Dream Job: Fitness Studio Owner
Career Fit

Dream Job: Fitness Studio Owner

THINK OWNING YOUR OWN FITNESS STUDIO IS ALL SUNSHINE AND YOGA PANTS? THINK AGAIN.

What if you got paid to work out? What if your office was a bright and airy fitness studio, and your daily uniform consisted of cute, comfy athletic wear? What if you had the opportunity to transform the lives of every person who walked through your door? 

As a fitness studio owner, you are in the business of life-transformation, assisting clients with accomplishing their health goals. At first glance, this dream job seems pretty ideal. But the truth is, there is much more to fitness studio ownership than yoga pants, free daily workouts, and happy clients high on endorphins. {Click to tweet}

To find out what it really takes to own your own fitness studio, we chatted with successful owners for a behind the scenes look into their world and how they made it all happen.

“As a studio owner, I am a Pilates educator, businesswoman, human resources manager, customer service representative, counselor, janitor, and accountant,” says Bri Blonigan, owner of Wundabar Pilates in San Diego, California. “To maintain a successful business, I have to be excellent at doing all those things. It's still a dream job for me, but it's not all sunshine and pixie dust!”

Shawn Donohoe, co-owner of Press Fitness Club in La Jolla, California, offers a similar perspective: “Opening Press has been one of the most challenging feats I have ever taken on— well, second to my two beautiful children, they definitely take the cake. But even despite the challenges, I have truly enjoyed every step of this incredible journey.”

THE CHALLENGES

Opening a new studio comes with its fair share of roadblocks. From finding the ideal location to getting the word out and building a client base, starting any business from scratch takes plenty of hard work.

“One of the major challenges that we faced when opening up Press was not having a reputation or a loyal clientele,” Shawn shares. “We moved to San Diego knowing very few people and had to build our business from the ground up.”

Finding a location, building your brand, and then marketing a new studio to customers takes energy and tenacity. On top of running the business, studio owners often teach heavy schedules of classes, as well.

“I am teaching 30 of the 35 classes we currently offer each week, and will be teaching even more next month until we train more new educators,” Bri says. “It's a lot to juggle! That’s where the real challenge is.”

THE RESPONSIBILITIES

Between the planning and teaching of multiple fitness classes per day, marketing their business, and taking care of their clients and their space, studio owners’ to-do lists are filled to the brim.

It’s necessary to wear multiple hats well to be successful. In one day you can be the CEO, salesperson, marketing team, instructor, and even janitor.

“There's quite a bit of cleaning involved in a typical day,” Bri says. “It's very important to me that my clients have a beautiful, clean space to practice in, and with so many bodies coming in and out every day, that requires a lot of upkeep.”

For Shawn, she balances responsibility with her husband and co-owner of Press, Nick. Collaborating on workouts and switching off teaching helps them get everything done. “When we arrive at Press, Nick usually heads into the workout room and I hit the computer. I like to use this time to work on marketing, social media, and boring business minutiae,” she says. “After Nick teaches his classes, it’s my turn to shine—or sweat, I've heard it both ways.”

At the end of the day, finding balance is key. Bri stresses the importance of taking care of yourself and your body even on busy days: “Once all of my ‘must do’ items are completed, I do my very best to work out myself in the studio. I always feel like I have a million things to do and it's hard to set aside the time, but I know that if I'm going to be an effective educator, I need to take care of my body, too!” 

I do my very best to work out myself in the studio. I always feel like I have a million things to do and it's hard to set aside the time, but I know that if I'm going to be an effective educator, I need to take care of my body, too! 

THE REWARDS

Most studio owners agree that the best rewards of owning a studio are seeing the successes and transformations of the clients. Many studio owners are often the head educators and instructors as well, working with the goals of their clients on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis.

For Bri, seeing how far her clients have come within the few months Wundabar has been open is inspiring: “I’ve seen clients lose weight, lose inches off their waists, rehabilitate their injuries, improve their mobility and agility, get their bodies back in shape to enjoy activities they love, and simply feel great and strong in their bodies. I love hearing their stories and sharing in their personal achievements.”

The benefits of studio ownership are more than just long-term physical changes, too. Contagious energy and a daily source of inspiration motivates Shawn: “My favorite part of what I do, the moment that really gets me jacked, is during our workouts when I look around the room and see everyone pushing themselves to their physical limits.”

“Being in a room with a group of people who are all working together to achieve their goals is really inspiring,” she says. “I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s an infectious energy that you can't recreate.” 

And studio owners have the opportunity to experience this energy daily. 

WHAT DOES IT TAKE?

Establishing a career in the fitness industry, especially as a studio owner, requires more than just a passion for working out and taking care of your body. {Click to tweet} Knowledge of business management and marketing, along with an understanding of the human body and any necessary educator certifications, are fundamental to building your own business in this rigorous industry. 

If you’re ready to take on the challenge, Bri offers this sound advice: “Learn to wear different hats and learn to wear them well. Be motivating and inspiring when you are teaching, be engaging and compassionate when you are interacting with your clients, be informative and animated when you are promoting what you do, be powerful and direct when you are making business decisions, and do your best to forget it all and be a human being when you go home at night.”

Be motivating and inspiring when you are teaching, be engaging and compassionate when you are interacting with your clients, be informative and animated when you are promoting what you do, be powerful and direct when you are making business decisions, and do your best to forget it all and be a human being when you go home at night.

It’s also important to focus on your strengths when deciding to take the leap.

“Make sure you understand your unique value proposition. Ask yourself, where do you fit in to the larger fitness community?” Shawn advises. “Find what you are good at and try to carve a place for yourself that is unique and special. It may sound like common sense, but by simply focusing on that question will help you communicate your vision and value to your customers.”

While owning a fitness studio takes more than sweat, passion, and a closet full of yoga pants, watching and taking part in the transformation of your client’s bodies and health journeys far outweighs the challenges.

“The amount of time and mental energy required to open and run the studio was more than I had expected,” Shawn says. “But, the joy, pride, and love that I have for what I am doing also has exceeded my expectations.”

Lead with your heart, and be willing to get a little sweaty. We can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Related: Dream Job: Travel Writer

Photo: Press Fitness & WundaBar Pilates