In the modern world, a combination of sedentary lifestyles and increased health awareness among the general populace has driven more people to take up physical exercise. Besides the health reasons, there are now even more people, both men and women, who are exercising just to stay in great shape. In Zimbabwe, however, there are still very few facilities which can cater to these people’s exercise needs and that is the reason why starting a gym in any of the country’s urban areas is such a great business idea. However, just because there is such a great demand for exercise facilities does not mean that if you start a gym, any gym, people will just start coming in their droves. The setting up of a gym has to be approached just like that of any other business venture: with careful planning, patience and the willingness to work very hard.

Do your planning

Before embarking on any kind of business venture, planning is very important. Business plans usually take the form of a document. Besides guiding yourself and anyone else who may be involved in the business, this document can also be shared with potential sources of funding such as banks, family members, friends and even angel investors. Most business plans also include the results of the market research conducted to assess the viability and potential lucrativeness (or lack thereof) of the business idea itself among other things.

Calculate your startup and running costs

Budgeting is a very important part of business planning and for a yet to be established business, this involves calculating both the amount required to get started and that required to continue operating. Startup costs are those which cover expenses such as the purchase of gym equipment while the running ones encompass rent, utilities, marketing, labour, insurance etc.

Target market and demographic

Failure to pick a specific market niche or demography for your gym to target is one of the easiest ways of ensuring its failure to reach its full potential (or just its failure, period). A gym is a casual environment where casual interpersonal interactions are inevitable and in such situations, factors such as age, gender and socioeconomic status can become important enough that some groups can end up driving away from the others. For instance, very few company executives would be willing to frequent an establishment that is a hangout for teenagers or even one where they get constantly pitched to.


Depending on your budget and the income levels of the people whom you wish to attract into your establishment, you can either chase bargains or spare no expense when it comes to the equipment and fittings that you buy. A common way of saving on funds is to buy used equipment. However, if you want to start a high-end establishment it makes more sense for you to invest in new equipment instead of as your “new” gym will actually be expected to have the latest of everything when it opens its doors to the public.

Find a location

The location will also play an important role in determining who comes into your gym. Barring an extraordinary marketing campaign, gyms located in residential neighbourhoods such as suburbs (low, medium and high density) will mostly attract people from the neighbourhoods that they are located in. This means that your clientele will be generally limited to the socioeconomic groups of the area in question.

In general, the best locations for gyms—especially the commercial kind—are those areas which are centrally located and have high foot traffic. This makes your town or city’s Central Business District one of the best areas in which you can locate your establishment. One example of a type of location outside the CBD which can be ideal is a busy shopping mall.

Your revenue streams

While a gym can simply charge anyone who wishes to enter an entrance fee, subscription-based payments are more common and preferred. Subscriptions offer greater assurance that the client will actually return to the same gym and hence allow more money to be spent towards marketing since these subscribing clients have a greater lifetime value than those who make once-off entry payments.

In many cases, the revenue from subscriptions has to be bolstered by other sources of income. For instance, you can also sell powdered protein, bottled water, juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, sports apparel, snacks and even towels to your gym’s clients to make additional money.


For a gym, word-of-mouth is one of the best ways in which knowledge of its existence can spread. By providing excellent service and environment, you increase the chances of your regulars inviting their friends and acquaintances to join. Local advertising can also be used together with a web and social media presence to get the word out about your services. You can also use free online tools like Google My Business to make your gym easier to find online.

Liability waivers

Exercise usually carries with it an element of risk. In a gym, anything from pre-existing health issues to the heavy equipment used and the vigorous activities taking place can all increase the chances of someone getting injured under your watch. While you must take all reasonable precautions to ensure that your clients don’t get hurt, you must also protect your business from liability when the unthinkable does happen. This can be achieved by making your clients sign liability waivers before they can use your facilities.