looking for! Thanks for the reply! I just need some details from someone who's gone through it. I'm not looking to open a franchise. I'm looking to open a small local gym in an area a decent distance from a big city.
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  11. #11
    Registered User waugusta's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bisonp View Post
    Honestly, if you're asking strangers in a bodybuilding forum for business advice, it may not be a good idea to begin with.

    I do wish you luck, though. The world needs more real gyms and less Planet Fitness. But Planet Fitness has brand recognition and national marketing.
    I figure if you're a gym owner, you'd want to sit on the top fitness forums to stay relevant for sales, attractions, and latest trends in working out. Like getting work advice on Linkedin, or gaming advice on Twitch or Discord. That'd probably be smart right?
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  12. #12
    Registered User waugusta's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    Good advice above, OP. In the end a gym is a business like any other, success will boil down to cash flow & not how "dope" the gym is. The same way a restaurant's success often isn't that dependent on having great food.

    You need to figure out your startup & ongoing costs/expenses related to space, equipment, supplies, staffing/benefits, insurance, marketing, licenses/fees, other services, etc. - then your potential membership revenues. That'll give you an idea if it's a worthwhile venture or a likely money pit. Keep in mind that even with a solid business plan & a great gym setup, it's still possible that customers don't end up walking through the door.
    This is the kind of info I'm looking for! Thanks for the reply! I just need some details from someone who's gone through it. I'm not looking to open a franchise. I'm looking to open a small local gym in an area a decent distance from a big city.
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  13. #13
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    I don't own a gym, my wife owns a salon, I grew up in a family that owned 3 donut shops. I'm not gonna try to discourage you, because I love the idea of more small businesses. But I acknowledge most small businesses fail. It's my belief that the ones that don't, successfully utilize new tech and trends in a way behemoths can't, at least not quickly.

    IMO, social media is key to competing with the big box. IG and Groupon accounts for more than 50% of my wife's clientele. Probably more if you count word of mouth from that clientele. IG requires a lot of engagement to get the algorithm to promote you. Identifying local micro niche celebrities, and getting them to promote you goes a long way. For example my wife identified a number of former beauty queens, and offered them free service, to post about it on IG. These women were way beyond their competitive days. But were still very attractive, and had on average 50k followers, a lot of them local.

    Regarding trends, a lot of social media fitness influencers have been promoting recovery tech such as saunas, IR saunas, cold plunges, red light therapy, compression therapy. A lot of people are probably curious about these things, but can't easily try it out. Nor is there much research literature available.
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  14. #14
    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by waugusta View Post
    This is the kind of info I'm looking for! Thanks for the reply! I just need some details from someone who's gone through it. I'm not looking to open a franchise. I'm looking to open a small local gym in an area a decent distance from a big city.
    Everyone has buddies who've talked about opening up a small local bar since they love drinking & hanging out, when in reality it's a much better investment to just set up a home bar. Same goes for home gyms.

    You should do a little legwork on your own if you're serious rather than looking for someone to just show you the ropes, so when you have access to someone experienced you can ask specific Qs and have a productive discussion. It'll also be difficult to have a discussion just about the "gym-related stuff" without addressing the planning/business/viability aspects. The process will largely mirror the steps in opening any business.

    If you really plan on starting this up - things you can do on the relatively cheap while you're planning & figuring out exactly what you want your gym to be... you can get fitness certified, look into how to set up a business entity & get a tax ID, research the licensing, insurance, permit processes & get active on social media especially in local forums & groups. If you have a good business accountant/lawyer, they actually may be able to assist with some of the business startup & ongoing stuff - but you can also do all of it on your own if you are willing. Good luck!
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  15. #15
    NASM-CPT xsquid99's Avatar
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    Check out Michael Kory's YouTube channel, he doesn't YouTube anymore now that he's a successful gym owner, but he chronicled basically every step of the way on YouTube back when he was getting started. Read the gym reviews for Obtain Strength gym in Tulsa, OK and you'll see why/how he's been so successful.

    Its important to have a niche, something your gym will offer that the other big box gyms don't (i.e. catering more towards serious bodybuilders and powerlifters or strongman, etc). If I was going to do this I would focus on something like that. Lots of squat racks and deadlift platforms, competition benches, calibrated plates, etc, with maybe just a few machines and cardio pieces, since those can be found anywhere. Good quality equipment is key, Rogue, Lifefitness/Hammer Strength, etc. Open 24 hours with keycard access for members is another thing you can use to draw people in. Focus on a few things and do those few things well. If you have a niche then location is not as important as people think, as long as there's plenty of parking in a relatively safe area and a town large enough to pull customers from (think 100K+ population).
    All it takes is consistency, effort, proper nutrition, good programming, and TIME.

    Don't be upset with the results you didn't get from the work you did not do.
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    Originally Posted by xsquid99 View Post
    Open 24 hours with keycard access for members is another thing you can use to draw people in.
    XSquid's not wrong, but keep in mind for every out-of-the-box feature you offer there's often a host of additional liability & other issues that are raised (damage, theft, misuse, security/safety, injuries, health events, lack of oversight, etc.). Consider the potential liability you're opening yourself up to as a single proprietor/owner/operator, even with protections of insurance, waivers/releases & corporate shielding.

    When you're doing it for the love of fitness without an expectation of necessarily making a living off of it, you have to decide if it's worth the liability, immediate & ongoing financial costs, and headaches of running a small business. Even if you break even, I'm not sure how that's more fun than the more economical options of setting up a killer home gym or joining a few niche gyms & banging around their equipment.
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    NASM-CPT xsquid99's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    XSquid's not wrong, but keep in mind for every out-of-the-box feature you offer there's often a host of additional liability & other issues that are raised (damage, theft, misuse, security/safety, injuries, health events, lack of oversight, etc.). Consider the potential liability you're opening yourself up to as a single proprietor/owner/operator, even with protections of insurance, waivers/releases & corporate shielding.
    For sure I think the only way you could possibly get away with unstaffed hours is through an awesome security system that is constantly recording every inch of the gym at all times, as well as having some damn good insurance and waivers drafted by a lawyer. But there are gyms that do it and do it successfully.

    If I knew there was a gym near me that I had access to 24 hours a day I would be the first one in line for a membership.
    All it takes is consistency, effort, proper nutrition, good programming, and TIME.

    Don't be upset with the results you didn't get from the work you did not do.
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  18. #18
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    Learn all you can and write a business plan. If you hope to make money and build a brand you will need to open more than one location. You just missed what has been the main trade show for the club business for years - IHRSA. Just ending today in Miami. There is the Athletic Business Conference or "ABC show" that is in Orlando this fall.

    Even though I would NOT suggest becoming a franchise owner, I suggest you shop a lot of franchises. Get qualified, get and study all the documents. Don't drink the kool aid. Just swish it around a little and spit it out.

    Originally Posted by waugusta View Post
    Thanks everyone for the input. I guess i phrased this wrong and might be asking the wrong crowd. This isn't a "should i?" question. This is a where did you start question. I'm looking for any gym owners, not just feedback on if i should or not. I have my own businesses already, so i'm not just a wishful thinker who likes to lift. This gym would be a business first, but a business that i enjoy since fitness is a fun and exciting industry. No business ownership is easy lol, but if i wanted easy, i'd go work a part time job, workout 24/7, and play video games in my free time.

    With that being said, if anyone on here owns a gym, I'd love to talk to you about the starting process. Thanks!
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