Are you interested in finding out how to start a gym business? Perhaps you’re a veteran of the industry but want to become your own boss. Or you have an awesome business idea and just need to work out how to launch it.
In this article – we walk you through how to start a gym business in 7 steps, including planning, funding, and pre-launch marketing.
How To Start a Gym Business – Overview
Here’s a high-level overview of how to start a successful gym business…
- Define your idea
- Create a plan
- Secure funding
- Find a location
- Kit out your gym
- Pre-launch sales and marketing
- Open with a bang
#1 – Define Your Gym Business Idea
The very first step is to define your gym business idea. What’s the concept? Who is it for?
For some people, this will come easily. They may have had a business idea for a long time but only just decided to give it a go. But for others, this part can be really tough.
Perhaps you’re keen to start a fitness business but aren’t sure what kind of venture to go for. Or you want to look at all the options before making a decision. If so, then here is a list of gym business ideas that you can consider…
- Classic gym or fitness centre
- Boutique fitness studio
- Gym franchise (Anytime Fitness, Snap, Orange Theory etc)
- Yoga or Pilates studio
- Fitness clothing brand
- Health club
- Online fitness business
- Personal training studio
- Gym equipment or accessories distributor
- Mobile personal training business
- Fitness supplement manufacturer
- CrossFit box
At this stage, it’s also important to really think about whether starting a gym business is the right move. It might sound appealing but it’s actually a LOT of hard work.
Do you have the right mindset and qualities for the fitness industry? It’s about more than simply liking exercise or going to the gym. Others won’t be as motivated as you are so you’ll need to the patience to work with them. You’ll need to like helping people and working in customer service if you want to succeed long-term.
#2 – Create a Business Plan
Once you’ve defined your idea, you need to create a business plan for it. This will help you assess the viability of your concept and consider all of the little details.
This may seem like a boring step but it’s vital if you want your fitness business to be a success. In fact, research shows that people who complete business plans are nearly twice as likely to successfully grow their businesses, or obtain capital.
“Business plans double the chance of success”.
A solid gym business plan should include the following…
- Executive summary
- Industry and local market analysis
- Company overview
- Products and services
- Sales and marketing strategy
- Financial information
- Implementation plan
By covering these points, you’ll ensure that there’s adequate demand for your offering and you have a well-defined gym target market. It’ll also help you to understand the exact costs involved and whether you can afford to do it alone or need outside funding.
For a more detailed explanation of what each of these areas should cover, check out our article on writing a fitness business plan (with samples). Or get the start-up planning cheat sheet as part of our Fitness Business Templates bundle…
#3 – Secure Funding
Once you’ve developed a sound business plan, you’ll be armed with the right info to seek funding. For some start-up ideas, this might involve securing several hundred thousand dollars to cover initial business costs. For others, you can do it on a shoestring budget without the huge overheads.
Your business plan will tell you how much investment is needed to start your gym. The amount can vary from $2,000 up to well over $4m (although it is possible to do it with zero money). Based on stats from Entrepreneur, here are some rough guides for different fitness business models…
- Big-box gym start-up costs (e.g. Planet Fitness) – $1.1-$4.2m
- Cost to start a small-medium sized gym (e.g. Anytime Fitness) – $77,000-$520,000
- Boutique gym start-up costs (e.g. Orange Theory) – $575,000-$1.5m
- Cost to start a fitness studio (e.g. Pure Barre) – $198,000-$446,000
- Pilates studio start-up costs (e.g. Club Pilates) – $168,000-$280,000
- Cost to start a group exercise class business (e.g. Jazzercise) – $2000-$7000
- Bootcamp business (e.g. Fit Body Boot Camp) – $136,000-$198,000
As you can see, the money required to start a gym varies dramatically. Factors like the venue type, location, and equipment required will all influence the overall cost.
If you’re wondering how to open a gym with no money, then the key is to start small. Running a personal training business or selling online fitness programs are both good options. Neither requires investments in rent, equipment, or staff salaries as you can do it all yourself.
Lots of bigger gyms will let you use their space in return for working a few hours for free. This allows you to learn the ropes, hone your business plan, and test out your marketing strategy before expanding to something larger.
If you want to jump straight into a bigger venture and need money to do it, then the most common funding options are…
- Personal savings
- Traditional bank loans
- Online lenders
Choosing the right funding option for your business will depend on a huge number of factors. It’s best to do your research thoroughly and read the small print so you know all of the costs involved in borrowing.
#4 – Find a Location
The next step is to find the perfect location for your business. There are lots of things that go into a good venue but the key is to find a place where your target customers are.
It’s great if there’s plenty of passing traffic but ask yourself if they’re your ideal demographic. Being close to their places of work, favourite hangouts, or residential areas are all good bets.
Virgin highlight six different factors to consider when choosing the perfect business location. These are…
- Business rates
- Skills base in the area
- Potential for growth
Check out their article for more background on each of these elements and what to look for in your gym space.
#5 – Kit Out Your Gym
Once you’ve got a location sorted you can begin to kit out your gym. This means getting everything ready, from the interior decor to the exterior signage.
You should aim to do this as quickly as possible without compromising on quality. Once you’ve started paying rent on your location, your bank balance will start decreasing quickly. So, it’s vital to open and get your members in the door as soon as possible.
When kitting out your gym, think about…
- Scale layout (created in partnership with the architect, equipment supplier, or both)
- Interior design & decoration
- Electrics and plumbing
- Gym equipment and accessories
- Changing areas, toilets, and shower facilities
#6 – Pre-Launch Sales & Marketing
When thinking about how to start a gym business, this is the part that many owners neglect. But the success of a new gym often rests or fails on its pre-launch sales.
It’s essential to sell as many memberships as possible during this time to maximise cash flow from the start. This means going all out on your marketing efforts asap.
Many fitness businesses use a limited time offer to encourage people to sign up prior to opening. It’s natural for people to want to wait and see what the gym’s like before committing. But if you can offer seductive pricing, it’ll often persuade them to sign up in advance.
Use 3D layouts and fly-through videos to help potential members visualise the gym space. Explain the concept, what you’re trying to achieve, and the story behind why you’re doing it. Then talk about all of the start-of-the-art equipment or brand new training techniques that you’ll be bringing into the mix.
#7 – Open With a Bang
The final step is to open your brand new gym! Of course, some would say that this is when the hard work really starts. But it’s a great feeling to finally open the doors and start welcoming in your members.
Organise a big launch event to celebrate the gym’s opening and invite local media to attend. Promote the event on social media and give people a good reason to attend. They may not care about an opening but they will care about free fitness workshops, nutritional counselling, or tasty treats.
It can be helpful to have a ‘soft-launch’ prior to the main event. This enables you to test out all of your processes and equipment before the hoards arrive. It also allows new staff to put their training into practice so that everything operates super-smoothly when you do open properly.
Starting a Successful Gym Business
So, now you know exactly how to start a gym business and set it up for success. By following these steps, you’ll maximise your cash flow and profitability early on. This is the key to ensuring that your business lasts over the long-term and becomes a well-established brand in your community.
If you’d like a little help along the way, then check out our Fitness Business Templates. They include a business planning cheat sheet, 50+ creative brand name ideas, and loads of sales and marketing resources too.