It is known that 80 per cent of all new start-up businesses fail within two years and 55 per cent of all small businesses in the UK don’t grow big enough to hit the VAT threshold. The fitness industry is no different, with countless entrepreneurs searching for a way to break into this extremely crowded market and build a successful brand. Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) training is helping many studios find that innovative and stand-out method to help them take off.
This effective product can be a firm foundation of building a great business. We spoke to Constantin Hampe, CEO at Surge Fitness – the first EMS boutique studio in London – and Mark Holland, master franchisor for Bodystreet – the most prolific EMS Global franchise – to understand more about how they grew their respective, successful EMS businesses.
Surge Fitness – Boutique fitness solution
Surge Fitness set up in June 2017, becoming the first EMS boutique studio in London. Since then, it has seen growth and increases in incremental revenue. Based on this success, it is now looking to expand throughout the country with new locations over the coming year.
“EMS training is the perfect fitness solution for a boutique studio offering. Sold in 20-minute sessions, you are able to train a huge number of clients throughout the day, offering a scientifically-backed, progressive workout to help them reach their goals,” says Hampe.
“The key to our success has been through developing a quality-assured service which members value, respect and love. We provide ongoing training for all our staff, ensuring they are up to date with the latest training methods, techniques and education. We only offer EMS at Surge, so we have to be experts in that field, consistently delivering training in line with the highest standards. We also ensure every member feels welcome, providing access to large changing room facilities, complementary towels and beauty products, free water and training kit. We know how limited people are on time, so we make it as easy for them as possible to get in, work hard and enjoy their session in a timely manner.”
"EMS lends itself to a wide demographic – from professionals looking for a time-efficient workout, to mums wanting to tone up and squeeze in a session, as well as older adults hoping to reduce sarcopenia and improve their posture and athletes seeking performance enhancement. EMS has enabled us to open our doors to a huge variety of individuals that other training methods would not allow for. Also key to tapping into this diverse market was our choice of location, which needed to put us in striking distance of all these people at once. Hammersmith has been perfect for that.
"The set up of our studio has also played an important role too. Our venue is open plan, with large glass windows so passers-by and other members can look inside and see each other training. EMS is very unique and most people have no prior knowledge of it, so it often sparks questions from people wanting to know more. This allows us to capitalise on footfall in the area and we make sure to take advantage of this initial intrigue by offering a free first training session. Our retention rates are extremely high, so it clearly works.
"We appreciate there can be an element of intimidation when it comes to any form of fitness, but particularly EMS. That’s why we’ve worked hard to build a community at Surge, whereby members feel comfortable training next to each other, celebrate each other’s successes and help to raise the profile of EMS through word of mouth. We highlight member wins on our social channels, championing them and making them feel valued and proud of their achievements, whilst at the same time showcasing the effectiveness of EMS.
"Such is the success we’ve seen over the past two years, that we're currently in the process of finding new sites to expand further throughout London and the rest of the UK. Each new studio will offer the same luxury experience, on top of the high-quality training service. We want Surge to be associated with quality, making members feel valued no matter the location they walk into.”
Bodystreet – A Franchised model
Global EMS market leaders Bodystreet successfully use franchising to help franchises launch and grow their own business. With financial backing, business support and pre-prepared marketing materials, the brand has so far helped owners to open eight locations in the UK and is on track for 12 by the end of the year.
Mark Holland explains, “At Bodystreet, we’ve proven how successful a franchised model can be. We’ve grown consistently month-on-month, with membership increasing by 25 per cent in January 2019 alone. It’s not just the fact that EMS training works and gets results, but the business model is set up to ensure success. Every potential client that walks through one of our studio doors knows exactly the level of quality they will receive, with a degree of service they can expect.
"In a traditional business set up, it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made in the developmental stages. Franchising comes into its own here as you are following a well walked path, where everything has been done before. The common mistakes of business ownership have been learned; easing your own journey.
"Franchising ensures mutual benefits for both parties – franchisee and franchisor – as each has a vested interest in the studio’s success. You can draw upon each side’s strengths and knowledge. For example, Bodystreet has key target cities we are looking to open a studio in – like Leeds, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester – and we can use the knowledge of local trainers in these areas to understand the best locations for our target demographic, to set up in. Equally, prospective owners can come to us, looking to feed from our knowledge of setting up a studio; short cutting their own learning process. If they can show a passion for the brand and the desire to bring EMS to their market, we would love to have them on board.
"Once part of the team, we help the studio to write a business plan, find the right members of staff, offer and launch marketing collateral, monitor growth and set benchmarks to ensure success. Our franchisees are able to access bulk discounts on fit out costs, nutrition supplements and consumables at better prices than it would do to set up alone. We make setting up a business manageable and affordable. It’s no wonder over 95 per cent* of all franchises are successful.
“The proof is in the pudding. Bodystreet launched with a single micro-studio in Munich in Germany in 2007 and since then has grown exponentially with membership levels almost double those of standalone models. With our experience and knowledge of the sector, our goal is to have 200 studios by 2025 in the UK alone. We welcome anyone who is keen to be part of that journey and development to get in touch!”
Breadth of opportunity
Such is the success that many owners have seen with EMS, the market is continuing to expand. More oversees players are looking to delve into the UK market, such as the EMS BodyPOWER franchise from Denmark, and BIONIC, the Swiss EMS franchise, hoping to capitalise on the potential for growth. This is an exciting time for the EMS sector and as the market grows, there's no time like the present to get on board.
*Source Nat West British Franchise Survey