So you’re thinking of opening your own fitness studio—but where do you start? Opening any business comes with a lot of learning, but thankfully, we have some solid advice to help guide you in the building of your gym, yoga, Pilates, or barre studio. (Did we miss anything?!) And what's more, all this advice is aimed at how to open this business without breaking the bank so you can focus on doing the practice that truly lights you up.
You don’t need a huge space with a pricey rent payment to open your fitness studio. A big, fancy space will just add to your business costs in a way that can be difficult to offset. You can start by renting space from other fitness operations like small local gyms or another studio in a different niche. (Did anyone say cross-promotion?!)
Ideally, find a central location that will be easy for students to get to and where parking won’t be a serious concern. Once you’ve decided on a spot, make sure you keep it clean. The “right” location will never be as much about a modern building as it will be about a space where every student feels comfortable and safe.
Remember that you can also get creative with where you offer your classes—you can make it a multi-location experience! For example, think about hosting classes in various gyms, parks or other public spaces. In addition to saving you a rent payment, hosting classes in a multitude of locations can keep things exciting and fresh for students, regardless of how long they’ve practiced with you.
The great thing studio fitness compared to gyms is that it typically doesn’t require a lot of equipment and most exercises can be accomplished via body weight or something students can bring to class themselves, like a mat. No heavy weights, bulky equipment, just supplies that are easily portable.
Chances are that every piece of equipment you need can be found on Amazon, but you can also look on Alibaba or Rakuten.
Many fitness studios start off with just one person—the business owner! You really don’t need a lot of instructors or desk people when you’re first starting out. Yes, you will be busy and need to wear many hats while your business is getting off the ground—owner, instructor, sales representative, marketer, customer service representative, and accountant—but that’s ok. It won’t be just you forever!
As you grow, you can begin delegating these “hats” to new staff people you hire on. In fact, you should definitely plan to hire staff later down the road to avoid burning yourself out. But while it’s just you in the beginning, balance your energy by conserving it when you can. For example, only demonstrate a few moves during class and instead support students by making corrections and checking form. You can also consider buying a microphone to save your voice.
No matter what business you have these days, that business needs to have an online presence. All you really need when you’re starting out is a place where people can find you and understand the value your fitness studio will bring them. Make sure they know what you offer, pricing, and give them an easy way to contact you with questions.
Ideally, you’re going to want a class schedule on your website. Nothing is a bigger turn off for a potential customer than having to dig around and even make phone calls to determine if your classes will work with their schedule. There are plenty of apps to help you implement this smoothly, and fitDEGREE even has a website integration so your schedule shows up on your website as soon as you set it.
Websites, however, can really trip new business owners up. This isn’t as daunting as it seems, I promise. You can easily set up your website yourself for cheap! All you need is the purchase of a domain name and a hosting service. We recommend Squarespace because it’s easy to set up, requires no coding whatsoever, and can be built simply by dragging and dropping your content. (It’s what we use, so we know it’s good!)
If you don’t feel comfortable creating the site yourself, you can hire a freelancer for fairly cheap to create it for you. Don’t have professional photos? No problem! Start playing with your camera or smartphone filters or use the VSCO to snap some great shots during class that you can use on your website.
If all else fails, you can use stock photos. Just be sure to not download an image from Google and infringe on copyright laws. Using someone else’s images without their permission is not cool—and it can cost you a ton in legal fees down the road. Sites like Unsplash and Pixabay and going to be your new best friends!
Marketing your new studio can be challenging when there are already many boutique fitness studios—especially if you don’t have a marketing background. But knowing exactly who your target market is and keeping your marketing hyper local will certainly help.
Start with strategic partnerships. What other local businesses sell to the kinds of people who would be your customers? Talk to them and see if you can cross-promote and offer each other’s customers discounts.
Word of mouth is an incredibly helpful marketing tool in every business and in every industry. We built fitDEGREE with that in mind! Our social sharing tools allow your students to invite their friends to class and drive more business for you.
Other things you can consider include getting online reviews, creating a strong social media presence, and running paid ads.
As a small fitness business owner, crafting a compelling founder's statement and story can help you establish a personal connection with potential customers, differentiate your business from competitors, and build a strong brand identity