Start Your Own Gym Business - The Complete Guide
Fitness is big business, and more than ever small business owners are getting in on the opportunities. In the post-COVID landscape, the growth in the fitness industry is steady across the world, especially in the USA.
According to Statista, the value of the US gym business industry hit $41.8 billion in 2019 - just before the COVID pandemic hit and cut that industry to $28 billion. Since 2020, gym businesses have been growing steadily, with year-on-year growth of around 8%.
And to add to this, the demand for boutique gyms, or niche gyms has grown too (source). These are the gym businesses that focus on a specific discipline such as pilates, yoga or martial arts. To put it simply: opening a gym is good business right now.
While starting a gym or fitness business is a great idea, and potentially very lucrative, like any business you need to have a proper plan for success. This guide to how to open a gym will guide you through every step you need to take to make your fitness business as successful as possible.
Building Your Gym Business Plan
Let's be straight here: starting a gym is not a cheap option. Looking at the equipment, staff, marketing costs and general overheads of running your own gym can quickly add up.
There are things you will need to have such as water access, bathrooms, changing rooms, security and access controls. You'll also need to use gym management software to accept payments, manage classes and trainer schedules and even perform other modern essential tasks such as email marketing or running promotions.
The business expenses of starting a gym can be hefty, with a single piece of equipment coming in at anything from $50 to $30,000 or more.
Let's take a quick look at the costs you will most likely need to factor in before you open a fitness center business.
The Costs of Starting a Gym
Licenses and Certifications
In most countries, you'll need a business license to start your gym or fitness center. The costs of this can vary depending on your country and the local laws, but budget in the region of around $50 to $500. Additional licenses may also be required depending on whether you're selling equipment or food, or providing additional services such as sports massage or if you have a swimming pool or sauna.
While there is no requirement for specific fitness certifications to be a gym owner in the USA, this varies around the world. In the UK for example, gym owners and personal trainers will need Level 2 personal trainer certifications, costing around GB£375. The APAC region, one of the fastest-growing markets for gyms in the world, obviously has varied requirements for gym owner certifications, so check your local laws and regulations.
An essential cost for any gym will be business insurance. This will include both business premises insurance and public liability insurance, so if there is an accident (which hopefully there will never be) you're covered! Gym insurance will vary between locations and countries, so be sure to research this as part of your business plan.
What is a gym without equipment? The actual equipment you buy will depend on your gym business model - so a yoga studio might not need free weights or running machines. Cardio equipment tends to be expensive, with a new running machine costing at least $20,000 - plus you'll need more than one.
Commercial Space Rental
Of course, you need a place for your gym. When you rent space, you will often sign a lease for a minimum term. This can be a large outlay at the beginning, so should be factored into your start-up costs. We'll look more at the ins and outs of finding a location in a moment.
Every modern business needs to invest in a mixture of software. Any fitness business will need gym management software such as Arbox to help with gym membership management and class scheduling. However you will likely also need to invest in accounting software too.
You will need a website so that customers can read about your services and even book fitness classes online. Starting a new website can be cheap, but can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for a quality bespoke website. Sites like Carrd.co or Litesite.com can give you an easy way to publish a simple site if you just need a basic web presence.
You will probably also need to hire staff to help run your fitness business, even if you are running the business as a small operation. At the very least you'll need cleaners, but you may also need additional fitness instructors, administrative staff, HR staff and accounting services. Staffing is usually the biggest monthly outlay for any small business owner.
Branding and Marketing
Every modern business plan needs to factor in promo. Starting with clear branding and signage will be key to building a strong brand identity and a successful gym in the long run. You'll also need to work out how you will be bringing in customers using social media marketing, organic content marketing, paid ads, or other channels.
So these are the key parts of your business plan when it comes to opening a gym. What about the costs involved?
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Gym?
For the simplest gym, you should expect to pay no less than $40,000, assuming it has minimal equipment and modest decor. This might be perfect for a yoga or pilates studio.
A fitness studio that relies on more specialized fitness equipment can more than double this amount. The average cost to start a gym business in the US varies hugely from around $30,000 up to $400,000 or more. Costs for equipment are roughly the same elsewhere in the world, so local property rental and business services are what will impact your initial investment.
But while the startup costs might be high, the ongoing expenses should be reasonably consistent.
Most gym owners will secure a business loan or other source of small business financing to get them off the ground. With a solid business plan, banks should be able to offer you a business loan. Or you could also fund your gym project with private investment if you can find people willing to bankroll your gym business idea.
Finding a Location
Once you've decided that opening a gym is the right move for you, you'll need to find a location. There are many factors to consider when choosing where to set up a shop.
First and foremost, who are your target clientele? Your location needs to be accessible and convenient for those who will be joining your gym. If you can set your gym in walking distance from a high-density residential area, or close to the business center, you can attract both casual and committed members.
If possible, try to choose an area with high foot traffic so that people passing by will see the sign advertising membership prices or special offers on classes (if applicable).
In many countries such as the US, you'll need to factor in vehicle parking too. Is there enough space for parking for all of your clients? Gyms in major cities with good public transport infrastructure such as London, Singapore, Barcelona or Sydney may focus less on parking and more on proximity to subway or bus stations.
Second: zoning regulations. You'll need to check in with local authorities before leasing any property because there may be restrictions on what kinds of businesses can operate within certain areas. This may be especially true if they're near schools or residential neighborhoods.
This could mean having trouble getting approval from city hall when applying for permits later down the line. So make sure everything checks out before signing anything official.
Designing the Gym
The layout and design of your gym are important factors in determining how successful it will be. There are many considerations to take into account, including:
This is one of the most important decisions you'll make, as it will have a direct effect on how much money you spend on equipment and how much space you need to dedicate to each piece of equipment. If possible, try out different machines before buying them so that you can see which ones fit best with your brand and core demographic.
The look of your fitness studio will also depend on your flooring. Consider wood flooring vs carpeting vs rubber mats (or other types). Wood floors look great but can get expensive if they need replacing every few years due to wear and tear. Carpets tend not to last as long but cost less upfront; rubber mats are affordable but may not provide enough cushioning for some users' preferences
Not every gym has ample natural light, so make sure to design your lighting to maximize the aesthetic for your clientele. In general, gyms tend to use quite bright blue light. But something like a yoga studio will want a softer aesthetic using warmer light. You might also want to factor in energy efficiency for your lighting too.
Access to Water
WordPressStay hydrated, right? Make sure there is easy access to water for your gym clients.
Your Web Presence
If you're opening a new gym, or even launching a pop-up fitness service, you will need a website. While a basic WordPress website might be very 2008, most customers will expect to find out everything they need and to make payment and manage their accounts online.
You can find web developers who can make a professional-looking website for anything from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending what you need.
With Arbox, you can actually create a simple landing page to manage your gym memberships, book classes and, of course, take payments.
Want to find out more? Either sign up for free, or book a free no-obligation demo to see how the tool works.
Marketing Your Gym Business
You need to get people in the door, and then keep them coming back. And this is where a marketing strategy for your gym is essential.
Gym management software can also help to manage your marketing. Arbox offers capabilities to manage email marketing, follow up leads from social media and even automate the onboarding process.
And what's more, you can even get started for free with Arbox and find out how much simpler marketing and customer management can be.
When it comes to your gym marketing:
- Create a marketing plan that outlines how you will reach out to potential clients. What advertising methods will you use? How much money do you have budgeted for marketing? Who are your target demographics and how will they find out about your business (i.e., social media, print ads)?
- Promote special events at the gym (such as classes or workshops) through flyers in local businesses and on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Post pictures from previous events so people can see what kind of fun activities are happening there. Use software such as Arbox to promote events in good time so people can sign up.
- Build an online presence by creating an account on Yelp or Google My Business so people can find reviews about your business easily when searching online for gyms near them. Social proof is an essential part of fitness promotion.
- Partner with influencers in your area. Influencers don't have to have Kardashian levels of followers. But leveraging social media accounts with a good local following and an engaged audience can be a cost-effective promotional strategy.
Find out how Arbox gym management software can streamline more than just your gym marketing.
Staffing Your Gym
Even if you're running a small business, you will need staff to help run your gym. And every successful gym has a team who know their roles and what they need to do to make it work.
At the very least, you'll need cleaning staff to come in after every working day and make sure your hygiene standards are impeccable.
But do you need a receptionist? Admin staff? An instructor or personal trainer?
Of course, every hire is more money spent. But as any successful gym owners will tell you, you can't do it all yourself.
You can always start with the essential hires and then add to your roster when needed.
Managing Your Gym
Once you're ready to open your gym, there are a few things you need to do. First and foremost, develop a set of policies and procedures that will guide how your gym is run. These should include:
- A code of conduct that outlines how members and staff should behave at the facility
- A hiring policy for staff members
- A policy on drug testing (if applicable)
You'll also need to set up a point-of-sale system so that customers can pay for their membership online or in person at the front desk. This will save time during busy periods when there are many people trying to pay at once.
Many gyms will get potential members to sign up or schedule classes online. By integrating Arbox into your website, you’ll be able to take online payments, keep track of membership management, and schedule classes.
Developing a Membership Model
Developing a membership model is the first step to opening your gym. There are many different types of memberships, and each has its own set of benefits and restrictions.
- Monthly: This is the most common type of membership, where customers pay monthly or quarterly payments in advance. It's usually best to offer discounts on longer-term commitments (six months or longer), as well as incentives for signing up early (such as freebies).
- Pay as you go: This option allows people who don't want to commit to paying monthly or quarterly fees the opportunity to still have access to all your facilities without having any long-term obligation attached to them. But it also means that they'll have less incentive not miss workouts because there's no penalty if they do.
Your Unique Selling Point (USP)
What makes your gym unique? Why should customers choose you instead of the big corporate chain down the road? It will often come down to the classes and fitness programs you offer.
If you've done your market research then you might just have identified your angle.
It might be that you offer bespoke fitness programs for employees of local businesses. Or you might offer a different form of yoga class to that which is available locally. You may also offer personal or small group classes, or personal training sessions that focus on specific goals like losing weight or building muscle mass.
You may also consider adding other services such as massage therapy or nutrition counseling if they're relevant for your target audience.
Developing a Safety Plan
Before opening a gym you will need to develop a comprehensive safety plan. This means creating policies and procedures for everything from equipment maintenance to emergency situations. You'll also want to make sure that all of the staff members are trained in CPR and first aid, as well as how to handle any potential hazards at the facility.
It's important not only that you have these policies in place before opening day but also that everyone who works out at your gym knows what they are... And follows them!
So now that you have the knowledge about how to open your own gym, you should be able to build a plan and get started looking for gym space and even mapping out your business plan. Remember that good organization underpins every successful business. Managing your own time and your staff's time efficiently means you maximize productivity.
Arbox is designed to help small businesses including gym owners to get the best results for their clients and their staff. As a gym owner, you want to focus on customer satisfaction and keep your staff happy too.
If you're planning on opening a gym, or you're about to open a gym, make sure to schedule a demo to find out how Arbox can help you with everything from setting up a website to taking payments and managing classes.
Join a live demo to learn how Arbox can help get organized and provide an amazing client experience.