The climbing gym business is booming. By 2050, there will be more climbing gyms in America than coal mines, the alleged economic future of our country. Better start getting used to the fact that your daughter might have to work one day as a yoga instructor at a local climbing gym instead of wielding the pickaxe down in a carcinogenic mine shaft. SAD! I know.
In 2018, if you aren’t using bitcoin or your tax return to begin building your own world-class indoor climbing gym empire, you may as well stick to climbing rocks outdoors because you’re just as dumb as the very rocks you’re climbing.
Getting into the gym biz’, as we say in the biz’, isn’t easy. You need a “business plan,” for example. You may consider yourself a modern-day Hemingway, but not just anyone can sit down and write a solid business plan that will convince investors to launch a new fitness empire. You need things like a computer with a word processor. And you need to know how to type … and embed photos of your gym idea within the text without ruining the formatting of your document.
Intimidated yet? Don’t be. I’ve assembled seven proven, world-class hacks for writing a sound climbing-gym business plan, and I’m going to give it away to YOU for FREE so that even YOU can carve out a slice of the American dream!
Don’t thank me yet.
In five years when you find yourself on a white-sands beach drinking low-carb margaritas, content and confident that your gym is being run by the stoned, minimum-wage-earning college kids to whom you’ve entrusted the day-to-day operations of your gym, you may then hold me in your thoughts and thank me as your dear leader.
Cheers to you, you future princes of plastic, you kings of crush.
Introduction and Vision
Begin by introducing the name of your climbing gym. Like modern bistro restaurants, catchy one-word names are preferred. Consider something like “Aspire,” “Honed,” “Sent,” or even “Flapper.”
In order to convince investors to fork over millions of dollars, you’ll need a compelling 10-year vision. You need to convince investors that you are rooted in climbing tradition, but also committed to leading the sport into the future. Even if you aren’t a climber and have no interest/experience in climbing, you can achieve this goal by simply pairing a photo of Royal Robbins alongside one of Ashima Shiraishi. In fact, do this anyway.
Finally, don’t forget to mention that your l0-year goal is to become a leading climbing-gym franchise. Use the word franchise at least three times, and write it by replacing the s with a dollar sign. “Franchi$e.”
Money in the bank.
You gots to have a ladies night at your new gym. But this isn’t the 1990s anymore. Today’s millennial women are way more woke than you may realize. Don’t think you can just get away with branding your ladies night “On Belay Betties” or “Boobs and Boulders” unless you want to get the proverbial bitch slap of an open letter that goes viral for three whole days on social media. Come up with a better name, like “My Body, My Beta” or “We Should All Be Feminists Who Check Our Knots.”
Location and Wall Design
The best way to distinguish yourself from other climbing gyms is to make sure that you have the tallest wall in the country. If one gym has a wall that’s 55 feet, make yours at least 56 feet. That will ensure your superlative relevance for at least three months.
To identify its next franchise location, McDonald’s uses geographic information systems that map out traffic data and regional demographics. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a good idea.
Climbing gyms are inherently different from a McDonald’s. A climbing gym costs millions to build. Also the goal of any ethical gym owner is not “billions served.” Crowded climbing gyms are a buzz kill. You only want to bring in as few people as possible needed to balance the books—no more, no less. Therefore, it makes sense to identify locations with high real estate values for your gym and low population densities. Bottom line: you want to be near rich people. We all know that people with lots of money and even more free time are just naturally gifted climbers.
Just make sure that each spot in your parking lot design can accommodate a full-size Sprinter van.
This is your bread, butter, milk, honey, and jam all rolled into one big fat money burrito. Birthday parties are a great way to pay the bills and simultaneously create a future customer base. Every climbing gym business plan should forecast a scenario in which the gym is half-full at all times with 25 balloon-wielding rug rats going full romper room on the bouldering mats. Like the new tax law, you can use birthday parties to forecast a rate of unicorn-grade growth to offset the cost of breaking ground on a new 35,000-square foot facility in Beverly Hills or Aspen.
Every solid business plan ought to also include dressing up your route setters in clown costumes and sending them off to every kindergarten classroom in a 50-mile radius to hand out direct-mail flyers with coupons for birthday parties.
This is also a great way to use up your idle route setters’ hours at the end of the month.
Pricing / Membership Structure
It’s 2018 and all you need is some WiFi to Netflix and Chill. For some reason, though, that’s impossible.
Comcast is pretty certain that all of its Internet customers need to be paying them at least $80 per month. The way they achieve this goal is by initially discounting their Internet to, say, $50 bucks. Once they hook you, they unexpectedly triple their rates, forcing you to call—”Press 2 for ‘WTF?'”. The cunning Comcast rep informs you that he can lower your bill to only $80/month, but you need to add in a cable/landline bundle onto your Internet. You say that you don’t want all that shit because it’s 2018 and all you need is some WiFi to Netflix and Chill. For some reason that’s impossible, so you finally relent and agree to get a dumb landline because at least you aren’t paying $150/month anymore. And there you are, paying Comcast $80/month. Just like they wanted.
This proven price-gouging structure is easily transferrable to climbing gyms. If, say, you would like your members to be paying $120/month, then simply make all the other pricing options so ridiculous that the only reasonable, rational thing to do is become a member. For example, suddenly and inexplicably raise day rates to $50. Make your 10-punch pass $1,200. You get the idea.
Here’s where you can really save some cash. Routes and boulder problems have a shelf life of six- to eight-months, no matter what your members say. If you can still see the colors of the holds because they aren’t fully caked in chalk or black rubber, then the problem may be still considered “new.”
Also, make sure to schedule your setters’ working hours during peak gym usage, thereby closing off a quarter of the gym on Tuesday nights or rainy Saturday afternoons. You want your members to actually see their dollars going to work. Closing off a quarter of the gym at any given time is also a great way to make the gym feel more crowded and popular than it really is. You want to create an atmosphere of being in a packed nightclub. People will think this is cool.
It goes without saying that you should also make sure all your monthly costs are kept low. Keep the lights dim, the temperature unregulated, and never, ever, EVER buy new holds. This will ensure years of staying in the black.
Here’s a good gym hack. You don’t need belay tests. They’re a waste of time and resources. The old saying of its better to ask for forgiveness than permission applies to the legalities of your gym members fucking themselves up. Reduce your staff and overhead by employing a policy of “give the gumby a GriGri and let him go for it.”
For god’s sake, just make sure everyone has a waiver.