Safe Sweat New concept brings a private fitness experience to the client who doesn’t want a group setting when getting their sweat on.
Emre Ozgur was born in the “fitness mecca” of Los Angeles, CA into a large family of professionals. He was a high-achieving athlete – college football, competitive bodybuilding, professional mixed martial arts, and went on to study economics and business at Claremont McKenna College. When he graduated, his father asked if he planned to be a doctor or a lawyer. Emre answered, “I’m going to be a personal trainer.”
Emre developed an impressive skillset from his gym floor roots to the executive suite. Starting with 24 Hour Fitness in 1998, he climbed from Club Manager to District Manager to Area Director, until he had headed up markets in California, Florida and Utah. He relocated to British Columbia to serve as Vice President of SNFW and eventually became President for Crunch Canada, which owns the Master rights for the country.
After 25 years en route to his dream job, the obstacle he could not foresee – that nobody foresaw, was COVID. Six months into the pandemic, Emre found himself jobless and unsure of his next move. Before accepting one of several solid offers from companies in the States, Emre’s wife, Jacqui, asked if there was any way they and their 11-year-old twins could stay in Vancouver. Emre had always toyed with getting out on his own and it seemed an ideal time to try.
Six months after acquiring the Canadian rights to Fitbench with business partner Andrea Kloegman, Emre was struck with an entrepreneurial lightning bolt that he just had to share. “When it comes to working out, there are only two options: either you go to a public facility with other people, or you work out at home, by yourself. Imagine a studio where you have your own space and your own equipment to work out.” Emre and his partner began working on Safe Sweat Fitness, a facility with eight workout suites containing a full range of high-end fitness equipment and a catalogue of on-screen work outs. Members can book 50-minute sessions and have a private workout experience without the space, investment, and maintenance burdens of a luxury at-home gym.
Did COVID inspire Safe Sweat?
What really motivated us to create Safe Sweat is that the fitness industry has never provided a solution for people who would rather work out on their own than in group settings. For every person who is inspired by working out amongst other people, there is another person that has anxiety with the thought of going into a gym. The list of reasons is long… from ‘I don’t want to go to the gym because I’m not comfortable… I’m overweight… I don’t want people staring at me… I don’t want creeps following me from equipment to equipment.’ And we’ve never provided a solution for them. I remember being in a certification program and the instructor said that only 15-20% of the population belong to a health club or studio… 25 years later, we’re still at the same percentage. We have more gyms, more studios, more concepts, [we’re] growing the generations of fitness users but the percentage is not increasing. I believe Safe Sweat is a different product for this demographic of people that would rather work out on their own.
Was it difficult to secure financing during a pandemic?
Andrea and I had been working on Safe Sweat, doing research, design, financial modeling, and then about 10 months ago we said, ‘OK we need to go get the funding.’ We spoke to a handful of groups with capital; all of them loved it and all of them tried to take almost the entire company. [So] we went to the banks. The banks said, ‘You want to open a new business, a fitness business, a fitness business that has never been done before in the middle of the pandemic? You’re crazy.’ And I said, ‘Give me five minutes with your bank manager to walk them through the financials.’ …And we got the approval.
When did you launch?
We launched our digital presale and announced on social [on February 15]. We budgeted the Phase 1 offering to last us about a month, and we sold out in two hours. We’re way ahead of schedule… The fitness industry and other business owners/operators love the concept, the design, the marketing; they love who we’re marketing to. We’ve been welcomed with open arms by our community, and we’re seen as a disruptor in the fitness industry. We’ve created a new category.
Who is your ideal client?
We’re getting different types of people who typically do not like exercising in social settings. [Next are] executives who don’t have time for crowds, don’t want to wait for equipment and maybe don’t want to do a class. They just want to get in and get out. We’ve also been approached by fitness influencers – that’s a big demographic right now, who say, ‘Oh my gosh: so, I can create a video or do a photo shoot in there and no one will bother me? There are people who belong to other gyms who also want to join Safe Sweat; more than 34% of fitness clientele belong to multiple gyms. They might go for a jog one day, yoga the next and Safe Sweat the day after that…
Are you hearing from personal trainers?
Absolutely. We will have our own trainers and we’ll also welcome outside personal trainers. I think about all the trainers who were displaced because of the pandemic and started doing their own thing, but they don’t have enough equipment, or their clients don’t have enough equipment. So, yes, we’re getting hit up by outside trainers.
Describe the Safe Sweat experience.
The (first) facility is 2700 square feet with eight FITsuitesä and our memberships give [tiered access to the suites based on low-and peak-demand times throughout the day]. Eventually we hope we’ll go to 24 hours, and we’re also capping our memberships, which is usually unheard of in the fitness industry. When you enter, your suite will already be cleaned and sanitized. You’ll have your own personal space and cabinets right there, so you don’t need a locker. Each room will have a large digital screen with our Safe Sweat Fitness library so users will be able to select from workouts categorized by body part (full body to individual muscle groups), workout type (HIIT, yoga, rehab) – you name it we got it. After you leave, we sanitize the space for the next person, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up after yourself. You can also access the Safe Sweat digital library when you’re at home, so if you can’t get in for some reason you can do a workout from home.
What’s your projected roll-out for corporate and franchise locations?
We have our first studio opening at the end of April, and we plan to find the second location by the end of 2022. I want to make sure we are 100% before we give franchise specifics… In my experience, there are a lot of franchise fitness groups whose focus is selling franchises as opposed to supporting the franchisees. We’re already writing the operational playbooks and we plan to make this one of the easiest fitness studio turnkey operations in the market. We want to make sure all our franchisees are successful.
Why would franchisees opt for Safe Sweat?
Our cost to operate these studios are 35% less than the average fitness boutique or studio [because] we don’t have classes which means we don’t have coaches and instructors to pay.
The biggest struggle I’ve heard from operation leaders in the fitness industry is recruiting, hiring top instructors and coaches, and then retaining them. If you look at almost every studio out there, their [actual] product is their coaches and instructors, their classes, and they’re struggling because they can’t afford to continue to pay them the way they need to pay them. Here, we eliminate that, so our product is not a class; our product are our private FITsuites… We anticipate revenue similar to some of the higher end studio boutiques, with substantially more profit.
What constitutes a great Safe Sweat location?
Our first location is in a nice, growing suburb of Vancouver called South Surrey with a demographic of individuals who can afford the pricing model. Having said that, I’ve been a part of “low-cost/high-value” gyms for many years and I would argue that a lot of them have nothing high value associated with them. Costs have gone up and they’re struggling to maintain the gyms and while operating as inexpensively as possible. Team member turnover is crazy, and the engagement is at an all time low… People that value privacy or working out in a nice facility will pay to do that and there is a growing demographic of fitness enthusiasts who would pay a higher dollar amount for a nice space, especially because of the pandemic. That being said, I believe Safe Sweat Boutiques can be located practically anywhere.