Mixing Business and Fitness - Being a Female Gym Owner

By Benjamin Rhatigan -

At Sarada we are constantly seeking out motivated, inspiring stories of women in fitness who have taken on great challenges and come out successfully on the other side. Being surrounded by female leaders helps us discover new ways of overcoming obstacles and learning from each other. Today we explore some challenges of being the female owner of a fitness center, combining the trials of being a woman in a traditionally male industry, along with the non-gendered issues inherent in being a business owner.

From Fitness to Finance

As with any business owner, it’s often the case that a practitioner in a field recognizes a niche in the market and starts a related entrepreneurial venture. It’s no different for exercise junkies who love their hobby so much that they decide to take it a step further and build a business around it.

There are several ways to get your own gym, some easier than others. You could always start up your own fitness center, though that clearly has a large initial cost. An alternative is to simply purchase a pre-existing space and put your own branding on it, or even easier- buy into a franchise. These latter two options remove substantial barriers to entry, however may come with a reduction in personal branding. If you’re interested, there are any number of ways to find gyms for sale, like on this listing site.

Regardless of how you come to be in charge, there are still plenty of challenges inherent in running a capital-intensive business. If you’re starting your own gym, be prepared to have a large initial expenditure on machines (a basic elliptical can set you back over $500!!), weight rooms, lockers, and other installations. Not to mention insurance, staffing, etc.

There are many resources available to women starting entrepreneurial ventures. A great starting point is your local small business bureau. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Let experts and peers who have been in your shoes before help ease the decision-making process.

fitness woman standing on the tennis court with her hands on her hips with a fierce look on her face

Lady Boss In A Man’s World

As many women leaders are aware, there are still plenty of outdated attitudes towards female bosses. In fact, only 4% of Fortune 500 company CEOs are female, a number we should all find shocking.

Add to that that fitness has traditionally been a male-dominated world (think: grunting lugs lifting massive sets in the free-weight room) and you have additional complications.

That said, attitudes are changing, albeit at a relatively glacial pace.

Check out British businesswoman Rosemary Conley, for example. She got her start running weight loss classes for women in the 1970s, growing her business to multiple franchised gyms, video series, etc. We like Rosemary as a role model because not only did she develop a successful international business, but she did so during a period when there were still even more substantial glass ceilings for women to break through than there are today.

By Women, For Women

Some fitness concepts have gone the route of making the whole process women-oriented.

The Lucille Roberts gym chain is a classic example. Lucille recognized a niche for women interested in having their own fitness community, and opened first a spa in Manhattan, then later expanding to over 50 locations.

This model is often successful because a woman’s fitness needs can deviate from those of men, especially during certain life markers. Menopause, for example, is a transition when a woman’s body changes substantially, and exercise and fitness become extra-important. And let’s not even get started with pregnancy! Apart from these important periods, though, many women simply feel more comfortable in an all-female fitness environment.

Key takeaways:

  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and move your fitness business to the next level. Be the boss!
  • Work to create a personal brand around your exercise product, with a sense of personal agency and direction for the business you’re starting
  • Don’t feel like you have to go it alone- there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started

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