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Starting Your Own Gym in Chicago

For those who love to exercise and have a passion to help others get fit and maintain their health, then it might make sense to take on a new business opportunity by setting up a gym or starting a fitness center. After all, on average the health club industry rakes in over $80 billion globally each year while American gyms alone have a market share of $26 billion. Even better, with approximately one in six adults owning a gym membership, gyms are not struggling for clientele. The fitness industry is a booming business and with more and more people becoming health conscious every day, it seems as though the industry is only growing. Of course, just because the industry is doing well and you love to go for runs and hit the weight room every once in a while doesn’t mean you should blindly dive into the industry by starting a fitness studio or starting your own gym business. Whether you are interested in starting a yoga business, starting a yoga studio or something starting your own gym, owning a fitness location takes a lot of planning, research, and financial means. If you’re interested in this potentially great business opportunity, then read on to learn about some of the important aspects of the business before you take the leap and head out on your own.

Get Certified

If you are a personal trainer, you might already have one or two certifications, which is great. This is extremely important prior to opening your gym as it could boost your credibility and help you to obtain a business loan. Accreditation from groups such as ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), ACE (The American Council on Exercise), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), and many others are a great start. Many of these certifications expire and need to be renewed and/or require continuing education courses to maintain them.

If you are not a personal trainer, you might want to consider getting certified and trying out that type of work before diving into owning a gym. Seeing the fitness industry from the floor in a non-management role can be eye opening and help you determine if you love the work enough to dive deeper into the industry.

Find Financing

Unless you’ve hit it big in Vegas or have inherited a lot of money, you’ll need to find a source to set up a gym or start a yoga studio. Most professional say it takes at least $50,000 to set up a gym, while others say it can be done for as little as $10,000. It’s in your best interest to ere on the side of a more costly set up so you don’t have to cut corners. Either way, a well-organized, thought out Business Plan (LINK) is something you will need to put together before investors or loan providers will take you or your business seriously. Do your research and look into various banks and credit unions to make sure you are getting the best options and best interest rates.

Be Strategic About Location

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again, location, location location! It’s everything and can be a key factor in your business plan. Where you set up shop is critical to the survival of your yoga business or gym. Be sure to do your market research about your anticipated client base. Decide where a high concentration of your key demographic is and find out how to open a gym there. Remember, convenience and accessibility are crucial to gym members so look for a location that is readily accessible by car, foot, bike and even public transportation.

Additionally, think about rent. In general, gym owners rent their space and rent prices can vary from location. Rent should be included in your business plan and in your initial operating costs. Of course, be sure to let the landlord know your intentions about starting a gym and get permission on making alterations or conducting building work. This is important since you may need to alter the property layout in line with governing guidelines.

Source the Right Equipment

This is the fun part! Once you have the financing you need for the location, it’s time to turn your empty space into the gym of your dreams! Of course, all that equipment comes with a hefty price tag. Depending on the type of gym you are opening, you may need everything from basic free weight equipment such as bench presses, dumbbells and racks, mats, squat racks, and cardio equipment including treadmills, bikes, and rowing machines. If you are starting a yoga studio or starting a yoga business you will need mats and other materials used for various yoga techniques.

You’ll also want to consider classes. What will you need in your studio space for any given class? Equipment can add up very quickly, so be sure to make a list and ensure that everything is essential before buying. Another option is renting or leasing equipment. Although this is often the more expensive option, it allows you to upgrade your equipment every few years.

Understand Your Insurance Needs for Starting Your Own Gym

You can’t start a gym without insurance. Accidents happen and you want to be protected. With so many people taking part in potentially hazardous activities and using various equipment, you will need to cover yourself so you and your business are legally and financially protected.

In addition to regular insurance, depending on your state or municipal laws, you may want to consider looking into gym liability insurance as well. This may be even be a requirement in your state. Equipment insurance isn’t a bad idea either – especially if you’re planning on spending a lot for it.

Several insurance provides work with gyms and can help you find the coverage that is right for you. Be sure to shop around and find one that covers all of your needs while giving you the best deal.

Hire Wisely

As your business grows you will need to hire individuals to work for you. Most new owners spend way too much time at their business, so hiring good people is a way for you to maintain a healthy work/life balance while your business runs smoothly.

Depending on the size of your gym, you’ll need several personal trainers. Be sure each of them is properly certified. You may need to bring in individuals to teach classes too. In that case, be sure they are properly licensed and/or accredited instructors.

The better you hire, the less headaches you’ll have. When you have a strong team, your business will run well and everyone will be on the same team.

Get Started

Once you have everything from your location picked out to your finances in order, you’re ready to start marketing your business and driving traffic. Hopefully, before you even started thinking about opening your own gym you had a steady client base willing to leave their current gym and follow you to yours. You can drive traffic through social media, advertising and encouraging your current members to bring friends and do referrals. Word-of-mouth marketing can do wonders for your business!

Most of all, remember that no two businesses are alike, so do what works best for you. Anyone starting out on a new business venture will tell you that mistakes will happen, but you’ll learn from each of them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and when necessary, seek out professional advice.


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