So, you want to open a fitness business?

Feb 07, 2023 | by Marie Anagnostis

If you have a unique fitness offering and the business skills to back it up, you may choose to launch your own brand of club or studio. If not, franchising could be the way to go, writes Marie Anagnostis.

If you’ve decided that 2023 is going to be the year you take the plunge and open your own bricks and mortar fitness business, you will need to decide whether you want to open a club or studio under your own brand, or whether a franchise would be a better fit for you.

No ‘Easy’ Option

Take it as a given that both options will require a lot of work, a business plan and the finances to get the ball rolling, so there’s no ‘easy’ choice in those regards. The decision you make will therefore be influenced by other factors relating to the nature of what you can offer the fitness consumer market in your catchment area. You need to be brutally honest with yourself during this stage of decision making, because the implications of a failed business could be life changing.

You need to be brutally honest with yourself during this stage of decision making

If you want to launch under your own banner of fitness, explore if there is room for you in the market. Have you created a unique fitness concept? I’m willing to wager that the answer is ‘no’. So, what are you offering that is so different? The answer ‘because it’s me’ is incorrect, unless you’re a Hemsworth or other influencer with millions of rusted-on followers hanging on your every post. If you are that marketable, and just by being you the masses will embrace your fitness offering, congratulations. But consider this: you will be working all the time. You can’t have others working for you because your clients are coming specifically to You Fitness for you.

Initially this may be exciting, and a boost to your ego ‘They love me, they really love me!’. As time goes on, however, you may find it restrictive. Who will deliver classes and one-on-one sessions in the studio when you’re not there due to holidays, sickness, medical appointments or other unavoidable commitments?

The plan for the Future

You also need to consider your exit strategy and how that might look under your own banner. It may seem odd to plan how you will successfully leave your business before you’ve even launched it, but this is the time to do it.

Wouldn’t it be better to be able to sell it as a business that functions successfully regardless of who’s running it?

Let’s gaze into the crystal ball and look five years into the future: for any number of reasons, you decide you want to sell your brand. If it’s entirely dependent on you as an individual, it will be worth nothing without you attached to it. If you’re happy for the business to be a source of income while you are operating it, but to then reap no additional financial reward after years of hard work building it up and developing systems, databases and processes, then this is fine. But wouldn’t it be better to be able to sell it as an operation that functions successfully regardless of who’s at the helm?

The Franchise Option

After working in the fitness industry for a couple of decades, I made the decision to operate my own fitness business. After asking myself the hard questions above (most notably, ‘Are you Chris Hemsworth?’) I chose to go down the franchising path rather than the Marie Fitness one. I have absolutely zero regrets, and this is why:

  1. The fitness business has nothing to do with fitness.
  2. I know fitness. I don’t know business.

It’s not enough to be outstanding in your fitness field of choice. I’ve seen too many outstanding fitness professionals sadly go out of business. I’ve also seen too many mediocre ones absolutely thrive.

Working on the business is clinical: numbers. Working in the business is emotional: people.

This is where the franchise comes in. The franchisor provides the business systems and I stick to what I know: fitness. It’s a winning formula. If your dream is to eventually own your own business, you might be interested to hear some of the things that surprised me when I took the leap:

  • The business’s relentless occupation of my mind. There is no escaping it, 24/7, even when you aren’t there. It’s exhausting.
  • The behind-the-scenes work is more than you can ever imagine. You are constantly promoting, ordering, responding, planning and managing. Repeat. Until dead.
  • I thought that owning a fitness business was the next logical step in a long fitness career and I would be immersed in the industry more than ever. However, I have never done less of what I love (fitness) and more of everything else that comes with running a business (see above point). But at least I know I’m following tried and true business processes rather than stumbling blindly in the dark.
  • Costs, both start-up and ongoing. It’s never what you think it will be initially, and it’s relentless.

What has surprised me the most, however, is the conflict in my mind created from working on the business while also working in the business. Working on the business is clinical: numbers. Working in the business is emotional: people. What I can’t seem to do is compartmentalise these two sides of the business, and thereby be able to make effective business decisions that I don’t take personally. A perfect example of this is when a member cancels their membership. Business brain: one member has left, you need to gain one new member. Coaching brain: What? You’re leaving? Why? Are you telling me the truth? Are you seeing someone else? Where are you going? Is it something I said? What did we do wrong? Do I need to upskill? Does the team need to upskill? Why do you hate me? Exhausting. I’m on a learning curve – and part of that will involve learning not to take everything personally.

Final Word

Despite my best efforts here to fill in the non-marketing-approved gaps of working in the industry, you still need to be prepared for the unknown. Like any new venture, you can’t and won’t have accounted for everything. Be open to those surprises and use them as an opportunity to learn. As I said, although running my own bricks and mortar fitness business is all-consuming hard graft, I have zero regrets because the more effort you put into something you love, the more rewarding the outcomes.

Like this? You’ll LOVE Marie’s book of fitness pro wisdom!

From blow-by-sleep-deprived-blow Marie shares an insider’s view of what it’s really like to work in the fitness industry. 12 hours in the life of a fitness professional is part exposé, part memoir and part (surprisingly) informative.

Whether you are new to the fitness industry or a seasoned professional, you’ll find plenty of hard hitting truths and all-too-familiar insights such as “the changeroom is no time for hobbies. Especially naked ones”.Find out more and order a copy at

Marie Anagnostis

Marie Anagnostis

Marie is the proud owner and Coach of UBX Boxing + Strength clubs in Belconnen and in Fyshwick, ACT. Her love and curiosity for fitness runs deep as she also moonlights as a BODYPUMP, BODYBALANCE and Reform Pilates Instructor. One of her strengths (other than being so loud she doesn't need a microphone to teach) is her ability to create original and digestible fitness content to help the consumer see and understand fitness differently. Marie is the author of 12 hours in the life of a fitness professional.

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Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness, Cert III/Cert 3, or Fitness Coach is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness, Cert IV/Cert 4, or Personal Trainer is mentioned, it refers to SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Program™ is mentioned, it refers to Fitness Essentials and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Plus+ Program™ is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42021 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52021 Diploma of Remedial Massage.