AFS 2017 Year in Review – Growth, Credibility, Impact Highlight Fitness Studios

Club Industry was not involved in the creation of this content.

(OAKLAND, CA, January 5, 2018) – 2017 marked another incredible year of accomplishment and impact for the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS).  As the only membership community dedicated solely to the business of fitness studios and entrepreneurial fitness professionals, AFS made great strides in delivering a wide range of new and enhanced products, services and benefits to this fastest growing fitness market segment.

AFS’ 2017 successes were built on the highly effective base growth and development delivered in its three previous full years of existence - accomplishments in Research, Industry Relationships, and Digital Development.  These three operational “legs” continue to drive AFS’ forward thinking initiatives.

“The learning from year to year is astonishing,” said AFS founder and CEO Josh Leve.  “In 2017 we were able to turn information into action and action into tangible benefits for AFS members, vendors and the fitness industry at large. The outpouring of support from all segments of the industry has been gratifying and a major key to our success."

“Yet our own research shows there’s still plenty to do with huge opportunity for studios. Our primary motivation is to become an even more important component to their success.”

Here are some of the AFS 2017 highlights, made possible by contributions from scores of companies, organizations, executives, and fitness professionals.  We thank them all.

Fitness Industry Leadership

The universal acceptance of AFS as the “voice” and “hub” of the studio community – and the resulting leadership role AFS plays – is again AFS’ most important accomplishment.  The encouragement, support, and assistance from all segments of the fitness industry have been both humbling and exciting.  We greatly appreciate this support and pledge to continue to expand and implement programs, products, and services that enhance our member’s business while advancing AFS’ mission.

New, Improved, More Interactive

AFS re-launched its website in 2017 to better deliver the interactive experience so necessary for a viable trade association in today’s digital world.  The new, more intuitive site now features:

  • A new homepage, member benefits page, and revamping message
  • Improved user dashboard and account experience
  • Easier access to products and services
  • Business Health Assessment feature
  • Doubling of website traffic
  • 65% growth in time spent on the site

Market Research & Publications

In 2017, AFS continued to lead the fitness industry in developing highly acclaimed, credible business research on the studio market. 

  • The 2017 AFS Studio Operations & Financial Benchmarking Study, produced in conjunction with ClubIntel, was a follow up to the previous two years editions, identifying key business metrics, national norms, and helpful insights to enhance profitability.
  • The 2017 Buying Habits of Fitness Studios, sponsored by SportsArt, clarified the who, what, when, and how studios conduct business.
  • The launch of AFS’ monthly, interactive research program, including the release of –
    • Ingredients for Success, sponsored by Precor
    • Programming for Success, sponsored by Power Plate
    • What Makes Boutiques Click, sponsored by Precor
    • Keys to Retention, sponsored by MyZone
  •  Release of 3 major eBooks and Guides including
    • Top 7 Secrets for Studio Owners
    • Top 7 Secrets for Fitness Professionals
    • Guide to the Mature Market, sponsored by Functional Aging Institute

Expanded Audience and Onboarding

The AFS database of studio owners, aspiring owners, and fitness professionals grew from 12,000 at the end of 2016 to nearly 22,000 at the close of 2017 as focused efforts to reach the industry paid major dividends.  Additionally, the enhanced demographic and business profile data secured from the growing database helped provide AFS and its partners with clarity in making business decisions.

Vendor–Access Onboarding Program

AFS worked closely with vendor partners throughout the year to streamline and improve its innovative “Vendor-Access Onboarding Program” connecting vendors with members of the AFS audience who voluntarily request product information via the AFS onboarding protocol.  In 2017, the program delivered nearly 4,000 inquiries for vendors – more than double the 2016 number.

Completed Online Education Platform

By the end of 2017, AFS completed its massive, online education platform, sponsored by Matrix – the most comprehensive coursework offered in the industry, providing CEC/CEUs from all of the major certifying bodies.  AFS’ Online Education utilizes video lessons, expert guides, webcasts, audio, and eBooks featuring experts in studio operations.

Business Education Events

Bringing quality business education to fitness studios – without an ulterior sales motive - was again an AFS priority in 2017. AFS and Founder/CEO Josh Leve accepted invitations to, and presented at -

  • Club Industry Show – where AFS provided four business education seminars over two days
  • National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) National Conference 
  • National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) Business Conference 
  • Athletic Business Conference
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Optima National Conference

Expanded & Restructured Webinar Series

AFS’ highly successful and well-received webinar series was given additional structure and scheduling in 2017 with a bi-weekly protocol. Over 20 webinars were produced, averaging more than 150 registrants per event, providing attendees with free, high quality education and sponsors with an influx of people interested in their concepts, products, and services.

Industry Alliances – Associate Members

A key to AFS’ 2017 and ongoing success is the continued encouragement, assistance, and sponsorship from over 70 industry vendors that actively and aggressively support the AFS mission with the understanding that AFS growth and success improves the business climate for all industry segments.

  • Over 50 experienced fitness equipment and service providers joined in, with major sponsors including SFIC, Matrix, Precor, TRX, MERRITHEW™, American Barbell, MYZONE, RealRyder, MINDBODY, Power Plate, Pure Solutions, Escape Fitness, Muscle Up Marketing, and SportsArt among them.
  • Another 20 “new wave” of technology-driven industry suppliers joined the cause including Fitgrid, Fit Cloud Connect, Glofox, 97 Display, and Gym Cloud.

Industry Alliances – Collaboration

AFS reached and/or extended collaboration agreements with a strong list of industry associations and organizations including NSCA, NASM/AFAA, PTontheNet, NorCal Fitness Summit, ACE, Club Industry, PFP, NCCPT, Medical Fitness Network, Functional Aging Institute, Perform Better, Martial Arts Teachers Association, and Zumba.  While most of these alliances are not financial in nature, the synergy and working together for common goals far exceeds a few dollars in either direction.

Membership & Outreach

The essence and ultimate success of any trade association is its ability to be relevant to its constituents, as evidenced by internal support.  In 2017, AFS -

  • Grew its opt-in database to over 22,000 subscribers (55% increase over 2016)
  • Simplified its membership program now featuring 3 member categories
  • Streamlined communications via a text messaging for better member and prospect engagement
  • Expanded its private Facebook group to expand member engagement through peer communications while building the AFS/fitness studio community
  • Expanded the AFS YouTube channel with over 100 videos to provide the AFS audience with educational video webcasts 
  • Upgraded the AFS monthly e-Newsletter connecting the studio community
  • Delivered content development programs with contributions from major manufacturers and studio industry leaders, for both commercial and consumer engagement

Expanded Advisory Council

To address the variances in the needs of fitness studios as segmented by discipline and business principles, AFS expanded its Advisory Council with the addition of Petra Robinson (marketing), Hans Muench (international) and Annbeth Eschbach (spa/fitness), all bringing an unsurpassed level of expertise along with a selfless desire to contribute to the success of every AFS member and the industry.

Expanded Staff

AFS proudly welcomed several new staff members to provide additional expertise and resources to critical areas of the business demanded by growth.  This group of industry veterans continues to provide major contributions to AFS success:

  • Sara Allen, Director of Operations & Customer Service
  • Liz Callham, Video Communications Manager
  • Mike Ryan, Market Research Analyst
  • Amanda Vogel, Director of Social Media

Free Sampling Program

For the second consecutive year, AFS was designated as the distribution partner for a major consumer brand – this time Kashi, the well known, cereal and energy bar company. The program distributed over 200,000 free Kashi Chewy Nut Butter Bars to yoga studios and fitness facilities throughout the U.S.

Focus on Advocacy

With the growth and increased strength experienced in 2017, AFS was able to play a more active role in Advocacy issues surrounding the industry.  AFS continued its support of PHIT America and the PHIT bill passage, and encouraged its members to support prevention as a means of reducing global healthcare costs.

Outlook for 2018

Major initiatives already in various stages of development for 2018, include:

Audience Expansion

  • Continuation of the development of benefits, products, and services, to appropriately address the AFS membership value proposition
  • Full implementation and integration of AFS database growth strategy to expand outreach capabilities to provide value to the largest possible audience
  • Launch of an additional monthly communication, the Member Engagement Email, providing personal and customized member data


  • Aggressive digital marketing strategy to further increase AFS brand awareness 
  • Greater activation of collaboration and alliance agreements
  • Utilization of text messaging and other appropriate communication strategies

Business Education 

  • Expansion of the AFS webinar series
  • Expansion of AFS presentation schedule including Zumba, IHRSA, ACSM, and other opportunities, along with current partners Club Industry, NSCA, NASM/AFAA Optima and others
  • Expansion of AFS video series, webcasts, and social media outreach


  • Full implementation of AFS interactive research survey program
  • Year 4 of the AFS Operations & Financial Benchmarking Research

 About AFS

The Association of Fitness Studios (AFS) is the only membership community dedicated solely to the business of fitness studios.  AFS provides studio owners and developers a wide array of business-specific products, services, and benefits that enable them to more effectively manage and grow their businesses, building on the passion, compassion and courage they’ve already shown.

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