Like many who have been bitten by the CrossFit bug, I would love to open and run my own box someday. Over the past year I’ve been researching the costs and options for becoming a CrossFit affiliate. Besides the monetary costs (to be covered in a future post), I would like to share some of the things one should consider before opening a box.
1. Do it for the love: This should apply to most things in life, but especially if you are going to put your blood, sweat, tears and equity into opening a box. I was laid off from my job in finance in early 2012, and it was a blessing in disguise. Along with the worries and stress of “OMG! I don’t have a steady job anymore” came the clarity of realizing I wasn’t really about the work I was doing anyway. Sure, it paid my bills and some of the people were nice enough to work with, but was I really happy there? There was not much room for creativity and definitely even less room for fun and fitness, things I love and value about life. And when I think back about those days in my cubicle, what kept me going most of the time was knowing at the end of the day I would rush onto the subway and get to a class at Crossfit Virtuosity (“CFV”), hopefully on time, so I wouldn’t have to do the 20 burpee penalty for being late. Since I’ve been laid off, I have been able to refocus on things I really want to do with my life such as train people in CrossFit and learn some computer programming. You can read more about my programming path in some of my earlier posts.
2. Get certified, ASAP: A CrossFit Level 1 trainer certification is required if you want to open an affiliate, and the courses sell out very quickly. Trust me… I had been considering getting my certification since late 2011. “Should I get it?” “Isn’t $1,000 a lot of money to get certified?” I kept putting it off. Every time I saw the cert offered at a gym convenient to me, I would think about it for a day or two and by the time I went back to sign up, it would be sold out. If you are considering it and have the money, Just Do It! (Sorry Reebok). I (finally) received my CrossFit Level 1 trainer certification in October 2012, and recently started assisting coaching at CFV.
3. Locale and locals: Know about the area where you want to open up your box, and understand the demographics of the surrounding area so you can appropriately structure and price your classes.
I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about monetary costs but rent will likely to be your largest long-term expense so I thought it was worth mentioning. Your cost per square foot will depend on the location (basic real estate rules apply). A good knowledge of the neighborhood and surrounding area, as well as a good real estate agent, will help in choosing a location. While its nice to have a high-traffic location on a busy street corner, you may be able to get a larger space for less money if you can find a place a little off the beaten path. Also, if you focus on being a great trainer, people will find you no matter where you are.
Keep in mind, there are no rules to keep another competitor, be it another CrossFit affiliate or a globo gym, from opening up across the street from you. That said, if you have a good product and good community, people will find you by word of mouth or via the Internet.
4. Nothing wrong with starting small: You don’t have to start with a 5,000 square foot gym equipped with a Rogue rig and Eleiko Olympic Powerlifting set. You may want to or be able to but you don’t have to. Lots of people that open a box start small, often either in their garage, backyard or at a local park.
Also, make sure you have some experience as a trainer or partner up with someone who does. To get more experience as a trainer, I started training family and friends (usually for free or trade) in their homes and nearby parks, since I do not have access to a garage, working with the limited equipment I own. You will be amazed by the workouts you can perform with a couple of kettle bells, jump ropes and the person’s body weight.
5. Build community, not just bodies: The community is key to the CrossFit movement, as well as the lifeblood to an affiliate. CrossFit believes that “the fun is in the community”, and I agree with that wholeheartedly. The people I have met during my two years of CrossFit have been some of the most inspirational, genuine and down-to-earth people I have ever met. Nothing bonds people faster than suffering through a WOD together! Get to know other CrossFitters in your area, volunteer at events, reach out to other box owners in your area and plan some competitions or seminars together. Love and treat the community with respect and people will keep coming back for more of that good old CrossFit pain and suffering.
If you want to learn more about the business side before opening a box, offer to volunteer at your local box to see more about how things work behind the scenes. In addition to coaching, I work at the front desk at CFV a few hours a week in exchange for free membership. A sweet deal if you can get it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask affiliate owners about their experiences. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much box owners and business people are willing to share with you. I’ve learned a lot by picking the brains of people who are already running boxes or are in the process of opening one. The actual cost and numbers of starting up an affiliate is another topic in itself. I plan to get more into the specifics of what that entails in a later post but until then, there is tons of information on the Web. Google is your friend. Bottom line, know and love what you are getting into.