We often get asked about how to drive opening success. After all, opening your new business as strong as possible will put you in the best financial position as possible, right? Well, as always, we want to take it one step further. Opening with as many lives impacted possible means your community is set up from day one and it’s your job to create a thriving atmosphere where members are nurtured and you hit the sweet spot of huge momentum in organic growth. When we think of our business owners who have absolutely nailed their opening process, without a doubt it’s Carmen and Aaron, owners of Fitstop Mount Warren Park.
When Mount Warren Park opened their doors in January 2022, there was nothing holding them back. They achieved a network-wide record of 265 members part of their community from day one. This is an absolutely incredible result and has allowed them to live a life they never thought was possible. The recipe for success? You’ll have to read the interview to find out!
Carmen: I am currently employed full time in the Building and Insurance industry and have been with the company for 11 years where I started as a Claims Assistant into the Administration Manager and Operations Manager. Being in the building industry assisted me with understanding the fitout process and I was able to coordinate most of the fitout project and I have also been able to use my Management experience for our business.
Aaron: I was previously working for an asset management company where I was working night shift, this was never a passion but paid the bills. I always had a love for fitness, but always thought of it as a hobby and never as a career. I've always played football, but due to injuries I had to stop playing and replaced this with going to the gym and doing predominately weights.
I (Carmen) have always had a love for group fitness training - when a Fitstop opened near me I thought I would give it a go. My first session was a Fit session (our old formula), 50 reps at each station with running in-between stations. I almost died, but I loved it at the same time and I was hooked. After a few months of being a member, I thought it would be a dream come true to own a Fitstop and thought there was no harm in finding out more and decided to contact Bec. I told Aaron my wild idea of wanting to become a Fitstop owner and began to drag Aaron along to Saturday sessions.
Aaron then joined and loved being a part of the Fitstop community and originally thought he would need to continue his Gym membership to keep up his weight training and only do Fitstop for cardio. After a few short weeks Aaron cancelled his gym membership as he found he could still lift heavy weights at Fitstop and there was no need for two memberships when he could get everything out of Fitstop. We then met with a Fitstop owner who I had gone to school with to find out how their experience as an owner was and then went all in. Our first chat with Bec was in January 2021, and we opened our doors in January 2022.
Aaron and I became members at different Fitstops. This allowed us to experience two locations and how they operate and we had two different Managers/Owners who we could seek advice and guidance from, which was very helpful. Saturdays we would train together and visit a different Fitstop location whenever we could. We would stay around and chat with the owner, Manager or Trainer after the session when we could, and we found every location very welcoming and willing to take the time to answer any questions we had. I think we ended up training at approximately 18 different locations prior to opening and we would take notes of what we thought they did well, from the warm up exercises, to shouting out to have your watches ready. We also attended 3 open days and got a chance to connect with other owners outside of the gym.
Firstly, not giving up. There were definitely times when we weren't sure we would be owners with obstacles we had to overcome. We sacrificed holidays and some of our assets to get here and when you take such a risk, I think it makes you even hungrier and driven to succeed. Secondly, with the help of Fitstop, we found the perfect location in a residential area. Location definitely plays a huge part and our location has plenty of parking and is easy to get to, is in a small but busy shopping village and is on a busy road. And finally, being passionate about the brand. When we speak to people about Fitstop they can tell we genuinely love it.
The support from HQ has been amazing! Every time we entered HQ we always feel welcomed (before we were even owners). During our pre-open stage, we felt very supported by Dani and Steve. We know how many Fitstops were opening and how busy they would have been, but we were always made to feel like we were the only Fitstop opening. The other Fitstop Franchisees support each other like no other. There is no competition, they all support each other and want to help each other succeed.
It still amazes us that we are just everyday people in a location that was probably overlooked by so many and managed to create a new opening record. Our tips would be to be yourself when you call your potential members and don't come across like a salesperson; let your passion come through and make them feel part of what you are building. We aimed to create a new opening record when we started selling memberships but we also wanted to create a strong, loyal and supportive community. Just yesterday a member said to us that we have created so much more than a gym, it's a family, a home and an incredibly welcoming environment and they can see that we want the best for people and aren't here to just take their money.
Build a solid community early through your bootcamps, social events like breakfast, group hike, and being family friendly. Listen to your members' needs and cater to them. 4:30 am is our busiest class and there is a waitlist each day. Originally we wanted to have our first session at 5 am, but when we started contacting our leads, many said they could only train at 4:30 am, so we made sure we put on that session. We also created an amazing kids space which was very important to us, we love when couples can train together and encourage them to bring their kids along.
It's not as easy as you think it's going to be; there have been some big days where we have been at the gym for up to 16 hours. The first few weeks our priority was getting to know our members, learning over 200 people's names, and knowing their strengths, weaknesses, injuries and goals. There were days we were running on empty but then receiving positive feedback from members and seeing them looking forward to their next session, progressing with their fitness abilities and watching a strong community form made everything worth it. We had members who trained in a gym for the first time ever on our open day and are already Fitstoppers for life.
As mentioned, I (Carmen) still work full time, manages to train in the gym daily and also handles the socials and administration work. Aaron is our Owner/Manager taking classes, contacting leads, dealing with member enquiries and is at the gym every day. We have 1 part-time trainer (30 hours) who takes classes and checks in with members on their experience, and two casual employees. They all come with a range of skills and different strengths. It is important that our trainers are bubbly, encouraging, approachable and have a genuine interest in helping our members achieve their goals.
Of course, we would love to become a multisite owner one day, but for now, our focus is on retaining our current members and growing our member base and positively affecting the community. We want to make Mount Warren Park the best and ensure that our members know that they are our priority.
It has given us the opportunity to meet so many amazing people such as the Fitstop HQ team, other franchisees and our amazing members. It is so gratifying being a part of a successful brand and the impact we have already had on our members' lives. We still pinch ourselves that we have opened such a successful location and are able to make such a positive change in so many lives. Fitstop has allowed us to do something with our lives that we enjoy, are passionate about and is so rewarding that we couldn't get anywhere else.
There’s simply so much to learn from Carmen and Aaron, a story of sacrifice, determination and grit in the game - with their love for Fitstop developing very authentically as members.
By investing in Fitstop franchising, you’re most of the way to success as you’re backed by a proven franchise model and a brand aligned with influential markets. The final piece is having the determination, work ethic and complete love for Fitstop, as this is where the magic happens. The best part - this outcome is possible for anyone. Download your free information pack at fitstop.com/franchise to find out more today!