Gyms have seen a steady increase in membership — even during the recession. American’s interest in a healthy lifestyle has only continued to grow, resulting in a search for the place to work out. If you’re interested in starting your own business but aren’t sure how to find financing, a franchise can be a great place to start. We’ll introduce you to the costs of buying into a franchise and how you can finance your next big business venture.
The total cost of a gym franchise varies by brand, but you should expect to pay anywhere from $45,000 to $330,000 to get started. Common starting costs include:
One-time franchise fee. You’ll need to pay a franchise fee to use the franchise’s trademarked brand that typical cost between $15,000 and $30,000.
Equipment. If your franchisor doesn’t provide you with equipment, you’ll need to outfit your gym with new facilities to bring in members. This costs between $30,000 to $50,000 for an average gym space of 4,000 square feet.
Security deposit. Some franchisors help you purchase or rent the space for your gym, but others may consider that your responsibility. Most commercial spaces require a security deposit of three months’ rent.
Legal costs. You may be responsible for the cost of preparing legal or leasing documentation. You’ll also need to have the appropriate business insurance, licenses and permits.
Liquid assets. Franchisors generally require franchisees to have liquid assets ranging from $300,000 to $1.5 million.
You’ll also need to factor in the price of maintaining your gym. When developing your business plan, consider how you’ll tackle:
Monthly franchise fee. Your franchisor may charge you a standard monthly fee or a percentage of your revenue. How it works depends on the franchise you buy into.
Working capital. The amount of working capital you’ll need depends largely on how long it takes for you to drum up business and customers. The franchise you’re buying into should be able to shed some light on this timeframe based on the experience of previous franchisees.
Staff costs. The importance of having a good team can’t be overstated. Between friendly sales representatives, knowledgeable trainers and a hands-on custodian or two, paying your employees is a big cost that you should be your top priorities.
Rent. For most commercial venues, you’ll end up paying rent. This cost depends entirely on your area and location, so create your budget accordingly.
Compare your options for financing a fitness franchise
Franchise fees for 5 popular gym franchises in the US
Compare the franchise fees of five popular gym franchises below. Keep in mind the franchise fee is one-time charge paid to join the company’s organization. It’s only a portion of the initial costs when opening a franchise.
Are fitness franchises profitable?
Before you invest in a franchise, do some research on the company. What are the opinions of people in online forums? There’s no point buying into a franchise that has a terrible reputation among consumers and former employees.
Once you’ve settled on a franchise and are ready to take the first step, consider the location, competition and convenience. Like any business, your plan should take into account the demographics of the area and what people expect from a gym, whether that’s a fully-equipped health center or a minimalist area to get in shape. Think about how you’ll differentiate your gym from other in your area. Are you offering any bonuses like a low monthly fee or a small spa? Are you in a location that receives a lot of foot traffic? All of this play into the profitability of your fitness franchise and could influence the success of your business.
How do I pick out the right loan?
Not everyone has hundreds of thousands of dollars in liquid assets to sink into a gym franchise. When you’re ready to submit a loan application, consider these important questions.
Do you have assets to use as collateral? If you don’t have the exercise equipment or other collateral to open your franchise, consider an unsecured business loan. Alternative lenders offer a range of loan options for new business owners. If your franchise requires a certain amount down or you need to renovate the space to include a locker room or class space, an unsecured loan can help.
Do you have a residential or commercial property? If you have other gym spaces or treadmills to use as security, you may consider a secured business loan to fund your franchise. Not only will you receive potentially lower rates, but you could receive a higher loan amount, allowing you to finance anything from a specialized trainer to a membership bonus.
Do you want continued access to credit? Not sure how much you need to borrow or want access to funds as you grow your business? A business line of credit might suit your needs. You can draw on your your line of credit as you need money, and you’ll only pay interest on what you borrow. This is great for financing repairs to workout machines or running new membership specials.
What do lenders look for in a borrower?
A lender wants to know that you’re capable of running a gym before extending a loan. You’ll have to meet a few basic qualifications in order to apply.
Evidence of working capital and liquid assets for the franchise.
You should have at least two years of personal or business financial statements.
Experience running a gym or managing a similar business.
You should have a clean credit history and a decent score.
A business plan with cash flow projections and revenue forecasts.
A good idea of which franchise you’ll contact and why.
What gym equipment does my fitness center need?
As a gym owner, you’ll no doubt be well aware of the equipment needs of your business. The good news is that there are finance options available to help you purchase all the essential items that any successful gym needs, including:
Weights, dumbbells and bars
Boxing and martial arts equipment
Aquatic fitness equipment
Floor mats and Swiss balls
Massage chairs and benches
Medical rehabilitation equipment
Office desks, tables and chairs
Equipment for an on-site cafe or shop
Cash registers and point-of-sale payment devices
How does financing equipment work?
When you get equipment financing, you’ll be expected to provide a small down payment of 10% to 20% of the total cost. Your equipment acts as security for your loan, giving you access to lower rates than an unsecured loan. This means you can buy your ellipticals, weight machines and treadmills all at once and pay them off over time.
Should I consider opening my own gym instead?
Opening your own gym comes with a number of pros and cons. With a franchise, you have to follow a number of business rules set by the franchisor, but it means you have a lower overhead cost and a business model ready to go. On the other hand, starting your business gives you the freedom to run things your way. Unfortunately, this also means you’ll face much higher overheads since you’ll have to purchase all the equipment, hire staff, pay for advertising and handle the rent without any help from corporate.
Whether you choose to buy a franchise or open your own gym is entirely up to how you see yourself running a business and how you want to spend your money. Both have their benefits, so weigh your options carefully before committing.
Gyms are a booming business across the US and can be a solid franchise option for people looking to get into the industry or expand their current options. The total investment cost vary, but you have a range of loan options available to help you fund your venture. Browse our business loan page to find more information on types of loans available, or check out our franchise financing guide for tips on industry-specific tips.
Kellye Guinan is a seasoned financial writer with over 500 articles under her belt spanning all things loans from auto to personal to business and everything in between. With four years in the field and five years of research experience, she's able to make complex personal finance decisions easier for anyone to tackle. When she's not up to her knees learning about the latest trends in lending, she spends her time improving her own financial literacy and expertise — and maintaining a Duolingo streak of over 1,300 days.
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