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  1. #1
    Banned gardnbp27's Avatar
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    Advice starting my own gym/fitness center

    I was curious if anyone has opened their own gym/fitness center or knows someone who has. I'm interested in doing so myself and would just like to avoid any pitfalls if possible and also get tips and help. Please let me know if you have any advice and would like to talk and share ideas. Thanks!!
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    my first gym i worked at was just opened when i started. i was there for a couple years. i was able to see why it failed and why i t couldve been prevented. me and my dad almost bought it as it was failing but someone else outbid. my family was also longstanding small businesss owners for 35 years.
    some advice..
    pick a good location. an area without a gym is best. its hard to compete with another gym. especially a commercial gym.
    have enough space.
    make sure the building facility is up to par, they dropped around 100k in just repairs to open.
    your going to have to offer a lot of deals to get started.
    the initial member base is very crucial.
    keep up with maintenance. thats probably the most expensive part of owning a gym. so be strict with your rules.
    try and offer something no-one else in the area does. theres offered a chiropractic service. have a tanning bed or 2. or get an affiliation with a local one.
    there are also a good bit of overhed costs. AC/heat are the biggest killers. employees
    keep it clean.
    sell drinks...but these arent for profit for you will be making like 25-75 cents on a drink. raise the price to get a dollar profit and u can see ur drink sales drop.
    have good gym hours. 6-10 seems to be the most popular.
    choose what kind of gym u want...a homie gym for young and old...or a hardcore gym.

    the reason why the gym failed is cuz the owner spent most of his time at his other gym. so be hands on!! be there. meet people in the area face to face. people like to know the manager and know hes a good guy. listen to ur members to some extent..you cant please everyone..but try and please most!
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  3. #3
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    Originally Posted by gardnbp27 View Post
    I was curious if anyone has opened their own gym/fitness center or knows someone who has. I'm interested in doing so myself and would just like to avoid any pitfalls if possible and also get tips and help. Please let me know if you have any advice and would like to talk and share ideas. Thanks!!
    This is the best thing a trainer can ever do for building their success!!!!!!! It's the greatest thing and i will never regret it. I assume this is for personal training? If this is for your own PT studio, then read

    Figure out how much you make now as a trainer without your gym/center?
    Remember you will have a lot of responsibilities opening your own. You'll not only have your own bills, but business bills too. How are you gonna get people through those doors? Are you gonna be the only trainer? As your clientele grows, you can add a trainer. I 1099 my trainers.

    Figure out your name of your business. Search to see that the name is not taken to avoid any crap. You can do a DBA, where your name DBA "your business name". Down the road, you can form a LLC where you are 2 different entities. This protects you. Get your insurance.

    Location is important. Go commercial! It's a whole lot cheaper. If you can find a place with a warehouse, that's prime. If the front of your unit is big enough for you to run your business, and you don't need the warehouse, you can sublease the warehouse out to someone. If you're just doing PT, you can sublease your warehouse to a spinning, yoga, pilates, aerobic instructor etc... This will cut down on your rent, and bring you more clientele with them being next door. As far as i know with commercial, there are no cam charges which are flakey shady numbers, that the landlord charges to make more money. Stay away from retail units. They involve cams, and you're providing a service, you're not selling retail. Go commercial!

    You can even look to sublease from someone else who may be renting out their warehouse, though most likely you'll be renting from someone who's business may not be fitness related. Your rent will be even cheaper, and as your business grows, you can expand and move on to bigger better things.

    Equipment. Don't lease equipment. Flat out buy it used. Craigslist, ebay, newspaper ads. Also check apt and condo complexes, because sometimes they get rid of their old equipment for new, and they have no idea what to sell it for. When i started, i spent $1000 buying an apt. complexes equipment they were getting rid of.
    I got
    1. maxicam pulldown
    2. maxicam leg ext. leg curl combo
    3. maxicam seated chest / shoulder press
    4. 2 startrac treadmills
    5. 2 startrac pro recumbent bikes
    6. stairmaster 4400pt
    7. a precor elliptical

    What a CRAZY DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All worked great!!!!! They had no idea what to charge, so i offered them $1000
    Most of your clients will be for fat loss, so keep that in my mind when selecting equipment.

    Mirrors - i went to home depot, bought bigger closet door mirrors, peeled off the frames, slapped on the mirror guides and put them on the wall. Never had a problem. Peeling off the frames is scary, so you can get the mirrors with the white frame (they look nice) and you can put them on the wall as is. You can get some L brackets and bend and cut them so they will hold the mirror on. Screw them into the studs, place the entire mirror on 3-4 bottom brackets, and use 2 more brackets at the top of the mirror so they don't tip over. You can use mirror mastic if you want. This is a much cheaper way to do it, then buying those huge gym mirrors.

    Flooring - you can go carpet, or get some type of dense foam, rubber flooring. There some really cheap dense foam on ebay that works great. It's cheap too. They run 12x12, and maybe bigger.

    Get a stereo, and mount the speakers in all 4 corners.
    Get shelving for clients to put their stuff on while their working out.
    Get a water cooler, and cups. Get some 5 gallon jugs and fill them up at a water store. It's a lot cheaper than buying bottled waters.
    Towels. I get them from raglady.com. They usually have a good deal on bulk towels. Get a simple receipt book at office depot to write out receipts.
    You need a computer to run programs for personal training, and finance like quicken for home and business. You can torrent these programs for free.


    You gotta get people in the doors, so marketing. Website, banners, biz cards, flyers, brochures, yelp, craigslist and whatever else you wanna do. Make sure you create a portfolio. Take before and after pics of every client you ever train. This is your best tool, in gaining new clientele.


    I suggest you do it all on your own if you can, even maybe a small sba loan to help you. Stay away from investors. You want to run your own show, doing it the way you want to do it. Investors put more pressure on you because they want their money. It's technically their business, since they got the money, so i would stay away. Partnering up with someone to run a business is not good in the long run. Someone always gets burned, stabbed in the back whatever, because of greed. It's more of an accomplishment to know that you did it on your own, with nobody's help.

    It takes big balls, and your credit might take a good hit, because you must pay your rent to keep your doors open! Rent, Rent, Rent.....gotta pay it, or your doors close = no $$$. That's why you go the cheapest route possible, until your business grows

    I may have left some info out, so i'm sure someone may chime in
    Now if you're looking at opening a commercial type membership gym, that will be a different story, because it was cost you 1000000x more. PT studios focus on personal training vs a commercial gym which focuses on memberships. 2 different things

    If my post did not help you, it may help someone else
    Last edited by MVP; 07-09-2009 at 11:14 AM.
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  4. #4
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    focus on the equipment before you get a bunch of sofa's and juice bars

    I work out at a chain of gyms here called Life Styles (Windsor Ont, Canada)
    We have 3 byms to go to and there is only one good gym out of the three of them because the others are more aesthetically pleasing with flat screens and juice bars.
    The one that is good has focused on the equipment and lay outs, Martial arts/aerobics room
    Also have more than on set of dumbbells lol
    There is nothing worse than doing a set with 60lbs and then having to go down to 20lbs or up to 80lbs because there aren't enough to go around.
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    Originally Posted by MVP View Post
    This is the best thing a trainer can ever do for building their success!!!!!!! It's the greatest thing and i will never regret it. I assume this is for personal training? If this is for your own PT studio, then read

    Figure out how much you make now as a trainer without your gym/center?
    Remember you will have a lot of responsibilities opening your own. You'll not only have your own bills, but business bills too. How are you gonna get people through those doors? Are you gonna be the only trainer? As your clientele grows, you can add a trainer. I 1099 my trainers.

    Figure out your name of your business. Search to see that the name is not taken to avoid any crap. You can do a DBA, where your name DBA "your business name". Down the road, you can form a LLC where you are 2 different entities. This protects you. Get your insurance.

    Location is important. Go commercial! It's a whole lot cheaper. If you can find a place with a warehouse, that's prime. If the front of your unit is big enough for you to run your business, and you don't need the warehouse, you can sublease the warehouse out to someone. If you're just doing PT, you can sublease your warehouse to a spinning, yoga, pilates, aerobic instructor etc... This will cut down on your rent, and bring you more clientele with them being next door. As far as i know with commercial, there are no cam charges which are flakey shady numbers, that the landlord charges to make more money. Stay away from retail units. They involve cams, and you're providing a service, you're not selling retail. Go commercial!

    You can even look to sublease from someone else who may be renting out their warehouse, though most likely you'll be renting from someone who's business may not be fitness related. Your rent will be even cheaper, and as your business grows, you can expand and move on to bigger better things.

    Equipment. Don't lease equipment. Flat out buy it used. Craigslist, ebay, newspaper ads. Also check apt and condo complexes, because sometimes they get rid of their old equipment for new, and they have no idea what to sell it for. When i started, i spent $1000 buying an apt. complexes equipment they were getting rid of.
    I got
    1. maxicam pulldown
    2. maxicam leg ext. leg curl combo
    3. maxicam seated chest / shoulder press
    4. 2 startrac treadmills
    5. 2 startrac pro recumbent bikes
    6. stairmaster 4400pt
    7. a precor elliptical

    What a CRAZY DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All worked great!!!!! They had no idea what to charge, so i offered them $1000
    Most of your clients will be for fat loss, so keep that in my mind when selecting equipment.

    Mirrors - i went to home depot, bought bigger closet door mirrors, peeled off the frames, slapped on the mirror guides and put them on the wall. Never had a problem. Peeling off the frames is scary, so you can get the mirrors with the white frame (they look nice) and you can put them on the wall as is. You can get some L brackets and bend and cut them so they will hold the mirror on. Screw them into the studs, place the entire mirror on 3-4 bottom brackets, and use 2 more brackets at the top of the mirror so they don't tip over. You can use mirror mastic if you want. This is a much cheaper way to do it, then buying those huge gym mirrors.

    Flooring - you can go carpet, or get some type of dense foam, rubber flooring. There some really cheap dense foam on ebay that works great. It's cheap too. They run 12x12, and maybe bigger.

    Get a stereo, and mount the speakers in all 4 corners.
    Get shelving for clients to put their stuff on while their working out.
    Get a water cooler, and cups. Get some 5 gallon jugs and fill them up at a water store. It's a lot cheaper than buying bottled waters.
    Towels. I get them from raglady.com. They usually have a good deal on bulk towels. Get a simple receipt book at office depot to write out receipts.
    You need a computer to run programs for personal training, and finance like quicken for home and business. You can torrent these programs for free.


    You gotta get people in the doors, so marketing. Website, banners, biz cards, flyers, brochures, yelp, craigslist and whatever else you wanna do. Make sure you create a portfolio. Take before and after pics of every client you ever train. This is your best tool, in gaining new clientele.


    I suggest you do it all on your own if you can, even maybe a small sba loan to help you. Stay away from investors. You want to run your own show, doing it the way you want to do it. Investors put more pressure on you because they want their money. It's technically their business, since they got the money, so i would stay away. Partnering up with someone to run a business is not good in the long run. Someone always gets burned, stabbed in the back whatever, because of greed. It's more of an accomplishment to know that you did it on your own, with nobody's help.

    It takes big balls, and your credit might take a good hit, because you must pay your rent to keep your doors open! Rent, Rent, Rent.....gotta pay it, or your doors close = no $$$. That's why you go the cheapest route possible, until your business grows

    I may have left some info out, so i'm sure someone may chime in
    Now if you're looking at opening a commercial type membership gym, that will be a different story, because it was cost you 1000000x more. PT studios focus on personal training vs a commercial gym which focuses on memberships. 2 different things

    If my post did not help you, it may help someone else
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    best thing you can do is look for a studio that has already been established and rent from them. My friend does that he pays like 500$ a month for unlimited people to train there, pretty good gig because you dont have to pay no bills, take a credit hit if your gym fails, just make sure to do that if your bringing in more than your rent amount from clients, dont wanna pay 500$ a month and only make 500$ a month. Check that idea out too
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  7. #7
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    Originally Posted by MVP View Post
    This is the best thing a trainer can ever do for building their success!!!!!!! It's the greatest thing and i will never regret it. I assume this is for personal training? If this is for your own PT studio, then read....
    Great post! Anyone reading should hopefully realize that he could have written a 10,000 more words about starting your own gym.

    It may not seem like much but things add up quickly and the work never stops...

    I got lucky as a buddy of mine's girlfriend owned this commercial building in San Francisco literally right next to a high traffic BART (subway) and Muni (the buses w/ the wires) station.

    This would be another hint to anybody looking to open a gym, use your connections if possible, it makes life a whole lot easier.

    So it was just me and my buddy training clients there when we started with almost nothing in the gym (stability balls, low-end free motion machine, light dumbbells (2-30lbs), medicine balls, 2 BOSUs, resistance bands).

    He took out no loans for his studio. He charged me a very low rent and we just trained our asses off. He used his revenue from training, along with the small rent I paid, combined with the cheap rent he paid his girlfriend to add equipment.

    Slowly came the equipment. His philosophy was to always buy top notch quality because it lasts longer... Added *very F-ing nice Ivanko Chrome 40-100 pound dumbbells, ivanko power rack, ivanko chrome Olympic bar w/ Chrome plates,

    So anyway, he slowly over a period of almost 4 years built up the small fitness studio into a bigger fitness studio. Then he expanded and started having memberships for a small number of clients and leased some high end cardio equipment.

    I thought about opening up my own small studio as pretty much all the equipment I use is a free motion, power rack & dumbbells could be a very small studio, but I saw the amount of work my buddy put in and it nauseated me...

    I trained w/ him at his place for 4+ years and where I got lazy, moved to Thailand and am taking an indefinite absence from training clients, he's still training 50+ sessions per week and running his fitness studio.

    Moral of the story: If you want it, go for it, but be prepared to give 100% and be prepared to lose a lot of your social life in exchange for creating a successful gym/fitness studio business.
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    Originally Posted by gardnbp27 View Post
    I was curious if anyone has opened their own gym/fitness center or knows someone who has. I'm interested in doing so myself and would just like to avoid any pitfalls if possible and also get tips and help. Please let me know if you have any advice and would like to talk and share ideas. Thanks!!
    It is really good to go to gym. But keep in mind to always try to get the best one for your body and health. Look for the personal training classes they provide.
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    Some awesome advice here. I just started this year training athletes out of my garage. I've set the whole thing up as a studio and do small group, 4-5 people, training. It's not about equipment or visual appeal. It's all about the experience you give your clients. If they love you, they'll tell other people, so make sure to reward clients for referrals. For every 5 referrals, I gave my hockey players an NHL jersey. That alone brought in a ton of new clients.
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    Myself and my company have been contracted by many private and a few commercial gyms. The biggest issues I have seen are 1. under estimating expenses and 2. a rotating door of instructors and trainers.

    From my experience taking more time in the screening and interviewing process can help with issue 2 however the real key is treating your staff right with regards to compensation and if you say you will deliver something make sure you deliver, especially when talking about benefits, bonuses and salary.
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    It depends how big you want to start out. I've started out conservatively. This is what I did.

    First, I was working for a big box gym. I kept working there in the mornings while preparing to go private in the evenings.

    Second, I got squat stands, a bench, a barbell and 150kg of bumper plates plus fractionals. I already had 1/4 tonne of kettlebells. So this was about $2,000 of equipment in all. Now I started taking clients at home.

    Third, I made a business page and a facebook business page. Invited all my friends to like the page and spread it around. Got insurance, of course.

    Fourth, the only marketing I know how to do is to put up pics and vids of my lifters and tell the world they're awesome. I started doing that with my big box gym clients, and followed up with the few clients I had in my own gym.

    Fifth, each new client I got, the first $250 they gave me went to an account, to buy equipment, pay insurance, professional registration and so on. So as client numbers grew, I not only needed more equipment but could afford it. By end June 2015 I had spent about $5,000 on it, including for example $1,000 on rubber flooring.

    Lastly, once I was ready to leave the big gym, I let all my current clients know, and said, "Do you want to come with me, stop training with anyone, or I can refer you to a current trainer at the gym?" Around 1/2 came with me to my garage, only 1 or 2 got another trainer, the rest quit. As well, I contacted everyone I'd ever trained at the big gym over the years to ask how they were doing, those who replied (about 1/4 of them) after a few emails back and forth I let them know I'd started my own place, they were welcome to visit.

    A year in I am making as much money as I ever made at the big gym. But... no commute, and I get to do things my own stupid way instead of someone else's stupid way.

    I do NOT recommend someone do this straight out of PT school. First try working for someone else to see if 1. you like it and 2. you are good at it. If both of those are true and remain true for 2-5 years, then okay, look at opening your own place.

    This was the low-risk but low-return way of opening a business. I am not going to become a millionaire out of my garage. But nor am I going to go bankrupt and lose my house. And if it goes well, I can always expand.
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    Originally Posted by gardnbp27 View Post
    I was curious if anyone has opened their own gym/fitness center or knows someone who has. I'm interested in doing so myself and would just like to avoid any pitfalls if possible and also get tips and help. Please let me know if you have any advice and would like to talk and share ideas. Thanks!!
    I just interviewed a couple went through the process of starting a fitness center and figuring out a proper business model. They had a bunch of great tips. You can read the interview here: howibuiltmybusiness.com/interviews/how-i-built-my-fitness-center-business-body-shop-assisted-fitness
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    Originally Posted by KyleAaron View Post
    It depends how big you want to start out. I've started out conservatively. This is what I did.

    First, I was working for a big box gym. I kept working there in the mornings while preparing to go private in the evenings.

    Second, I got squat stands, a bench, a barbell and 150kg of bumper plates plus fractionals. I already had 1/4 tonne of kettlebells. So this was about $2,000 of equipment in all. Now I started taking clients at home.

    Third, I made a business page and a facebook business page. Invited all my friends to like the page and spread it around. Got insurance, of course.

    Fourth, the only marketing I know how to do is to put up pics and vids of my lifters and tell the world they're awesome. I started doing that with my big box gym clients, and followed up with the few clients I had in my own gym.

    Fifth, each new client I got, the first $250 they gave me went to an account, to buy equipment, pay insurance, professional registration and so on. So as client numbers grew, I not only needed more equipment but could afford it. By end June 2015 I had spent about $5,000 on it, including for example $1,000 on rubber flooring.

    Lastly, once I was ready to leave the big gym, I let all my current clients know, and said, "Do you want to come with me, stop training with anyone, or I can refer you to a current trainer at the gym?" Around 1/2 came with me to my garage, only 1 or 2 got another trainer, the rest quit. As well, I contacted everyone I'd ever trained at the big gym over the years to ask how they were doing, those who replied (about 1/4 of them) after a few emails back and forth I let them know I'd started my own place, they were welcome to visit.

    A year in I am making as much money as I ever made at the big gym. But... no commute, and I get to do things my own stupid way instead of someone else's stupid way.

    I do NOT recommend someone do this straight out of PT school. First try working for someone else to see if 1. you like it and 2. you are good at it. If both of those are true and remain true for 2-5 years, then okay, look at opening your own place.

    This was the low-risk but low-return way of opening a business. I am not going to become a millionaire out of my garage. But nor am I going to go bankrupt and lose my house. And if it goes well, I can always expand.
    this is exactly what I did...the one thing i would say would be to learn marketing inside and out because you can be the best trainer in the world if you cant show the world that you will have zero clients
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  14. #14
    Registered User ultrazone's Avatar
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    Choose a niche within the fitness center industry, get the necessary training, develop a business plan, obtain appropriate permits, licenses, and insurance, get an EIN, and secure funding for the startup. Did a search, here is what such a plan should look like:
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    Registered User Artur00's Avatar
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    It seems to me that one of the main points of creating a business is a specific plan-strategy + there are aspects in personnel management that are not important in importance but are more important, in my own experience I can advise a very cool management resource [no advertising]
    Last edited by SuffolkPunch; 12-21-2020 at 07:55 AM.
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    Originally Posted by Artur00 View Post
    It seems to me that one of the main points of creating a business is a specific plan-strategy + there are aspects in personnel management that are not important in importance but are more important, in my own experience I can advise a very cool management resource [no advertising]
    I’ve been looking for a way to run my own business for a year or so and have come up with this idea. But my laziness and the COVID 19 situation is stopping me from doing this.
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