Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, John Scarborough lacked direction and purpose, but his life changed after the 9/11 attacks on U.S. soil led him to consider the military. He joined the Marines in 2003 and was deployed as part of the first LAR division. His experiences included a seven-month deployment to the Horn of Africa and a seven-month tour in Iraq. After completing his final tour, he left the military and returned home to his wife and children to help manage an Italian restaurant owned by his father.

Soon after purchasing the restaurant from his father, John, along with the rest of the world, faced the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic. For John, his wife and three children, this meant the temporary closure of the restaurant, wife’s loss of income and economic uncertainty. He also lost his mother from the virus, who was one of the first cases in South Carolina. After these hardships, John and his family decided to transition away from the restaurant business to find something to utilize what he had learned and gained through his military career. He spent the next six months contemplating.


The ISI Elite Training Experience

While visiting family in the Charlotte, NC area, John attended a workout session at ISI Elite Training, He immediately feel in love with the strength training model, combined with the community spirit that reminded him of his Marine Corp brotherhood. After conducting some due diligence research, John decided to take a leap of faith and franchised an ISI Elite Training facility in Lexington, SC. In May of 2022, he opened his location.

Introducing a strength-focused group fitness program to the Lexington community filled a gap in the local fitness scene that was much needed,” said John. “Nearly all other fitness concepts focused more on cardio-focused workouts and there wasn’t much difference in what they offered. ISI Elite’s focus on athletic based strengthen training in addition to cardio was a welcomed offering by the community. We started two months prior to opening, hosting workouts in our parking lot and the brand grew from there.”

Today, John’s ISI Elite Training location has grown to nearly 350 members and continues to experience a strong, steady growth with a loyal base within the community. Of course, the road wasn’t always easy and John points to the ISI Elite Training franchise team for his success, which is echoed throughout the brand’s franchise system.

“There is a family dynamic with the company leadership, which made the transition smoother for me,” said John. “There is a very strong sense of community among the corporate team and other franchise owners, which provides a support system and opportunities for sharing best practices. Any time I have a question, I can pick up the phone and call the CEO or another franchise owner to discuss an issue or idea.”


A viable model for success despite economic volatility and uncertainty

Despite recent worry and fear of recessions, the health and fitness industry continue to experience significant growth. While some boutique gyms have thrived, others may struggle due to challenges like high operating costs, limited resources, or difficulty in attracting and retaining clients.

“We feel we have a near perfect model for people who are interested in investing in the ISI Elite Training brand,” said Adam Rice, CEO of ISI Elite Training. “Not only are our members getting a structured, functional strength and conditioning workout, they are connecting with others where they continue to build confidence and instill a level of accountability toward overall health and wellness practices.”



ISI Elite Training year-over-year 2023 resulted in system wide growth across the board, hitting its 10,000-membership milestone and reporting $14M in annual revenue, up 57% year-over-year. The boutique franchise fitness brand also reported a record average facility sales growth (AUV) of 6 percent, while seeing a 13 percent increase in same facility sales from 2022 to 2023, which includes memberships, retail, supplement, and other in-gym consumables. 

The momentum continues into 2024 as the brand reported 38% year-over-year and 14% month-over-month increases in January – the third highest in brand history. As a franchise model, ISI Elite Training elevates the boutique-gym genre as franchisees experience steady, meaningful gains.

To this end, many boutique fitness franchisees with competing brands are switching to the ISI Elite Training franchise model citing a more comprehensive marketing program and the success of the ABT scientific-based functional training focus. Additionally, with the minimal turnover costs, lower barrier to entry and the real estate issue already resolved, owners passionate about fitness have found a new pathway to merge passion with success for the benefit of their community.

 “The ISI Elite Training vibe comes from a shared passion, a collective energy, the high-fives, and the spirit of one,” said Adam Rice, CEO of ISI Elite Training. “The accountability, trust, and talent that sport team members hold for each other is how championships are won and legends are made. This is the meaning behind the phrase ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ and from which ISI Elite Training was built.”