Club Pilates, Rapid Growth
By Stephanie Crets
Getting motivated to go to the gym can be an ongoing struggle for many people, but Club Pilates makes the experience fun and engaging. With more than 50 group classes to choose from every week in a state-of-the art facility and private training studio, members won’t get bored with the variety offered to challenge them at every level.
“What we do is vastly different from any other Pilates studio out there,” President Shaun Grove says. “We’ve created these facilities that are really best-in-class in terms of instruction we provide, equipment in the studios and facilities and how they look. We offer everything at a value price, vastly less expensive than what you’ll find at other studios.”
Every 1,500-2,000-square-foot studio accommodates 300 to 350 members. They are assisted and taught by instructors who each have more than 500 hours of comprehensive training before becoming certified at the highest level of Pilates competency. “Our members expect a high-quality Pilates class, provided by a very educated instructor in a very controlled and friendly fitness atmosphere,” Grove notes.
One of the hurdles the company has to overcome is encouraging more men to try Pilates and become members. Although former boxer and wrestler Joseph Pilates created the Pilates method in an effort to help rehabilitate World War II veterans, Pilates has traditionally been seen as a female-oriented workout. And it really took off because his studio was across from the New York Ballet Dance Company, so many female dancers and models began incorporating it into their routines and workouts.
“But it has benefits that are far-reaching for men and women of all ages,” Grove argues. “We’re trying to make Pilates more accessible for everyone and trying to bring the workout to the masses, so it’s available to so many more people across the country. I had never tried it before Club Pilates, and I’d say you’re missing out if you’ve never tried it.”
Grove notes that he himself had participated in more traditional types of workouts for men, like lifting weights, boxing and kickboxing. “They’re great but very high impact, which takes a toll,” he says. “I found that adding Pilates every other day really counteracts those negative effects from the other workouts, and I get just as good of a workout with Pilates because it’s low impact and so beneficial to your core, balance and spine structure.”
Club Pilates sets itself apart from other traditional gyms or studios through its franchising efforts. Club Pilates began franchising in 2012. Club Pilates now has 400 locations sold across 29 states and is growing rapidly, selling 40 to 50 new units per month with no sign of slowing down.
Pilates Instructor Alison Beardsley founded Club Pilates in 2007, and she sold the business to LAG Fit, Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based franchise development firm, in March 2015. Grove, who has been in the franchising business for more than 15 years as an attorney, a franchisor and a franchisee for LA Boxing and UFC Gym, came on board as president when the new owner, Anthony Geisler, saw the opportunity in it.
“Alison did a great job building up the franchise business but she didn’t have the experience or infrastructure to support it,” Grove explains. “We brought over many talented people from our previous concept and developed the backbone of the business, then started selling franchises. We spent the first eight moths just developing the concept, putting support people in place and developing the model. Once we did that, it really took off.”
Named No. 31 of 2016’s Top New Franchises by Entrepreneur, Club Pilates provides a great franchise business to dive into through fitness – an industry that’s not going anywhere. “With membership EFT structure, there’s recurring revenue you will not find in other business concepts,” Grove says. “Health and wellness offers satisfaction over and above the profit you’re making. You’re providing a product and service that helps to enhance people’s lives.”
Club Pilates looks for franchisee candidates with not only a business background or experience working for a large company, but also those who fit culturally within the company. The company promotes an accepting, inclusive and family environment. When it brings a new person on board, that franchisee becomes part of the Club Pilates family.
“We do a ‘discovery day’ at our corporate office once a month, where we’ll bring 24 to 40 people in and there’s not one that’s gone by where we haven’t rejected at least one or two people because they’re not the right fit culturally or don’t have the business acumen it takes to be successful,” Grove explains. “The two days we spend with prospective franchisees are crucial to understanding their personality and goals.
“We expect franchisees to work together in markets, put together cooperative marketing arrangements and generally help each other to be successful. On the studio level, it’s about creating an environment that is accepting and inclusive for all and bringing Pilates to the masses to bring as many people into this type of workout as we can.”
Once a franchisee is selected to join the Club Pilates family, he or she begins a robust onboarding program. This includes assistance in selecting the proper real estate for the franchisee’s market; financial assistance in dealing with equipment costs; site-build support that includes construction, interior design and on-site security and technology; marketing support; recruitment assistance; and comprehensive training on all facets of the business. Franchisees are also given access to the Club Pilates infrastructure, which is the communication hub between the corporate office and franchisees.
Once the new studio opens – only a six-month process once a franchisee is brought on board – franchisees receive ongoing support for sustained marketing, sales and operations. Additionally, Club Pilates holds weekly and monthly sales and marketing calls for all franchises and hosts an annual franchisee convention so everyone can meet, mingle and share best practices.
“We’ve developed a really strong company infrastructure that’s allowed us to have this level of growth, to sustain the growth and manage the growth,” Grove says. “I’m really proud of the team we’ve put together and what we’ve been able to create. The way it’s taking shape is really fun and amazing to watch.”
Club Pilates’ goal now is to try to sell out all the major U.S. markets, and then look to international expansion. Grove believes the company will be selling master franchise arrangements internationally in 2017 and 2018 and will likely have 750 to 800 locations sold in the United States by the end of 2017, with nearly 400 studios open.
“I’m really looking forward to getting these studios open, traveling around the country and visiting them all,” Grove says. “That’s one of the most fun things about franchising – when you can grow the system and see it take form. It’s one thing to have these territories sold but it’s another to visit the open studios and walk their floors. I’m excited to see it all come together. What we’re doing with Club Pilates isn’t a fad. Either you really love it or you’ve never done it before. Pilates is a type of workout that once you get into it, you’re hooked.”