The fitness industry is incredibly lucrative. In fact, the United States has the single largest market for gyms and fitness studios worldwide. So we don’t blame you for wanting to open up your own gym.
But starting a gym business takes more than your love of fitness. There are multiple steps involved, and the process can get overwhelming. Attracting customers and getting those gym membership numbers up isn’t easy as pie. Thankfully, we’ve supplied everything you need to know to get started.
This guide outlines all the basics of opening your own fitness studio. We also provide gym business ideas to help you turn your passion into profit.
What is the Best Business Structure for a Gym Studio?
Most small businesses start as limited liability companies (LLC). An LLC is a business structure that protects owners from personal responsibility for debts and liabilities—hence the name. Some advantages of this business structure include personal liability protection, tax flexibility, an easy setup, and fewer ownership restrictions.
An LLC is most likely the best option for your gym if:
- You don’t need to attract investors
- You plan to invest most of your profit into your business
- You want to manage a more straightforward business structure
What Licensing Do I Need to Open a Gym?
A business license is the only license you’ll need to open a gym. However, your state may have specific permitting requirements. For instance, your state may have specific safety and emergency protocols. Learn more about your state’s licensing requirements by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
What is a Certificate of Occupancy? Why Do I Need It?
If you intend to open your gym out of commercial space, you will need a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that the building codes, zoning laws, and government regulations have been satisfied.
If you plan to lease a space for your gym:
- The landlord is responsible for obtaining a CO.
- Ensure that your landlord has a valid CO that applies to a fitness center.
- After renovations, you will need a new CO.
If you plan on purchasing a space or building your gym from the ground up:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government official.
- You will be responsible for reviewing building codes and zoning requirements to ensure your business is compliant.
Do I Need Permits for Additional Services?
Offering unique services is a great way to stand out and get an edge on your competition. But you’ll want to make sure you comply with permitting requirements.
If you plan to offer your members daycare services, you must meet your state’s specific licensing requirements.
Food and Retail Seller’s Permit
To sell taxable goods, you must obtain a state-issued seller’s permit. This is called a sales tax permit or sales tax certificate of authority. You will also have to establish your business’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) to apply for a sales permit.
Depending on how you plan on serving food (i.e., café, smoothie bar, salad bar), you will also need to pass a health inspection by a local authority and obtain a food vendor’s license.
Spa and Massage Permits and Licenses
You will also need a seller’s permit in your state for spa and massage services. Visit the American Massage Therapy Association to learn more about special licensing requirements for massage or esthetician services.
Licenses for Healthcare Services
Offering meal prepping and nutritional services is a great way to provide more value to your members. And suppose you plan on hiring a professional dietician or nutritionist. In that case, you must ensure they have the proper certifications and licensing.
Pool and Shower Regulations
Some states have specific permitting requirements for pools. And some areas may even have special regulations for businesses with showers. So you’ll want to check with your state and county relations if you plan to have a pool or shower facility.
Do I Need to Purchase Insurance?
Yes. You will need to purchase insurance for your gym business.
Every business operates with a certain level of risk—especially gyms. Your gym insurance protects your business when accidents, injuries, and unforeseen situations occur.
Your specific insurance plan depends on the type of gym, what you offer, and the size of your facility. Insurance plans for small to medium-sized fitness centers start at around $2,000. And if you add things like worker’s compensation, property protection, and professional liability.
Here’s a breakdown of the types of insurance policies you’ll probably need:
General liability covers your business from claims from non-employees—including bodily injuries and property damage.
Protecting your members’ data is essential. And even with the highest cybersecurity, data breaches and hacks still happen. However, cyber liability protects your business from claims resulting from hacked consumer information.
This policy pays for employee injuries that occur when they are at work. It could include medical costs, lost wages, rehabilitation, and survivor benefits if an employee dies in the workplace.
This policy covers property damage caused by theft, fire, vandalism, or natural disaster. And when you purchase commercial property insurance, you cover the contents of the building and the building itself.
What Type of Accounting Should I Have?
Having a system record your expenses and sources of income is crucial. Proper bookkeeping helps you keep track of money coming in and going out, making things easier during tax season.
First, we recommend getting a business bank account for your gym. Using dedicated banking and credit accounts protects your personal assets.
You might also want to open net 30 accounts. With a net 30 account, you can purchase goods for your business and repay the full balance within the 30-day term. Most net 30 credit lenders report to major credit bureaus. This is how businesses build credit and qualify for other lines of credit.
How Much Does It Cost to Open Up a Gym?
The cost to open a gym business depends on a variety of factors—including location, size, and offerings. You’ll need around $65,000 for a modest commercial gym. For a mid-size gym, your start-up cost will be about $200,000.
A few things that contribute to the cost of your gym include:
Here, the initial cost will be a downpayment or deposit. For commercial space, you can expect to pay 20 to 40 percent of the property’s price. To illustrate, 2,000-square-foot space will cost $6,000 a month. So you can expect to pay a $12,000 deposit.
You probably won’t have everything you need for your gym—i.e., amenities, aesthetics, locker rooms. So you will have to hire contractors to perform a build-out. For this, the average cost will be between $60 and $300 per square foot.
Basic fitness equipment will cost between $12,000 and $55,000. But, of course, this will depend on the gym equipment you’re looking for.
Hiring a lawyer to guide you through the legal aspects is wise. A lawyer can be especially beneficial for looking over leasing and contractor agreements. For this, you can expect to pay $10,000.
For every 50 members, you should hire one employee. Depending on how fast your gym grows in the first year, you should budget $50,000-$100,000 for staffing.
You should budget about $3,000 for your opening day marketing campaign. This includes things like cross-promotion efforts, community events, and digital ads.
How Do I Get Funding For My Gym?
Financing your gym is arguably one of the biggest hurdles to starting a gym from scratch. But the good news is that there are many funding options available.
One way to secure funding for a gym is by getting a business loan from a bank. To get a loan pre-approved, you will need a comprehensive gym business plan and identification documents. A business loan is a secure form of funding; however, it can come with high-interests rates.
Crowdfunding is a risk-free way to raise money for your business. Websites like Kickstarter allow you to pitch your idea and gather donations from the public.
An angel investor is a wealthy individual who provides funding for small businesses. The advantage to angel investors is that you don’t have to repay the funds. However, they will ask for 10 to 50 percent of your business in exchange for funding.
In this case, you’ll be looking for a business partner that can finance your gym and offer some management control. Your business partner should not only have funds but should also have the right skills and insight.
If you have the extra money in the bank, use it to finance your gym. But the problem with this is that you run the risk of funding your business
solely by yourself, and you may not have enough money to cover living expenses. So ensure you crunch the numbers to see if you can afford to fund your gym with personal savings.
How Do I Open a Gym With No Funding?
It’s possible to start a gym business with limited resources. The key to opening a gym with no funding is to take it slow and plan.
For example, you can grow a loyal online and social media following. Focus on creating organic content and engaging with your community. This could be through writing blog posts, streaming workouts, or recording podcasts.
Eventually, you will have a large enough fanbase to pitch your gym business idea and gather crowdfunding. Not to mention, the following you build online can also become your customer base.
In addition, you can start with a digital fitness platform. When you eliminate the need for a physical location, growing and scaling your fitness business becomes more achievable in a shorter amount of time.
How Do I Find the Perfect Location for My Club Fitness Center?
The location of your gym can make or break your business. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing an ideal location:
Your Target Market
You want to consider your ideal customer when choosing a location. For example, if you plan to offer trendy workout classes, choosing an urban area is wise.
Think about how visible the location is to the public. Attracting customers will be challenging if you’re in the middle of nowhere. So ensure that your gym is in a highly visible spot with good signage.
Many business owners overlook this part when scoping out potential commercial spaces. If you don’t have suitable parking, people might not be motivated to visit your gym. Therefore, ensure enough space for people to enter and exit without running into traffic.
Consider the type of fitness classes and services you want to offer and the equipment needed. This will give you an idea of how many square feet you will need.
It’s not a good idea to open your gym next door to a competitor or established franchise. The minimal competition will allow you to attract customers, increase gym memberships and build a loyal base.
Where Do I Order Equipment for My Gym?
There is an abundance of outlets that sell new and used fitness equipment for your gym. Some places to buy gym equipment for your business include:
- Facebook marketplace
- Sporting goods stores
- Second-hand sports stores
- Big box retailers (i.e., Walmart, Target)
If buying new equipment isn’t an option, consider purchasing used items or leasing. Purchasing used gym equipment is the cheaper option, but it will require more upkeep and maintenance. With leasing, you get a new piece of equipment for a small initial investment. When getting supplies for your gym, shop around and weigh the different options out there.
How Do I Attract Clients to My Gym?
Build it, and they will come, right? Not exactly. You need a marketing plan that engages your community and encourages people to visit your gym.
There are many ways to attract customers to your new gym, but here are a few to get you started:
Hosting local events is a great way to increase awareness of your gym. You can easily incorporate fun and fitness by organizing workout bootcamps, obstacles courses, and competitions. Now, when someone thinks of a “gym near me”, they will be thinking of yours, because your event impressed them.
With cross-promotion, you partner with another brand and promote each other’s services. For example, you can team up with a local health food brand and give out free samples of their products at community events. In exchange, they can post about your gym on their social media or website. Cross-promotion is a great way to introduce your business to a broader audience.
SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of optimizing your website so that it ranks high on search engines and reaches your audience. So when users search for “local gyms near me”, your website will be one of the first results.
Like SEO, Google Business adds your business listing to local search results. A Google Business account also provides valuable information about your gym, such as address, phone number, and website.
Do I Need a Gym Management Software?
Investing in a gym management platform helps make your job as a business owner easier. It allows you to streamline administrative tasks and improve your overall business management.
Some things you can tackle with gym management software include:
- Membership management
- Data entry
- Scheduling and appointment booking
- Staff management
- Payment processing
- Marketing and sales
From sales CRM to automation tools, Gleantap provides everything you need to juggle multiple administrative and marketing tasks. Our gym management tools centralize customer data and allow you to keep track of important things like bookings, check-ins, and payments.
Come Up With a Solid Gym Pricing Strategy
How you choose to price your club fitness center is one of the most crucial parts of your gym business plan. You should consider several factors here, including what your competition is charging, how often gym members use your club (which helps determine the cost per client per visit). You must consider how you would be attractive to customers who ask, “which are the best gyms open near me?”
Figure Out How to Get Leads – And Fast
While your gym is important to you, people walking by are thinking, “Here’s another gym near me.” And they’re right. This is why your lead generation strategy is essential. Try actively seeking leads and make your gym the only one people pay attention to in your area. Hire an expert in lead generation or become the expert yourself and upskill your gym trainers – the choice is yours.
Create a Retention Strategy from the Start
We know that getting new members through the door is essential – but an IHRSA study tells us acquiring a new member is five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Suffice it to say that having a gym membership retention strategy is a must – and it should be done early. Gym trainers should have retention top of mind – giving members the best experience every time they walk through those doors.
Start a Gym Business With Gleantap
As you can see, many moving parts are involved in starting a gym business. Getting off the ground is challenging, from figuring out legal paperwork to securing funding. However, owning a successful club fitness business is possible—all it takes is a little muscle, patience, and guidance.
We hope this guide to owning a gym made the process a little easier. But, wanna know what else makes the process even smoother? The right gym management. Gleantap simplifies your role as a business owner and helps you stay afloat.
Contact us for a free demo.