Opening your own fitness studio is a complicated and challenging task. To be successful, you must consider everything from start-up costs to monthly overhead to equipment maintenance and building space. Before you consider embarking on this build-it-yourself business venture, review some of the events that can derail the success of any start-up studio.

Unclear Vision or Mission

It might seem to be enough to say you plan to open a studio where patrons can participate in fitness activities. But that isn’t specific or sufficiently laser-focused to communicate to your anticipated audience what you will have to offer that other studios or entities do not already offer. You must captivate your audience and offer something unique, affordable, and interesting so that your consumers are drawn to the services you plan to provide. Many start-ups begin with a general vision, but don’t take the time to revise that vision to make it detailed and specific so that consumers know exactly what to expect. Part of owning a business is knowing why you own that business and to be able to answer the question many consumers will ask: “What’s in it for me?”

Lack of Business Basics

It isn’t enough to simply be passionate about fitness; you must also develop a passion for the business side of fitness. Owning a studio is business and to make a business thrive, basic knowledge is necessary. Running a studio requires budgeting, strategic planning, staffing and payroll (if you’re employing others), taxes, overhead expenses, equipment maintenance and procurement, continuing education expenses, etc. And, don’t forget to pay yourself! As the owner, you must also take a salary. Fitness professionals are experts in health and fitness -not necessarily in business. It would behoove any entrepreneur to take a basic business fundamentals course before opening a start-up.

Missing Market Research

Market research is a component of any solid business plan. The biggest misstep would be to open a studio without first researching demographics, the location, and the competitors or like-businesses in the immediate vicinity. For a business to be successful, it must have loyal consumers paying for the available services. Without conducting primary market research, a business is sure to flounder.

Underdeveloped Management Skills

There is a significant administrative component to owning and operating a business – any business. Not everyone was born to be an administrator; however, developing some management skills is critical for a business to survive and thrive. Without skills in staffing, supervising, mentoring, budgeting, and scheduling, a business will serve nothing but chaos.

Failure to Grow and Change

Change is hard, but so is becoming too comfortable in what you’re offering your clientele. As a business establishes roots and nurtures its clients, it must also continually work to respond to changing needs and interests. This is where a strategic plan is helpful in guiding and informing potential changes and areas of opportunity upon which business owners can capitalize.

Lack of Digital Presence

A thoughtfully designed and user-friendly website is critical for consistent marketing and promotion. When budgeting for a start-up, be sure to include money to hire a graphic designer and/or website developer to create a professional logo and website. This becomes part of your business’s branding and makes promotion consistent. Consistency builds credibility.

Capital Shortage

Capital is the life force of your business. Failing to include enough capital will ensure an early closure of your studio. It’s critical to thoroughly research start-up costs involved with opening a studio so that you have the required funds to not only open the doors but to absorb potential losses.

Inattention to Marketing. All businesses need marketing strategies. Opening a studio with a “build it and they will come” mentality will not sustain the business for long or ensure long-term success. Take the time to plan promotional efforts and set aside a sizeable marketing budget. Work to capitalize on social media and other free forms of promotion to supplement paid marketing efforts.

Lack of a Seller’s Vision. Like it or not, owning a studio requires memberships and customers, so it comes down to sales. If you do not have the affinity or talent for sales, get someone on your team who does and who has the ability to direct membership sales. The studio won’t sell itself.

Poor Customer Service. Customers remain loyal to places that treat them well, prioritize their needs, and take their feedback to heart. How you interact with, recruit, and retain your members will make or break your business. This is not to say that the “customer is always right” because let’s be honest – that’s not always true – BUT the business owner who loves his or her customers will always win.

Start-ups can fail for one big reason or, like death by a thousand cuts, a combination of factors. Before you hang a sign advertising your new studio, allow yourself time to perform the necessary research and planning to give your business the best head start possible…and avoid these 10 missteps.

Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at