So I've been considering opening a business for sometime and in addition to getting people's reaction to the general idea I'd like to ask people about how they went about getting funding.
First of all I'm based in Portland Ore. which is a fairly active city but to be honest doesn't have a lot of good gyms - and I'd venture to say even fewer good gyms for women.
So the idea in a nutshell is a high-end womens' specific fitness center; kind of a curves meets the downtown athletic club. I know the market is saturated with curves-like gyms (which I think is great for somebody who is just starting to exercise, but nobody who is committed to fitness would join) and there are lots of coed gyms (which I think of as gyms that are geared towards men than women i.e. big weight floor etc...).
I think there are fundamental problems with both of these types of gyms; Curves is too dumbed down and coed gyms are not really geared right for women. I've seen that in addition to fitness, women are very interested in group interaction/socialization, fitness/nutrition/lifestyle education, personal empowerment/support, a comfortable/clean environment.
My gym will focus more on these other area's and less on the traditional "here's a weight room you know what to do" gyms and this is how.
1. classes, classes, classes - yoga, aerobics, pliates, strip-aerobics, bootcamp, you name it we'll have it. I think this has to be the major focus 2. large and diverse cardio area - let's face it, when I look around in the cardio area it's 75/25 women to men. 3. Education - interesting not necessarily fitness related classes on a less frequent basis that encourage knowledge and empowerment - self-defense, nutrition, fashion sense, rock climbing, introduction to free weights... 4. Provide a hip and clean environment to work out in - think four-star hotel lobby, sauna, steam room. 5. A good sized weight room that provides that has spotters who encourage you to ask the question "am I doing this right or how to you use this" not personal training more personal education again. 6. Good spiffs - everyone gives you a free personal training seminar when you join - but what about a free one every quarter or twice a year? 7. Great services - massage, maybe partner with laundry service for drop off pick up, maybe a small health bar 8. Unique promotions / pricing - biggest loser competition - winner free membership for year. Have annual memberships but also have affordable day passes. During nice weather offer free classes in downtown parks open to anybody...
So what do you think?
I've pretty much written a business plan and the SBA loved it but they kind of ran out of ideas really quickly when it comes to funding. I have some funds ($75K) but they are mostly tied up in retirement and I think to do this how I want would require 750K to 1M startup.
My experience is what you described above. While Women only gyms (i.e. Curves and others) are great for a certain niche market, they don't fit my needs, unfortuntely. Therefore, I work-out in a coed gym. Those gyms are good but the guys are bad about re-racking their weights. That is inconvenient for me and slows down my workout.
Personally,I like your concept. I think you have thought it through. You have already identified your market niche which is vital when starting a new business.
One suggestion I would add would be an indoor pool (for laps and water aerobics). Many women have bad knees and can't do the normal aerobic classes. However, a water aerobics class at a gym that is all female would be Awesome.
>>I've pretty much written a business plan and the SBA loved it >but they kind of ran out of ideas really quickly when it comes >to funding. I have some funds ($75K) but they are mostly tied >up in retirement and I think to do this how I want would >require 750K to 1M startup.
Wow! What a plan. Very ambitious. Very well thought out. But as you've discovered, very costly.
I don't quite understand your statement that you've pretty much written your business plan and the SBA loved it but ran out of ideas. Did you take an incomplete business plan to an SBA representative? Do you mean the SBDC? Normally you need to work through a bank loan officer, and they decide whether or not to forward to the SBA. But I've never known them to do that with an incomplete business plan. Maybe I misunderstood your statement?
Anyway, since you are well aware that to start a gym of the caliber that you have in mind, takes mega bucks. Your figures are probably correct and with "only" $75K to work with (and remember you will lose 30-40% off the top if you cash in your 401K acct) you may need to scale back your idea.
There is nothing wrong with starting smaller. You can aim for the same high class feel, but smaller. As your busines grows you can add the 4 star hotel ammenities and health bar and laundry service. You don't need to, and likely won't be able to, start on such a grand scale. It's wonderful to dream big, but to make the dream a reality, you may need to take it down a notch. Think about it. It's better to start smaller and actually start, than to have to give up the dream because you can't get funded. Good luck to you!
You won't be able to get a SBA backed loan since you are discrimating against men which is one of their rules. The women's only health clubs in California are being sued based on discrimination. The men's only clubs were required to allow women to join and have equal facilities for showers and lockers. I'd check on the status since this may be problematic for your plan.