Why the Jungle Brothers didn't seek refuge under the umbrella of an Affiliate or Franchise.
Opening a first time start up business in Sydney is always risky. Opening a start up gym in this current climate without the support of an international affiliate or franchise is high risk and in many cases a business death wish.
Sydney’s Fitness History
10 years ago, you either trained in your local body building gym or if you were a little more affluent, fitness first. Times have changed.
In my opinion, the Franchise and Affiliate are the sole reason why we have the variety of specialist gyms we have today. The first wave of crossfit affiliates and 24hr gyms were made up of a bunch of savvy individuals that banded together and broke the stranglehold large corporations such as fitness first once had on our industry. They were brave enough to risk taking on the big hitters creating space for the small business owner. Without them, outfits like ours wouldn’t exist today.
Yet, with every neighborhood sporting a multitude of training facilities ranging from 24hr globo’s to high end athletic performance centres, even the industry giants are feeling the squeeze of a flooded market.
We live in the age of information. At the touch of a button, you can read or watch all the latest trends, surveys, tests, theory and demonstrations just by reaching into your pocket and pulling out your smart phone.
You would think having access to vast amounts of information at the touch of a button would level the playing field, giving the humble start up the knowledge to define themselves by creating their own identity. Not so. The general population have access to the same information. Members are more informed than ever and with an abundance of choice in an undercutting flooded industry, unlike 10 years ago, the market ball is in the member’s court.
The illusion of safety in numbers
It is understandable that business owners in the fitness industry are paying large sums of money to affiliate or franchise under the one umbrella. They become connected to a platform of like minded individuals that share the latest information relevant to their product, support one another against negative scrutiny, have marketing strategies equivalent to their larger more established competitors, and above all, get instant brand recognition.
The problem is, once you affiliate or franchise, you’re boxed in. People that seek out your services expect a specific style of exercise prescription. Which is fine, until what your sporting goes out of vogue and people start avoiding your business because they expect a specific style of exercise prescription.
By becoming a franchise or affiliate, you hand over your baby to an HQ somewhere far far away and if some day they choose a path your members are no longer interested in taking, you lose your ability to adapt and evolve.
Why we chose “the harder path”
To stand out in one of the most competitive industries in Sydney, for us, the key is not to be the BEST. There are already too many businesses squabbling over that position. The key is to be different. Watch the competition, acknowledge the trends and do the opposite. Look for stimulus outside of the conventional lines of exercise application and gather inspiration from other industries of movement.
Dance, martial arts, parkour, rock climbing, entertainment.. The list goes on and on. The finished product? Something unrecognizable to its competitors so much so, it would be impossible for the standard gym owner to replicate. We, at Jungle Brother’s, accrue creativity. A tool very few gym owners have the courage, ability or freedom to use.
The great thing about standing on our own two feet without an external bolster is that nobody can tell us what is “right” or “wrong” and we do not have to rely on an HQ or video download to tell us what we’re planning to teach our tribe that week. We choose our language, our logos, our collaborators, our ethos and in turn, we choose the direction of our evolution.
Smooth seas make bad sailors
Make no mistake, this is by no means an easy path. To survive in the fitness industry today as a start up gym without seeking refuge under the umbrella of an affiliate or franchise, you need to have more than a six pack, bum-chin and an education in “sports science” . You need drive, experience, creativity, discipline, confidence and above all, courage to speak out and express an opinion that differs from the status quo.
Myself, Paul and Joe, the directors of Jungle Brothers Strength and Movement do not survive in this flooded market.. We THRIVE.
Author: Teora Ward
Jungle Brothers Strength and Movement.