Starting a KB gym/business

conor78

More than 500 posts
Certified Instructor
Has anyone turned their passion for kettlebells into a business. Most of the gyms/PT where I live are either bootcamp, commercial gyms or body buidling gyms. I have a big garage at the side of the house and it's only after speaking to someone that I have considered getting into teachig kettlebells. I'm planning to get certified this year and there are no SFG s here as well so it could be an opportunity. Gaelic football is a sort of hybrid between soccer and rugby and I can see the potential for integrating kb into S and Conditioning for this sport.
 

conor78

More than 500 posts
Certified Instructor
Hi Steve,
Thanks for that. I work as a teacher so it's a pretty solid job etc, I don't think I'd consider giving it up..but I like the idea of doing a bit of coaching in some capacity most likely working with sports teams as that's myour background.
Do you do any coaching yourself Steve??
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Do you do any coaching yourself, Steve??
Yes, I do, but not much, typically a few people each week.

When I got my first Pavel cert, I also got an NSCA-CPT and I started working part-time at my local YMCA, and also offered half-day kettlebell workshops there several times a year.

I don't advertise at all, and it's all in my basement gym.

My basement gym is, however, if I do say so myself, is pretty full-featured for a strength athlete - lots of kettlebells (I guessed 25; my wife guessed 50), bars (several standard Oly/PL, an Okie DL bar, a Texas power bar, a custom-made hip lift bar, a 2" bar, a 5' and a 6' bar), and plates (well over 1k pounds, I'm sure, including some rubber plates), a power rack (which a rich history - it's from an NYC firehouse), squat stands, a couple of benches, a couple of pullup bars, a set of rings, grippers, hip/dip belts. And there's room enough for several people to train simultaneously - we've had 4 at a time pretty comfortably and 5 or 6 at some times. No music (except when my sons are lifting), no posters or anything else on the walls, just me, the cinder block walls, and some iron. And a separate spot elsewhere in the basement reserved for deadlifting - that's where the Okie bar lives. 3/4" x 4' x 6' rubber mats over everything, several apple boxes and sheets of 3/4" plywood in various sizes for elevated ab wheel rollouts, doing deficit DL's, etc. The basement gym has a 9' ceiling so there's plenty of room for overhead lifting.

I've done some long-distance coaching as well. I very much enjoy coaching - if anyone's interested, please be in touch!

-S-
 

conor78

More than 500 posts
Certified Instructor
Sounds like my kind of set up Steve, though the no music policy I might struggle with:))
You have everything you would ever need...
 

Geoff Chafe

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@Steve Freides Sounds like a Cellar Dweller's dream. Awesome. I have a nice setup also, going to a gym does not compare. I tried a commercial gym, for a change, and to be around other humans. I lasted for my one month trial.

I have six of those heavy gym mats. I really want to do the rest of my basement floor in them. Those mats are 100lbs each and very awkward. Getting them downstairs was brutal.

My wife is talking about buying a new house, now that we are having kids, but I told here we are never moving again. Moving my gym, now that would be a workout.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
I have six of those heavy gym mats. I really want to do the rest of my basement floor in them. Those mats are 100lbs each and very awkward. Getting them downstairs was brutal.
Yes, they are brutal to move around - I think we were told they weighed 90 lbs. apiece. Cutting them with a mat knife was an exercise all by itself, too.

We acquired ours a few at a time - first, just one from a fitness store for me to deadlift on, then later a second one that I cut down to fit the space I had alongside the first one. Later still, one or two at a time in my main basement gym from a farm store that we'd drive by on the way to visit our families in PA. Probably a dozen of them here now.

-S-
 

Geoff Chafe

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@Steve Freides I bought 3/4"x6'x8' horse stall mats from a farm supply store for $35 each. I wish I had bought enough to do my whole basement. I cannot find them near as cheap anymore.

They are essential to dampen the noise in a home gym.
 
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Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Yours are larger - here, the standard size if 4' x 6'. My memory is that they were all around $40 apiece from the farm store, and twice that from the fitness store.

-S-
 

Kit Meyer

Double-Digit Post Count
I would like to start a kettlebell gym, but I also know that it will be tricky marketing-wise.

Back when I tried making some kettlebell classes for a gym on a military base, this is what I learned…

- 90% of my clients were women. Even when I was first exposed to a kettlebells at a well-established RKC gym, most of the attendees were women. Me being a fit male, I had to be very empathetic to an unfit female. 8 kg might be a toy to me, but for a beginner female, that takes some psyching up. For you guys out there, if you're expecting to lead a testosterone saturated elite class that's preparing the next generation of commandos to play for the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team, you might be disappointed. Women need strength classes too and they might be the majority. So you need to know how to coach women. As a man, it was important to be professional and make a comfortable, welcoming environment.

- Getting people to come in the door is hard. Getting them to come back is even harder. If I saw someone 3 classes in a row, I was over the moon. On the tiny military base of 5000 people, only 2 of them became regulars. I think I had only 30 individuals to try my class. I was only able to attract 0.006% of a population; a population that has fitness as a job requirement. I was doing my class for free.

- There's a gap between knowledge and demand: As fitness enthusiasts/experts, we know that <5 reps with 5 minutes of rest is the best way to gain strength. As a customer that doesn't know, and still assumes that the way to get fit is go on a Calorie Crusade, I would find your class confusing or even worse: BORING. While we scoff the "Sweatin to the Oldies" formula, it still brings in revenue. While we would like people to pick-up swings like jumping jacks, reality doesn't work that way. People need to be sat down and coached. Finding a balance between the Cardio and the Strength Lecture Hall is what I'm working out in my head.

- People hate feeling dumb: StrongFirst/Hard-style will make them feel dumb. Your job as a coach and a businessman is to assure them that they're not as dumb as they feel.

- A gym cannot live on kettlebells alone: This is my thesis if I were to ever start up a gym. I know that there are exceptions (and major kudos to them) but I don't think I could get the courage to make a gym just for kettlebell training unless if someone gave me a facility with zero overhead. Most places I've seen that make it have other programs the same roof like MMA, Crossfit, or Oly/powerlifting.

I would love to be Kettlebell gym owner/coach but I need a solid plan that's more detailed than buying KB sets, lying down mats in a warehouse, and wait for the customers to come in. I need to find a "shtick" that will make people reject the Commercial Gym, the Crossfit gym, the YMCA, and the Dojo, and come to me.
 

offwidth

More than 5000 posts
I had toyed briefly with opening a climbing gym. Albeit, these have much higher start-up costs and overhead than a KB gym. I talked to the owner of a gym about this and paraphrasing he said "if you have enough money to start a climbing gym why wouldn't you invest it in something where you don't have to work like a dog for very little in return?"

I think that all of the points @Kit Meyer brings up are valid concerns in endeavors such as this.

Many commercial climbing gyms (even the very good ones) have to resort to the dreaded 'birthday party' to stay in business.
 

Leroy Forbes

Still New to StrongFirst Forum
Certified Instructor
I would like to start a kettlebell gym, but I also know that it will be tricky marketing-wise.

Back when I tried making some kettlebell classes for a gym on a military base, this is what I learned…

- 90% of my clients were women. Even when I was first exposed to a kettlebells at a well-established RKC gym, most of the attendees were women. Me being a fit male, I had to be very empathetic to an unfit female. 8 kg might be a toy to me, but for a beginner female, that takes some psyching up. For you guys out there, if you're expecting to lead a testosterone saturated elite class that's preparing the next generation of commandos to play for the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team, you might be disappointed. Women need strength classes too and they might be the majority. So you need to know how to coach women. As a man, it was important to be professional and make a comfortable, welcoming environment.

- Getting people to come in the door is hard. Getting them to come back is even harder. If I saw someone 3 classes in a row, I was over the moon. On the tiny military base of 5000 people, only 2 of them became regulars. I think I had only 30 individuals to try my class. I was only able to attract 0.006% of a population; a population that has fitness as a job requirement. I was doing my class for free.

- There's a gap between knowledge and demand: As fitness enthusiasts/experts, we know that <5 reps with 5 minutes of rest is the best way to gain strength. As a customer that doesn't know, and still assumes that the way to get fit is go on a Calorie Crusade, I would find your class confusing or even worse: BORING. While we scoff the "Sweatin to the Oldies" formula, it still brings in revenue. While we would like people to pick-up swings like jumping jacks, reality doesn't work that way. People need to be sat down and coached. Finding a balance between the Cardio and the Strength Lecture Hall is what I'm working out in my head.

- People hate feeling dumb: StrongFirst/Hard-style will make them feel dumb. Your job as a coach and a businessman is to assure them that they're not as dumb as they feel.

- A gym cannot live on kettlebells alone: This is my thesis if I were to ever start up a gym. I know that there are exceptions (and major kudos to them) but I don't think I could get the courage to make a gym just for kettlebell training unless if someone gave me a facility with zero overhead. Most places I've seen that make it have other programs the same roof like MMA, Crossfit, or Oly/powerlifting.

I would love to be Kettlebell gym owner/coach but I need a solid plan that's more detailed than buying KB sets, lying down mats in a warehouse, and wait for the customers to come in. I need to find a "shtick" that will make people reject the Commercial Gym, the Crossfit gym, the YMCA, and the Dojo, and come to me.

Kit this is some good info. I'm currently in the military. For the last 8 months I was training friends for free based on my Youtube kettlebell cert. My classes would get up to 5-6 personnel per session. I finally got serious and recently got my SFG1 and I now want to spread the word to all within a 50mile radius. I offered up my talents to one of the on-base gyms and they took me up on my offer. I'm now set to start teaching small group classes in Mar/Apr for free. I'm optimistic and I don't mind teaching mostly women. At this stage I'm just trying to spread knowledge and create a buzz. I agree with you that there is a lack of knowledge. I'll provide an update after my first group class. More to follow.....
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
My thoughts on it in general;

- on the one hand you are competing with Planet Fitness and like outfits that charge as little as $25/month or less
- on the other competing with upscale clubs that have a cafe/bar, spa services etc, and everything between

You need to pick a niche and market the tar outta yourself if you're going to have a minimalist/specialist set-up. An old buddy of mine does some GS style instruction as a side job - I'd be surprised if he makes much more than the rent on his box, and this in a metro area of about 1 million.

I've wondered if a good business model might not be all relatively minimalist gear, stuff you can put in the trunk of a car at most.

The pitch is you will be taught/coached on how to use all this stuff to best advantage depending on your goals, and the identical gear (best quality you can get your hands on) is for sale on site, as well as a selection of vetted fitness literature. You can keep using the facilities, learn and go your own way, or just come in to buy some gear.

You should offer circuit type high output sessions as well as SF type work as that's what most women are after (and they will be the bulk of the clientele if you're lucky) - they don't want to hear about 5x3 - they want to sweat, lose weight, tone up with sub-max weights. The weighted pipes got a lot of use at the upscale club I trained at, as did the sandbags and medicine balls. Kettlebells barely got used and then only as dead weight for Goblet squats, Cossack squats etc.

I could actually tell which people had been trained by the club staff based on how they worked out and their exercise selection. Straightforward and reasonably effective, and most didn't need the gym anyway except for the wall to bounce medballs off of.

The other way to go is piggie back it with boxing/kickboxing/BJJ etc, but again there is a lot of competition and you're also competing on the quality of your MA/boxing staff.

From my POV it would be tough to compete in a general sense with a lot of the other clubs and boxes locally, that's where the concept of making a space where people come specifically to learn how to train at home but start out in a box environment might be a valid option. No one else wants you to do that except the folks that wholesale equipment. If you hook someone this way they are sure to come back for more instruction, they just might not be staying long.

It would be vital your group classes be well received and the rest rooms spotless.

Interesting topic to be sure, I'd start by stopping at at every club and box locally and make notes of each. There's a lot of stuff that needs to be considered.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
@Steve Freides I bought 3/4"x6'x8' horse stall mats from a farm supply store for $35 each. I wish I had bought enough to do my whole basement. I cannot find them near as cheap anymore.

They are essential to dampen the noise in a home gym.
Revisiting this thread.

@Geoff Chafe, as mentioned previously, some of my mats come from a fitness store and some from a farm supply store. One thing that I've noticed as the years have worn on is that the farm store mats have a textured surface while the fitness store mats are smooth. And I've noticed I've come to prefer, by a lot, actually, standing on the smooth mats and not the textured ones. I lift in my socks most of the time and the difference in foot feedback (proprioception) feels significant - I just don't feel like I can really grab the ground in the same way on the textured surface.

So, for you or for anyone else, have you found that the source, farm store or fitness store, is directly related to the surface texture? And do you notice the difference?

Thanks, everyone.

-S-
 

Anna C

More than 5000 posts
Elite Certified Instructor
Kit this is some good info. I'm currently in the military. For the last 8 months I was training friends for free based on my Youtube kettlebell cert. My classes would get up to 5-6 personnel per session. I finally got serious and recently got my SFG1 and I now want to spread the word to all within a 50mile radius. I offered up my talents to one of the on-base gyms and they took me up on my offer. I'm now set to start teaching small group classes in Mar/Apr for free. I'm optimistic and I don't mind teaching mostly women. At this stage I'm just trying to spread knowledge and create a buzz. I agree with you that there is a lack of knowledge. I'll provide an update after my first group class. More to follow.....
Leroy, I like the sound of your endeavors! Sounds like you're going into it with the right plan and approach. I'm also on a military base and am currently a personal trainer (part time... outside of my desk job hours) at the base gyms as an independent NAF contractor. I've been sucessful in steering 95% of my clients to either barbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight strength training as opposed to standard "personal trainer" type stuff. Feel free to PM me if I can help give you any ideas.

I agree, that is really good input from @Kit Meyer above, though he wrote it a couple of years ago. Wonder how things are going currently.
 

Chrisdavisjr

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@Leroy Forbes Best of luck to you! @North Coast Miller is not exaggerating when he says "market the tar outta yourself,".

My own personal training business failed due to my failure to realise how much of a salesperson I needed to be in order to get anywhere at all.

If you believe strongly in what you're offering, of course, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to sell it, but you've got to hustle.

You probably know this already, but I'd hate for you to find out the hard way like I did.
 

Leroy Forbes

Still New to StrongFirst Forum
Certified Instructor
I really like Allan Thrall. If you are interested in starting a gym, consider this. Making a living form the fitness industry is definitely tough.

@Leroy Forbes Best of luck to you! @North Coast Miller is not exaggerating when he says "market the tar outta yourself,".

My own personal training business failed due to my failure to realise how much of a salesperson I needed to be in order to get anywhere at all.

If you believe strongly in what you're offering, of course, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to sell it, but you've got to hustle.

You probably know this already, but I'd hate for you to find out the hard way like I did.
@Chrisdavisjr thanks for the insight. I would love to hear more about the lessons you learned.
 

Leroy Forbes

Still New to StrongFirst Forum
Certified Instructor
Leroy, I like the sound of your endeavors! Sounds like you're going into it with the right plan and approach. I'm also on a military base and am currently a personal trainer (part time... outside of my desk job hours) at the base gyms as an independent NAF contractor. I've been sucessful in steering 95% of my clients to either barbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight strength training as opposed to standard "personal trainer" type stuff. Feel free to PM me if I can help give you any ideas.

I agree, that is really good input from @Kit Meyer above, though he wrote it a couple of years ago. Wonder how things are going currently.
@Anna C Thanks for the input. I like the fact that you took the CPT approach to steering people towards KB, BB, and BW. I have, acquiring a NSCA-CPT cert as a part of my checklist prior to going all in. Maybe I need to move it forward in the queue so I can take a similar approach. I'm going to take you up on your offer. I'll accept any form of mentorship, advise, or ideas that you have to offer.
 
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