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Running a CrossFit Facility Tips and guidance on how to open and operate a CrossFit gym.

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Old 07-23-2009, 12:31 PM   #1
Alec Hanson
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So you want to start a Garage Gym?

I have gotten several messages asking me about how my partner and I did what we have done. I decided if this helps anyone, it will be worth it for me. Iíve taken a ton from CrossFit which gives so freely, I am compelled to give back.

My Partner Steve and I started a garage gym at my home over 1 year ago. We started following CrossFit at that time and got deep into this world. I blew out a wall in my garage and opened up all 700 square feet of it. We ripped out the carpet and flooring and put down rubber and we started bringing in new equipment one item at a time.

We got certified in San Diego in July 2007, and affiliated soon after. We published a janky website through iWeb and we were off and running.

1 year from getting certified we now operate a 5,000 square foot facility, with 2 bathrooms, 2 showers, 2 small offices, and kick *** stuff. Itís been a long road, but well worth it. We are hiring trainers and expanding rapidly. We updated our web presence and got lucky with one of our key members being a web designer, photographer, and videographer as well who helps us with our web presence. All in all, we are just getting ready to bust out in a HUGE way.

Below are some basics to help you on your way if this is something you plan to do.

1) Save money. Start now. Things get broken; you need more equipment, etcÖBut donít buy it until you need it. Out grow your stuff, donít over spend and try to grow into it. It will turn into a cash suck. If two or more clients ask or inquire about something, go buy that. For example, after countless people complained about us having no water. I bought a $100 water cooler from Costco. Refilled it with tap water when it got empty and people loved it. And open a business account where you bank and DO NOT mix personal and business stuff. Understand what you are making and what you are spending.

2) More than likely, the city you live in will NOT let you legally run a garage gym. You must confirm this is true or not before starting. Know what you are getting into. If it is illegal you have a choice, donít start a garage gym or break the law. Iím not going to advise you either way.

3) Donít annoy your neighbors (especially if operating under the legal radar). Scout out a suitable parking place away from your street, preferably at a public park. Have your members jog to your gym from there or ride bikes.

4) Start your schedule at normal, non-annoying times in the afternoon if you can. Donít start a 6am class and begin dropping heavy deadlifts. This will **** off your neighbors who will complain to the city, who will then try to shut you down.

5) Be open and honest with your neighbors. Let them know you have a gym where some of your friends come workout. Invite them over. Itís up to you whether or not you charge them, but if itís illegal to run a business I would avoid it. Let them know how important health and fitness is to you and if it does get annoying to them, encourage them to come tell you to shut up. Give them your cell phone and have it near you during the workouts. Do whatever you can to appease and work with your community, not against it.

6) It is not illegal to have a group of people over to your home to workout in your gym. The only thing that is illegal there is if you are breaking noise ordinances with loud music or loud weight dropping noises.

Here is a personal example again.

We outgrew our 6:30pm class (which was the first class we opened) and started a 6pm and 7pm class. We made our members part very far away. Most rode their bikes. After 2-3 months we ****ed off one neighbor so much, I could not longer appease and apologize to him. It might have been when I had one of our guys flip a 300# tire I found in a gully, up and down the alley behind all our houses. Anyway, he called the city. They called me and told me it was not allowed for me to run a gym. I said I did not know about that and pleaded ignorance. I told him I would stop immediately. And we did. I took the costs off the website and made it 100% free for the next 3 months as Steve and I searched vehemently for a new box.

How did we make it work with no revenue?

We made a gym fund and asked for monthly donations. Every single one of our members supported us. And we grew like wildfire!

Now to be honest, I thought I was doing what I could to get around the legal issues. It turns out if this had been escalated to a judge to get me to stop and I tried to hide behind the idea that I was not charging dues, but rather accepting donations, I would probably have lost.

It never came to that, we found the right box, negotiated a killer lease, and the rest is history. We started an S-Corp, got legal counsel, established a relationship with Mindbody and Constant Contact, we are continually revising and improving our business and marketing plan. We are relentless. If you can pursue CrossFit as a business with the intensity that you pursue CrossFit as a workout, nothing can stop you.

Now I know I glanced over a lot here. My partner and I both had others jobs when we started so we could pay the bills. We worked 12-14 hour days. I still work my other job and have no plan to stop. Steve runs our location full time. We have a killer compensation structure and partnership and compliment each others strengths and weaknesses.

I figured this info would be a good way for people to start thinking strategically of how to start. If you want any info, send me a message or reply here. Iím happy to answer anything you would like to know.

If you are local to me and want to get together, I enjoy beer.

See you in the gym.

-Alec
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Old 07-23-2009, 01:01 PM   #2
Steve Loeding
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

Thanks for the info - it's good to know starting small pays big dividends in the end. I'm starting at a local martial arts studio - not tons of space, nor equipment, but then again many of my potential athletes are new to CrossFit - we can make do with a little and buy as we go. One thing I told my athletes was "This is your gym - tell me how we can make it better" - goes right with what you were saying.

congrats and I wish you continued success
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Old 07-23-2009, 01:04 PM   #3
Robert Kikuchi
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

Awesome Alec! Thanks for the advice. So far I'm doing the "under the radar" garage gym approach. Luckily my neighbors are super cool and think what I am doing is a good thing
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Old 07-23-2009, 01:36 PM   #4
Sam Ser
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

very cool!

thanks for this.
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Old 07-23-2009, 02:35 PM   #5
Matt Haxmeier
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

I'm a bit curious how you grew your clientele while staying under the radar. That seems difficult. Was it just word of mouth or what?
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Old 07-23-2009, 03:04 PM   #6
Alec Hanson
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

You are welcome guys.

@Matt Haxmeier - After affiliating we got hits from the mainsite affiliate page, google searches, and definitely by word of mouth. I won't lie, I wear a CrossFit shirt 95% of the time I'm off work. I post on facebook, twitter, and youtube about it as well.

Hell, it changed my life. I'm fitter than I ever was even when playing Volleyball at UC Berkeley. Gotta love it!
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Old 07-23-2009, 04:15 PM   #7
Ryan Hoegner
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

Alec,

Congrats. Aaron always had, and still has, nothing but excellent things to say about you guys. I want to stop by and checkout your "thunderdome" sooner or later.

Ryan
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Old 07-24-2009, 08:32 AM   #8
Matt Charney
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

Alec, Thanks again for the ride in the back of your truck! You should send me the pics your buddy took.

Thanks for this post also.

I do plan to make it down to your gym soon. You like beer, what is your opinion on tequila, good tequila?
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Old 07-24-2009, 09:24 AM   #9
Ryan Hoegner
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.
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Old 07-24-2009, 10:01 AM   #10
Alec Hanson
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Re: So you want to start a Garage Gym?

@Matt Charney - Patron Silver and I'll see if I can find the pics.
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