Expert Q&A: I Want To Open a Gym — Where Do I Start?

Question: I am in a market where there is not a gym or all-star program and have almost 20 years of cheer experience but would love some help with getting a gym opened! Do you have any advice for a budding gym owner on how to get started? – Ali

Business experts and Gym Kix owners Carrie Harris and Stephanie Beveridge

Answer from Gym Kix co-owners Carrie Harris and Stephanie Beveridge: First and foremost, we applaud you for having the enthusiasm and bravery to start your own business. We could probably write an entire novel full of tips for a budding gym owner.  We thought back about our first years and decided that there were a few things that are “must know” tips:

***Before starting any venture, especially one as unique as the cheerleading business, we would ask that you evaluate your reason for starting a business. Do you want to make money? Be your own boss? Do you love children? Do you enjoy the sport of cheerleading? What exactly makes you want to start up a business? (Because that is what it is—a business!) Most people start in this industry because they love the sport and they love working with kids; however, it has to be more than that or you will get burnt out. You have to understand that you must treat your business like a business or you will get frustrated and be left broke. Always remember that the owners of McDonald’s love business, not just burgers. You must be a business owner first and a coach second if you want to stay around for years to come.

***After evaluating your motivation, you will want to find a trustworthy accountant, insurance agency and attorney. I have seen many gym owners start up their business and start coaching without a full understanding of balance sheets, payroll, insurance, leases, taxes and the many other facets that can overwhelm even the most veteran business owner. Without consulting honest professionals before making decisions such as signing a lease or writing paychecks, you can have your business torn apart faster than you can say 5,6,7,8.

***In addition, I would network with other business owners in our industry, out of your state if possible. (Conventions are a great way to do this!) You will quickly find that your time is your most valuable asset so please don’t try to reinvent the wheel!  Invest the time up front in researching how the successful programs got to where they are. You will want to ask how they register people, how they run their seasons, how they bill and an overview of their day-to-day operations. Find out how others have become successful and tweak it to fit your personality and business model. We have personally assisted numerous new businesses and we are always open to helping new business owners get started by sharing our forms, facility information, operating systems, advice and more.  Businesses that have been around will know what works and what doesn’t, and they are usually eager to help other entrepreneurs.

Once you have your location and business items in order, you will need to get an effective marketing campaign started. We recommend the following to ensure your clients can find out information about your business even before your doors open:

  • Listing in Phonebook: We recommend using the least expensive listing to save money. Most people don’t consult phone books, so your money is better spent on good signage and having a good online presence. We also cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have your phone answered as much as possible by a real person. If it isn’t possible, then you must ensure that customers are called back in a timely manner. It sounds simple enough, but most places tend to neglect this very important tip!
  • Website: We use Jam Spirit Sites as they are affordable and it is very user-friendly.
  • Social Media: At a minimum, you should have a Facebook page and Twitter account for your business.
  • Business-to-Business Relationships: Join your Chamber of Commerce and start networking with daycares, doctors, schools, real estate offices, local stores, nail shops and the library.  Many times, they are willing to place your flyers in their business if you offer to do the same.

Don’t forget to track where you are getting referrals from, at least for a couple years. This will allow you to see where your marketing money is most effectively used.

With these basic tips you can choose your business’s destiny. After years of business, we have come to the conclusion that new cheer businesses are either destined to be a stick of dynamite or a dynamite factory. A stick of dynamite will definitely get attention, but the fuse burns quickly, then it explodes, and then nothing is left but devastation. However, with proper planning, the right motivation and a business mindset, your business can be the dynamite factory:  profitable, long-lasting and an asset to your community.

Now go produce dynamite!

Stephanie Beveridge & Carrie Harris of Gym Kix