Advice for Future Fitness Franchisees
Before deciding to invest in a fitness franchise, it is worth asking some valuable questions of yourself. What franchise is the best fit for you? What would be the best location for the brand? How can you create a community and brand loyalty?
In addition to thinking about the business, you also need to know if you would personally thrive in a franchise system and the type of brand you want to align with and represent in your market(s). In my past roles, and my current one as the President of Pure Barre, I have helped franchisees in the health and fitness industry with each step of the process.
So, why would someone want to invest in a fitness franchise? As cliche as it sounds, fitness really can change lives. Fitness not only has a large role in physical wellbeing, but also mental health, as evidenced throughout the pandemic. A study surveying 1.2 million people in the United States found that people who exercise report having 1.5 fewer poor mental health days a month, compared to people who do not exercise. The study also found that team sports, cycling, aerobics and going to the gym were the activities that made the greatest impact. By opening a fitness studio, owners are creating a space for others to feel their best and work toward the best versions of themselves in a welcoming, inclusive and supportive environment. Adding franchising to the mix gives these entrepreneurs the support of a company with a proven track record that has years of experience and tools to help them succeed.
The first step you should take, and one of the most important, is figuring out what you are passionate about when it comes to health and fitness. There are a wide variety of franchises in this space to invest in, and finding the right one for you will greatly impact your motivation and longevity in business. Do you love working out? Maybe a barre, indoor cycling or boxing franchise is the right fit for you. Do you invest a lot of time into self-care and wellness? Perhaps a massage, sauna or assisted stretching franchise is where you want to invest. The possibilities are endless in this industry, so make sure you choose something you love, especially as we emerge from a pandemic – life is too short!
Once you’ve landed on a concept you want to invest in and a specific brand you love, conduct in-depth research. This can include talking to current franchisees and asking them about how successful they have been and how their experience has been with the franchisor, especially from a support perspective. Another big factor to consider is the startup budget you have. Each franchise will have a different initial investment for opening a new location, which can vary greatly in the fitness space depending on whether or not the concept requires equipment or a unique buildout. If it’s too difficult to figure out alone, perhaps you should work with a franchise consultant/broker to help you work through this.
Lastly, one of the most important factors to look at is the level of support provided by the franchisor. Ask the franchisor what their support system is like – do they give ongoing guidance and resources or just a simple toolkit with which you are left to your own devices to figure out? If you have a previous background in business, you may feel that you need less support than someone who has no prior business experience.
As someone who is involved in the training and vetting process for new franchisees, I do my best to set up all franchisees for success, regardless of their background. For example, at Pure Barre, we provide franchisees with three days of franchise partner training after they sign their agreement with us. We also help franchisees find a location, provide tools and training needed to build an incredible teacher and staff team, market their new studios, and sell memberships. But the support doesn’t stop after the grand opening. While a Pure Barre location is open, we offer ongoing training and engagement activities weekly which greatly contributes to the success of each owner. If a franchisee is going to be directly involved in the day-to-day operations of their location, which they usually are, we also encourage them to attend a 3-day general manager training. This training is designed to arm attendees with the core knowledge and practical examples of how to manage the studio operations including the sales process and management of KPIs. As a company, we give an immense amount of support to our franchisees, but again, it is best to consider if that is the right fit for you and your skill-set. Very free-spirited, independent people or those who seek complete creative control may not want that much of a blueprint or level of support that a franchise provides.
As Pure Barre continues to grow, we’ve found that what makes each franchisee successful is following our model and trusting the process and systems in place that have built the brand to what it is today and where it is headed At the same time, we like to ask our franchisees for feedback on that model – what is working and what is not. Then we can implement changes and roll out new initiatives when necessary. This in turn helps keep our franchisees passionate and invested in the brand, and at the end of the day, passion will drive success.
In addition to following the playbook, I’ve also found social media to play a large role when it comes to success in fitness franchising in particular. It was found that 82% of consumers have purchased or considered purchasing a product or service after a friend or family had posted about it on social media.
There are franchisors that don’t provide a lot of marketing tools to their owners and leave the communications up to their discretion. That is not the case with Pure Barre, because we recognize how prevalent boutique fitness has become on social media. We provide templates for social media posts, email blasts and more so that franchisees can customize to reflect their studios while keeping a strong and consistent brand presence in their online communities. Having a social media presence from presale onwards is important so locals can learn about your business and to create a community within it, the cornerstone of boutique fitness. The younger generation is now turning to social networks as a primary resource to research brands, so it’s important for whatever fitness brand you invest in to have a strong social media presence for future growth!
At the beginning of the pandemic, the future of group fitness was uncertain and some thought at-home fitness might become the main form of exercise. But what fitness franchises offer, and what people ended up missing more than anything, is the sense of community they bring their members. This comeback, combined with everything mentioned above, make now a better time than ever to look into being a fitness franchise owner.
Regan Stokes first entered into the field of franchising through a career opportunity to join the team of a budding franchisor in the fitness space. While Stokes was primarily working in client services management before that, she became fascinated by the concept of franchising and saw first-hand how the franchisor and franchisee could work together to create the strongest business possible. After starting in a franchise relations role, she quickly worked her way up onto the executive leadership team. Now, as the president of Pure Barre, a boutique fitness concept with over 600 locations, Stokes is responsible for building a business model and support system that allows entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams of business ownership. She was appointed President of the company in January 2021.