May/June 2023Previous Issues

Fitness Brands Flexing Franchise Success

Four franchises that take different approaches to promoting fitness in their communities

by Kym Wolfe

By and large, Canadians want to improve their health with fitness, and there are different ways to achieve that goal. Giving consumers a variety of choices increases the likelihood that everyone and anyone can find a program or regimen that fits their lifestyle. Franchise Canada spoke to four franchisees that offer different approaches to wellness and have opportunities for potential franchisees across the country.


9Round offers a nine-station kickboxing fitness workout—high-intensity, results-driven, and, with three minutes at each station, designed to be completed in 30 minutes. Established by CEO Shannon Hudson in Greenville, South Carolina in 2008, the franchise expanded into Canada in 2014 and now has 50 locations across the country and is looking to open more.

Hudson says low overhead costs and streamlined equipment requirements make this an attractive franchise for people with a passion for fitness and helping others achieve their goals.

New franchisees complete five days of training, including 9Round’s Kickboxology, which is recognized as an accredited training program by CanFitPro. A corporate business coach will be on-site for the first few days when the new location opens. Field visits to new and existing franchises provide more hands-on training in marketing, sales, and operations, and the annual 9Round World Convention ensures franchisees receive the most up-to-date information about the fitness industry.

As a proponent of Kaizen, a Japanese philosophy that expresses the spirit of continuous improvement, Hudson is constantly innovating. While there are nine set stations, the workout program for each station changes daily. “We are constantly tweaking, based on exercise science, and also to ensure clients and staff don’t become bored with their routines,” he says.

During the pandemic, 9Round introduced a workout app that continues to be offered to clients. Last year, the franchise partnered with FitMeal Canada, a meal prep and delivery service that designs high-quality nutritious meals to pair with 9Round workouts. Both the app and FitMeal provide additional revenue streams for franchisees, says Hudson, as a portion of sales from the app and FitMeal go to the franchise that the client is a member of.

Successful franchisees are relationship-driven and able to foster a strong sense of community to attract and retain members. “A heavily saturated market means customers can easily jump between fitness concepts,” says Hudson. “We offer a specific type of workout that requires targeted marketing strategies, and a commitment to putting in the work to build the business and make it succeed.”

30 Minute Hit

Offering a boxing/kickboxing circuit designed specifically for women, with a low investment requirement for new franchisees, 30 Minute Hit currently has 65 locations across Canada and has opportunities in all provinces and territories. Custom-made equipment is included in the initial franchise package, and the 1,500-sq. ft. studios operate in affordable locations, with a focus on being convenient and easy to access rather than expensive high-visibility settings.

“With low overhead and recurring revenue systems, you don’t need large membership numbers to be profitable,” says Stacey Firth, VP of franchise development.

Clients pay a monthly membership fee and can work out at the 13-station circuit anytime the studio is open, spending two minutes at each station and completing the full workout in half an hour to get their “30-minute hit.” During peak times, Firth likens the process to a conveyor, with someone finishing station 13 and another starting station one every two minutes. Every member also has 24/7 access to HIT@Home, a robust virtual workout platform that was developed and offered in the early days of COVID restrictions and has since become a permanent part of the 30 Minute Hit membership package.

“30 Minute Hit is a very simple system to operate,” says Firth. During the initial seven-day training, franchisees are certified to operate the 30 Minute Hit training floor, and receive classroom training in business operations, sales, and marketing. A dedicated onboarding coach helps new franchisees walk through all phases of opening, step-by-step, and there are ongoing, bi-weekly virtual live training sessions for all franchisees for continuous skills and knowledge improvement.

While the franchise caters to women, there are many husband-and-wife franchise owners and some male trainers on the floor. Firth, who started with 30 Minute Hit as a franchise owner herself, says one of the rewards of being part of the franchise system is seeing women’s confidence grow as they learn self-defence and improve their core strength and stability. “The positive impact that we have on members’ lives is nothing short of inspiring.”

Outdoor Fitness

An outdoor fitness franchise that has been running in Quebec for more than 20 years is poised to expand into Ontario this year, initially in the Greater Toronto Area. Outdoor Fitness offers 11 different programs that combine the benefits of being outdoors in nature with fitness training.

Established in 2000 as an alternative to gym training, the franchise, known as Cardio Plein Air in its home province of Quebec, currently runs in more than 160 parks in that province. Operating strictly outdoors in all four seasons has both opportunities and challenges, says general manager Thibault Gonnet.

The opportunities include the speed to start up since there is no construction, low cost to operate since there is no fixed overhead or staffing costs to run a brick-and-mortar site, and flexibility to move programs to different locations in response to demand. “Participants like to be within an eight-to-10-minute drive to get to the program. We are extremely agile and adaptable, with the freedom to move to different parks and outdoor areas,” says Gonnet.

The challenges? Weather can’t be controlled, managing coaches remotely can be challenging, and not having a storefront means no concrete visibility or front desk to interact with the public. “Franchisees must have a strong social media presence,” says Gonnet. “They need to have strong communication skills to keep customers happy and to motivate their team.”

Franchise territories for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) will have minimum population around 100,000, with demographics comprised of mainly women ages 40 to 65, in communities with ample parks and community green space. The ideal franchisee will have excellent communication skills, be able to delegate so they can concentrate on business development, and be passionate about contributing to the mental and physical well-being of people through nature. To be a certified fitness coach is a plus, or if not, they can hire one, and they need to complete training to deliver Outdoor Fitness programs, which ranges from stroller-cardio for moms with babies to cardio-bootcamp and zen, slow-move fitness.

The franchise provides ongoing business trend insights, training, and decision-making/problem-solving support, but Gonnet ultimately says that “knowledge, to be curious, and good decision making are key to success.”

Oxygen Yoga & Fitness

Oxygen Yoga & Fitness (OYF) sets its unique blend of yoga and fitness programs apart with its far-infrared-heated studios. “We offer a variety of group yoga and fitness fusion classes with intense cardio and core workouts, balance training, flexibility, and strengthening, complimented by deep breathing, relaxation, and a calming of the mind, all in state-of-the-art far-infrared heat therapy,” says OYF founder and CEO Jen Hamilton.

Far-infrared technology raises the body’s core temperature directly instead of having to heat the air. Hamilton cites the benefits of far-infrared heating—detoxification, weight loss, pain relief, and skin purification—as key to driving client demand for OYF services. There are currently more than 100 Oxygen Yoga & Fitness locations across Canada, and the brand is now expanding internationally after opening its first U.S. location in California in 2022.

The majority of OYF franchisees start as members, and Hamilton feels that her greatest impact on the business community has been to empower other women to become business owners. “They see that there is a path for them to achieve their own goals and dreams of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and financial freedom,” she says.

Hamilton established OYF in Maple Ridge, B.C. in 2011 and had nine franchise locations in the first six months. Since then, she has redeveloped systems and policies to guide franchisees to be successful, and in 2018, brought on David Patchell-Evans, founder and CEO of GoodLife Fitness, as a business partner to support further expansion of the OYF franchise system.

New franchisees complete an intensive, comprehensive training program that covers all aspects of operating the business, with a focus on customer service. OYF has developed its own teacher training programs for both yoga and fitness fusion classes, and franchise owners can hire from the network of qualified teachers to deliver classes at their studio locations.