1. How did you come to own and operate SWEAT?
I opened the doors of my first gym almost 4 years ago in my hometown. It was my first business venture. I had spent nearly 6 years working in corporate management with Starbucks Coffee Co., which allowed me to strike out on my own. That first gym was a Crossfit studio. I had been doing crossfit for over 2 years and decided it was the “one all, fix all” for anyone looking to become healthier and physically fit.
After opening my own studio, I began having setbacks with injuries related to my personal Crossfit routine. I opted to reduce the heavy weights for a more cardio driven routine with less impact on certain parts of my body. And that’s how SWEAT came to be. I wanted to integrate the best parts of high intensity interval training often used in Crossfit-style workouts (tabata, amraps, etc) with dynamic functional movement.
My journey to owning and operating SWEAT has been an unique experience. Formerly Sweat on State on Chicago’s historic State Street, it operated under a different concept. I purchased into the company while a manager there and then in 2014, I bought out the remaining business partners and became sole owner. With a strong team, we have been able to build the brand as it exists today as Chicago’s premier, and only original, high intensity interval training boutique fitness studio!
2. How did you choose your location for the studio?
I chose to keep the business at its current location due to its Gold Coast location. To own and operate a business in Chicago, in its most upscale neighborhood of Gold Coast, is a dream come true for me! As we continue to grow, we’ve opened our second location in a small suburb of the Quad Cities. My objective in opening additional studios is to bring our concept to less saturated markets in the fitness industry. There are so many areas of this country ready for SWEAT!
3. How did you build your method and brand?
I built the brand based on our mission:
“We believe your fitness routine should be anything but routine. We strive to push you beyond your comfort zone, ensuring you leave each day feeling like you accomplished something you didn’t think was possible. The best part is that we do it together, inspiring a community of people to be fit and have fun!”
Our workout method has grown our “brand” into a staple for a hard yet invigorating workout in Chicago and the Quad Cities. In building the method, I wanted a different focus each day of the week, while constantly changing the workout to prevent burn out. I wanted the option to scale up or down in weights depending on goals and abilities. Within my weekly routine I wanted a day focused on arms, a day for legs, a day that’s going to burn my core to the max while getting in a full cardio day and a total body workout. I’ve created a weekly program that combines all of these elements, while still catering to group classes as big as 30!
4. What marketing techniques do you use to build your brand?
Our trainers are engaged outside of their classes with strong social media skill sets, representing the brand to a larger base. SWEAT has a great referral program and uses incentives to get friends of friends to the studio as we all know we like to sweat with our friends! We blog about topics outside of just fitness, real and raw, and share success stories with our community. We engage those that aren’t our members with at home workouts (free of charge) and ways to take the fitness journey with us even if they can’t make it to the studio. We partnered with industry leaders such as ClassPass and Gilt City to support mass marketing the concept to potential users.
5. How do you differentiate yourself from other studios in Chicago?
We’ve been able to differentiate ourselves with an organic small business boutique operation. While from afar we may look similar to other studios, it’s evident when you arrive that we aren’t. On the operational end, we keep it small and every trainer is taken through our in-house internship program to ensure we operate as a consistent team with one goal. We focus on a personalized experience with an old school common courtesy mindset.
By having a program designed with intent, we ensure each day is different with varying formats and movements.
6. How do you navigate teaching clients of different fitness levels/ capabilities in the same class?
In our introduction and class set-up, we teach the larger group ways to scale by providing them an example of a way to complete an advanced version of the movement as well as a beginner version. We provide personalized instruction while the workout is happening to ensure each client gets the best workout possible for them.
7. What questions do you ask yourself while adding new classes/ equipment/styles to the studio?
Would I be comfortable teaching and taking this class or exercise?
8. What advice would you give to other studio owners?
Patience and common courtesy goes a long way. While we are all busy and moving quickly from one task to the next, as an owner of a popular business I’ve learned that the common gestures we use with our clients make a world of difference to both them, myself, and those around us.
Clients are always looking for acknowledgment, to know that you see them. They understand you are busy, they see the success you have, and that’s inspiring to them. That inspiration turns into action when you give them that moment to ask you questions, to engage with you, and to share the journey with you.
9. What advice do you wish you could give to yourself when you first started SWEAT?
I went through a period shortly after I started where I would watch other brands or concepts and compare them to SWEAT. I had moments with my team where I said I think we should do something because I saw another brand did it. I wish I would have told myself to stay true to my vision from the beginning. Once I stopped following other brands and spent that time investing in my own brand, I was able to go back to my original vision that’s represented as SWEAT today.