You are an aspiring entrepreneur, someone with a dream of opening your own boutique fitness studio. You may not want to believe it, but even before being an entrepreneur, you will need to be more of a scientist or researcher. Not fashioning yourself in a lab coat? Well, then, you are a philosopher, a deep thinker, a logician.
Like most clients, you may start by asking questions, such as:
- What types of equipment should I purchase?
- Which manufacturers should I buy from?
- How many pieces should I buy?
- How much square footage should I lease, and at what price per square foot?
- What pricing model should I adopt?
- What are the best methods to market and pre-sell my new studio?
- How much should I pay my instructors?
Although these specific questions are certainly valid and will require answers soon enough, first you need to know what your true vision is.
Many organizations out there will support your dream of business ownership, but to help you clarify your overall vision, I’ve put together five who, what, when, where, and why questions you should ask yourself regardless of the stage of the process you are in.
1. Why in the world do you want to open your own boutique fitness studio? Why take on all the management responsibilities, the headaches, the administrative grunt work, the marketing legwork, the closing of sales inquiries, the customer follow-up, the cleaning and maintenance, the customer complaints, etc. What kind of a living do you want, and how much of that living do you really need? Examining your motivation can help you find a range of acceptable earnings, rather than focusing on a single goal amount. Dig deep to find reasons other than dollars. Owning your own business can be stressful, and there are many other forms of currency besides dollars that have value and can bring a sense of satisfaction, happiness, contentment and peace of mind. For example, building a unique community of fitness enthusiasts with similar intra- and interpersonal goals, and then helping them to achieve their goals is visionary.
2. Who do you want to be part of your studio community? To whom do you wish to be of service? Who do you want your clientele to be? Who resides in the immediate area, as well as the surrounding areas? How many females, males, teens and children are there and across which economic groups? Who will be your staff, what should they be able to offer, what kind of living might they want, and do you care to make this possible for them? Who will be your competition, what do they offer, how do they schedule and set up their pricing, and do you want to work cooperatively with them or pit yourself against them? Who will be your mentors?
3. What will make your dream studio and the services offered wholly unique? What will differentiate you from your competition? What are your own core competencies as an owner, a leader, a manager/supervisor, a coach or a trainer, and would your ego allow supplementing with the capabilities of others? All locations have floors, ceilings and walls, but what can you offer that is going to be different, from interior design, equipment and amenities, to programming and services that are cutting edge? Without this, you may ultimately compete on price alone, and that’s going to be a grind.
4. Where are you going to locate your studio? You’ve probably given some thought to where you want the studio to be located, but is that really the best location? How did you decide on the specific location? Price alone can’t be the determinant. Do you want to be visible from the street and traffic? How important is foot traffic to building your studio’s clientele, and how much relevant foot traffic will there actually be? Will you offer evening classes, and what does the location look like in the evening? Is it well-lit and safe, for example? Who will be your neighboring businesses, and is there potential for cross-promotion? You don’t want your legacy to be, “Oh yeah, that was the studio in that dark alley with no parking between the Tony’s Tavern and Vic’s Vape Shop.”
5. When will you feel that you have achieved your vision? When will you know you have achieved what you wanted and what you needed? Can you measure it? Will you consider the opening of the studio doors a success all by itself? Some would. Will success be based on cash in your pocket, revenue from classes and privates, the number of clients you have, client visits, class counts, sales of retail items, social media reviews, etc.? When will you have the skills to assess your ever-building set of customer data, to derive meaning from it and to apply changes to your product, your processes and your people (i.e., staff) to stay on path? Your overall strategy should be designed to notify you when you have succeeded in achieving smaller business-driving milestones that point the way to your dream.
6. And your bonus question is: How will opening a studio change your own life for the better? I ask you to really ponder this, to jot your thoughts down somewhere and then revisit them often. As you evolve personally and professionally in your life, you may find you’ll want to modify them. The answers here are really the answers to the ‘Why’ question above, aren’t they?
Searching for deeper insight and understanding why you are venturing into this unknown will generate more questions before providing definitive answers, but don’t get frustrated. Through this insightful discovery, the unknowns will become known, and your overall vision will come into your sights. Keep building a firm jumping off point from which to begin the real legwork (i.e., research, program design, process development, talent acquisition and more).
Tony Berlant has been involved in the health and fitness industry for the last 25 years. He has a master's degree in exercise and movement science from the University of Oregon, where he completed an additional two years in a doctoral program focusing on exercise and sport psychology. He participated in a number of research studies, served as an assistant editor for the Research Quarterly in Exercise and Sport, and authored and/or co-authored several published peer-reviewed research papers before leaving academia. He serves on the advisory council for the Association of Fitness Studios.