By Sam Langer
When I was 24 I realized that I needed to make a change; a risk to start my own business. I received a bachelor’s degree in finance and operations management from Indiana University in 2012 and got a job working as a project sports planner for ESPN right out of college, but discovered I was more passionate about fitness than my job. I always found time for the gym and enjoyed training colleagues and my bosses on the side.
My parents were on vacation and met a fitness entrepreneur in the buffet line. His name was Josh York and he started a franchise called GYMGUYZ. The brilliant idea of GYMGUYZ was to create an in-home personal training company that would bring all of the equipment in a van to clients’ homes. The simplicity of the idea hit me as a win/win for both a franchisee and fitness clients. GYMGUYZ is all about the three C’s: convenient, creative and customizable workouts. They come to the setting of your choice from homes, offices, churches, and bring a fully loaded van, which has 365 pieces of equipment.
So, I bought out 14 territories in and surrounding Westchester, NY. Within two months I made back my investment.
Making a profit within two months as a new, small business owner is no easy task. I hustled as the trainer, and spent all my free time guerilla marketing. From the Chamber of Commerce to street fairs, handing out pamphlets at the mall, being a vendor at bridal expos, lining the streets with lawn signs, peppering the train station with flyers, and getting to know the local businesses, I worked to brand myself across town as the hottest personal training service that will come to you, on your schedule, and personalize your workouts and diet plans.
GYMGUYZ markets itself like any other modern business: All the requisite social-media icons appear on our website; there is a Twitter account well on its way to 6,000 followers and a Facebook page with more than 28,000 likes; and in addition to the YouTube account with a long string of videos, we have an impressive LinkedIn page.
But I don’t see the digital elements of our marketing operation as the most important. I think small business owners have to be pro-active when it comes to guerilla marketing.
The success of businesses depends on the trust that clients, or potential clients, have in you upon meeting face-to-face. Anyone can read an advertisement, but when you see someone face-to-face, and they see how passionate you are about what you do, they’re more likely to use your services. This is especially true with a service that comes to your home.
Here are some simple things that I did in the first few months to get my business off the ground:
At busy intersections, high-traffic roadways, exits off major expressways, corkboards—you name it.
I woke up early and hit train stations to catch the early-rising, pressed-for-time commuting crowd most likely to use my services.
A Painted Van
The van is pretty much a moving billboard.
I do a lot of outdoor workouts. So, whether we’re at a local park or outside at someone’s driveway, people come up to me and ask about it. GYMGUYZ offers its first session for free, so people often jumped on the service.
The local fairs have been great opportunities to do demonstrations and, by extension, meet and connect with potential clients.
It may sound old school, but it’s working. We have about 50 clients already, a list that includes one-on-one clients, couples, small groups, corporate group classes, and senior citizen homes. We bring all the equipment to them, and classes, which range from strength training to pool workouts, are sold in increments of 10, and the price goes down as you commit to more classes. One-on-ones range from $69 to $88, small groups (two to five people) from $40 to $55 per person, and larger groups from $10 to $20 per person.
If you are young and feel passionate about starting your own business, I say go for it. You won’t regret it.
Sam Langer is GYMGUYZ’s first franchisee.
Photo Courtesy: Sam Langer
Sam Langer (middle), GYMGUYZ’s head coach and owner.