This article will provide a step-by-step breakdown of how three young Kiwi entrepreneurs generated $202,000 of annual revenue in 14 days. I aim to cover the following points:
A month ago my cousin, Jonny and his partner, Alex came to me with an idea for a new gym in their community which already had two existing fitness facilities. Their idea was to create another gym with one key difference from the competitors; this was to be a 24-hour facility.
Neither I or my partners had opened a commercial gym. Being a conditioning coach and just taken the leap into entrepreneurship I wanted to develop a strategy that would allow us to keep our existing jobs/projects, test the market before investing significant capital, and find a significant point of difference to set us apart from our competitors.
This mitigates a majority of the risk of investing $50 K on a business that didn’t exist. This article outlines the steps I took to minimize the risk and the exact steps you may want to replicate with your own idea.
Before you dive into this, the entrepreneurial steps that follow these were the result of a book by Tim Ferriss called the 4 Hour Work Week, which inspired me to fulfill the journey I am currently on. The information I have shared in this has come from a huge range of sources including blogs, personal advice, friends and family which were all free. The end of this article will share the most useful resources I have found globally. I hope you put this to use, most importantly learn and enjoy!
Step 1: Creating a Budget
Initial research showed us it would cost approximately $52,000 to open our centre and we had no guarantees if it would be a success. There was a minimum threshold of people needed to join our gym to negotiate the cost of both the start-up and running costs.
This step will outline how we:
There are two variables you need to know when undertaking your business venture.
The first is your start-up cost, the amount of money it would cost you to produce your minimum viable product.
The second is the running costs; this is how much it costs to run your business over one year.
To find an estimate of both the start-up costs and the running costs. You need to ask similar, non-competing businesses these questions:
“What were your start-up costs for product X ?”
“What are your annual running costs for product X ?”
You will get varied answers, but it will give you some ballpark figures to work with. I approached three different gyms for their start-up costs and running costs, a 24-hour franchise gym and two other independently owned gyms with a similar setup to Central Fitness (our gym).
Based on the feedback from gyms we interviewed, we needed to raise the following start-up costs in order to open our doors:
This was recorded on our spreadsheet we selected the best quotes for the different set-up costs. You can use the template as a guide.
We went with local businesses for our smaller start-up costs. You don’t have to it’s your call. However, we did this to gather further community buy-in. This could help additional business in future endeavours.
There is an added 20% margin of error to our sheet for hidden or unexpected costs. The biggest mistakes new businesses make; is running out of capital for necessary costs.
This will now give you the bare minimum needed if you have to borrow money. If you’re borrowing, you’ll need to add your loan repayments to your running costs.
We recorded (on the same spreadsheet) each cost we expected for our first year of running the business and added another 10% to make sure it would cover anything we hadn’t accounted for.
To get approximate running costs we continued researching via our relevant search terms that the gyms gave us and looked for the best quote in our community.
This will now give you the next tick box, setting your price point.
Setting your Price Point
You now know your costs; you now need to know where to set your price-point. Your price-point is linked to both the running costs and the start-up costs. Without continuous revenue, you will be unable to reach profit. When setting a price point, you need to ask yourself two questions: Have you created a product of higher quality comparatively to the competition allowing you to charge more for your service? Can you offer a lower price point for the same product?
We did both.
The competitor’s pricing looked like this:
Setting a lower pricing point allowed us to draw people away from competitors because we offered a better quality product at a lower price. The difference in the product was brand new equipment comparatively to the competition.
$121,000 of annual income meant we needed a total of 123 customers over 52 weeks (52 x $19 x 123 = $121,524) to ensure we wouldn’t go out of business in our first year. This number will become your target when setting up your event later on.
Total time spent on Step 1: Approx. 4 hours
Money spent: $0
Step 2: Find your Champions
Finding your champions refers to the finding the well-known people in your community and asking for their help. In this step, I will outline how we:
Facebook and your network
There are roughly 2.34 billion social network users in the world. The largest platform for this is Facebook; the average Facebook user has 338 friends. You want to find the friends in your community who have 500+ friends and are willing to share your ideas. These friends will be promoting your product in your community on behalf of you with the added bonus of a large social reach.
If you don’t have a Facebook page, it is time to get one. Add 20 of your closest friends and 80 people you would be happy to talk with if you saw them in person.
Finding the right friends is a pivotal step to ensuring the right threshold of people are informed about your idea. You can approach these people via phone, social media or the best option face to face if they meet the following criteria; you’ve spoken on more than one occasion, one of their friends is also a close friend of yours and your friends on Facebook, and you trust them with your idea.
You can put a list of all your friends together, similar to what we did here. It is now your goal to tell them all the reasons why you choose your product, why you like your product, what makes it unique and why it is a good fit for your community at least a week before launching your campaign.
These are the scripts you can use when talking to your friends. The first message lets your influencers/friends in your community know what you’re intending to do, creates buy-in because they’re a part of the project and starts the process of sharing your product with their circle of friends.
Remember, be nice to these people. If you’re obnoxious, they’re not going to want to help you. Offer some form of favour in return for their help.
Test your product idea in your network
Now that you have your network of supporters you need to ask them if your idea existed what changes or additions they would like to see. You need to come up with a name for your business so people will start referring to your idea with an identity. We came up with four names and selected the top two and asked our audience to vote. You can send this second message to your network, to get feedback on the best name.
The best part about having your network is the ability to bounce questions off of people who will give you honest feedback. These scripts allowed us to get in-depth feedback on our brand, idea, and our community.
Creating your brand
This is where you can have some fun, giving your brand and idea a unique identity. This part of the project will be great to take the idea in your head and make it something real on paper.
You haven’t spent a dollar, however, you’re going to have some options ahead, and they may need some expertise that are outside your skill-set or time constraints. This is where effective outsourcing comes into play.
None of us had graphic design backgrounds, but the people at Fiverr did. We spent our first $6.50 NZD on getting a design made if you have graphic design background get to work and create something you’ll want to share with others. These are questions to think about when creating your brand and the conversation we shared with our designer at Fiverr.
You now have a branded image, a business name and a community who will give you critical feedback for your business, all for $6.50. This will lead you to the next step of creating a story for your brand.
Total time spent on Step 2: Approx. 2 hours collectively
Money spent: $6.50 NZD
If you’re wanting to see an overview of each step before you launch you can grab my checklist from here.
Step 3: Create a story, create credibility and get your community to see your business idea in reality
People love to know the “why,” why did you create your own business, why did you call it that name, etc. It’s time to create that story to share. This step will outline how we:
Getting the right people on board
In the last few steps you’ve identified the people in your community who have a large network, we now want to identify the people in your community who have influence or credibility in your chosen field.
Chances are if you’re passionate about your idea, you probably know the people who are already doing what you would like to do. They are the local baker who has taught you aspects of their craft and is known in the community for their “famous pie,” the lecturer you met at Varsity or the teacher from high school. These people hold credibility and authority in the community or even further abroad for the work they’ve already done.
The people in your business need to have credibility factors. They are known for achievements and add to your story of creating a business.
What happens if you don’t know people like this? Use your community from earlier to seek them out. This third scripted message you can use with your community to identify the people who are influential or have credibility in your space and get them on board with your project.
Once you’ve had an introduction or identified that person, make them your friend. People enjoy recognition for the work they’ve done, and it’s always good to find new people who can help you network. Find out why they love what they do, why they’re good at their chosen field and share your own passion with them. This is the type of script you may want to adopt; I used this when trying to expand my network for this project:
It’s great to meet you. How long have you known Scotty? I wanted to share my idea with you regarding a local business I am thinking of starting. We want to open a 24-hour gym with a huge emphasis on community feedback and design. I’ve been thinking about this idea for the last two months but only really decided to take action 10 days ago, and here I am.
People in our community and abroad recognize you for your service to the fitness and health industry; I was wondering if you could provide some help with me for these questions:
How did you get into your industry and how long have you been in this industry for?
What is the best advice you would give people starting out in this industry?
Why have you been involved in the industry for so long and what are the biggest highlights and passions that have kept you going?
I would love to say that you have helped advise me on my project and post a feature of you on my website answering these three questions, would that work for you?
If you’re interested, please let me know how I can help you with this process and in return if there is anything I can do to aid you in your business, profile or personal ventures.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my message.
This works as a two-way street you make a new friend, find a new mentor or advisor and add credibility to your project. The influencer or recognized member then gets to share their knowledge, and it gets shared publicly. Remember be humble when helping out your new advisor and offer what you’re able to do, not what you think you can do.
Our story is a little different we already had the right credibility factors on our side. Our team consisted of the local basketball coach, the local swim coach and myself, the conditioning coach with some academic credentials. This would have the desired effect of bringing the community together, adding professionalism and credibility.
Now that you’ve got a new friend, it is time to promote yourself, your story and your new friend’s credentials.
Creating your website
You’ve identified your influencer; you will now be ready to create a website. A website caters for those in your community who do not have Facebook or hear about your business via word of mouth and want to see what you have on offer. This may be the most complex step for those of you who haven’t had much to do with web design and may lead you back to Fiverr.
When creating your website, you only have to cover the basics, which is what you would like people to know:
This is an example of our site which is the bare minimum, it may offer some insight as to what you need to write to convey the ideas on each page, it’s not pretty, but it covered the information we needed. If you’ve got the time we would recommend making it as professional as possible; it’s nice to have but not a necessity.
We used a website creator called Weebly to make the example above as it is the easiest design platform for beginners, even if you’re technologically illiterate. A cautionary tale, it will cost you to set up your site. When setting up the Weebly starter plan it gives you everything you need but is expensive at $96 USD.
If you have patience and time to get things right on a small budget, I suggest a 14-day trial of a Shopify site here. This is a cost-free alternative but will require some very basic HTML skills. Or get an I.T savvy friend to do this and buy them a drink afterward.
The benefits? Here is a picture of our site and the contact forms we received after the first 3 days of having the site live:
Starting your Facebook business page, mobilizing your network & pre-launch
It is time to go live with your Facebook page, your brand, your website, your network and your business idea.
You need to create a Facebook business page that is the title of your idea or business. Take a look here to get an idea of what we did, maybe even throw a like on our page!
Your Facebook page is live; it is time to get this shared with your network. We created our event Registration Day and gave it a brief description, time and date, and finally location. It is important to plan your event on a weekend that is not conflicting with any other major events in your community and ideally in a high-traffic area. We will touch on how we acquired our location prior to our event in the next step.
At this point, you will have no idea how to run this event you just need people to attend otherwise there is no point in planning it. Coming back to our story, we hadn’t confirmed the venue for our event, but we knew where we wanted it to be so we added the tentative location to our event.
7 days out from our opening event we sent the 4th message here to our network to let them know we were ready to share our event, the response we received overnight blew us away, 200 likes on our page and 25 people attending our event, 60 were interested. The reason for this? We had hit a spot in the market people cared about, people knew the people who shared our content, and we had a collective community of 6,500 people who saw this message thanks to our network sharing this information with their own friend network at the same time.
After a day of our page being live, we received a message via Facebook:
Hi there, – from subway Cromwell-do you have a flyer we could put up in our shop to help promote your registration day?
Also, we would be happy to donate some subway platters for this Saturday to keep you going during your open day?
Give me us a call or text on – in the next couple of days!
All the best
This was pure word of mouth and subsidized a cost we were going to have to cover ourselves on the event day.
We then proceeded to follow this approach, again on day 3 we got our network to share this event, and again our numbers rose. 270 likes, 30 people attending and 78 people were interested.
At this point, you’ll need to get some contact and feedback forms for people to evaluate your ideas and sign up for your future venture. Start this early. We worked with a lawyer on Fiverr ($12.38 NZD) to get all of our membership agreements ready as none of us are lawyers or knew any. This gave us the ability to sign people up before our hypothetical opening.
We now knew we were hitting goals in our community and by word of mouth, people we’re approaching us asking “when will the gym open?” and “how much is it going to cost to join?”. Start jotting down this feedback you get from people. We used this simple template and it will come in handy when you’re deciding what to talk about with your future customers on your event day.
We had leverage due to this word of mouth and Facebook, we approached our local newspaper in person and asked them to run a piece in the paper about what we were doing, they did (pg. 5). Worried they will say no? Again use your network to make an introduction or just ask personally ask them like we did. We found the journalist who worked with us was excited to write about something unique and let us craft a piece of the article.
This story added two things to what we were doing; asked our community to support us and secondly brought credibility to our event. After this story popped up on day 4 and we shared it on Facebook, we rose to 330 likes, 40 people attending and 104 people interested.
Day 5, two days before our event we shared a video of myself covering some of my credentials and the upcoming event, which added professionalism to our event. We were lucky enough to have a very talented friend help create this video for us, but you could just as easily shoot something similar on your smartphone. It was watched over 350 times and shared 4 times by people we’d never met.
[Facebook Boosting: We boosted some of our posts, one on Day 5 with my introduction video and the event itself. We didn’t find a huge difference in our reach to people. A friend reached out to me and said that if you don’t get at least 10% engagement from your own page audience it’s not worth boosting]
On the eve of our event, we made one last push – we sent the 5th message to our network. This brought us up to 370 likes, 51 people attending and 135 people interested in our event. At this point, people were commenting and messaging our page suggesting ideas they would like to see, a kids area, different types of classes and much more. By the end of the second week, we got a regional and national news article which we will touch on later.
You now will be ready for your event planning and the day itself.
Total time spent on Step 3: Approx. 8 hours collectively
Money spent: $157.38 NZD (This could be significantly reduced if you’re able to create a website on a cheaper budget)
Step 4: Creating an event on a budget, the power of negotiation and getting people to invest in your business
You’re almost there, you’ve made some new friends, brought your idea to life, the last piece is getting people to buy or try your product. This step we will talk about the culmination of your social media efforts and allowing people to physically see your idea.
This step will outline how we:
Ever tried to plan an event with an unknown amount of guests, a tiny budget, and an unconfirmed location? Don’t worry we hadn’t either but we knew where we wanted to be and what our future business needed to look like. This was enough motivation.
Deciding on your venue is important. Ideally, it should be in an area of high foot traffic and surrounded by other popular businesses in your community. You can once again ask your network where they would place your business in your community or alternatively sit outside some available venues for rent and count the people who come past your location during the hours of your event the weekend prior to launching.
We knew our venue. It was the local mall, which is surrounded by other community businesses and was located in the centre of town.
What did we need to do to secure this venue? Call the landlord. Any landlord who is looking for prospective business will be happy to share their venue for a week or two if they know you may be building a long-term business there.
With the leverage you’ve gained from your PR, you can use this to your advantage when having a conversation with a landlord. Before calling the landlord, we emailed and told them our idea, sent them the Facebook page we had created and the newspaper article, four days prior to our event.
We then personally called the landlord, a simple summary of our conversation followed:
“Can we please use your venue for the next fortnight to test our business?”.
His answer, “We would love to have you in there. Our agent will get the keys to you this week so you can set up”.
You’ve now secured your venue. It’s time to create your vision for your business in your secured venue.
Running your event
We conveyed three principles to the public about our registration day event:
At this point you’re not only getting an idea of what works best, you’re saving yourself thousands of dollars on a concept that people may or may not like. We needed to know this before investing $50,000 dollars on a business people may not have wanted. We were happy to refine our ideas based on feedback, and you should be too. A business that is successful is one that provides benefits and usefulness to the customer, not the service you think the customer should want.
This applies to any service where a customer is purchasing a service. Want to see if your future cafe will be successful? Have a great location, a sample of menu’s with food people can try, some pre-arranged seating in different areas and different furniture then get people to vote on what they like best.
Your event needs to cater for your audience, and we will show you how we did that.
The setup and opening
You’ll notice this subtitle says “the setup and opening”. In this last leg, we will tell you how our event prep started the night before and literally carried on while people were walking through our to-be-gym.
With the three principles of your event sorted and hours of preparation throughout the week, it is time utilize the feedback you’ve been taking down from your future customers. This is the crunch-time you’re going to want to have everything you intend to showcase for your future business ready. Your event doesn’t need to be perfect; it needs to show people what you intend to do and what they hope to see in the future.
We created a template here of everything we needed to open the following day. Which we didn’t quite get fulfilled.
Here is the narrative of our 12 hours leading up to our event:
The evening prior to our event the other members of our team came to an empty space where we intended to put our future gym, what did they add to it? Couches. I arrived at 8.30 AM the next morning after being told everything was ready. It wasn’t, we had couches. At this point I barked some orders, then as a team, we scrambled to make a space that people would like to envisage by 10:00 AM.
8:44 AM: We hastily printed A-4 pictures of the equipment we wanted, physically sellotaped them to the ground where they would actually be in reality. We got all of these images from our potential supplier.
8:56 AM: Friends in our network who showed up early to support us created an area for kids to play in, we bought two 12 packs of chalk from our local print store ($6 each) for kids to write on the walls and floor. This was tailored to our audience from a potential customer wrote on our Facebook event page earlier in the week:
“Please have a waiting/play area for kids. Just needs seats and cushions for them to quietly read, iPad or play. It’d mean us single moms could finally join a gym and meet some new friends!”.
The above comment was liked by 24 different people, which indicated 24 potential customers agreed. So it was imperative we had this sorted because we said we would.
9:01 AM: We had no power, the landlord showed up that morning, having reassured us earlier in the week there would be power, there wasn’t. We called a friend who provided flood lights, generator, and heater so people could make out the A-4 images on the ground and avoid freezing to death. Things will go wrong but can be easily prevented with better planning.
9:14 AM: Another friend from our network shows up. They set up the platter from Subway, along with the forms for signing up, the contracts and the other refreshments ($32) we intended to serve.
9:39 AM: We had only one A-3 image of our logo. We went to the local print store and paid $10 dollars to have 20 more copies printed. We then plastered these on the inside and outside of the building to let people know we actually did want them to find us.
9:46 AM: The first person turns up, I proceed to; shake their hand, introduce myself, take them through the imaginary pieces of equipment and successfully get them to sign a membership form.
9:55 AM: We had a quick team meeting, asking everyone to say this “All the feedback we had throughout the week? Tell everyone you meet about this and get more of their feedback and then get them to sign up on the way out”.
2:32 PM: We had signed up 72 future members at the end of our first day.
This is what our future space looked like at the end of day one.
Surprised to see a polka-dot warehouse with A-4 and A-3 pieces of paper stuck to the floors and walls? Like we said, it wasn’t perfect but people we’re able to imagine the space they were described when they walked in.
The take-away from our blow by blow of events? What you saw above you is far from perfect and things will go wrong, it is how you handle each moment that comes and stick with the preparation that has got you to this point so far.
Event Feedback and Logistics
I will take a step back and tell you how we treated every person who walked through our doors on both days that allowed us to get over 110 people to sign up before the weekend was over. These are the highlights we recommend when planning your own event and how to interact with your potential customers.
Remember that feedback we’d been taking down all week; it worked really well to determine how we treated people when they came in:
To what purpose did this serve? We genuinely cared what people said, and they felt this too. We had close to 100 people walk in on our first day and almost 75% signed up. They felt like part of our project, and we purposely made them feel that way.
The 25% who didn’t sign up were the people who weren’t greeted or met properly at the door and unfortunately were rushed into a conversation they weren’t ready for. As a result, most of the 25% said, “We will come check it out when you open”.
[We only had 4 people present, at peak times the first hour of your event and the last hour of the event, we didn’t have enough people to chat with everyone who came in. This resulted in stunted or lost potential customers – we would recommend having as many friends and family to help out if possible]
What did our hard work look like? The picture below shows the smiles on all of our faces as we celebrated having 72 people sign up at the end of day 1. At the end of day 2, we had 113 memberships and approximately $110,000 of annual revenue before our business even existed. For those of you who have been keeping an eye on our figures, you will know, we aren’t quite at our goal of 123 members. The last step will show you how we capitalised on our new member database to surpass our goal.
Total time spent on Step 4: Approx. 12 hours collectively
Money spent: $54 NZD (Would’ve only been $30 if we had been more organised)
Money made: $111,644 NZD (This was the collection of all of our pre-memberships)
Step 5: The follow-up and promotion
You’re almost there. This is the last step to promote everything you’ve done and get the community to buy into what you’ve achieved. You may have already hit your goals, but this last step got us over the line.
In this last step, I will outline how we:
Utilise your new and extended support network to boost further registrations and support
Following the end of our registration weekend, we decided to host another event a week from now; this was based on the messages we had received via Facebook. 7 private messages came in asking if people were still able to sign up. We also recalled a number of people who physically turned up had said they had a friend who couldn’t make it today but would like to sign up. This led us down the road of creating one more event the following weekend.
On Monday evening we went to Facebook, this post generated 43 likes and another 2 messages asking to sign up. Following this, we added all our member’s details from the weekend to our email list; we sent the 1st message to our new and improved network. This resulted in another 16 people emailing us directly to join up and created some more buzz about our upcoming event on Facebook.
We had one other tool left to get people to join before opening, an incentive.
Creating incentives to keep people talking
At this point, we knew people were talking about what we were doing and the second upcoming event. We wanted to capitalize on this; we gave people another incentive to come along and sign-up An incentive. When you’re deciding on your incentive you want to work on a premise of two things:
We knew about competition didn’t offer nutrition plans, so as you might’ve guessed we offered two types of nutrition plans to get people to sign up. We let the first piece of information out in our first email to our customer base from the weekend so people would talk. The night before our second event we released an infographic outlining the two free types of nutrition plans people were to receive if they joined before we opened. Two messages came in from people asking to join up and questions about the nutrition plan and was a major talking point the following day.
Spread your PR efforts wider & Registration-Take 2
The same night we launched our nutrition plan via Facebook we concurrently sent out our 2nd email to our database at 3 PM and used our network who supported us from day 1 to share our event at 6-PM that evening.
Our 2nd event ran much more smoothly than the first and followed the exact same formula with much better planning. We had another 34 physical sign-ups as we ran the event for only one day. This brought our physical memberships up to 147 and digital sign-ups to 36.
After sharing our success again on Facebook we approached a local reporter by calling her directly, she wrote an article about everything that happened in the regional newspaper which was shared nationally too. The article was shared 19 times across our friends and our network without us touching it. This resulted in another 22 people asking to sign up in the following, which brings us to our final total of 205 members.
Bonus: Finding Investors
Now that you’ve made it this far, you’ve realised your goal is just around the corner but you don’t have a spare 50-100 K to open? Don’t worry; we’ve got you sorted for this too.
During the process of running our second event, we had an individual ask us if they could invest in our business. We weren’t prepared for this, as we were backing ourselves but I didn’t let the moment escape as I knew might prove valuable to write about later. I asked her a hypothetical question:
“Why did you approach us to invest in the business and if I wanted do you know where I could find more investors?”
Her answer was the best and pointed out some of my own stupidity too:
“You have over 150 different people already paying you money before your business has even opened and you’re asking me why I want to invest money? Most business ventures start with no customers on a wing and a prayer you, on the other hand, have done the complete opposite.”
If you’re looking for investors, you only have to send out an email to your potential clients and tell them you have 150,000 K in annual revenue before you’ve opened and you need some money. I am sure there will be more than enough people wanting to invest with a statement like that, even better create a joining fee?
I then sheepishly agreed and nodded as she left the building after signing up. She was right; you only need to ask. To pitch to an investor with nothing but an idea is difficult at best and time-wasting at worst.
If you’re struggling to find capital, take the evidence you have from getting this far and show it to the people you know have money or even better yet ask your network if they’re interested in investing. You now have media attention, over a 100 new email contacts and a network whose invested in your idea.
It won’t take you long to find someone who is interested.
Total time spent on Step 5: Approx. 11 hours collectively
Money Spent vs. Money Made
Total Money spent: $217.88 NZD
Total Money made: $202,540 NZD (The collection of all of our pre-memberships)
Total time: 36 hours
Since these events and writing this article, we have ordered our gear paying a 30% deposit, entered negotiations about rent for our ideal location, and we are going through the applications of trainers who messaged us looking for a job before we have even opened.
In retrospect, if you look through our advice and what we did, ultimately it comes down to two things. Taking on board feedback and connecting with other people. Your biggest goal when providing any service to any person is to make sure their needs are met, and you’re proud of what you’re delivering.
When I was writing this, I realized how much we had achieved in such a small amount of time, on limited resources, while still maintaining our own projects. None of us are particularly gifted, special or skilful in entrepreneurship which means that anyone can do this with the right formula, it really comes down to getting started.
So if you have an idea on how to improve this or want to start your own business, please leave a comment below and tell other people how you did it. People are always looking for ways to improve, so please share them with as many people as you can.
If you want to ask me any questions, head over this way.
ToolsThis is the list of content that I believe will serve any individual with immediate benefits when undertaking this endeavour and they’re free.
There have been some people who have helped me on this journey I have put together a list of these individuals here. The people who surround you are the people who will help you achieve your goals, you’re the average of the five people you see the most so make sure they’re the right people.