While the pandemic sent most of the fitness industry into intensive care, a few players have thrived. Companies like Peloton and Bowflex that focus on the home exercise market saw wild surges in demand.
In contrast, many big box gyms and boutique fitness studios that rely on members showing up in the flesh were crushed. Even as restrictions eased, many fitness business models couldn’t survive the re-tooling required to put distance between people, constantly clean and keep staff virus-free.
BODY20, a relative newcomer to the fitness franchise industry, not only escaped this fate, but emerged from the worst of the pandemic even stronger than before.
A Revolutionary Concept
When co-founders Chris and Kenzie Pena learned about a tech-based fitness concept that was gaining popularity overseas, they wondered why it was virtually unknown in the US. Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) involves performing a workout while wearing gear that produces deep muscle contractions, achieving in minutes results that take hours in the gym. Both of them fitness enthusiasts and businesspeople, they saw the makings of a big opportunity.
In 2017, they began to develop a proprietary “timecondensed technology training” protocol based on EMS. They introduced BODY20 to the US market, confident that it was a scalable, breakthrough idea that would stand apart from the me-too brands cluttering the industry.
BODY20 members take part in 20-minute one-on-one sessions with a trainer. During a single 20-minute session, the member experiences 100 times the muscle contractions they would in a one-and-ahalf- hour gym workout, producing quick and measurable results.
The concept has proven to have broad appeal, and it’s easy to see why. One of the BODY20 mantras is “Fitness Equality.” They believe every body is entitled to feel great. Since it’s fast, low-impact and virtually injury-proof, it appeals to the time-crunched and is accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels. A core BODY20 belief is that getting in shape shouldn’t hurt. And woven in to the culture is the insistence that no one should have to choose between fitness and family time or career. Members’ goals vary, and include injury recovery, pain relief, weight loss, muscle definition and mood improvement.
Leading and Succeeding in the Age of COVID
So what made BODY20 pandemic-proof? The Penas point to two factors—the business model’s fundamentals and the measures taken by the executive team during the government-mandated shutdown. Health, safety and financial stability—all critical during the pandemic—are inherent in the BODY20 business model. The oneto- one training format means minimal exposure to people. And even with strict cleaning measures in place, members can choose not to touch any equipment and still get in an intense workout.
The one-to-one training format also means small store footprints, lower rents and fewer full-time employees (4-6 per location). The membership pricing structure delivers high per-member revenue, and generous profit margins supplied the company with the cash reserves needed to ride out the shut-down.
Many fitness studios offered members streaming workouts during the shut-down; now that they’ve learned how to get the same workout at home, some members may not return. The BODY20 workout can’t be done at home; it’s dependent on the technology in the studio, so members returned as soon as they could. Strong leadership starts at the top, and CEO Greg Breitbart took an unconventional view of the pandemic: He saw it as a rare opportunity to pause, study the business and make operational improvements. His executive team doubled down on the business, building in additional franchisee support so they were positioned to reopen stronger than ever.
Breitbart tells us, “Our leadership team spent those months looking at the business from every angle and asking, ‘What can we build in that will automate as much as possible for our franchisees so they can focus on delivering the highest quality experience to their members?’ We really dialed up the resources available to them.”
Grabbing Franchisees’ Attention
Fitness franchise consultant Chris Weber, founder of Beakinship, Inc. and Staffing Fitness, Inc. has helped companies like Orangetheory, Title Boxing and others implement strategies to scale profitably.
Chris says, “BODY20 is the only adult fitness brand that I’m excited about right now. It’s the first truly unique concept I’ve seen in the last 10 years. I became interested in it before the pandemic, because there’s nothing else like it in the landscape. The business model is tight and leadership is taking a strategic approach to growth. Layer on its immunity to COVID, and it’s a company I think franchisees should take a hard look at.”
Seasoned franchisees are taking notice. Bhavika and Shawn Patel owned two Massage Envy stores and four European Wax Centers in the Houston area for more than ten years. They recently sold them all to get in on BODY20. In addition to their first location, they purchased Houston Area Representative rights. “Through our experience in franchising, we’ve found that successful concepts share three key criteria: Strong, engaged executive leadership, an idea that’s innovative enough to command its own space in the market and a scalable financial model. BODY20 checks all those boxes. It was an easy decision to go all-in.”
For someone new to franchising, BODY20 is a great point of entry. From Day One, franchisees are set up to succeed, with systems and processes in place, along with personal support from the executive team. Zack Moliver was a fitness enthusiast and trainer with no business experience. He purchased the Mizner, Florida location as a first-time business owner, and learned on the job. He recently bought another location in Del Ray Beach. “I got very lucky. I was just a guy with a passion for fitness when I found out about BODY20. Buying the Mizner location was a big leap for me—I had a lot to learn and I made some mistakes in the beginning, but the leadership team really supported me. Mizner is now BODY20’s best-performing location, and Del Ray is off to a great start, thanks to lessons learned.”
Where Luck Meets Hard Work
The founders of BODY20 didn’t see the pandemic coming; they didn’t know that investing in a virus-proof business idea was going to be important, so they feel lucky. But they’ve also put in the work. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” BODY20’s leaders agree.
A core BODY 20 belief is that getting in shape shouldn’t hurt. And woven in to the culture is the insistence that no one should have to choose between fitness and family time or career.
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