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The Free Gym Business Model + Investment Opportunity

This is somewhat off topic.

I have an idea for a Free Gym Business Model that I think has merit. Let me explain how it came about.

Yesterday while I was shopping in Canadian Tire I overheard this woman talking to customers from a display table where she was showing off a new product that got investment from the good folks on Dragons Den.

Meanwhile I have been playing with idea for years of a place similar to a gym called "The Workshop" where people could go to use power tools, welding equipment, etc - things that are too big to fit in their apartment or condo because they live in Downtown Toronto. For all intents and purposes it would be a workshop for people who like woodworking, sculpture, carpentry, welding, etc. It would follow the same basic business model as a gym - technicians instead of personal trainers, welding and carpentry classes instead of yoga and pilates, and people would pay a monthly fee to use the facilities just like you would at a gym.

Listening to the woman at Canadian Tire (who kept mentioning Dragons Den every so often, to the point it was annoying) I continued my shopping... meanwhile my brain was starting to work overtime as I thought of ways people could expand on the investment model. I must admit my thoughts were influenced by the recent Rob Ford Crackstarter campaign.

Amongst my ideas I came up with the concept of what I call "The Gym" - but unlike The Workshop idea, the focus of "The Gym" would be to make a workout place that is FREE to use.

Let me explain this concept.

#1. Don't hire any personal trainers. If personal trainers want to work there, fine. They are free to use the facilities just like they are free to use public parks.

#2. Use crowdfunding / crowdsourcing websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to raise the needed money to buy the building location, renovate it and buy all the exercise equipment.

#3. Part of the location is a protein bar - with 1 staff person who mixes protein shakes and sells them during peak hours of the day. The profits from the protein shake bar go towards buying new equipment, repairs, etc.

#4. Lots of natural lighting from skylights and windows. Cuts down on energy costs for lights.

#5. Equipment is designed to be durable and is basically bolted / welded to the ground so they cannot be stolen.

#6. Donation supported.

#7. Minimal janitorial staff.

#8. Energy drink machines. Powerade, Gatorade, etc.

#9. Showers and lockers are all coin operated.

#10. Buy stationary bicycle equipment and other resistance based exercise equipment that uses generators which feeds into a battery supply for the lights and air conditioning (which is set on low so it uses less energy).

Essentially you follow the premise of "less is more" to create a gym that is essentially free to use, but is donation supported and offers extra services like lockers, showers, protein shake bar, etc for a fee. Similar to how some libraries now have cafes in them so people can read a book while drinking a cappuccino.

When you think about that many gyms out there are charging people $70 to $100 per month (roughly $2.33 to $3.33 per day) and have hundreds of customers who are basically getting ripped off because gyms are overcharging for their services (and stealing from customer bank accounts / credit cards even when you cancel your membership) then the concept of a free gym starts to become a lot more appealing.

Even the YMCA in Toronto has a minimum fee of $47 per month depending on the location and the type of membership.

I should note that some recreation centres do have gyms already - but their hours are weird and not very convenient. And they do charge a fee for using their facilities. See for more details.

Now you might think "Hey, you said this was a business model?!"

Yes, I did call it that. The reason why is because I think a so-called free gym still has the potential to turn a profit. Especially if you are the personal trainer who gets the ball rolling, starts a Kickstarter campaign, buys the building, gets all the equipment, etc... and then the gym is just there. And you are the personal trainer who is there all the time, offering your services.

If worse comes to worse you start charging a $2 daily fee for people to use the building - It would still be better than the gyms who are overcharging people and making millions in profits because then people are only paying for the days they actually use the facilities.

Speaking for myself I am busy expanding my personal training business right now, so I am not going to be opening a free gym any time soon. But I wanted to write this idea down for the future in the case I ever want to open my "dojo". (I don't want to open a normal gym for the general public. I want a private dojo for personal training sessions where I can also teach archery, boxing, etc. The reason is because some clients feel more comfortable working out in a setting where other people cannot watch them exercising.)


Earlier today I created a new page on asking for investors in my personal training business. You can read about the details of how I am intending to do it, as I am using an unusual crowdfunding approach to getting investors. If you are familiar with Indiegogo or Kickstarter you might think this idea has merit.

You can read about my crowdfunding or "crowd shares" approach to investments by clicking investment opportunity. Feel free to post comments on the idea.

So far I already have three friends who have agreed to become my first investors. My goal is to reach $50,000 so I can expand my business.

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