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7 Steps to Making Your Passion for Fitness an Entrepreneurial Reality

Opening a Fitness Center – 7 Steps to Making Your Passion for Fitness an Entrepreneurial Reality
The fitness industry continues to be a lucrative market opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Despite a crippling recession, the *IHRSA (the fitness industry’s global association) forecasts that U.S. health club memberships will reach 50 million by 2010 – a staggering 25% growth rate over today’s numbers.
Many factors play a part in fueling the success of this largely recession-proof industry – not the least of which is the growing trend among the 80 million plus baby boomers who are willing to part with their money to stay fit and healthy.  In addition, existing gym members remain reluctant to give up their health club memberships choosing to save money instead on big ticket items such as vacations – reaffirming the fact that “buying” fitness is no longer perceived as a luxury item but a fundamental part of our everyday lives. 
If you are interested in starting a fitness business and serving this growing market – Here are some pointers that can help you take the first steps towards owning your own fitness center.
1. Do your Market Research
Before you talk to your bank manager you will need the foundations of a business plan, and much of this will come from the information you derive and conclude from your market research. Factors to consider include:
Deciding on a Target Market – There are many options to consider when determining your target market. For example, you may decide to target a broad audience by offering a variety of disciplines from weight training, to cardiac work-outs and group classes. Or you may want to focus on a particular niche such as women-only gyms or discipline-specific fitness centers such as a pilates or yoga-based facility. To help you determine how you can capitalize on an underserved or potential market, step back and look at what the competition is doing and take the time to analyze local demographics.  The government offers free access to a variety of consumer demographic data through the Business.gov Business Data and Statistics portal. 
Location, Location, Location – Finding the right facility at the right price is critical to your success. If your customers can’t find you, park easily, or assemble en masse at your chosen facility, then you simply will not be able to cater to your chosen market. Given that rent is likely to be your biggest business expense plan on spending most of your planning hours getting it right – first time.
Read “Tips for Choosing a Business Location” and make sure you are aware of the ins and outs of commercial leases, including how to negotiate the best deal for your business.
2. Staffing your Fitness Center
After rent, staff costs are the second largest expense involved in operating a fitness center. Many larger established fitness center chains hire their own fitness instructors and trainers, but for a start-up you can achieve greater flexibility and lower costs if you hire instructors on an independent contractor basis. This can reduce the regulatory and financial burdens that come with having employees on the books – including payroll taxes, employee benefits and insurance costs. 
Do note that there are very specific taxation and regulatory requirements involved with hiring independent contractors. Read more about these in this Hiring independent Contactors Guide from Business.gov. Also read – “*Working with Independent Contractors: Understanding Tax Requirements“.
3. To Hire or Buy Fitness Equipment?
Fitness equipment is not only expensive it is a continually evolving technology. So how do you balance expenses while offering the latest and greatest equipment to your clients? Much of it will depend on your current and future budget. To understand more about the lease versus buy debate for commercial fitness equipment read “*Fitness Equipment Leasing: Sorting out the Details“.
4. Write a Business Plan
Once you have a picture of how you intend to formulate your start-up business strategy – write it down.
Writing a business plan will not only keep your business on the right path it will stand you in good stead should you need start-up financing. *Bplans.com offers some useful industry-specific business plan templates for starting a fitness center – you can view and download these *here.
5. Understand your Financing Options
If you don’t qualify for traditional bank loans, you might want to look to a government-backed loan. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a guaranty to banks and lenders for money lent to small businesses, rather than lending the businesses money directly.
There are many different types of loans, including the SBA Express Loan that offers small businesses the chance to get an SBA-backed loan of up to $350,000 to start-up or expand. The “express” piece refers to the fact that your loan can be turned around in 36 hours.
Read more about SBA loans here and even search for a business loan that fits your need using this Small Business Loans and Grants Tool.
6. Take Care of the Critical Start-Up Steps
Don’t forget the legal and regulatory side of starting a business.  Read “10 Steps to Starting a Business” to ensure you have checked off everything from business incorporation to registering your business name.
7. Business Insurance
Before you open your doors for business, look into purchasing some form of business insurance to protect yourself against workplace injuries and accidents. Read “Small Business Insurance – Part 1: What Type of Insurance Do I Need?” and “Part 2: Finding and Buying the Right Policy” for tips on making the right decision.
Additional ResourcesThe International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) offers a wealth of information for fitness center owners including resources on *Health and Fitness Management, *Sales and Marketing, *Human Resources, and more. 

Caron Beesley has over 15 years of experience working in marketing, with a particular focus on the government sector. Caron is also a small business owner and works with the Business.gov team to promote essential government resources for small business owners.

 Grow your fitness studio in 2010 or you are thinking about opening a studio go to http://budurl.com/SmartStudioSystems   

Caron Beesley has over 15 years of experience working in marketing, with a particular focus on the government sector. Caron is also a small business owner and works with the Business.gov team to promote essential government resources for small business owners.
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