How To Open A Gym: The Ultimate Checklist

By Bernhard Mehl
July 02, 2020

If you’re wondering how to open a gym in the US, we’ve got great news. You’re getting ready to tap into a very lucrative market. The US has the single largest market for gyms and fitness studios worldwide.

This begs the question - is opening a gym profitable? In short, it all depends on how it’s set up, marketed, and managed. Like any other venture, a well-run, well-attended gym is a great investment. However, this also means that the gym has to be set up in the correct way right from the start. 

Here are simple, step-by-step guidelines to follow when opening in a gym in the post-COVID space: 

A Concise Guide To Opening A Gym In 2020 

0. Find Your Niche!

Before you set out to get training and become accredited, you need to determine your niche in the health and fitness industry. After all, the accreditation you need to open a Pilates studio is a lot different from what you need to open a CrossFit gym. 

Start by deciding which corner of the market you want to serve, and work your way from there. It pays to do some market research beforehand so you'll know if there is a demand for the service you plan on offering. It is also helpful to speak to gym owners who specialize in that type of training to see what their experience has been. 

Having a niche might sound scary at the beginning, who would want their target audience to be small and very specific? We asked Nicole D'Andrea, a Mindbody Certified Consultant, what she thinks about it. Here's what she said:

I think we’re going to see a lot more specialization, and a lot more business owners finally embracing the concept of having a niche. It’s the only way to cut through the noise and stand out.

As mentioned in the introduction, the market you want to join is saturated with competitors that can beat you in terms of pricing, size and features offered. The answer to this is simple: be unique!

1. Get Training And Become Accredited

Once you’re sure what type of gym you want to open, get trained and certified in that area (if you aren’t already). Also, look into accreditation from groups like ACE (the American Council on Exercise). It's not mandatory to have it to open a gym, but it can open a lot of doors, especially in terms of finance. A person that is specialized and certified has definitely more leverage with investors than someone that is only moved by its passion for fitness or entrepreneurship. Make sure that your profile is perfect for both creating plans for your subscribers and your investors.

Some examples of certifications:

- National Association of Sport Medicine

- American Council of Exercise

- International Sport Sciences Association

2. Find Out About Gym Licenses And Permits

Technically, the only license you need to open a gym is a business license. You’ll need to check on how your state defines the type of gym you want to open and research its permit requirements. It differs from one state to the next.

However, that’s if you’re only planning to open a basic, stock-standard gym that offers a space to sweat and a few classes. This changes when you upgrade your offering. If you're planning on offering childcare, selling food and drink, or offering spa treatments, other permits and licenses come into play. 

3. Become Versed In Post-COVID Best Practices

The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all industries. This includes health and fitness. These days, it’s no longer as simple as deciding to open a gym and putting the wheels in motion to do so. You have to consider everything from contact tracing to sanitization, surface transmission, etc. 

Digital access control is a very efficient way to minimize person-to-person contact upon entry at your gym. There are excellent access control solutions available for fitness and wellness facilities these days. This includes software that streamlines visitor logs, door timers, and scheduling. You can even use it to generate temporary guest passes, mobile and card badges, and more. Many gyms adopted systems like this one even before the pandemic as it makes access secure and incredibly easy to manage. With this said, the crisis is really making this type of IoT solutions the new normal.

4. Secure Financing For Your Venture

On average, you'll need around $50,000 to open a basic gym. However, it all depends on where you plan to open your gym. If your fitness center will be located in NYC, for instance, you could end up spending the better part of half a million to get it up and running. 

Unless you have a lot of money saved up, the best way to finance a fitness venture is to get a business loan. In order to do so, you will need to put together a thorough business plan. Take a look at the US Small Business Administration website for guidance on tailoring suitable business plans before heading to a bank or lending institution. 

Do not underestimate the figure of business consultants at this stage. Many of them offer a free session so that you can ask them your questions and evaluate whether they can help you or not. Make sure they are certified, like the consultant we mentioned earlier in the text, and prepared to answer all questions you might come up with.

5. Find A Good Location

Once you know what type of financing you qualify for, you can start looking around for suitable premises. Don't do so blindly. Do research on the areas your key demographic frequents and set out to find a location where there is a large concentration of these consumers. 

Next, consider things like transport access, parking, and other conveniences. In order to be successful, your business needs to be accessible to your clientele.

6. Invest In Quality Equipment

A gym is only as good as its equipment. Fitness equipment can be bought or leased. Both options have their benefits. Leasing is less expensive in the short term and allows you to test out new tech before taking the plunge. It also normally includes equipment maintenance. 

Buying, on the other hand, is more expensive in the short term but saves you money in the long run. It also remains your property. 

7. Interview And Hire Staff

Next up, it's time to assemble your team. Depending on the type of operation in mind, you may need a variety of qualified trainers to support you in running the gym. Always be sure to vet each prospective employee thoroughly so you can be sure that their qualifications are legitimate. 

8. Start Marketing

Get the word out about your business. It is best to work with marketing professionals who will be able to help you create a memorable corporate identity. They can also help you to determine which marketing channels will be worth your while to pursue on your budget. 

If you do plan to do your marketing yourself, it’s highly recommended that you look into taking a few online courses to gain some experience. 

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9. Open Your Doors!

Once you have all of the above in place, it’s time to open your doors. Best of luck with your new venture - onwards and upwards!

Following these guidelines when you figure out how to open a gym will make the whole process a lot simpler. Use this information as a helpful template to ensure that your fitness business has the best start possible. 

How To Open A Gym With No Money

Starting any business, whether it is a small business or a large-scale fitness or wellness center, is a tricky and somewhat difficult endeavor. Not only will it require immense amounts of dedication, hard work, commitment, and determination, but it will require money.

Whilst most people believe that starting your gym business will break your bank, this is not always the case. With the right passion for fitness, along with the right systems and services, it is quickly becoming easier to open a fitness center. We will take you through a list of tips showing you exactly how to open a gym with no money.

Steps To Opening A Gym With No Money

Whilst there are many costs connected to starting your own fitness business, there are many ways to ensure that costs remain low. When it comes to how to open a gym with no money, there are a few important steps to take that can help you. These include but are not limited to:

  • Start small and allow your business to grow later on
  • Marketing should be free - by using social media you can cross-promote with other businesses (this can also include free trials or passes for your some or all of your services)
  • There are many digital services and integrations available that are significantly cheaper than conventional services that will enable you to monitor and secure your business.
  • Utilize free resources – The US Small Business Administration offers a variety of free services (these include helping with business plans as well as legal and accounting advice)
  • Word of mouth is always a useful tool. Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your gym to their friends. 

Take A Financial Inventory

It is also crucial to take a financial inventory, knowing exactly what your personal expenses are as well as the predicted costs of operating your business. It is also imperative to review current income to figure out how much you need to keep the doors open and business running.

Be Realistic

Try to stay realistic when budgeting. This could start with meeting clients at home or renting a gym space to start. This will allow your business to function with almost no overheads.

In the beginning, you may be your only employee. Whilst this may seem strange, the reality is that you don’t need a receptionist or assistant or even another trainer from the get-go. You also won’t require new machines or fancy technology immediately. This will help you keep your costs down.

Be Patient

Over time, your business will grow and soon you will have the capacity to invest in a staff base, a variety of new technology, as well as new equipment. Until this point, it is crucial to maintain your confidence, constantly encouraging and challenging your clients. Most importantly, ensure that your clients are meeting their goals and are satisfied.

Once you have grown into a larger-scale facility, you will also have the capacity to invest in advanced technology and access control systems, ensuring superior security or your staff and members.

Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.