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At the age of 23, Forrest Walden became a pioneer when he opened the first Fitness Together franchise in the southeast, in Birmingham, AL. Within two years, he had 6 Fitness Together personal training franchises up, running, and profitable. In fact, he had the #1 revenue-generating franchise (out of 400) for 3 straight years and during that time, 4 out of his 6 locations were in the top 15 of all locations in the nation.
At the age of 27, Forrest purchased the Fitness Together master franchise rights to 3 states: Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina, and grew his business to 55 locations in 3 years. He was both the #1 owner/operator in the system and the #1 master franchisee in the world, for which he was awarded the “Franchise of the Month” 11 times and “Franchise of the Year” twice.
Forrest sold all six of his studios as well as his master franchise territories and began the process of starting over with a brand new concept. Falling in love with group training in his own garage with friends and neighbors led him to develop the Iron Tribe Fitness concept.
Forrest opened his first Iron Tribe Fitness in February 2010 and in just 2 short years, has expanded to 4 facilities. Now, Forrest is ready to franchise the Iron Tribe Fitness business model and is looking to expand nationally.
The ITF model has averaged over 18 new clients a month with an over $250/month average client value and only a 3% attrition rate! This has led to selling out their 250 client cap at several of their locations and running on a waiting list.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What’s the story behind the creation of Iron Tribe Fitness?
Forrest Walden (FW): In October 2007, it first began as a CrossFit experiment with just myself, my wife, and my two friends where I set up equipment in my 2-car garage. By the beginning of January, word leaked out about our underground experiment as well as the physical and physiological improvements everyone was receiving. Then, other people began asking if they could join in with our little garage tribe.
All of sudden there were 17 people working out in my garage making the greatest gains they had ever experienced. Next thing you know, people were lining up outside my garage waiting to sign up for my fitness regimen and routines.
I then opened the first Iron Tribe Fitness facility in 2010 and within 8 months, I capped out on our 250 membership capacity. Now, I have four successful locations up and running.
FC: What is competitive group training and why did you decide to build your business around it?
FW: Iron Tribe is designed as a group training environment, where 5, 15 or even 20 or more people workout together as a team, encouraging each other to be better together than they would ever be working out alone. Our program targets overall physical performance and fitness improvement to make you a better athlete while maximizing your hormonal response to exercise.
Our group environment and team training approach to exercise allow our athletes to get an outlet for competition by competing with themselves, their class, and the entire tribe. The community that is fostered through competition, weekend events, and daily competitive workouts creates a highly unique and contagious atmosphere that drives results and referrals.
- Four gyms opened in 2 and a half years, with two of those locations sold out and the newest two growing even faster than the first two.
- Over 720 members at all Iron Tribe Fitness locations combined.
- Iron Tribe Fitness named Ultimate Marketer of the Year at InfusionCon 2012.
FC: What are the different revenue streams for an Iron Tribe Fitness facility, under your franchise business model?
FW: Group training, Innerfire Grill (catered food program), Sweat Angel Bakery (paleo snack line), supplements, events, and challenges.
FC: Who is your target customer?
FW: Our target is someone who is passionate about fitness and is looking for a proven model that will allow them to impact lives by encouraging a unique fitness community.
FC: What specific benefits can you offer franchisees that would make owning an Iron Tribe Fitness more desirable than starting a gym from scratch or joining another franchise?
- Site selection – When you buy an ITF franchise, we take the guesswork out of the site selection process. First, we will conduct demographic studies within your area of interest. We will then assist you in finding the ideal location for your studio.
- Lease Negotiation – Many people are inexperienced in the area of leasing and lease negotiation and often end up paying much more than they need to, with little or no concessions. ITF has expertise in negotiating a favorable lease.
- Gym Layout – With a construction management team in place, we have sample drawings to help you choose the best, most efficient layout for your gym.
- Gym Start Up – With over 100 items to take care of prior to opening ITF, it is very easy to become overwhelmed in the process. Our experienced staff will work with your management to make the entire process easy.
- Save Money in Negotiations – Many areas of business involve negotiations. We will help your company save money in startup costs, insurance, advertising contracts, employee costs, and in many other areas.
- Operations Manual – With years of operating successful ITF locations, we have created an operations manual for franchise owners. This will act as the blueprint to success and provide your company with tips, strategies, and systems that are proven to work.
- The WOD Board Intranet – ITF has a proprietary intranet that will house all manuals, forms, procedures, and checklists. In addition, it will have videos on every aspect of store operations from sales to coaching. The WOD board also has a help desk for any help, tips or assistance needed along the way.
- Test Marketing – We continue to test ideas and strategies at corporate locations in order to provide franchise locations with the latest and most effective methods to grow your franchise. All campaigns are posted to the WOD board for you to use in your individual location.
- Marketing – Direct mail pieces, strategic business partnerships, referral campaigns, coach incentives, and other marketing programs have been created and tested to increase ITF’s client base.
- Advertising – There is a collaborative fund to produce effective marketing. With every franchisee contributing, it can give ITF leverage in buying advertising.
- Franchise School – During our training program, you will be taken through all important processes in running an ITF. All aspects of the ITF program are systemized to make it easy on your company. Everything we will cover in Franchise School is also in video format for easy reference later.
- Customized Software – ITF software allows you to accurately track clients, client data, client scheduling, and payments to stay organized.
- Website – Customized website that interacts with the corporate website with the same feel and design. Very interactive where clients can schedule classes, get information, and read blogs.
FC: What can you tell us about the estimated initial investment and royalty fees for an Iron Tribe Fitness franchise?
FW: The total investment necessary to begin operation of an Iron Tribe Fitness franchise is $159,500 to $219,500, plus the real estate cost of leasing or purchasing a site. This includes an initial franchise fee of $35,000 as well as operating capital of approximately $45,000.
FW: Iron Tribe Fitness is strongly committed to giving back to the community and enriching the lives of those who can’t help themselves. Our commitment and goal is to offer more life to those who are hurting. We are active supporters of several charities including NeverThirst, Team Red, White & Blue, and others.
Our mission statement is “To teach and support healthy lifestyles, be a leader in results based fitness, and encourage fellowship within our global community.”
As we reflect on 2010 and 2011, ITF’s first two years in business, there are so many reasons to be proud, but the number one thing that stands out is the more than $100,000 that we have raised for charity and the direct impact that it has made on the world.
FC: Can you name a few franchises (inside or outside your category) that you admire, and why?
FW: I admire the Express Oil Change franchise that is based in the southeast. With 217 units, they lead the entire industry in key metrics and are based on integrity by only selling the customer what they need and delivering the highest value in the industry. I love how the corporate office leads the chain in execution of the model with their own units and how every decision that they make is ultimately for the good of the franchisee.
FC: Is the Iron Tribe Fitness franchise opportunity already available in all states and internationally? What are your targets for 2012 and 2013, and how do you plan to grow the business?
FW: We have just completed all of our franchise documentation and are in the process of getting registered in key states where we already have strong interest. We already have over 20 different groups scheduled for our Discovery Day at the corporate office in Birmingham, AL. We are just beginning to market our story and model, and think that the sky’s the limit for the reach of this unique system.