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How to Open a Gym With Limited Funds

How to Open a Gym And How Much Do I Need?
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated May 2, 2023
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You’re a fitness junkie and have the knowledge, passion, and ability to help others get fit too. What you’re lacking? Money. The good news is that the fitness industry can be lucrative and there are many ways to get started that don’t require a major capital investment. Here’s what you need to know to open a gym or fitness business with little, or no, money, plus tips on how to get a business loan for a gym.

Gym Financing Options

If you don’t have a pile of cash just sitting around that you can use to start a gym business, here are some ideas that help you minimize costs and get the funds you need for a lean startup.  

Save Money

In an ideal situation, you wouldn’t have to borrow money to open a business at all. If you have the money set aside, you can pay cash to open and run your gym business.It may take several years, but if you start with a budget for the amount you’ll need to open and operate for the first six months, you can then determine how much you’ll need to save each month and for how long before you can open.

Buy Used Gym Equipment

Gym equipment can cost thousands new, but one way of limiting what you spend on it is to purchase used equipment. Check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, and keep an eye out for any gyms in your community that might be closing down and selling everything.

Make Purchases Over Time

Another strategy for opening a gym with limited funds is to acquire equipment slowly and gradually so you don’t have one large expense when you open. This can spread out your costs and allow you to take advantage of sales and opportunities to buy used equipment when you find it. You will, of course, need somewhere to store the larger pieces of equipment before you rent your space.

Be Smart About Location

While you definitely want your gym to be located where you’ll get foot traffic and where people can easily park, realize that prime spots often come with sky-high rents. Rather than opting to lease space in the brand new shopping center, maybe you can find a better deal around the corner.You may also want to consider extending your lease to get a lower per-month rental rate if that’s an option.

Take Out a Small Business Loan

There are many types of small business loans that can be used to open a gym, including bank business loans, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, and online business loans. While banks tend to have strict qualification requirements, including at least two years of business history and a minimum amount of annual revenue, alternative online lenders typically have more flexible qualification criteria, and are also faster to fund. Rates will typically be higher, though.Another benefit of getting a loan for a gym is that it can help start building business credit. When you take out financing in your fitness company’s name, it will be connected with your business credit profile. If you make your repayments on time, that activity will reflect positively on your credit. This can help you qualify for business financing with even better rates and terms in the future.Recommended: Personal Business Loans: Everything You Need to Know

Modern Business Opportunities In Fitness

If you’re operating on a shoestring budget, you may not have enough capital to open a large gym with all the latest technology. However, there are other opportunities to explore in the fitness business world. Here are two to consider.

Personal Training

One fitness business you can open without even needing a gym is a personal training business. These days, you can even be a virtual personal trainer and offer sessions digitally. You can also offer training sessions outside at a park with a few simple pieces of equipment. As your client list grows, you may be able to expand your services and eventually open up your own fitness studio.

Digital Fitness

If there’s one positive to come out of the pandemic, it’s that the digital fitness industry has skyrocketed. You might consider starting a virtual gym that offers online video tutorials, virtual personal training, and live streaming classes. You’ll likely need to invest in some technology and software to provide your digital services, but you may be able to more than offset the cost by charging a monthly membership fee.Recommended: How to Grow an Ecommerce Business 

Personal Training Certifications

When you’re responsible for how people move their bodies, it can be a smart idea to get certified as a personal trainer. While you don’t need to be certified to work as a trainer, clients will likely feel more at ease if they know you’ve been through rigorous training to learn how to do your job. As a gym owner, it’s also a good idea to only hire certified trainers.If you plan to do hands-on training and want to get certified, keep in mind that you’ll need some time and money. Personal training certification can run between $200 to $2,000, depending on the program, and typically takes less than one year.Organizations that offer training certification include:
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

Average Cost to Open a Gym

The average cost to open a gym will depend on your location, the size of your gym, how much equipment you purchase (and whether it’s new or used), and how many employees you hire, among other factors. Here’s a look at some ballpark prices.
  • Equipment: $10,000-$50,000
  • Business licenses: $50-$200
  • Commercial lease: $6,000 for 2,000 square feet
  • Business software: $2,500 a year
  • Insurance: $6,000 a year
  • Advertising and marketing: $4,000 a month
  • Employees: varies 
One option to consider is buying an existing gym rather than starting from scratch. Learn.

Suggested Equipment And Machines

The equipment you purchase for your gym will be at your discretion, but understand that customers will likely expect you to have certain machines. You may want to start with the following:
  • Elliptical machine
  • Stationary bike
  • Free weights
  • Kettlebells or medicine balls
  • Treadmill
  • Resistance bands
  • Mats
You can, of course, choose to add more equipment. Consider machines that work the entire body if you’re working with a tight budget.

Additional Cost Considerations

Before you can work on how to get a loan for a gym, you need to know all the costs you’ll have to cover when starting your gym business. In addition to fitness equipment, rent, insurance, gym management software, office equipment/supplies, and salaries, you’ll also want to factor in any gym licenses or permits required by your state, as well as advertising and marketing expenses (you might even consider hiring a professional to handle this for you). If you’re a first-time business owner, you may want to look into taking some business education courses. This can help you with gym management, managing your finances, choosing your business business model, and drafting a well-thought-out business plan. You may be able to find low-cost business classes online or a local college.

Alternative Gym Financing Options

In addition to start-up business loans, there are other financing options to consider.Equipment financing is handy for purchasing the expensive machines your gym will need. The equipment you purchase acts as collateral for the loan, which can help you get a lower interest rate.A line of credit may be the right financing option if you need some cash now and more later. With this flexible form of funding, you borrow what you need (up to a set limit) when you need it and only pay interest on what you borrow. Once you repay what you’ve borrowed, it’s available to borrow again.A business credit card can be helpful for buying equipment and supplies you need to start up a gym, especially if you can find a card with 0% annual percentage rate (APR). These promotional periods often last nine months to a year. If you can pay off your balance before the promotional period ends, it can function like a no-interest loan. Recommended: Credit Card Funding for Startups

The Takeaway

As you make plans for your gym or fitness business, you’ll want to explore all of your options, which include opening a large commercial gym, starting a small fitness studio, creating a virtual fitness business, or working as a freelance personal trainer. You’ll also want to consider costs and how you’ll cover them. If you’re wondering if you might qualify for a business loan for a gym, Lantern by SoFi can help. You can use our fast online search tool to get a personalized small business loan option in minutes.Let Lantern help you find the right financing solution for your small business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I start a gym with limited equipment?
What are the key costs to consider when opening a gym?
Can I start with a smaller space and expand with the gym's success?
How can I generate revenue for my gym before it opens?
How can I attract members to my gym before it opens?
Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
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