Starting a "private" gym without the goal of profit in mind Starting a "private" gym without the goal of profit in mind

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Thread: Starting a "private" gym without the goal of profit in mind

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Default Starting a "private" gym without the goal of profit in mind

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    Hey Rip -

    I live in a town with one legit non-crossfit gym. They have all the space and equipment anyone could ask for. There's just one problem - the people that run the place are complete idiots and cheap as hell. They don't maintain the equipment at all. Those of us that are serious all have our own bars (for which they charge us a storage fee of $7 a month) because the ones they provide haven't been lubed up in probably a decade. They even cut the bathroom soap in the dispensers down with water to stretch it more. They complain about how much chalk we go through.

    They tend to buy used equipment from universities in the area that are swapping out for new stuff, which is fine, but they put absolutely no effort into maintaining it. Most of the platforms have developed deep ruts/valleys so the bar wants to roll around. They tried to build a new set of platforms in a different spot, but they put down 2 layers of rubber instead of one, so all the pulling blocks, jerk blocks, and bumpers bounce around like crazy, damaging the wood so they made them "out of order" and blamed it on the members "misuse of equipment."

    There's a good group of us that all train together in the evenings and we've all threatened to leave, but they get away with this sort of shit because there's no real competition in the area other than Crossfit. This led our little training group to discuss finding a small place to rent out and going in on it together. We'd have our say on equipment and keep out the idiots who come in and fuck everything up. The ultimate goal being just to break even on rent and what not.

    I'm sure there are a lot of reasons why this sort of "non-profit co-op gym" would be a bad idea, but I just wanted to get your thoughts on it.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    I know gyms that have started off as co-ops and then matured into fully-formed businesses. It's a good way to start, but it won't work long-term because of conflicts of interest. Start that way, but make it clear that you will eventually be the owner.

  3. #3
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    Jan 2016
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    I know gyms that have started off as co-ops and then matured into fully-formed businesses. It's a good way to start, but it won't work long-term because of conflicts of interest. Start that way, but make it clear that you will eventually be the owner.
    What conflicts of interest did you witness them running into?

  4. #4
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    Humans often develop divergent ideas about their priorities, especially if money is tight.

  5. #5
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    I joined a relatively new co-op several years ago. We split the cost of the equipment and warehouse rent amongst the members. I want to say the equipment investment tab was at 60k when I joined. I don't recall what the rent was. We had 20 something members and it was running about $150 a month per member. All new members had to be voted in after a trial period and there were definitely people who were voted out. We also had some real disputes over what to spend money on. For example, we had only one unisex bathroom with no shower. Some people, who worked out during lunch, thought we needed a shower. Others, like me, wanted AirDynes. The guy who started the co-op had a bar festish and would buy new bars on a regular basis. That said, it was a very fun and enjoyable phase of life. We were a small, tight community of serious athletes, firefighters and law enforcement.

    The gym did sink further in debt and membership fees were already high and Membership was not going to increase enough to offset, SO, the guy who started the co-op converted it to a Crossfit box. His thinking was that the brand name would bring more people in and allow a larger pool to choose members from. Initially, new members still had to be voted in. I didn't think that would fly as the city already had about 20 Xfit boxes. Boy, was I wrong....

    Original members were carried on a different membership model and paying about $30 a month. New members were paying $95 ($50+ cheaper than the cheapest Fit box). The voting in process went away, though, people did have their memberships revoked if there were enough complaints. Original members could do their own workouts but only when a coach was present (Xfit liability). The gym moved to a Gigantic facility, like 15,000 square feet and, quickly became the most successful Xfit box in the city. New coaches came in. New rules were applied. Some people, like me, didn't feel that new rules applied to them. Some people, like me, didn't show much respect to 25 year old coaches. Some of the original members enjoyed the status of being an "OG."A few got their Cfit certifications so they could be coaches. Some of them became good coaches. Others, like me, became disenchanted. It was an interesting process to watch unfold. As Rip stated above, different priorities can and will take root. This gym went from a private club to the largest Xfit box in town in just under 12 months. It's was kind of a whirlwind. When I finally left, I felt very forced out and that the gym was glad to be rid of me.

    In some sense, this idea of a "private" community gym is a lot like starting a band. It sounds fun. You're all in it together. Equals. But, maybe you start making bad decisions about how to handle publishing deals and how to properly budget for tours. Then, maybe the singer decides he wants to change the way the publishing money is handled. Maybe he increasingly isolates himself from the rest of the band. He is the one writing the songs, afterall. Everyone else is replaceable. At some point, if you are the drummer, you are just begging the singer not to go solo. And why wouldn't he go solo and get some hired guns to back him? Loyalty? Psh. It could be the story of two great American rock m roll bands: CCR or The Stooges. It could also be your story should you decide to start a band, I mean gym 🤧

  6. #6
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    Mar 2016
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    Cheyenne, Wy
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    This is a very interesting topic for me as I just rented a small space. I had all of my stuff at my house for a while but when I was out of town, my buddies had no way to train, so I rented a small space (300sqft) and they pay me a monthly fee to help with rent and I train them 1 on 1 when I am in town. I also have it in my head to try the strength training business, so I have made it very clear that as soon as I get a paying client, that my primary rack (I only have 2) will have to be vacated for them. It is a bit different as all the equipment is mine and no one else has any investment but several members want to add a 3rd rack if the tenant beside me leaves. That would entail tearing down 2 walls and getting a full set of weights, a rack and other misc items which I am not willing to pay for out of my own pocket, so it might turn in to a bit more of a co op soon but I am still going to maintain ownership as it's my business and they take no risk.

  7. #7
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    Feb 2010
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    Biggest problem I've found so far is finding space. Warehouse space in a decent location is next to impossible in Charlotte. I found out yesterday the city is trying to clamp down on warehouse gyms, adding ridiculous zoning requirements that make it much more expensive to rent the space due to upfittings etc that make it closer to a retail location than anything else.

    There are requirements now for things like sprinkler systems (which is stupid for a warehouse with nothing but metal and concrete) and other silliness typical of bureaucrats trying to drive up property taxes.

    Not sure what we'll do from here. My initial research has shown that the Charlotte market is extremely saturated, and commercial real estate is most certainly in a bubble. My current neighborhood has two crossfit gyms, a YMCA, a circuit-style boxing fad-gym, and a huge warehouse gym with everything... all within like 5 square miles.

    I might be stuck.

  8. #8
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    Do NOT let your enthusiasm overpower your brain here. It might be an expensive mistake, especially without the SSC credential for marketing.

  9. #9
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    Yep -

    The only way I was willing to consider it is if there was some magically cheap space to rent nearby, but that is certainly out of the question.

    Maybe my current gym will just let me bring in my own stuff. They've got plenty of empty/unused square footage. Of course the trick there then becomes somehow preventing the other gym-tards outside of our group from using it.

    Oh well - it was worth a shot.

  10. #10
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    To OP:

    Who is your target market? Because if you are smart, your target market isn't interested in any of those gyms and you might be in prime condition to open a small studio.

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