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Is owning a gym really worth it??
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brandon_loves_2fly


Mar 2, 2005, 12:30 PM
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Is owning a gym really worth it??
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This question is for all gym owners or for anybody that has gym managment experience.-- IS IT ALL WORTH IT? are you really happy as a gym owner?

I have spent countless hours over the last few months doing research and working out my own business plan. The more I plan and work at it, the more I realize that it is not easy to start and run a gym. high start-up costs, liability, and a countless number of other playing factors that dont make life as a gym owner easy. But I really want to go through with it. I am willing to take the risks that are involved when starting a business. I just wanted to know from other people that have already been down that road. Is it all worth it? does the satifaction and income really justify all the risks and headaches? -thanks for your input


caughtinside


Mar 2, 2005, 12:32 PM
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Those don't sound like questions specific to a climbing gym, but rather generally related to starting up and running your own small business.

And the answer will depend on you.


xjicex


Mar 2, 2005, 12:38 PM
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killclimbz


Mar 2, 2005, 12:42 PM
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Starting a business like that will demand a lot of your time. I wouldn't plan on doing much climbing outside of the gym for the first year at least. 80+ hour work weeks etc. The biggest problem that I see with gym owners is that after they get a stable business going, it's hard for them to let go and have someone else run the biz. They built it up and have that connection. If they could just let go, they would have lot's of time on their hands to climb. Do you think you will be capable of doing this after building it up for a year or two?
Out of several business owners I have known only one has been able to do this and he is a happy man. He spent for years busting his hump making it happen, but now he is reaping the rewards.


vballboarder


Mar 2, 2005, 12:45 PM
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Yes, a lot of work goes into a climbing gym, but like was mentioned already...that's for any small business you're going to start up.

As far as opening a gym for you. You're in Utah, and I imagine you'll want to do it UT? If so, you need to really research the market and find out if you're going to get that many people in the gym. First, you will have very few annual memberships of climbers, since the climbing season in UT is almost 9 months long, and very accessible with a short drive.

Second, there are already several gyms in UT. I don't know where you're thinking, but there is one in UT county, SLC, and Logan. If you're going to be in one of those areas, be very careful because you won't want direct competition as a new gym owner in the same area as another gym.

Just a couple thoughts.

Jeff


tavs


Mar 2, 2005, 12:53 PM
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On the Utah front: If you're thinking about starting a gym in Utah, especially in the SLC area, you should talk to the folks at The Front about the challenges of running a gym here and some of the very important lessons I imagine they've learned in the process over the last few years. While I have gotten to know and like the ownership there, and do enjoy climbing there for the most part (as much as I can enjoy climbing inside at all), they have not had what you'd call an easy time of it and could certainly give you some insight.

Consider this--we've had about a week or so now of nice weather in SLC, 50ish for a high temp and sunny. Keeping in mind it still gets darkish by around 6:30 (pretty soon after most people get off work and thus still a limiting factor on outdoor climbing), last night there were about 8-10 people max at the Front....and some of these were non-paying "gratis" members. By mid-March, this is usually the norm.


Partner gunksgoer


Mar 2, 2005, 1:08 PM
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i cant imagine owning a climbing gym, youd have to put up with people like...me :twisted:


brandon_loves_2fly


Mar 2, 2005, 4:05 PM
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does anybody how much traffic is need in order to be profitable? Im in southern Utah and yes, you can climb outdoors 9 months out of the year, but many prospective climbers dont hit the cliffs due to their own inexperience. Thats where me and my gym come into play, a controlled climbing enviroment. Along with all the birthday parties, corporate team-builder programs, and others, I'll do just fine, I feel the the outdoor scene will be more of a help than a hinderance.


horseonwheels


Mar 2, 2005, 4:40 PM
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Hey Brandon, I'm sure that if you're putting together a comprehensive business plan you're probably more of an expert than everyone that's answered this post so far including myself.

Obviously I don't know how much business experience you have, but certainly talk to any local gyms in your area about how they run their businesses, you might be surprised at how willing people are to talk about themselves even to "the competition."

Also, while you're there make some notes on what you think works and how you could improve upon what they've got. You don't necessarily want to be somewhere where there isn't already a climbing gym. If you can offer something better, people will obviously be coming to your place.
Not to mention the fact that there will already be a clearly established market in that location.

I have a business degree myself, and worked a little with my parents when they created their business. It certainly is a lot of work but most people (and I'm assuming you too) would much rather work 60-80 hours a week for themselves than 40 for someone else.

It would seem that a climbing gym would actually be easier to start than many other small businesses given the decreased need for developing quality relationships with suppliers, sales reps, manufacturers, etc., however, marketing will certainly be the main focus of your efforts.

Here in Colorado, there are a few gyms that have some real name recognition. I'm not sure what it's like there, but marketing is certainly something that gets overlooked by many businesses.

I know of guy out here who runs his own business, while not climbing related, he spends nearly a million a year on marketing with revenues of 7-8 million!!! It has certainly paid off for him though. Tremendous growth, etc, etc. So keep that in mind.

One thing you should look into is, many community colleges and universities have services that help entrepreneurs develop business plans, and work out the financial issues in a given industry, for a small fee.
Very helpful though.

I'm sure the liability aspect of a climbing gym is killer, as you've already probably thought of, and that's where talking to local gyms might give you an idea.

Anyway, I could probably go on for pages but I hope this helps a little.

Good luck!!


vballboarder


Mar 2, 2005, 4:44 PM
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Yes, I recall you posted in another thread about opening a gym in St. George. My gut feeling is that you could probably make it work, but I personally would be hesitant to go with a wall much bigger than 7,500 sq. feet.

What I know about the gyms here in Phoenix (excluding Phoenix Rock Gym, I haven't been there) is that they are around 10,000 sq. ft plus and they are rarely full, except on some saturdays. Phoenix population is in the neighborhood of 3 million people for 3 gyms. And in recent years I know of 2 gyms going bankrupt, and I think there was a 3rd.

One thing you need to realize is that the number of people in a city will not determine whether or not you will be successful opening a gym. If you have 1,000 people in a city and everyone buys a year membership, then you are loving it. However, if in a city of 500,000 you only sell 50 yearly memberships and only a few people come for day passes, you're bankrupt in the first year.

The more important variable is to determine the habits and hobbies of people in St. George. Do people like to spend money for entertainment on weekends, or do they like to BBQ with their neighbors? Are there a lot of high schoolers that don't have many other options in the evenings? Will people be spending money for B-day parties, or do they usually just buy a pinata? What are the populations of the different age groups you are targeting?

I know St. George is growing and you may get some business from Cedar and SUU students, but if I recall, the average age is getting older in St. George. A lot of the growth is for retirees coming down from the snow country. I don't think many retired folks will be up to rock climbing in a gym.

I can't remember what you said the population of St. George is, but it seems like around 150K. I think if you did it right and got some good advice from local small business consultants, you could probably make it work. Does this all make sense? Most of the success will need to be determined by you and the market research you conduct. Print up a couple hundred surveys asking what people think about indoor climbing and if they would go to a gym. Then go pass them out in the mall on a saturday. You'll get a feel for what the people there think at least.

However, the first step in determining if you'll be okay is to calculate all your expenses. You'll need to spend some time on the phone with wall manufactures, hold manufactures, etc. You can find some expenses on old posts too. But calculate everything: wall, holds, ropes, gear, replacing gear, toilet paper, soap, flyers, computer, cash register receipts, insurance, lawyer fees for drafting and revising your documents, paper, chalk, drills for the t-nuts, ladders, flooring, any pictures for the walls, utilities, employees wages, stamps for mailers...everything. Once you know your costs you can set a price for all your options of day passes, memberships, parties, etc. Once you have that done, you can determine how many people need to buy day passes, memberships, etc. on a monthly basis just to pay the bills. If the number is unreasonably high, you're in trouble. If it's a reasonable number but may take a while to reach, you might be okay. If the number is low, then you're most likely set. And that's the easy part. The hard part is finding the money to start.

Jeff


maracas


Mar 2, 2005, 4:46 PM
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My experience from knowing 3 gym owners and several employees in a climbing area is it will not be very profitable (maybe even) but you will make a lot of friends.

Over here is even better than in Utah cause you can climb 12 months of the year, so imagine the natural competition.

The "better one" opens monday to thursday from 7 to 11pm only and it is a side show for the owner.


sonicimpulse


Mar 2, 2005, 4:49 PM
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Me and my friends are really loud and obnoxious at the gym. We yell at each other like its boot camp. We push each other untill they send us home for the night. Not to mention all the clowning around we do.

If you would get anoyed buy us then you would loose us as customers. The Cleveland Rock Gym lost us. (Those people need to relax more then we do).

You need to know how to deal with all kinds of people.


kalcario


Mar 2, 2005, 5:42 PM
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St George is too small to have it's own gym IMO unless you do it as a full-service, normal "health club" gym that just happens to have climbing/bouldering. The key to success is to offer all the excercise equipment that a normal gym has, so you can compete in that market too. Nice bathrooms/showers/locker rooms. Make it someplace interesting and worthwhile to hang out even on days you're not climbing. Most climbing gyms fail because they only offer 2 things - routes and boulder problems. And if the coursesetting sucks, like it does at most gyms outside of major climbing centers like Boulder, Vegas and SLC, you're in deep trouble of becoming a kiddie gym/day care center, in which case you might as well open...a day care center. Or a Chucky Cheese.


legless


Mar 2, 2005, 6:43 PM
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sideroom with yoga.


Partner csgambill


Mar 2, 2005, 7:19 PM
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No, owning a gym is not worth it because you'll die a horrible lonely death at the age of 42. I would love to do it, but unfortunately don't have the time. I've already got an accounting practice, and I'm the controller of another firm. So, I'm already spread too thin. You'd be amazed at how much work goes into starting, building and maintaining a business. Mabye it's worth it for you, but only you can make that decision, and only you can make it work. Even a climbing gym won't run itself.


Partner trguy


Mar 2, 2005, 7:34 PM
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I think it is. If a couple of us didn't run the one we have here, there wouldn't be one at all. Nearest gym would be 4 hours north. Nearest decent rock is 4 hours south. Besides, all the reps are dying to come to Kansas to show us their wares...


kalcario


Mar 2, 2005, 8:40 PM
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*I think it is. If a couple of didn't run the one we have here, there wouldn't be one at all. Nearest gym would be 4 hours north. Nearest decent rock is 4 hours south. Besides, all the reps are dying to come to Kansas to show us their wares...*

what?


dief


Mar 2, 2005, 10:47 PM
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I think it is worth it. I've owned the Phoenix Rock Gym since starting it in 1992. As with any business you have to be self-directed and willing to bust your butt. I don't like working for others but I love to work.

I think the most important quality you will need is creative problem solving (and knowing what poblems need to be solved). Start small and grow. This will help you avoid going into debt. Cater to climbers on the weeknights and kids and families and the weekends.

Unless you have tons of $$$$ you will have to lease a building. It is ok to start this way but your long term plan should be to own your building. Then your monthly rent payments become an investment.

It is amazing what you can do if you don't know that you can't do it.


chalkpaw


Mar 4, 2005, 3:40 PM
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Yes, owning a gym was worth it for me. There were highs and lows in the design, the building, and the operations. I learned a lot from the experience, and the greatest joy once we were open was to see people learning something new about themselves, and having a fun time climbing. I believe that our business made the community of Flagstaff a little bit better. People in our community have supported the business over the years, the gym is doing well and growing even after 8 years.
I would suggest that you should spend a little time and money to research the whole gym development thing. Your question of "how much traffic is in need in order to be profitable"? is showing a lack of... experince. The answer is, it depends. It depends on a lot of things like your debt to equity ratio and of course your monthly expenses. It depends on some luck. It depends on how well you know marketing and your community. It depends on who you hire to run the place in your absense. It depends on your willingness to loan the gym more money on the lean times and to repay that debt in a reasonable manner. And it depends on you, your vision and your desire to the best job you can without burning out after a couple of years. Best of luck!


1800lotions


Mar 4, 2005, 8:18 PM
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Is owning a gym worth it?

NO


anykineclimb


Mar 4, 2005, 9:29 PM
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Wow, 1800lotions with yet, another brilliant post that contributes so, so much to this thread. ASS


I was once a manager for a gym and was very close with the owner. I feel its worth it and looking into starting one myself. Like others have said, it might be a good idea to diversify a little to bring in more income from other sources. If theres no gear shops in St. George how about a store too?


brandon_loves_2fly


Mar 5, 2005, 10:42 AM
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I will contract a 1 year service agreement with a local gear shop to supply all gear and accessories for my pro shop(with a commision rate of course). that means less overhead and less headache for me for the first year or so, and when i get the business off its feet and well established i will run my own pro shop. I was also debating on whether to throw in a small snack bar/deli shop or something. Any comments on the matter??


lambone


Mar 5, 2005, 11:12 AM
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Brandon,

Have you ever worked at a gym? You probly won't like this answer, but you may just want to go work the desk at one for a while and see what the business is like. This is probly the best thing you could do for yourself if you are really planning to go through with this. Let them pay you to learn how to run a gym rather then stuggeling on your own. Maybe you've done this allready.

I think you have the right idea with contracting with a gear shop, just make sure you get the best commision you can and make sure there is a way out of the deal.

As far as food service, I would just sell juice/soda and power bars/candy bars at first. Not sure if a real food service is worth the effort. The Spot Gym in Boulder has a full cafe inside and talking to the desk guy he said they lose money on it.

In reply to:
does anybody how much traffic is need in order to be profitable? Im in southern Utah and yes, you can climb outdoors 9 months out of the year, but many prospective climbers dont hit the cliffs due to their own inexperience.

First off, your business plan should spell this out inthe pro forma...if it doesn't then you have some work to do. I'd becarefull with that idea, thats a risky assumption to bank on. Bottom line is you need a solid memberhip base to pay the bills. And your members will become experienced and will want to climb outside also. If you relly on programing like parties and team building, you will never be 100% sure where next months rent is coming from. This is where the members are crucial. I had a consultation with the former owner of the Boulder Rock Club last weekend and he said his membership base dropped off by nearly half each summer. That's huge, you may consider doing a consultation with Eldorado Wall Company, I felt it was well worth the effort and expense.


youmeanupthere


Mar 9, 2005, 8:57 PM
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Opening a gym in St George would be an interesting business. Personally I view St George and its surroundings as a 12 month a year outdoor climbing destination (although dont let this out). Just look at Mr. Goss's book. Cedar is a bit of a drive but some of that stuff is at like 9000 feet and great in the summer. St George itself is fantastic most other months. I just got back from a couple days climbing there myself. I think the demographics show a growing older population so that wont help although Dixie has lots of people eager to get married and looking for options for dates. I would caution you to set up the place with lots of features for the new and non-climbers that may use the facility. As I mentioned to someone the other day on this forum regarding owning a gym, it's fun and rewarding work but sometimes you have to do things that climbing purists may not like such as catering to parties and specialty groups full of gumbies. Good luck in your venture.


guangzhou


Feb 10, 2011, 12:16 AM
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So, you ever start your gym? How is it going?

Was it worth it?

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