How to Start a Gym

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A young woman smiles while exercising on a row machine at the gym.
A young woman smiles while exercising on a row machine at the gym. (Image: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images)

For those who enjoy keeping fit and have an entrepreneurial mindset, starting a gym can be a dream come true. Owning your own gym won't always be a picnic, however. Long hours and hard work are part of the job description, but like a good workout, the more you invest of yourself in the new business, the more rewarding it can be.

Find the Right Location

Having the right location is important for many businesses, but it's essential for a gym. Not only do you need to select a place that has enough room for the equipment and activities you plan to offer, it also needs access to parking or transit and should be visible to passers-by. If you plan to offer cardio or yoga classes, make sure the building has separate rooms. Before signing a lease, take a good look at the market in your gym's neighborhood, including the average age and income of residents and what other businesses are nearby. For example, if you are considering a high-scale gym for young urban professionals, then locating close to where these people work or live would be important.

Stock the Right Equipment

Equipment costs for a fully stocked gym can be staggering. Getting just a couple of treadmills, cross trainers, upright bikes, incline benches, weights and dumbbells can cost $30,000 or more. The price is much more if you are looking for the hottest brand names. The right equipment for a new gym isn't necessarily the most expensive, however. Unless you have a massive budget and know your clientele will expect the best or trendiest brand names, consider investing in off-brand or even used equipment that is in good working condition.

Start With a Niche

One way to keep start-up costs to a minimum, and to find room in a market crowded with national chains, is to find a niche that is of interest to your target market. Focusing on yoga, boxing, running or rock climbing will reduce the need to have every piece of equipment imaginable. Some niche gyms also offer courses that promote overall well-being, like stress management courses in a community with a lot of businesses nearby or job interview and test-taking seminars in market with a lot of younger people. As you build your clientele, you can expand your offerings or focus even more on a successful niche.

Surround Yourself With Experts

Running a gym requires a diverse set of skills and people. In addition to workout-specific skills such as those provided by yoga instructors or personal trainers, there are business skills required as well. Understand where your own strengths are and then hire experts who can fill in the other areas, whether it is hiring a strength and conditioning coach to work with customers or a marketing manager to help build your business. To find staff for your gym, consider advertising in local fitness blogs or social media pages. Also, consult with a lawyer and an accountant before signing a lease or investing money in new equipment. Before deciding on how much to charge members, research the local market to find the going rates for memberships in your area and price your own membership plans accordingly.

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