Kaia FIT has grown from a single studio in Minden, Nevada, to 56 locations in seven years by building a community for women – one new location at a time.
The franchise's concept is designed around a gymnastics-inspired functional fitness workout developed by owner Nikki Warren together with co-owners Sharon Kassity and Kristen Loos. Warren, a 20-year fitness and nutrition industry veteran, credited the passion of Kaia FIT's member community as the biggest reason for the franchise's growth.
"We're definitely all about our community, and it's what makes us different," Warren told Club Industry. "We are a lifestyle program. We focus on fitness, we have different workouts every day, a nutrition program, and through that, the women are the community that is created. They [members] actually come in and feel like what is missing in their life is that community and a connection with others."
The first studio in Minden in 2009 started with an idea to help mothers rediscover fitness after Warren, who owned a gymnastics facility, saw mothers sitting on a bench watching their kids participate in gymnastics activities.
"Moms get to a certain age and forget fitness is fun," Warren said. "They were too busy making their children's lives amazing. We created Kaia FIT with the idea of creating a team for women that is welcoming, and we teach in progressions like gymnastics. It started to grow organically."
The growth led Kaia FIT to begin licensing the concept in Reno, Nevada, which then turned into a franchising model after subsequent expansion into California. Kaia FIT now operates in Nevada, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. There are an estimated 4,070 average members per studio with an average membership price of $119 per month, according to the company.
Kaia FIT is focused on growing in its current operating regions for now, according to Warren. The company projects 20 additional locations to launch in the remainder of 2016 and projects 200 total locations open by the end of 2017.
"We want to put time and energy into current locations and let them thrive," Warren said. "There is still growth potential in California and Nevada."
The communities inside Kaia FIT clubs are nurtured through its "coaches," who are tasked with leading exercise classes and developing personal connections with members. All coaches go through a three-day Kaia FIT certification at its headquarters in Carson City, Nevada.
"In a lot of certifications, the instructor is not shown how to interact on a one-on-one basis," Angela Patterson, head of franchise development and marketing for Kaia FIT, told Club Industry. "That's a huge difference with us. We want you to learn, gain education and knowledge, and show how you're going to implement it on a client level. We want you to engage with our gals, and make an active and positive change in their life with you."
Other member-designed events help the franchise develop community outside the club. On Aug. 6-7, Kaia FIT will host a paddleboard triathlon in Lake Tahoe, California. The Kaia Konference (Oct. 22-23) is open not only to club owners and coaches but also to members. It will introduce the brand's 2017 initiatives. In March 2017, the Kaia Retreat will be held in Belize with lifestyle programming including meditation, yoga and volleyball activities.
Connections build community at Kaia FIT, and Warren said those connections are difficult to find for fitness consumers in today's world filled with technology, busy lives and work responsibilities.
"We're finding that we're disconnected, and insecurity breeds when we're not connected to each other," Warren said. "Women and people in general are reaching out for that grassroots community feel. On one day each week we do Pilates/yoga, and we focus on mindfulness. In each class we do fitness nutrition tips, and we're always reminding that we're human beings – we're not human doings."
Despite the challenges that consumers face staying fit in a busy world, Warren said Americans are trending toward living healthier lives, eating better food and developing more connections with nature.
"By finding something that makes you happy, you connect with your life," Warren said. "Whether it's Kaia FIT or other things out there – find that passion. Everyone should fall in love with moving and eating the way we should."