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how to open a gym or fitness center

How to Start a Gym or Fitness Center

How to Start a Gym or Fitness Center

The global health and fitness industry is expected to reach 354.82 bn AED by 2024 (96.6 bn USD), growing at a CAGR of 7.70%. In particular, the UAE fitness industry is poised for accelerated growth thanks in part to government fitness and health initiatives. However, if you’re an entrepreneur ready to grab the bull by the horns to open your own gym or fitness center, there are several factors to consider to provide the best opportunities for success, growth, and development.

From market analysis to adhering to legal requirements, the professionals at Royal Metis have created this comprehensive guide to help you start your gym!

Hire a Consultant

Opening a gym or fitness center is an exciting time in your life and career. However, it can feel overwhelming managing all of the moving parts. At RMC (Royal Metis Consultancy), we help professionals and entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. From concept creation, market analysis, and design to branding, marketing, and recruitment, we leverage our experience to help you successfully launch your fitness center.

Why Hire a Professional Consultant?

There are many benefits to working with a professional consultant when opening a gym or fitness center. For starters, they’ve done this before! At RMC, we leverage decades of experience helping small business owners and entrepreneurs plan, develop, and grow their fitness centers. We work with our clients every step of the way to ensure they are placing their best foot forward right out of the gate.

We also help our clients:

  • Develop their business plan
  • Calculate their capital start-up costs
  • Conduct market research and competitive analysis
  • Pinpoint their target client, fitness niche, and Unique Selling Point (USP)
  • Manage building, insurance, and legal requirements
  • Design the layout of their fitness center
  • Build a social media presence
  • Build brand awareness
  • Develop hype before their grand opening
  • And much more

Create a Feasibility Study and a Business Plan

If you embark on a road trip without a map or directions, you’re likely to get lost. Similarly, your business needs a plan. A business plan is your predetermined roadmap to success. It provides the direction and structure you need to make your gym a success.

A clear business plan helps you understand your business objectives, and serves as an outline for how you will achieve these objectives. This starts with understanding your market. For example, how large is the fitness industry in your area? How many other gyms or fitness centers will you be competing against for business? Who is your target demographic? What services will you provide? Answering these questions will help you create a successful business plan.

Benefits of a business plan:

  • Provides a point of preference to help you make informed decisions if/when you face difficult decisions, challenges, or need to make changes in the future.
  • Provides potential investors with your financial strategy (i.e. start-up costs, payroll, etc.).
  • Provides your staff and investors with your vision for your business, and how they fit into the bigger picture of your success.
fitness center set up

Market Research

When you conduct market research, it takes away the guesswork for marketing and provides you with the data needed to achieve your goals and objectives. There are generally two ways to conduct market research: primary research and secondary research.

Primary research involves contacting your target demographic directly. Examples include telephone interviews, online polls, social media surveys, or face-to-face interviews.

Secondary research involves using indirect data to analyze your potential customers. Examples include competitor’s social media, Google analytics, blogs, social media, or other forums.

Key considerations for market research:

  • Client behavior
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Profession
  • Location
  • Social and cultural influences

Use your analysis to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are your competitors?
  2. Who are your customers?
  3. What services or products do they require?
  4. How can you fulfill this need?

Find Your Niche

While you might be tempted to open a mainstream gym, there are advantages to focusing on a key area or niche. For starters, it can be hard to compete with the buying power of larger fitness centers that cater to everyone. When you cater to a specific niche, you can zero in on a smaller target audience which helps to reduce start up costs and competition.

This is an area where your market research can help. For example, does your area lack women-only fitness centers? Does your target consumer have a particular interest in rowing, cycling, or yoga? Perhaps there aren’t any crossfit gyms in your area? Regardless of what niche you pick, focusing your energy and funds on a target audience will help you provide fitness offerings and facilities to like-minded people so they can train and fuel their passion.

Once you’ve found your niche, determine your customer’s:

  • Characteristics (likes, dislikes, behaviors, etc.)
  • Preferences (needs and desires)
  • The pros, such as having disposable income, likelihood of client referrals, or the likelihood of clients bringing friends with them, etc.
  • The cons, such as requiring expensive equipment, client availability, etc.
How to Start a Gym business

Scope Out the Competition

Once you have your niche and market analysis complete it’s time to check out the competition. Focus on gyms or fitness centers with shared qualities and service offerings, as well as similar location, ownership structure, client base, membership fees/pricing, facilities, and equipment, etc.

Define Your Unique Selling Point (USP)

Once you’ve scoped out the competition you can set yourself out from the pack by defining a unique selling point. A unique selling point (USP) is the key distinction of what makes your product or service better than your competitors. USP helps you gain a competitive advantage by offering your potential customers something they desire and can’t find elsewhere.

The goal is to clearly define what makes your gym or fitness center superior and unique to entice clients to switch over to your business. This will also help to secure investors by painting a clearer picture of your facility.

Understand Legal Requirements

Depending on the location and type of services your fitness center provides, the local and federal laws and regulations will vary. Aside from building permits and operating licenses, you will need to invest in the right type of insurance to protect your customers, employees, and business interests. Understanding all of the legal requirements associated with opening a new gym or fitness center will help ensure you don’t run into bumps down the road. And when you do experience a hiccup, you’ll be better prepared.

Depending on where you are located you may be required to obtain common licenses and permits to operate your gym, including:

  • Operating license
  • Specific service offering licenses
  • Building permits
  • Health and sanitation compliance permits/certifications
  • DHA (Dubai Health Authority) requirements

Calculate Your Start-up Costs

It’s important you understand your start-up costs before you start looking to secure financing to open your business. Understanding and breaking down your start-up costs will provide you and your investors with a clear scope of your business, financial forecast, and what you might need down the road.

Start by making a list of all of your expected start-up capital costs including:

  • Equipment
  • Commercial or rental space (i.e., buy or lease)
  • Operating costs
  • Utilities
  • Insurance costs
  • Employing staff
  • Marketing costs
  • Membership management

Pinpoint Your Payment Options

How are you going to get paid? It may seem cut and dry, but the way you charge your customers can impact their loyalty towards your brand. For example, requiring your customers to call reception to pay for a class over the phone is a lot more time-consuming than providing an online portal payment option via debit or credit card. Additionally, a thoughtful and effortless payment policy helps you avoid late or missed payments. 

You want to iron out payment details before you open. Otherwise, you could end up with a frustrating payment system that drives clients to your competitors.

How to Start a Gym

Royal Metis Consultancy 

We leverage our experience to help you successfully launch your business. Our professional gym business consultants are here to help you from start to finish to ensure you place your best foot forward.

Contact a member of our team to learn how we can help you on your path to opening your fitness center.