Finding a niche for your new business

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Finding a niche for your new business

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Are you thinking about opening a new fitness business? Welcome to the industry! If you're starting to daydream about your future fitness studio, you're in good company. The boutique fitness industry is expected to add 2,000 new studios in the next five years- you could be one of them. You might already have your perfect studio in your mind, but before you draw logos and order retail, let's set your new gym up for success.

Boutique fitness as an industry is rebounding and exceeding pre-pandemic levels. It's up 4.46% from 2019 and is expected to be worth $22.1 billion by the end of 2022. So how do you break into a giant industry like boutique fitness while still bringing value to a crowded market? Before you call a commercial realtor to tour spaces, it's time to develop your brand and identify your niche. 

Start with the Niche

Business News Daily states, "A business niche is a specialized or focused area of a broader market that businesses can serve to differentiate themselves from the competition." To succeed long-term, most (if not all) successful businesses will need to identify the specific value proposition they bring to potential customers and communicate why they are unique. 

Finding a niche is essential for small business owners with limited resources and smaller marketing budgets to compete successfully against large brands. If you've already begun researching new business creation, you've probably discovered that "niche" is everywhere right now. Some of it is helpful, and some is noise, but the consensus is the same. To stand out in a crowded market, it's important to identify your niche offering, audience, and brand.

Step One: 

If you're just beginning to identify where you can break into your fitness community, start by researching all your local competitors.

  • What businesses are already operating in your ideal location?
  • What do they offer?
  • How do they differentiate themselves from the other competitors?
  • Who do they serve?

Once you have your list of competitors identified, search for opportunities or holes in the current market. For example, suppose your goal is to open a HIIT studio that caters to working professionals before and after work. As you search for locations, you find the perfect space down the street from a yoga studio that caters to moms of small children. You're both boutique studios, but your location and clientele won't compete. 

However, if you build your studio next to a gym that serves a similar client and offers an equivalent service, it will be challenging to differentiate your brand without spending a fortune on advertising. It's not impossible- A common strategy for large corporate gyms is to build next to small boutique studios. For new brands, choose your location with your competitor and your niche in mind. If you're not fighting for market share, you'll have more resources and time to curate your ideal client experience.

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Next Step: Identify Your Target Clients

Leading with the customer is a simple but important way to develop your niche. Who do you want to serve? Who is being left out of the current market advertising, and is it intentional or an oversight? As you build your ideal studio, identify the existing opportunities while comparing them to who you want to attract.

If you're entering the industry with a specific vision of who you'll serve, let that lead you. But if, like many, you have more of a broad idea- e.g., you know you want to open a yoga studio, but you're not sure of the particulars- dedicate step two to the kind of person you'll aim to attract. You'll dig deeper into your target client later, but for now, outline your customer's general age, schedule, and preferences. 

Step Three: Define Your Specialty 

You have your modality and your target audience. Now decide what is going to make your studio memorable. For example, let's say you decided to open a yoga studio serving professional millennials before and after work hours. There are over 40,000 yoga studios in the US. How do you stand out? 

Your niche, branding, and marketing should cohesively lead customers to distinguish what makes your studio stand out from the other boutique options. Without clear branding, it becomes a race to the bottom- or who can price their packages the cheapest- and no one wins then.

Challenge yourself to create a quick working mission statement idea. This isn't your final version so try not to get caught up in perfection just yet. Instead, close your eyes and visualize your dream studio. What makes your studio unique? What is your marketing that speaks directly to your working target audience identified in step two? Why should someone choose your studio over the more established studios they already recognize?

There are hundreds of ways you could take this, but here are a few examples from my clients:

  • A barre studio where millennial clients go to make friends first and work out second, with a focus on community and long-lasting connection. 
  • A yoga studio where the teachers are not just experts; they're friendly and personable with an emphasis on long-term tenures, so the clients build relationships with the staff. Their tagline is, "we don't only remember your name, we pronounce it correctly," which is refreshing in an industry that often feels like a revolving door for part-time instructors.
  • A fitness studio for clients who don't see themselves as athletes. The studio is built for the "average" elder millennial/ gen X client who works out because they need to get healthy for other reasons, not necessarily because they love fitness or sweating. It's been a refreshing motto amongst their ultra-competitive, cross-fit-type competitors in the area.

You don't need to reinvent the industry with a brand-new idea, but you do need to love your chosen niche. Choose a mission you can stand behind as you craft a story, brand, and marketing strategy around it that resonates with customers. 

Your branding will continue evolving, as will your target client and mission statement. Try to avoid getting caught up in perfection or permanency in this step. Instead, envision your studio as a blank canvas that you're just beginning to outline shapes and colors. In the steps to follow, we'll dive deeper into each vital step to build your studio on a solid foundation from day one.

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About the author:

Niki Riga
Industry Expert
Limitless Studio

Niki has been a client, a studio owner, and a coach in boutique fitness for over a decade, and she can’t think of an industry she'd rather be in. Her favorite part about coaching and studio ownership are the same: she loves supporting clients as they push past their limits and achieve their goals. Niki became a coach because she was regularly asked, “how did you do that!?” by other studio owners who were drowning in the day-to-day responsibilities of business ownership but didn’t have the support to grow their studio to its potential. She created Limitless Studio to partner with owners who have a vision for their business and are ready to implement systems to build the studio of their dreams.