How to choose the perfect space for your fitness studio

How to choose the perfect space for your fitness studio

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Congratulations! You're building your dream fitness business and moving through the process. By this step, you should have worked through your niche to have a general idea of what you'll offer. Now it's time to choose the location. 

Committing to a lease is a big deal. Your fitness studio will thrive- or struggle- and your bottom line will directly reflect whether you got this step right in your business planning. So, how do you know when you've found the perfect space for your new fitness business? 

Location

Of course, we're starting with location, and we'll begin with the soft skills. Business ownership is a combination of gut instinct and number crunching, so use your gut. Will your members feel safe leaving evening classes? Is the space inviting? Does it represent what your brand is about? Who are the neighboring tenants, if applicable? As a coach, I often direct studio owners to use their analytical side to make business decisions, and we will in a moment. But first, walk the potential space and envision your business operating there for three to five years minimum.

Staying with location, now work into the facts. Ask your realtor or potential landlord for these make-or-break considerations. 

  • Is your usage allowed? Your city permitting office will tell you what zoning requirements your boutique fitness studio requires in your town- it varies by area. Depending on the building's zoning allowance, your business might need a conditional use permit or an exception application from the planning committee. 
  • What is the parking allowance? No one wants to be circling the parking lot for a spot when they're running late for class. Sufficient parking is non-negotiable unless you live in a highly walkable urban city. Many storefronts will have a specified number of parking spots reserved for them and then a shared overflow. You'll rely on the open parking if you need more than your reserved spaces. Your city planning office may not allow parking exceptions, so do your homework (and ask lots of questions) before you get your heart set on a space.
  • Who lives and works in the neighboring area? If you identified a specific client type when you designed your niche, ensure they're within five miles or fifteen minutes of your potential studio. That's how far most clients say they'd be willing to drive. 
  • If your studio is going to play loud music, check that there aren't sound restrictions. Some buildings have quiet times until late in the morning- too late for a 5 AM cycling class, for example, and if your business relies on loud music and early or late classes, you may run into problems before you get started. 
  • Even without noise restrictions, check out the neighbors. If you have a professional (read: silent) or serious business next door and employ music to set the vibe, you can save yourself a lot of back-and-forth headaches by checking out the sound before you sign. Put a Bluetooth speaker in the potential space and turn it as loud as it would be for class. Then run next door and listen. Are you going to field noise complaints from the bass or the mic? Keeping the peace is a clause in many leases, so you may be required to turn your music down if someone complains. 
  • NNNs or CAM fees. You may find a great spot for an affordable rate and then discover an exorbitant NNN due monthly or annually. This fee is often uncapped, so if the roof needs replacing or the building insurance goes up, you're on the hook for a percentage of the cost. Get a copy of your lease and have an attorney check it out to make sure you're not signing up for unlimited expenses down the road. 

Advertising Potential

While a location with amazing advertising potential isn't a requirement, it is a money-saving benefit and helpful for lead generation. If it's in your budget, look for a spot with street-facing signage or -better yet- windows that you can treat as free billboards. Not only will this save you marketing dollars, but it will also help in the beginning when you're trying to build brand recognition. 

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Landlord

If your location has neighboring businesses, stop by and chat with the owners before you sign. Ask them how their landlord relationship is. 

  • Is the landlord a firm or an individual? 
  • Who would you deal with directly?
  • Are communications returned promptly? 
  • How quickly are problems solved? 
  • Who is on the hook for emergencies and accidents? 
  • Is the landlord reasonable and easy to work with?
  • What happens if you run into trouble beyond your power, like a flood? 
  • What was their covid rent relief process like? 

You are committing to a long-term relationship with your landlord, albeit a working one. Make sure it's someone you're willing to work with for a few years. 

Can You Afford It?

Here's the big one. It's easy to get starry-eyed and over-estimate your financial forecast while downplaying your expenses- leading to trouble down the road. Many business coaches are hired to solve this specific problem, so ensure your numbers check out.

Take the time to complete an accurate proforma and determine your actual average client value before you sign any paperwork. If you have colleagues who own studios, ask them what they pay for insurance, utilities, and payroll rather than guessing so you're as accurate as possible. 

Surround Yourself with Experts

It's in your best interest to assemble a team of professionals to help you. That may include:

  • A commercial realtor who is looking out for you- not just the landlord.
  • If your space needs renovations, ask a builder for a ballpark construction bid before you sign a lease.
  • A contract or commercial lease attorney. Hire the best one you can afford, but you may also find one on SCORE for free. An attorney will help ensure you don't sign an unfair agreement and will know what pitfalls to look for. A seasoned contract attorney on your side is worth the initial investment for long-term peace of mind. 

As always, if you need an expert in your corner, book a call with one of our preferred coaches.

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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.