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How to start a successful gym from the ground up: 7 essential steps

Corey Loehr
January 24, 2023
opening a gym

In today’s market, you can buy an already-branded gym or create everything from scratch when opening a gym. Buying the gym as a whole may seem like a more manageable alternative since you don’t have to bother much about branding, but starting from scratch means you can create the perfect local brand just the way you envisioned it. However, starting from scratch also means more work and expenses, including opening a gym costs, so you should weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision.

So, how do you start a successful gym from the ground up? Here are the steps to follow to develop a top gym business.

1.    Identify a niche

Before setting up the business, consider the niche you want your gym to be in. Do you want the classic gym, where people can lift weights and work on equipment? You may want the focus to be on yoga and aerobics, or you may want to set up a high-intensity Crossfit gym.

Choosing a niche can help you advertise to a more specific clientele and improve the targeting of your marketing efforts. It can also make it easier for you to stand out from the competition.

When opening a gym, determining your niche can make it easier for you to buy equipment and budget for the opening a gym costs. For example, if you go for a cardio-oriented niche, you must focus on yoga mats and equipment such as treadmills, bicycles, and other heart-elevating tools. On the other hand, if your niche is in bodybuilding, you should get more weight-lifting equipment. By identifying your niche and target market, you can make more informed decisions on what equipment to purchase and how much to budget for opening a gym.

2.   Create a unique selling proposition

What does your gym have that other fitness centers do not? You may have a giant sauna in town or the only one with two pools. Your gym may only be within this price category offering personalized training plans. Come up with a top-notch selling proposition that brings gym-goers your way.

You need to put your gym in the best light possible, and a unique selling proposition will help you achieve that goal. Think about what you can bring forward to make the clients choose you. Your uniqueness will make you stand out.

3.   Secure financing

Depending on your location and specialization, gym startup costs can be high when opening a gym. It can cost around $50,000 or more to open a gym. The equipment alone can cost you upwards of $15,000 – and that’s if you are starting a small gym. There are many costs to keep in mind, such as building, payroll, equipment, legal fees, advertising, and upkeep. As a result, you need to establish where you’ll get that money from and budget accordingly to ensure that you have enough funds to cover all the gym startup costs.

You are all set if you already have the money saved up. You can find a suitable financing source if you need help finding it. A bank loan is usually the best choice, as it covers your business purposes. Once you start making a profit, you can pay that money back.

4.   Choose a good location

If you want your gym to be successful, you must ensure it is in a good location. Ideally, you’ll want to be in a place that gets good foot traffic, is easy to navigate, and is in a relatively safe area of your chosen town or city. 

The location will also depend on the size and offering of your gym. Think about how many people you want to bring in and go for something that has the appropriate size. If you want to be more successful, try something that mixes both indoor and outdoor areas. You’ll have gym-goers streaming toward your place every season.

5.    Create a good marketing plan

Once you start opening a fitness center, you must get your business’s name out there – and for that to happen, you need a good marketing plan. Use targeted marketing to address the people in your area through geographic and demographic data. This will help attract potential members who are most likely interested in your gym. If needed, you may want to outsource this task to an expert who can help you create a marketing strategy specific to opening a fitness center and reaching your target audience.

Consider the channels that your general audiences use the most. You can use various platforms, but the most popular option is social media. Mixed with some email marketing, it can quickly help you improve your reach.

6.   Hire the gym staff

Every gym requires experienced staff. You’ll need people to handle the management and janitors to keep the whole place hygienic. If you have just started the gym and are an accredited trainer, you will not need any fitness trainers. However, you may need more of them once the gym catches movement.

You should also think about cost-effective ways to handle recruitment. For instance, you can adopt remote interviewing, set up automation, and focus on skills. The less you beat around the bush, the better.

7.    Consider potential challenges

Lastly, when starting a gym business, you must also be aware of potential challenges and how to overcome them. For instance, you may have underestimated the effectiveness of your location and need to get more members. In this case, you should counter with a better marketing plan to reach more gym enthusiasts in your area. It is essential to be aware of these challenges and have the goal to address them when starting a gym business, as this can make or break the success of your gym.

Create contingency plans for the most prominent potential problem areas and keep them with your business plan.

The bottom line of opening a gym

Starting a gym may be somewhat challenging, but it’s gratifying. Once you build your brand, clients will keep coming your way. Give them what they want, and you will reach success.

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