Rock climbing is an activity that spans the entire spectrum of recreation and sport. People of all ages and skill levels can enjoy the thrill of a rock wall. Entrepreneurs and climbing enthusiasts are interested in opening rock climbing gyms. But, is it possible to grow a profitable rock climbing gym?
To grow a profitable rock-climbing business, you’ll need to set your business up for success from the start. Finding an affordable and easy-to-reach location is the first order of business. Hire a great team and make sure you are marketing your business far and wide. With time and some additional strategies, you can grow a profitable climbing business.
How to Start a Rock Climbing Business
There are many steps to open any fitness business, including a rock climbing gym. These are the basic actions that will give you the best opportunity to build a profitable rock climbing gym.
Set Up Your Business
In most states, you can easily incorporate a business on your own. However, it is better to use a business lawyer to ensure that everything is done appropriately. Depending on the structure of your business (investors, number of owners, etc.) a business lawyer can advise you on the best type of corporation for your business.
In addition to a business lawyer, you should work with a business accountant to get your finances in order. Just like the lawyer, your accountant can advise you on the most advantageous corporation structure in terms of taxes and payroll. Some accounting firms also offer bookkeeping services. If it is within your budget, utilizing a professional bookkeeper can ensure your finances are being properly managed.
Find a Location
The best businesses can thrive in a bad location, but why not choose the best location from the beginning? When it comes to the geographic location and gym space itself, the cost is the most important factor.
People who visit rock climbing gyms for recreation or buy memberships for sport must have disposable income. For this, you’ll want to look at middle and high-income locations. However, since the income is higher in these locations, you’ll typically find a higher cost of living. These costs translate into property value or rental rates.
The sweet spot is generally just outside the middle or high-income areas of town. Industrial and rural areas usually have cheaper commercial real estate. You want your location to be as affordable as possible, while still within a reasonable distance of your customers.
In addition to the geographic location, it is imperative to choose a gym space that fits all your needs. For rock climbing gyms, this means high ceilings and plenty of space for rock walls. Some gyms can get creative with smaller square footage, but high ceilings are usually non-negotiable.
Your business is only as good as the people working there. Unfortunately, it does not matter how state-of-the-art your rock walls and equipment are if people do not enjoy their interactions with your staff.
At many climbing gyms, instructors work a variety of roles. They will teach classes and private lessons, but they will also help at the front desk and take on administrative tasks. By combining these different roles within the gym, you can hire fewer staff members and pay them better.
There are no legal requirements to be a rock climbing instructor at an indoor climbing gym. For the safety of your customers, you should consider hiring certified instructors or offering training to those that need it. Plus, your insurance may require this additional education for instructors teaching classes and lessons.
To find qualified staff, look within the rock climbing community. If there are other climbing gyms nearby, you can reach out and see if any members are interested in working as an instructor. Oftentimes, recreational and sport climbers look for instructor positions that allow them free access to the gym.
Marketing and Advertising
Customers need to know that your rock climbing gym is open and ready for business. Start your pre-opening marketing campaign a couple of months before you open your doors. If you begin too soon, people will lose interest or forget. Many gyms have success with offering pre-opening deals on memberships, packages, and classes.
In today’s world, social media is the king of marketing. Make sure that you have a well-designed website and social media pages. Many customers use Instagram and Facebook to find and research businesses.
How to Grow a Profitable Rock Climbing Business
Once you have taken the appropriate steps to open your rock climbing business, there are a few things you can do to increase profits. The biggest thing is just to operate a high-quality rock climbing gym with top-tier customer service. People always return to businesses they enjoy and they also have a high probability of sharing their positive experiences with friends and family.
Focus on All Skill Levels
From children to adults, beginners to experts, rock climbing is a sport that can be done by just about everyone. To grow a successful and profitable rock climbing gym, you should ensure that your gym is appealing to everyone.
A way to help promote your gym to all skill levels and age groups is to offer different classes and climbing times. This allows beginners and younger climbers to feel comfortable when they might otherwise feel intimidated. Your advanced climbers won’t be slowed down by the beginners on the wall.
By offering classes and climbing times to all skill levels, you can also organize your gym’s schedule efficiently. By offering a children’s climbing class after school, the class fits into families’ schedules and occurs when many adults are still working. Late-night gym time is great for 18 and up. If you want to offer a toddler or preschool climbing opportunity, this is best done in the morning, before nap time and while older kids are at school.
Offer Competitive Pricing
Your rock climbing gym’s prices will depend on a few factors: other climbing gyms nearby, the local cost of living, and the services offered. You need to find prices that are affordable enough for customers but also allow the gym to make a profit.
Prices from nearby gyms can give you an idea of what people in your area are willing to pay for a rock climbing gym. Just remember to keep in mind what that price gets them. Do memberships include lessons or just open climbing? Is the membership unlimited or for a set number of visits per month? How new are the rock walls and the facilities?
One thing to consider when setting your prices is your business expenses. It can be helpful to look at your monthly operating costs and then work backward to determine how many memberships or drop-ins (and at what price) are needed to break even and then be profitable.
What Sets You Apart?
This is an important question to consider for any business. Why should a customer choose you over a competitor? In this case, why should someone interested in rock climbing, recreationally or for sport, come to your gym?
After some brainstorming, include the answer as often as possible in your marketing and advertising. You want to let potential customers know what makes your gym stand out above others.
One thing to note is that tearing down competitors rarely works in marketing. It can leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths and come back to hurt the business. Instead of calling out what others are doing “wrong”, focus on and promote the great things about your rock climbing gym.
Additional Income Streams
Most likely, memberships and day passes will be the main sources of income for your rock climbing gym. There are several other ways that you can bring in additional income for the gym.
Birthday parties and corporate events can be huge revenue opportunities. Children’s birthday parties usually happen on the weekends. If your gym has the space, offer a party room for these events. For a set price, a family can invite a group of children and parents to enjoy the rock climbing gym and rent the party room for a period.
If you want to offer corporate events, these can take more planning. Oftentimes, larger companies will want to rent out your entire space. Rock climbing can be a great team-building and communication opportunity for companies. Since these events require closing down the rock climbing gym to the public, they can bring in big money.
Additionally, you can sell items within your rock climbing gym. Commonly, food and beverage options sell well. You can also sell rock climbing equipment and gym merchandise.
If you want your rock climbing gym to succeed and grow profitably, you must listen to your customers. You want to hear the praise and also the complaints. The complaints can be more insightful as to what you need to do to improve your gym.
Sending out anonymous surveys is a great way to collect customers’ honest thoughts. Sometimes people don’t feel comfortable complaining or giving constructive criticism directly. Under the cover of anonymity, customers are more likely to speak honestly and directly. It may not be pleasant to read, but a gym owner needs to hear what should be improved.
If all of this seems overwhelming but you are still interested in opening a rock climbing gym, consider a franchise opportunity. Usually, a gym owner will invest in a company or purchase the rights to a franchise. In return, the company will provide support to the gym. Each franchise is different, but franchisees can expect help with finding a location, building out the gym, setting pricing, and marketing the gym. Typically, the amount of support is directly related to the amount of money the franchisee puts up initially.
The amount of profit a rock climbing gym can make is going to vary by location, the size of the gym, and the services offered. To set the business up for success, work with professionals to legally and financially prepare the company. Choose an affordable but accessible location. Market your gym by highlighting what sets your gym apart from competitors. With some additional tasks, you build a profitable rock-climbing business.