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The Business of CrossFit: Is It for You?

Love CrossFit? Wish you could do it all the time? Wouldn’t it be great to make a LIVING out of doing CrossFit? Well, obviously, some people do…

With its no-holds-barred mix of cardio, weight training, and “real-life” exercises, CrossFit attracts an entirely different breed of exercisers. Its popularity is undeniable: since the first affiliate opened in Santa California in 2001, CrossFit has become a global phenomenon, with over 15,000 locations in 162 countries as of 2018.

The monthly membership price is steep—at least compared to traditional gyms—but Americans are nevertheless joining CrossFit gyms by the thousands. As you might guess, that means owning a CrossFit gym (or “box”) has become a popular business opportunity for many entrepreneurs. For many, it is paying off handsomely. Is it for you? Maybe…but maybe not.

Before jumping headfirst into the fray, you need to be comfortable with the economics of a CrossFit gym. Make sure to do your due-diligence: research and become familiar with important topics how a CrossFit gym operates from a business perspective, the affiliate’s relationship to the corporate office, and the costs of getting started and sustaining the business.

Looking at the Business Model

CrossFit gyms aren’t franchises so much as affiliates. The Corporation charges $3,000 annually to own a gym bearing the CrossFit name and logo…but that’s it. There’s no revenue sharing, which is a plus. On the other hand, you’ll receive almost no corporate marketing support, and you’ll have no territorial rights. That means that in theory a competitor could open a CrossFit gym across the street from yours, and corporate wouldn’t say a word.

Best estimates set your startup costs between $20,000 and $50,000, which includes $1,000 worth of training and your first $3,000 to the corporate office. You won’t need as much equipment as a traditional gym, but what you will need still won’t come cheap. Then you’ll need to start looking at salaries and additional training for your instructors, rent for your facility, utilities, insurance, and marketing, and equipment costs. Obviously, these amounts will vary based on where you’re located and the size of your box.

The Business of Day-to-Day

One thing many potential CrossFit owners fail to consider before becoming an Affiliate is whether they can handle the back end—the business side of things. You may be a kick-ass trainer, but don’t forget that you’ll also be the one in charge of marketing, sales, and bookkeeping—at least until you can afford to hire out.

There’s a lot more here than you might realize. Have you thought about a website? Will you want to hire a pro, or do it yourself through a program like Wix? Will you be the one keeping it current and answering any inquiries?

And what about the financials? Want to accept credit cards? You’ll need a merchant account and a processor. Taking checks? That requires regular trips to the bank (or at least the bank’s website). What about collections? Chargebacks? Bounced checks? All of these take time to deal with.

Income and Profit

Obviously, a lot of work goes into just operating the business—let alone being the lead trainer, as most owners are. Is it worth it?

Well, it certainly can be: most CrossFit gyms that are well-managed turn a profit within the first year. A solid 150 members, each paying a typical monthly fee of $150, equals a monthly revenue of $22,500. No one is going to hand you those members: they require a lot of effort to gain and keep them—but the numbers are realistically attainable. Even after paying salaries (including yours) and expenses, you should still make enough profit to be able to invest back into growing the business.

The most important thing to remember is, you’re doing something you love. No, not keeping records and filing tax reports—that’s just a necessary evil. We’re talking about earning a living helping others, keeping in shape, and having fun. That of itself is worth a lot.