7 Design Keys to Starting Your Own Studio

7 Design Keys to Starting Your Own Studio

by Chuck Leve

One of the most difficult components of starting your own fitness studio business is designing the physical location in a manner that reflects your vision and your brand promise. Everything from how much space to what occupies the space can create a conundrum of the greatest proportion.

Here are seven important considerations to help you design an effective, cost-efficient, and profitable studio, regardless of discipline:

1. Follow Your Business Plan

Your business plan should guide your every move, especially when it comes to studio design. In order to secure the necessary capital to open your business, you need to have thought through and articulated exactly what your business is all about, including its size, what equipment it will contain, the programs you’ll be conducting, and a variety of other, critically important points.

The design of your start up studio occurs at the very beginning of the process. Your studio business is your vision and only you know exactly what it will be. Your business plan will outline how that business will come to life and the design of your studio will be the centerpiece of your plan.

Of course, plans can change, especially as assumptions are challenged. Having a plan to start with allows you the flexibility to alter specifics without having to “go back to the drawing board.”

2. Who Are Your Clients?

“Design with your clients in mind” might be the adage to remember. Obviously, the look and feel of an indoor cycling studio will be much different than a yoga studio or a facility focusing on weight loss.

Regardless of your discipline, you know the type of training that you’ll be hosting and what you need to properly host it. Further, the economics of your equipment will need to deliver on the promise of your business plan. The number of bikes in an indoor cycling studio or the space devoted to Group X will be connected to generating the revenue necessary for profitability.

Your clientele will also help you determine whether or not you need showers and changing rooms. Your programming will help you project how many people will occupy the studio at a given time. Whether or not you offer children’s activities will also have a major impact on your design.

3. What Do You Need to Deliver Your Brand Promise?

Your brand promise is the key message you send into your community. “Come to my studio and you’ll get xx.” Whatever “xx” is, it needs to be new, different, unique and otherwise unavailable elsewhere. Your studio’s design must be consistent with and deliver on your brand promise.

That brand promise is your vision – the reason you’re in business in the first place – to attract customers who have many fitness choices and convince them to try yours.

When they walk into your studio they have a mental expectation of what it will look like, or perhaps your pre-opening marketing materials provided photos or renderings. Now that they’re here there should be an immediate series of “Aha” moments.

And remember, it’s likely not the first rodeo for your clients. Most have previously been to multiple fitness facilities, so you cannot be viewed as “same old same old.” Differentiation is the name of the game.

4. Programming Is Key

Once again, a key ingredient is understanding what’s going to be going on inside your studio. If you’re mind/body oriented the colors of walls and large space will vary widely from a more intense workout facility.

So to will the lighting, the music or other sounds, and even the odor of your studio. Will you be a soft, gentle, and quiet studio or a high energy, pulse pounding, neon blasting workout location? All of this is tied to who you are, what your vision is, and how you intend to deliver it.

5. Don’t Forget ‘Ancillary Revenue’ Opportunities

Often people design their studio with the core business in mind, and only the core business. This common mistake can be the difference between profitability and financial loss and it need not be the case, especially when a small space – even 500 square feet – can be significant.

Make sure your high intensity studio offers supplements and beverage sales. A mind/body studio should be offering oils, lotions, and scents to its clients. Apparel and wearables can be a nice profit center at almost every facility.

Build ancillary revenue into your design. Plan for it and it will deliver handsomely.

6. Make Sure Your Design Exceeds Your Price Point

The one-size-fits-all big box fitness center a mile away serves up their fitness at $20 per month. You price your classes at $35-$75 per hour. How is that difference reflected?

Whether or not you understand the expectations of your customers will be reflected in your studio’s design. If you’re high-end (as are most studios) you shouldn’t be equipping your studio with second-rate equipment. Your studio’s cleanliness should truly be next to godliness.

Design for personalization and differentiation. Don’t jam machines on top of each other – most clients neither need nor want to “enjoy” the personal odor of each other. And create social space for members to interact with each other, bond, and network to expand the community you’ve built.

7. Create Ambiance in Your Image

Your studio is your “baby.” You have that special “something” that drives you to fitness entrepreneurship. People respond to you. Therefore, your design must represent you, your vision, and your brand promise.

Everything is included, nothing is excluded. Flooring, mirrors, sound systems, paint color, washrooms, stock rooms, space between equipment, check-in area, ceilings – every inch of your space needs to be thought out so that it works harmoniously with every other inch – all consistent with your brand promise.

Opening your own fitness studio is a tall order, which is why there are professionals in the industry who will work with you to ensure you get it right.


Chuck Leve is a 40-year veteran of the fitness industry and proven successful developer of fitness industry associations. Currently he serves as the Executive Vice President of Business Development for the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS). He’s been involved in the creation and development of some of the most successful trade associations in the history of the fitness industry. For more information on AFS visit afsfitness.com.

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