Top 10 things to grow your fitness studio to $30k/mo (Interview with Chas Young)

Highlights from the interview

[10:50] – What your estimated costs would be to open a brand new gym from buildout to equipment to lease

[22:21] – How she was able to target her workouts and theme of the gym so it would appeal to the downtown demographic

[26:42] – How changing her membership prices affected her and her business

[39:50] – How she grew her membership from 0 customers to a steady 250 clients

[47:56] – Her Top 10 things she recommends gym owners to do to grow their business


About our Guest

From a fitness trainer to a new Spin TRX studio owner

Today we are talking to Chas Young. She is a business startup coach who who went from a fitness trainer to a new studio owner of a Spin TRX studio located right in downtown Calgary. 

She has come full circle as a business owner from choosing the location, negotiating the lease, managing the buildout, opening for business and scrambling to get customers and a steady cash flow. 

She successfully made that gym very profitable to the tune of $30,000 in revenue per month and then having a successful sale as she transitioned to a coaching role.

I’m so excited to have Chas on the show!


Edited transcription of Fitness Business Secrets Podcast, Episode 8

Kristy: Hey, listeners! I have the honor of talking to Chas Young, who is a business startup coach.

She started her own gym and she seemed to have learned a lot and has a really interesting story of how she made that business extremely successful. I’m excited to hear her story.

Kristy: Chas, how are you doing? Thanks for joining me today.

Chas: I’m fantastic and I’m super excited. It’s always been fun sharing stories and helping people all at the same time.

And if you are starting a gym, you’re obviously one for wanting to help people. So what goes around, comes around. I’m excited. Thank you.

How she opened and grew her gym

Kristy: Awesome, thanks. So, I know that you started a gym and you owned, managed a gym for four years. Tell me, how did you even decide to open a gym?

Chas: Alrighty. So, I had always been involved in sports. I started in junior high with volleyball and basketball, hurling and played sports all through college.

I got into soccer more in college. Our small town in Saskatchewan didn’t even have a soccer team in high school, so I only started playing soccer in college which was really funny.

But anyway, I’d always been involved in sports, and so I wanted to actually get into sports marketing when I graduated. It’s really hard to work in sports marketing and enjoy the games. So I’m like, okay, whatever, I need to figure something out.

I had already owned a videography business at this time in Regina and I sold that, moved to Calgary and I wanted to go into medicine.

Medicine has always been something that was really intriguing to me. My dad was always sick in the hospital, so I was always in the medical field. When I came back to go into medicine, I was pregnant at the time and really reevaluated what I wanted to do with.

I took my love of Anatomy and Science and became a trainer.

I took my love of Anatomy and Science and became a trainer.

I started off with doing just bootcamps at home, around my kids’ nap schedule. And I’m training some one-on-one clients at my basement, like how many trainers start to. And then, I started working for a big box gym and I was teaching classes and training.

It was really funny because I was really burnt out. I was super sore and I had even posted on Facebook, and this was in 2009. I had posted that I’m really tired and I needed a break.

And three days later I busted my leg, really bad. And so, I was stuck on a couch and I was like, Okay, what do I do?

What drives me crazy about working in the gym and the biggest thing was I hate seeing busy moms, busy people walking on the treadmill, talking on their phones. It’s just ineffective workout. You’re wasting your time, you’re not getting any results. Such a waste of time.

And so I thought, I’m going to start a gym where I can get people short effective workouts.

This was in 2009 where HIIT workouts were just kind of starting. And the internet for business was also just kind of starting.

I had a really good environment to launch my business doing different and unique things that were currently going on in the industry at that time.

And so, I started a Spin Studio in Calgary with TRX and bootcamps.

Then I developed it and started running small group trainings for two to three people, to maximize space and time in my gym. I did that for four years and then I totally burnt out and sold it in 2013.

So, that’s a little bit of my story of why I started it. Simply because I just wanted people to get a good, effective workout.

How did you transition from doing bootcamp classes in your basement to opening your own gym?

Kristy: Okay, thank you for the overview. And now it just opens up to tons of questions because I relate to your story so much since I also had a tennis school and then I got burned out from doing that.

Then I opened a gym and I ran it for five years. And I kind of got burnt out from that, too. Super interesting.

So my first question is, you are doing bootcamp classes in your basement, then you jumped to working at a big box gym. Since you had started to experience in a way being your own boss and your own space.

I would have thought that maybe you might have at that point, even thought of opening your gym then, but you didn’t feel the urge at that time?

Chas: Not too much. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, so always working for myself is a big priority.

But my kids were really young, kind of just born when I started training. And so it just wasn’t the best time then to start a full gym.

But then, it was easy to work at a box gym from five until eight, and just get a babysitter or my husband over the supper hour.

That just worked better for my schedule at that time. But then you know, it was always in the back of my mind, how can I do this on my own.

I’m almost convinced every trainer is thinking that — how can I do this better on my own and how can I make more money on my own.

I’m almost convinced every trainer is thinking that — how can I do this better on my own and how can I make more money on my own.

Kristy: Yeah, exactly. Well, you start to see the ceiling.

Chas: Yeah. And then there’s like the benefits of working — you don’t have to search and market for clients as much in a big box gym as you do on your own. I’m in a marketing background, so that’s never been a struggle of mine, but I get it’s hard for some people, right?

So then when I broke my leg, it was just like doors closed, doors opened, doors definitely opening on this side. So, time to start the gym.

Kristy: All right. So that, breaking your leg, was that the turning point where you decided to open your gym?

I’m curious here, was it a totally blank space that you got or was it a gym that used to be there or did you take over in some way a small gym?

Chas: No, it was totally new. It was actually a grocery store, a really small grocery store that was in a neighborhood that was close to downtown in Calgary.

And so it was super easy renovation because it was just four walls. There was 2300 square feet. All I had to do was, I had to put in another bathroom and some change rooms and paint.

I just kind of redid the floors, but they were nice looking floors anyways. So it was actually really easy.

I could start for really low costs. My main costs were just my bikes.

How much did it cost you to open a gym?

[10:50] Kristy: I mean, that helps because either you’re taking up money that you have and maybe from your retirement or something, or you’re borrowing. So, the less interest that you have to pay, the better.

I actually had opened a cycling studio, midway through my other studio, and I found that the bathroom was expensive. Either you had an amazing contract or you’re married to your contractor.

Chas: Oh, I was blown away.

Kristy: And how much was your cost?

Chas: $10,000 just for the bathroom cause they had to do some piping in or something like that. That wasn’t even a shower. That was just a toilet and a sink.

And it was funny because there was a chiropractor right across the street and he was like, Oh, Chas, I wish I would’ve known you. I would have told you that it’s going to cost you twice as much than what you budgeted it for.

Bathrooms cost so much. That was 2009 and so that’s probably doubled by now.

Kristy: Yeah, exactly. Depending on where all the contractors are, they start charging more. So, that’s interesting.

I’d have to say I think you didn’t do that bad, especially if it was a totally new bathroom. I don’t know if that included materials, but what was the total cost for that? Because I mean, the change rooms, some dry wall, but then you said the floors were okay, you didn’t have to put down rubber mats or anything.

Chas: No, I did get some rubber mats for the areas of the floor where it was going to be more bootcamp style stuff just for padding.

So, my startup loan that I had got was 45 grand and that was for my renovation.

I think I started with 13 or 14 bikes.

Kristy: Did you get second hand bikes?

Chas: No. Oh, wow. I got new ones. Yeah. I was certified through spinning.com and so I had all new spin bikes.

It was like 12 or 1500 for new ones. I think I might’ve, after discount, got them for a thousand or 1100 or something like that. And they’re super good at maintaining them and stuff like that. So that was great. They were lower end bikes.

The idea was start small, grow big. So, start with basics, grow up as I needed to.

The idea was start small, grow big. Right. So start with basics, grow up as I needed to.

Kristy: Absolutely. Wow. Nice. So I think a lot of people are thinking like you.

I can relate to your story. You’ve got a $45,000 loan, $10,000 went to bathrooms. That’s exactly my experience. I think I paid exactly 10,000 for my bathroom.

And it wasn’t even a new bathroom. There was already a bathroom there, but it was terrible that they had to redo the piping. So, it didn’t matter that there was already a toilet. They had to put a lot of work.

And then, when I ended up leaving that space, I told the landlord, Enjoy the bathroom. I paid for that.

Chas: I tried to get it included in my lease hold improvements, but it wasn’t. It was a requirement that the city made me have for my license.

I would have liked to have more soundproofing between the studio and the condos, but that would have been 50 grand just on its own. I didn’t think it was that bad.

Kristy: I think it sounds like you did pretty good. So I’m doing some math here. So, you put 14 grand into the bikes and then 10 grand into the bathroom, and then that leaves you about say $20,000 left.

I’m assuming some more went to supplies such as TRX. How much more went to equipment and just renovation?

Chas: For TRX maybe around 200 each at the time? I think I had 15 of those and luckily my friend is a welder and made the frame for me.

Then I did get actually some secondhand like kettlebells and free weights, like dumbbells and stuff like that. Those I mostly got secondhand. So, that would be an extra three grand for TRX.

The computer, the printer, just the office stuff, the microwave, the coffee maker, the essentials for running and gym.

And then a couch and chairs for kind of a waiting area in between classes.

I did have a line of credit just to allow me to float some time or some money in there too.

Kristy: Yeah, absolutely. I think because starting out with 45 grand, I’m not sure your lease, I mean your rental was if they required any broker’s fee or upfront payments or deposits?

Chas: Yeah. So that’s a good chunk. That was a really big chunk because it was $6,600 a month and needed three months up front. So, that was like 20 grand.

Kristy: Yeah, that’s a lot. And that’s basically the rest of your 45.

Chas: Yeah, it was pretty tight. Then my first month was already paid for. So, you can just generate some revenues there and not have a massive expense. That’s cheap.

I think it’s really inexpensive to start a business, let alone a gym for 45,000. So yeah. it can be done, right? And that’s with the bikes being super expensive.

Kristy: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you did really good. So, it took you about two months for renovation and you opened on the third month, which was your last free month.

Chas: And then I got an additional month, so I actually did a soft launch in December, which was the end of my three months.


What’s the best season to launch the gym?

Chas: December was a good time to launch. So, I just did some open house, free sales kind of thing. And that’s when I was training my staff too.

The longest part though was actually just waiting on permits from the city. Once all those things fell into place, the contractors were quick to get in and out.

It didn’t take long for the bikes to come in and all that stuff, but it was just waiting on permits, which took the longest.

Kristy: If you’re in a downtown, you can’t fake that. You have the contractor and they look at you, Well, if you want to do it right, we need to get permits.

But it sounds like you did. It sounds like you got your permits and you crossed your I’s and crossed your T’s, so your dad had your guy.

How was that first soft launch and the following month, was everything you thought it was, did it freak you out? How did you feel?

Chas: It was really interesting because when I started, I wanted to revolt and do everything the opposite of what the big box gyms were doing.

Now, there’s lots of no commitments kind of thing contracts. But back then there weren’t.

When I first started off I would say, If you want to pay a whole year in advance, that’s great. You’ll get a killer, awesome deal.

So, I killed it at that over Christmas because they were great expensive Christmas presents. I lived in the demographics and that was my market that they could then afford a whole year membership for a Christmas present.

That was really helpful to start off where I had like lots of money coming in from these annual payments. And then February came and I realized, Now I got no money!

I guess there’s a reason why there’s two year contracts. And so I started bringing back in the monthly memberships and it was always an option.

But I just promoted the pay up in advance thing just to help recoup costs right away, that made sense for me at the time.

Kristy: Absolutely.

Chas: But then we had to push the monthly memberships — no contracts, you can get out whenever you want, just give me 30 days notice, whatever, and we just cancel payments.

So, that’s how I remodeled my business model. Wanna pay me annually? You can, but you don’t have to.

Kristy: Right. Nice. I completely get it. I kind of went back and forth when I started to do more paid in full. The money’s coming in, and then the first of the month would come, Oh my, everyone’s paid already. You have to work hard, we need more monthly paid memberships. No, but we need to make more sales in paid in full.

Chas: I think it’s like that in lots of businesses where memberships are paid in fulls and paid in fulls are nice for cashflow.

But monthly’s are good for the actual cash flow for monthly cashflow. If you know what I mean.

Cheaper for clients who can afford it then on a regular basis. And it just guarantees your monthly income as well.

Kristy: It really helps. Otherwise you just have to work really, really hard every month to make all the sales. So, kind of a balance.

And I’m curious, you mentioned your demographics were good. For me, if I were to tell someone one thing about the gym, it’s — No matter how shiny your gym is, you gotta be in the right place.

How to choose the right location and demographics?

[22:21] Kristy: What was the demographics and how did you choose that spot? Was it by luck or you knew that that was a good spot?

Chas: A couple of things. So, I want the gym to be in a place where people can come in on their way to work and on their way out of work.

Because I wanted to work with people who wanted fast, hard workouts in a short period of time, targeting the busy moms, the working class, middle working class, higher executive women specifically.

I wanted to work with people who wanted fast, hard workouts in a short period of time. Being downtown was good for that demographic.

Being downtown was good for that demographic. Well, close to downtown and it was just outside of downtown.

The lease rate was half the price of what it was in my suburbia. It was bizarre. Because at the time I was paying 23 bucks a square foot and in my area, it was 42 or something, just ridiculous.

It’s actually more cost effective for me to be closer to downtown, and it works better for the demographics in the market that I want to work with.

Kristy: That’s helpful. So, you actually had a better lease rate and you’ve got a good demographic. Basically is this a spot where people are walking distance away from your train station or bus stop?

Chas: Yeah, there is a bus stop right outside the door and the train station was two blocks away.

I dunno if you know Calgary at all, but it was in the community of Bridgeland, which is like just the community on the main road that gets you into downtown.

Kristy: Sounds good. How was the foot traffic? It’s pretty good then?

Chas: Most of the people actually lived in Bridgeland, which was all just walking. Lots of condos. lots of people living in that area who don’t even have cars cause you don’t need them.

I actually attracted probably more people just from being in the area, from being walkable than the people driving in.

Kristy: Were you on a storefront block? Because it sounds like you want a storefront versus the second floor, third floor or basement.

Chas: Yeah. So I’m on a store front and my condo is above. Then there is a subway right next to me, which has still traumatized me from ever eating at subways again. And then next door it was just like a condo selling place. Then there’s a Physio place.

Kristy: How helpful was it to be in that condo? It sounded like it was sort of a luxury condo, so I’d imagine that was the place to train if you lived in that building.

Chas: Yeah, it was really convenient. And the whole neighborhood along that area is a lot of condos, even more so now. So, it is a high density living area of people with good disposable incomes.

Who is your target market?

Chas: Also, being across the street from a chiropractor, being next to a Physio, we did have like some things that I wasn’t allowed to do because the Physio would do them like postnatal training.

Know your market of who you want to work with and know why you want to work with that demographic.

I can’t do post and prenatal training, but it wasn’t my target market in any way, so that’s fine.

But that’s where I think it’s essential to be where your target market is and be accessible to your target market. I will preach, know your market of who you want to work with and know why you want to work with that demographic.

I wanted to work with the working, busy professionals, and supply them with hard interval training workouts. But at a price point that lower income people can just go to their boss’ gyms.

What are your pricing packages?

[26:42] Kristy: Yeah. And actually though, that was my other question, how much were you charging for one year membership, and did you have an enrollment fee?

Chas: No enrollment fee ever. For annual, I started off at $900 when I opened and then, it was $100 a month. And that was based on my math that I did when I was doing my business plan and all that stuff.

But then, as I grew and needed more staff, I needed to be charging 120 to 150 for a membership.

Kristy: Was that hard to do?

Chas: Honestly, personally, it was harder for me to ask that than it was for people to pay that.

Because at the time yoga studios were $200 a month. CrossFit was $250 a month. But just personally, I would have paid that much.

I had a business coach early on too. And he said, You want to be a charity? Be a charity. But if you want to run a business, you have to charge 120 to 150. Yeah, but I wouldn’t pay. That doesn’t matter. You’re not your target market.

Kristy: Yeah, totally. And how many clients did you estimate that you were going to be able to get? I guess that’s how you concluded the 120 to 150.

Chas: I wanted a hundred members paying, that was my financial projections. If I have a hundred members paying $100 a month, that gives me 10 grand a month.

I’m unhappy with that. I should have shoot it. That was bare minimum. That was your breakeven basically. So to charge 120 to 150 was to then be profitable.

What are the monthly costs of operating a gym?

Kristy: Yeah. So how are your costs, your rent was 6,600, right?

Then you had utilities, staff and insurance. It seems like it would have been a lot more. I’m assuming also you’re not teaching all the classes. I’m assuming you would have had to make a lot more than $15,000 a month.

My bills were fairly minimum because they were already included mostly with the lease. Other than that, my costs were lease and trainers.

Chas: Yeah. But I’m actually not, I did teach a lot. I taught all the morning classes, I’m a morning person and I loved teaching, but that’s also why I burnt out.

So looking back, I shouldn’t have done that, but that’s what I love to do and that’s why I got into having my own business, because I love teaching.

And my insurance was like $2,600 a year, and that was just paid annually. So it wasn’t a monthly cost. My bills were fairly minimum because they were already included mostly with the lease.

Other than my lease, my costs were lease and trainers and I did teach a lot, but my trainers were between 25 and 30 bucks a class.

How many classes did you offer?

Kristy: Right. I see. How many classes did you have a week?

Chas: A week? There’d be like a good five or six a day — two in the mornings and I think three in the evenings?

No, four in the evening. And then Saturday mornings we would do three or four in Saturday mornings to Sunday mornings. And then just Friday mornings, we didn’t do any Friday nights.

I’m a big believer on not working Friday nights, Friday afternoons, and you encourage it for the customers to go sit on a patio, have a beer, enjoy your life. I know you don’t need to work out right now. Work out in the morning. If you really want to work out on the afternoon, go for a run.

Kristy: Yeah. That’s kind of how we had, we didn’t have a class on Friday, and then we added a Zumba class and it was really just for fun.

That’s very similar to what we were doing. I had so much overhead because that’s so much payroll. And then, we had to pay, I paid a bunch for utilities. So you didn’t, your utilities was included in your rent?

Chas: Yeah. I basically paid phone and power, I think, which was fairly cheap. That’s probably not for 100 bucks.

Kristy: Oh that’s nice. Sometimes in the summer, electricity was like $1,000.

How many members do you have?

Kristy: So, I guess my question is, did you kind of make that price increase, let’s say to 125 and how many members was your high point or average point?

Chas: By the end of my first year, I had 250 members, and I maintain that fairly consistently. So I sold it.

But not everybody was paying, because I’d give them deals, like I had a deal during the Olympics. I probably offered more deals than I should, but whatever.

Kristy: So, yeah. 250 members was good. And was that about, $125 or a hundred? What were they paying on average?

Chas: Average would have been like $120. Some are on the higher end. Yeah.

Kristy: Yeah. So you’re doing good. You were like getting to 30,000 a month.

Chas: Yeah, I had crazy monthly revenues.

I would always take home a minimum of 2K for myself and leave the rest of the business for a rainy day.

Kristy: That’s awesome. So what was your profit for that like? I mean, I know you had to work real hard. I know you had interest to pay. And you were working a ton.

So, in that model, with all those numbers, someone said they could get that similar lease space. How much would you say you took home?

Chas: I wasn’t taking home nearly as much as I would’ve wanted to. That always happened. I would always take home a minimum of two grand for myself. Either leave the rest of the business and say for a rainy day or whatever, but I need at least two grand.

At least there’s more available than I would take more out. But, it wasn’t hugely, hugely profitable.

Kristy: So you’re saying that you had $30,000 in revenue and on a monthly basis, you only felt comfortable taking out 2K, of course, some of that’s retained.

What’s the biggest expense when you opened the gym?

Kristy: What would you say your biggest expense was? I sounds like you’re teaching about what 40% of the classes.

Chas: Yeah. And then I dropped off to just teaching the morning classes. At one point, I know I had like 15 staff, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all like.

One person is teaching one class once a week. But it’s still more time consuming to then manage that person and schedules vary. It would have been ideal to have less staff teaching more.

I honestly can’t remember in my first year what the profit margins were.

And then I was also paying for coaching, which was ridiculously cheap compared to what it is now.

Kristy: How much you paid for coaching?

Chas: No, how much I like what my problem margins were.

Kristy: It gets confusing because for me, I would do my numbers, give it to my accountant, and be like, okay.

And then all of a sudden they’ll say, well, we have these deductions. So I’m like, wait a minute. I thought it made money.

But you know, you have deductions. And so, just looking at your tax, for me, looking at my tax records, it’s hard to say always because that doesn’t always reflect like on a cash basis.

Chas: Totally right. It’s confusing. Just taxes in general, right? Your income tax, your business, your GST, those are things that when people talk revenues, they always include those things, but you still got to pay them back, right?

Kristy: But of course, you always want to get paid more. Though the primary thing is you’re really able to grow your clients.

And it sounds like you’re super smart. You got a great location. I read in your post you did some systems and you did some things that were really helpful.

What is your Marketing Strategy?

Kristy: So from a marketing perspective or sales and lead generation perspective, what were the things that you think you feel like you did that were the most helpful?

Chas: Yeah, so the most helpful thing that I did was, there are pros and cons of Groupon, but back then it was new. There was Groupon, there was LivingSocial, there’s like 15 different other ones, but it was a great way to increase exposure.

And so then we developed a system to get people in. This was our whole model:

  • Get people in at a low cost,
  • have them fall in love with it,
  • and then upsell.

We always offered a free week. And then we would do a consult after that free week or within that free week to then upsell into like a regular membership.

Why is it important to building a community?

Chas: And we, myself and my staff, were amazing at building community.

That was our main thing. All the marketing is based around getting people to know, like, and trust you and your sales funnel is grow, nurture, and sell.

Me and my staff were just so good at building the community that 10 years after, people are still saying, Oh, I miss the community at Results!

Me and my staff were just so good at building the community that 10 years after, people are still saying, Oh, I miss the community at Results!

And because we had awesome people, they’re like awesome members, awesome staff. It was just a wonderful place.

Once you came in to experience that it was like, Of course I’m going to stay!

So, we did use Groupon to get people in. I did one trade show and it was a waste of time.

The idea was to just grow my list at the time. But it was really expensive. There’s no purpose of going to big trade shows as a personal trainer or as a gym.

If you want to waste money then go right ahead, but, if you are going, make sure you have your systems and your purpose for going.

But one main way that I grew my list, so I did as much marketing for $0 as humanly possible.

How she managed to expand her email list by giving out Free recipes

[39:50] Chas: The main thing I did was put out free recipes on Kijiji. I would just be like, here’s the recipe for healthy chicken enchiladas or whatever the popular food thing it was at the day. And then people would email me back.

I would add them to my email list and then I could nurture the relationship and sold them on my style through email marketing.

Email marketing was gold and still is. I’m a big believer in email marketing because it’s cheap and it’s free and it really helps nurture and convert your audience.

Email marketing was gold and still is. I’m a big believer in email marketing because it’s cheap and it’s free and it really helps nurture and convert your audience.

So, that was the recipes that I grew my audience really quickly, right from the get go.

Kristy: Kajiji, I think it’s closed now, but was that a local thing? So, you knew everyone emailing you that’s nearby?

Chas: Yeah, in Calgary area and because I can target normally I would never say you target a whole city, because that’s crazy.

But because I was in an area when I was hoping to attract people who work downtown, so, yeah. Kajiji was not nearly as popular as it was back then, but now you could grow your list like on Facebook marketplace. So many other freeways that you can grow your list as well.

Kristy: Yeah. When you mentioned Facebook marketplace, are you saying that there’s a way to post recipes or something and people would email you in marketplace?

Chas: You can put anything on there, right? As long as you give things a value.

Kristy: That’s a new tip. I like it.

Email marketing tips

Kristy: I know that you’re a business coach, so now I’m imagining that you’ve really thought you have a very specific, it sounded like you already have a specific system about marketing and nurturing. Then you mentioned something about email marketing.

Do you have a specific way that worked for you for email marketing conversion with your gym?

Chas: Yeah. So I’m using back then, what was called FitPro newsletter. It was actually an email marketing system designed specifically for fitness professionals. So they would automatically send me weekly blogs. That was fantastic.

But then also my strategy was to write. I wrote a lot of blogs, like lots and lots for SEO generation. So SEO, and then I also changed my URL from being “resultsfitness” to “personaltrainingcalgary.com.” Just because the URLs were also more important back then for SEO than what they are now.

My marketing was all centered around online digital marketing. And so, building the list online, using FitPro to send out weekly newsletters.

And then always having a call to action — here is all the value that I can give you, here’s the nutrition tip, here’s a recipe, here’s a fitness tip or a video.

I even did lots of videos of five minute travel workout or whatever. So, always giving lots of value and then always having a call to action either Try our free week. And that was always our call to action. Come in for a free week.

Campaigns and fitness challenges

Kristy: Yeah. So, a lot of good content and then a call to action. And did you do any, one-off campaigns that worked well for you? Like a referral campaign, fitness challenge?

Chas: Oh yeah, I did a 21-day or 28-day fat loss quite often. Back then, that was 28 days for 28 bucks.

So then you would get into the challenge and we would weigh you do your measurements, set you up with a pretty basic meal plan to start off with. And then, before and afters for the challenge.

Especially once you’re in there for 28 days, chances of you leaving are low. And I knew that because we were really good at a building community.

Kristy: Yeah. It sounded like you had like a really amazing studio, so I could see that. And for the 28 days, did you make everyone start at the same time, or was it sort of like you offered that for two months and they could start a couple of different times?

Chas: They all did start at the same time. They always did start at the same time. Three weeks, you can do any other time. But otherwise the challenges were always a set time.

So, I would do them in like September, back to school. Then there was a Turkey detox and October into November, I’m doing one in spring before May, prior to the May long. And then in January, so they were set.

Kristy: Yeah. Did you just use your own, did you actually write the recipes? Did you kind of use the same thing because they were mainly for new clients or did you have to kind of re-write everything.

Chas: No, that was the benefits of FitPro, because they had a nutritionist on their staff and so they would send out all the healthy recipes.

Yeah, so that was great. But I did do my own, I’m certified through Precision Nutrition. So, if I were working one on one with a client, I would do a nutrition plan based on precision nutrition.

But just for recipes for building my list and stuff like that, I would just use the ones from FitPro.

Kristy: I see. So, you gave them the recipes from FitPro and then you did your measurements and everything. Did you integrate any text messages or emails besides just the recipe? Something like, Hey, you’re part of the 28 day, keep going strong!

Chas: Totally! So when you’re in the challenge, there’s an email every three days or something like that.

Then it’s easy in your email if you have the right email system, you just go into the 28-day bucket and those emails are already created. I would write all those emails and then it would just be automatically sent out. Then I can repurpose them, but then they’d always be on my email list.

When I just send a generic, regular, weekly emails, it also goes to them as well.

Email marketing tools

Kristy: Nice. What software did you use?

Chas: Everything was through FitPro at that time. Now, I use ConvertKit.

Kristy: Yeah. There’s like a ton now.

Chas: I used to use MailChimp, but now you have to pay for things with MailChimp now.

But of course, if I’m going to pay, I’m going to use one that I really liked.

Kristy: Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s so much more features I think.

I completely understand. This is awesome. You did a lot. I could see how you’d be burnout out and I can relate because we did a bunch of challenges too.

I fortunately didn’t have to teach as much. So, I think I was able to sustain that last year. But yeah, it was just so much.


Top 10 ways to grow your gym

[47:56] Kristy: What would be the top things? It could be the top 10 things that you would tell a studio owner, whether it’s to help them grow their clients to profitability, or to really grow their business.

Chas: Fantastic. Okay. Get your pen because I have top 10 ways to grow your gym.

I tried to put these in order, but they might blow a little bit. So, it’s going on the premise of marketing to grow, nurture, sell, and trust.

1. Know who you want to work with

Chas: So first of all, you need to know who you want to work with.

Know your target market and know them well, know what their pain points are, and how you can solve their problem.

And then offer the workouts that those people want. So, instead of you saying, this is my idea, come try find us, work the other way around.

I want to work with people that are really busy, so I’m going to offer them fast, hard workouts, to match their time.

2. Get on social media — testimonials

Chas: Number two is get on social and kill it on social, especially with the use of testimonials.

Video testimonials of people saying that was a great class today. Super basic, it doesn’t have to be transformational testimonials all the time.

Just having your community speak for you, and just capturing that at the beginning or at the end of every class or in between classes or whatever and post it on Instagram.

I don’t even think there was Instagram when I started or even finished, it was all Facebook. So, be social.

And then there’s all the latest techniques on how to be social and maximize your engagement and stuff like that.

I won’t get into it right now, but use testimonials for sure.

3. Build your email list

Chas: Number three, build your email list. Use blogs, use videos, give away recipes, give away as much value as you can.

There’s workouts on how to do a squat and how to do a HIIT workout all over the place, but people will keep coming to you because they need the motivation from a trainer.

They need people to hold them accountable to coming and actually doing the workout and not just standing there on their cell phones.

And so, you can give away as much information and don’t be scared of that because they still need you for a reason.

4. Write articles and get on podcasts

Chas: Number four, write articles and get on podcasts.

So, write articles and your community newsletter as much as you can. Write articles on your blog. Do guest blogs on different people’s sites. Do podcasts. Do Live Facebook interviews. Just look for free ways that you can just get yourself out there.

5. Build a community

Chas: Number five that I think is always the most essential is building community.

Genuinely build community. Love the people that are paying you money, not just because they’re paying you money, but because they’re wonderful humans.

Build on each other’s strengths and be a place that people love coming here to because they feel amazing when they leave.

You shouldn’t go to a gym where the trainer is going to make you throw up.

You’re going to burn a lot of calories and build muscle and blah, blah, blah. But who loves coming back to a trainer yelling at them and making them feel like garbage.

That’s not necessarily the best way to build community, to get people to their fitness goals. So, build a community, engage your audience and be active with all your members.

6. Reward your loyal clients

Chas: Number six, ask for referrals and reward clients.

So many times, like many companies reward just the new people. Such as when they sign up on this great deal, and then they always get that deal.

But don’t forget to reward the people who have been with you for a long period of time.

You know what, Carrie, you get this month free, and thanks for being a loyal client, or you know what, let’s go out for dinner.

So, reward your loyal clients and make them feel like gold. I think is essential.

7. Have a sales system

Chas: Number seven is have a sales system. Be very strategic on knowing your customer journey from when they first find out about you to being a regular member that loves you.

Outline all the steps, the questions that you ask, exactly how you want that conversation to flow, to lead to the same sale.

8. Quit selling 10 packs

Chas: Number eight, quit selling 10 packs.

Trainers do this all the time. Do you ever get results? And my business coach told me this right away — do you ever get results after 10 personal training sessions? No.

Well, why do trainers keep selling them? Oh, here’s 10 packs that you can use over 10 months.

That’s not a good revenue generator in the first place. It’s not getting your customer results, which is going to keep your customer coming back.

So, don’t be scared to ask for a longer term commitment.

Just pay monthly, I’m going to take care of you. You can cancel at any time, but it’s based on a year, you’re not going to see results in a month, or 28 days.

I would be brutally honest, I would like you to lose weight in this, but I can’t put a number on that because I can’t control.

How many beers you’re having on a Friday night. So, I can’t say you’re going to lose 20 pounds in 28 days just because.

So, ask for the longer term commitments and get into monthly packages.

9. Upsell or cross sell

Chas: Number nine is upsell or cross sell. Offer other things that you can buy to increase your per monthly membership or per transaction.

Maybe you saw heart rate monitors. And so, I did start doing that as well. You need to sign up because heart-based heart rate training is a fantastic way of training, in my opinion. And so the best way to do that is to have a heart rate monitor.

Why don’t I sell it instead of you going to Sport Check, you know? So then that increases your per ticket.

10. Be real. Be authentic

Chas: And number 10 is be real. Be authentic. Be you.

People will always buy from you because they know, like, and trust you, not because you’re necessarily going to give them the best results, but they like coming to train with you because you’re now friends.

And you’re open and honest. You know what? I had a pizza last night. No, I’m going to do all the Saturday morning classes, even though I know that I cannot outwork a bad diet.

Mentally, this is going to make me feel better about eating pizza last night but, I’m doing three spin classes.

People like to see that you’re also human. Because they can relate to you. So, that kind of goes with the building community.

So, I think those are 10 tips that you can use to grow your gym, but you can also use that for any business in general.

Kristy: Yeah. Any business to get leads in.

I love the whole be real and authentic because I think we feel like we have to as maybe either owner or trainer, we have to seem perfect. But it’s hard.

And then, they can relate with you because every client kind of does kind of cheat, and they’re not going to tell you because they think you’re gonna scold them.

Chas: Yeah. So I had different trainers, I’ve never been 120 pounds, maybe in grade five. But I’ve always been athletic. I’ve always said, I will out squat you and I’ll out push up you any day.

But one of my trainers, she was like a fitness model. So she attracted people who wanted to look and be like her. And she was amazing.

And I attracted people who wanted to have beers on a Friday afternoon and have pizza. But still be super fit and healthy for the most part but enjoying life a little bit as well.

So, we had different trainers from different spheres of life that different people could relate to.

Kristy: Yeah, absolutely. That’s awesome. So I think we learned so much about you and we got a lot out of you and your lessons and your managing skills, and you grew an amazing community.

How long did it take and how hard was it to sell the gym?

Kristy: So, you were burned out and that’s why you ended up selling the gym. From the time you decided you wanted to get out to actually selling it, how long did that take and how hard was it to find a buyer?

Chas: It took me about six months or more. I did end up getting a broker.

My husband was like, Well, why don’t you just ask? Oh no. It was after I sold it that one of my members was like, Oh, why didn’t you let me know that you were selling it?

I did sell it. I did make money off the sale, so that to me was an indicator of success.

Well, it’s not something that you go around saying, Good morning everybody, anybody want to buy the gym? I’m burning out.

So, I did get a broker to help. And because I just did not have the time, energy, or desire to learn how to sell it and stuff like that.

So, I did sell it. I did make money off the sale, so that to me was an indicator of success.

And then I went back to just teaching classes for the new owner.

But that didn’t last very long for a couple of reasons. One, I was moving to Toronto. I went back to school in Toronto.

And then it was just weird. I wanted to be the trainer that gets paid more. For years, I had trainers who always asked, Can I be paid anymore? I deserve to get paid more.

And now I’m the one who wants to be that trainer who asks to be paid more. So, I thought, I can’t actually do this anymore.

Starting a new business helping other trainers

Kristy: All right, so you moved and it sounds like you went back to teaching. Or you got another degree? Is that what you mean?

Chas: I went into international development because my heart always lies with helping people and traveling. So, International Development seemed like a good fit.

But then the reality set in. What organization is going to hire a whole family to move overseas?

So, I decided to move back to Calgary and help people the best way that I knew how, which was teaching people how to start businesses based on my business startup experience.

Me being in business, my husband had his business for a long time and I love helping people and I love teaching people.

I landed a really good job with a nonprofit, where I could do those things. But then just this last summer, I got laid off from doing that.

So, I just thought I will do it all on my own. So one door closes, another door opens.

If somebody listening wants to reach out to you or find your posts, how can they do that?

Chas Young

Facebook: Chas Young
Instagram: coachchasyoung
Website: Business Startup Coach

Kristy: Thanks for being on the show.

Chas: Thank you so much, Kristy. That was so awesome!

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