Success Story: UpFit Training Academy
If you’re working in a field you love, what would inspire you to leave your job to start a new venture?
For Wes Chow and Paul Park, co-founders and co-owners of UpFit Training Academy, it was a shared belief that they could offer something that was overlooked in the fitness industry: Affordable, results-oriented and fun small-group training classes targeted to young professionals.
To meet that need, they opened UpFit.
Located in midtown Manhattan, this boutique gym provides clients with the benefits of personal training and the affordability of small-group classes, along with healthy competition and camaraderie. Wes and Paul started UpFit in 2018 and moved to their new location in January 2019. In just six weeks, their clientele has grown by nearly 50% and they anticipate achieving membership goals by summer.
These longtime friends found a niche and are building a business that’s on the path to stellar growth, and they recently shared the story behind their successful partnership.
Find an unmet need in an industry that you enjoy
Both Wes and Paul have many years of fitness-industry experience and they’ve worked as personal trainers and coaches within other organizations and privately.
“We’ve been friends since junior high school and we both always enjoyed fitness and training,” says Paul. “We’ve done one-on-one and group training in a lot of different settings, locally and around the world. But we noticed that the needs of a specific target market weren’t met by typical personal-training sessions or in gyms. That’s when Wes suggested that we partner on a business.”
Wes continues, “We knew we had a great idea, but it didn’t make sense to use it to build up someone else’s business.” With the passion they have for their work, their experience in the industry, an existing and loyal clientele and a great balance of skills, Wes and Paul are well-positioned to excel. “We feel strongly that between us, we have what it takes to grow a successful business.”
Identify team strengths and what to outsource
Paul explains, “Wes really enjoys and excels at the operational aspects and is always looking for ways to make our work more effective and efficient, while creating the best client experience. My interests are definitely more in the hands-on training realm: creating small-group classes, experimenting with different types of equipment and developing fitness routines and goals.”
Paul and Wes are UpFit’s two full-time staff and they’ll soon hire additional trainers. They manage staff costs by leaning into their own strength, and outsourcing support roles, such as bookkeeping and a virtual assistant.
Create a detailed plan for growth
Having outgrown their former space, Wes and Paul looked for funding that would help them secure the right location in midtown Manhattan, an area known for its expensive real estate. They learned about New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC) through a bank representative familiar with NYBDC’s small business programs.
“Our NYBDC representative really took the time to understand our business and what we needed, and he helped us figure out how much financing it would take,” explains Wes in regard to the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan they obtained. “It was challenging because we were a new business, so we didn’t have years of financials to show, and it’s hard for most banks to fund startups. We spent a lot of time on our business plan and our NYBDC rep worked with us to hone it further, so we had a really solid story to tell and that made a big difference in the way our idea was perceived.”
Wes continues, “Our NYBDC representative also helped facilitate the SBA process, which was intense but worthwhile. We got the funding we needed, we’re proving our business model and we’re excited to serve our clients and grow.”
With a new location that includes a great mix of space, foot traffic and target clientele, their SBA loan enabled them to hire an architect and renovate the space, get the legal and accounting assistance they needed and equip the gym.
“Right now, we’re looking at this stage as proof of concept, in which we’re establishing the best practices, processes and offerings. Down the line, we’d certainly consider opening additional locations, as long as we’re as certain about moving ahead as we were with opening this one,” says Wes.
Offer something that exceeds expectations on every level
Their plan for success is encapsulated in UpFit’s mission: To be the most people-focused fitness company in the industry, dedicated to empowering the modern individual.
“We have some key competitive advantages,” says Wes. “Although our primary competitors are other group-fitness boutique studios, most don’t cater to individuals or create personalized experiences with feedback, coaching and positive changes. UpFit is the best of all worlds: The affordability of small-group classes, with individual coaching and results.”
The mission also reflects the passion and commitment that drove Paul and Wes to take a chance as entrepreneurs and it’s proving to be a hit in the highly competitive and potentially lucrative fitness industry.
And with funding in hand and an enthusiastic following, their goals for growth grow closer every day.