Wellness Partners

Open a Gym: The Ultimate Guide

Jan 22, 2024
Last Updated May 10, 2024

Are you dreaming of starting your own gym? With over 115,000 gyms and health clubs in the United States, the fitness industry is thriving. And with legions of wellness influencers spurring people on to hit their local gym, there’s no shortage of growing demand.

But that doesn’t mean opening a gym is as simple as buying equipment and renting a space. Those are important steps, but success requires attending to a few more key details in your business plan. 

These additional steps range from finding the right fitness niche to securing the necessary funding. You will also need to market your gym effectively to reach the niche you choose. Here are a few tips to get you started on the journey to making your dream gym a reality!

Finding a Niche

This first step is particularly important. It will influence nearly every other decision you make when planning and preparing to open your gym, from the name to the marketing

The growing trend in the fitness market is studios that focus on specific types of movement — like spin classes — to meet the needs of a more particular audience. Today, you typically have to go beyond simply providing a space with the most basic exercise equipment with no other classes or amenities. Boutique gyms and fitness studios offer something unique, which can better reflect your particular area of expertise and interest within the health and fitness industry. Try to get as specific as you can, and then tailor your business plan to meet your preferences.

With plenty of preferences among gym-goers, there are also plenty of choices when it comes to the fitness focus of your gym. 

In order to find your niche, take some time to do market research and determine what people in your area are looking for. It is important to make sure there is a demand for the specific types of fitness studios to improve your chances of success. 

Determining your niche is a great way to stand out from the competition. It can even guide you through other aspects of how to start a gym since different studios require different accreditations, equipment, and staff.

Accreditation, Training, Licenses, and Permits

Once you have determined the niche that you plan to fill, you can get started on acquiring the necessary equipment and permits. No matter what type of fitness studio you open, you will need to first obtain a business license. From there, any other licenses and permits will depend on the additional services you plan to offer (as well as your location, since states can require different permits based on the type of gym you plan to open). Things like childcare and spa treatments will likely necessitate other permits or licenses. 

The next step is securing the necessary training and accreditation. When you align your training with the niche you have chosen, you are better prepared to offer classes for your specific studio. Although accreditation is not mandatory, it is a crucial step that can help make it easier to secure the financing you need to make your business a reality. 

There are several organizations through which you can secure certifications, including the National Association of Sport Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Certification and accreditation can help instill confidence in your business in investors and members alike.

Find a Location

When searching for the ideal location for your new business, consider things like accessibility, demographic concentration, and costs. You may also want to research areas that the targeted demographic frequents. The larger the concentration of consumers that you are targeting, the more likely you are to find members who will enjoy your facility and services.

It is also important to remember that your studio or gym must be accessible to clientele. This means everything from transport access and parking to other conveniences like childcare. Different types of gyms require different equipment and facilities, and different layouts will work better for some fitness studios than others. 

A large portion of business costs will be taken up by the location, with things such as rent and utilities, so don’t forget to consider that when looking at potential locations. While areas with high foot traffic are desirable to reach the key demographic, they often also come with higher costs.

Obtain Funding

As with any business venture, you need proper funding to really get things started. Costs vary widely from leasing or buying a location to stocking it with equipment. For a studio fitness business, starting costs may be as little as $25,000, but expenses can easily climb to $100,000 or higher for fully equipped gyms. 

That will also change depending on the location where you plan to open your facility. Unless you have a substantial sum of money set aside, you will likely need to look into obtaining a loan. The best way to finance opening a gym is often with a business loan. 

If you are overwhelmed at the thought of applying for and securing a business loan, you can consider hiring a business consultant. A business consultant can help you assess your needs and then calculate the costs that you can expect. 

Everything from buying or renting a facility to security costs and access control programs costs money. As you open your gym, other expenses can crop up, like a payment processing system or insurance. Fortunately, a business consultant can guide you through the process and help you develop a plan to get the funding you need.

Hire Staff

Even if you plan to open a smaller gym in your area, you will need to hire staff to help you with the daily operations, like running the reception desk and teaching classes. In addition to staff, you may need to look into automation and technology solutions for things like security. It is important to take time to research automation solutions and interview potential employees when you are preparing to open your gym.

Once again, the niche that you have chosen will help determine how many and what kind of qualified trainers you will need to teach any classes that you plan to offer. Unless you fully automate signing up for memberships and accessing the facilities, you may need someone to manage these additional responsibilities. 

A friendly face at the reception desk can help set up new members and grant existing members access to the gym. Even if you do incorporate some type of access control system, it is important to have adequate staff to handle other aspects and meet the needs of members. Finding qualified applicants and handling interviews can be an involved process, but it can make all the difference in the success of your gym business. 

Acquire Equipment

After you find the ideal location and obtain the necessary funding, you can start acquiring the necessary equipment. There are many different types of equipment, and the kind that you need depends again on the niche of your business. Opening a gym requires more than a set of dumbbells, but you have a few options when it comes to finding the equipment you need.

Depending on your preferences, you can choose between buying or leasing equipment. Each option has different benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to explore your options. 

Leasing is a great way to test out new equipment without the commitment of owning it outright. It is also less expensive short term, and many equipment leases will include maintenance. 

Buying, on the other hand, is more expensive upfront but ultimately saves money in the long run. Once you buy the equipment, it remains your property. However, you will be responsible for all maintenance and upkeep of the equipment. 

You can also use a combination of buying and leasing equipment in order to best serve the needs of your gym members. No matter what type of equipment you need and how you acquire it, remember that a better user experience can drastically improve retention.

Invest in Marketing

While word-of-mouth can be powerful, it can only get you so far. Proper marketing can transform the way people think about and interact with your gym, so it is a worthwhile investment. Build a strong sales strategy and reap the benefits with the help of marketing professionals. They can help you create a unique brand for your business that will then determine which marketing channels will be most effective for your particular goals.

There are two main types of marketing that you can use: online and offline marketing. 

As you might expect, online marketing incorporates your business’ website and social media to reach your target demographic. Things like email lists can help reach your members and let them know about fun events or upcoming classes to check out. Offline marketing includes things such as print ads, billboards, and even television commercials. Both can help you generate leads and reach individuals that you may not otherwise come into contact with.

Remember to keep your marketing grounded in your brand. Keep your niche and target demographic in mind when creating a marketing strategy. No matter how incredible your facility may be and how unique the services you provide, marketing that doesn’t match your brand can confuse potential customers. For example, marketing your yoga studio with hard music and aggressive colors is more reminiscent of a HITT course. 

Get Help Acquiring New Clients

Although the road to opening a gym might be long, it can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor. Becoming a leader in the fitness industry is a great way to share your passion for fitness with others.

And it’s not a road you have to travel alone. Partnering with Wellhub can help bring clients in the door. The vast network and robust Wellhub platform can provide you with the exposure you need to effectively promote your new gym — nine out of 10 Wellhub members are new customers for our partners. 

Learn more about becoming a partner to jumpstart your new gym!




Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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