In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about the success of Special Strong, a gym for the special needs population, from its founder and CEO, Daniel Stein.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Welcome, Daniel. Can you please share a bit of background on the Special Strong concept for those unfamiliar with it?
Daniel Stein (DS): At the age of four, I was diagnosed with a learning disability. A later diagnosis showed that I also had an autoimmune disease. For many years I struggled with cognitive challenges as well as chronic pain every day of my life. When I began to play high school sports, I discovered that I overcame both the mental and physical challenges through exercise. I started regularly using exercise to overcome my limitations and developed an adaptive fitness program to work out without pain. I’ve been using this program for over 15 years. I had the same challenges as the people I work with and help today. Ultimately, out of my own pain was birthed the Special Strong concept.
Special Strong focuses on helping individuals impacted by mental, physical, and cognitive challenges live a more independent and abundant life. We provide customized health and fitness services through certified trainers to people with special needs. We have helped over 1,500 clients with special needs and other disabilities to thrive and overcome their challenges with our program. It’s been amazing to see lives and families changed because of Special Strong.
FC: What sets Special Strong apart from other fitness space concepts for clients with special needs?
DS: There is nothing else in the fitness space like Special Strong for children and adults with special needs and other disabilities. We have developed a customized and scientific program to adapt to the fitness needs of these individuals. It’s completely different than training designed for the general population. Trainers that work with the general population aren’t versed in the programs and techniques necessary for people who have various mental or physical challenges.
As a result, these individuals can end up injured and not step foot in a gym for the rest of their lives. I know how important exercise is to these people. They must be in an environment with competent trainers to meet their unique fitness needs and challenges. Our clients have had zero injuries working with us.
Our programs are fully customized, adapted, and modified to our clients. As their fitness abilities grow, our programs grow with them. They build on their success achieving more than they thought possible.
FC: How many franchise locations do you currently have?
DS: We currently have one company-owned and one franchise location with plans to grow. Our first franchise location is in southeast Houston, Texas.
FC: Describe the opportunity for franchisees – how do you equip and train them?
DS: Starting a franchise with Special Strong is a turnkey operation, so you don’t have to know anything to start. We teach you everything.
We have developed an incredible training system called Special Strong University. It is comprised of both virtual classroom and onsite training. Classroom training consists of 40 hours, where the new franchisees learn how to run a business. There are 30-40 hours of practical training after that where franchisees shadow other trainers to get hands-on experience with real clients. The entire process takes anywhere from 6-12 weeks, which is much faster than the industry standard for setting up a franchise.
Once franchisees have completed their training, they receive a detailed 30 step-by-step checklist to open their business. Franchisees will receive information on obtaining gym partnerships and negotiating rates, and lead generation to find clients.
FC: Who is the ideal Special Strong franchisee?
DS: The ideal franchisee is someone passionate about fitness and people who have different challenges. We don’t require any technical experience. Franchisee applicants will go through a 7-step interview process, which includes being interviewed by other franchisees and me. We also conduct the most thorough background check possible, and do a personality assessment. Once the initial stage of interviewing is completed, the applicant will come to McKinney, Texas, for a discovery day in which they will shadow me with my clients.
FC: What is Special Strong’s growth strategy?
DS: Special Strong has always been about the quality of training and the people. Our most significant growth strategy is to pick the right people to partner with. So far, we are getting a tremendous amount of interest. The challenge is to vet and find the right people for this opportunity.
We currently operate a Level I mobile/home-based concept with Level II plans to open a 5,000-square-foot brick and mortar location. Level II, which is currently in the prototype stage, will be a space where entire families will work-out together.
FC: What is a typical investment to open a Special Strong franchise?
DS: Franchisees will begin with Level I. It is an affordable entry-level model for someone who doesn’t have the capital to start their own gym. The start-up costs of this phase are some of the lowest in the fitness franchise industry at just $25,000. Veteran and military discounts are available as well. This amount includes grand opening costs, monthly franchisee salary, operating capital for the first 90 days, and operating utilities.
FC: How can people learn more about the Special Strong franchise if they are interested in franchising?
DS: Interested applicants can visit specialstrong.com/gym-franchise, and fill out the form for more information.