How to Start a Gym Business

Learn how to start a gym business by researching, planning, and taking the time to truly decide if this is the business venture for you. More than 15 percent of adults have a gym membership, so the market for gym businesses is quite lucrative. Even with such a good market, this isn't the right pursuit for everyone, so take time to really look into your options before deciding to take the leap. 

Hours, days, weeks, and months of planning go into deciding if opening your own gym business is even possible. You'll want to find a friend who has some experience in the fitness industry and understands the ins and outs of running their own business. They will be essential to your planning process, as they can help run the numbers to see what it will take. 

When you decide to start a gym business, you'll need to contact the bank for a loan if you don't have the funds available from elsewhere for the startup. This will require a business plan with projections laid out clearly for the bank to review. Try to develop a stiff upper lip during the process, as you may face some rejections and difficult questions when trying to acquire a loan. 

During your research, you'll want to reach out to others who have gone through this process. Independent gym owners from all over might be willing to chat and answer your questions, as they've been through it before. Have good questions and a pen and paper ready to take notes when you set up a time to speak over the phone with a gym owner. There's a lot to learn from the experiences of others, so be sure to hear what they have to say without taking over the conversation by describing your own plans and ideas.

Keep these ideas in mind as you formulate your questions:

  • Gym style
  • Client numbers
  • Sources of income (memberships, trainers, classes, etc.)
  • Operating expenses (employees, equipment, etc.)
  • Difficulties faced when starting up
  • Unexpected issues
  • Ideal locations for different gym styles

Once you've heard what your interviewee has to say, finish with more specific questions about your business plan. You'll want to set up these interviews with several gym owners each week for the first few months, eventually narrowing it down to owners of the particular type of gym you plan to open. 

When you're ready to get started with your gym business plan, you need the following:

  • A complete and well-planned budget
  • Access to equipment for purchase
  • A marketing plan
  • A location in mind for leasing

The location you choose for your gym is one of the most important aspects of your startup process. Look for a good value, the right space for your particular style of gym, and find a professional to help you figure out your leasing options. 

Accumulate Wealth Before Making the Jump

Before you decide to start a gym business, you're going to need money. This is usually one of the toughest parts of this type of startup. Budget well by saving about a fifth of your current paycheck to help create a cushion for when you're ready to dive in. Up to six months of your salary is a good amount to have in the bank before starting the process.

Be prepared for the following items to create costs for you even at the very beginning of your startup:

  • Legal services
  • Cleaning and upkeep
  • Insurance (this is big as there are many liabilities wrapped up in owning a gym)
  • Financial needs (accounting, etc.)

Find ways to bring in other income to help yourself keep up with the costs of starting a gym business. Partnering with someone who can bring some extra cash flow into the business is a great way to avoid extra debt that tends to cause businesses to fail. Keep an amount of cash that is not part of the operating budget set aside for emergencies and unexpected issues. 

Keep costs in mind as you decide the type of gym you plan to open. Smaller locations that specialize in group training sessions are less expensive than the all-inclusive gym with loads of equipment. 

Try to only borrow what you need from the bank in order to get started. This will help you get out of debt faster and stay away from sky-high interest rates. You'll want to get out of debt as quickly as possible once you've started your business.

If you need help with starting a gym business, you can post your job on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.