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Kari Saitowitz, Founder & CEO of NYC’s Fhitting Room drives ahead with a mindset that’s asset-light, education-heavy and totally client-centred.

Fhitting Room delivers high intensity functional workouts with personalized attention within a motivational group setting via digital platforms and three locations. In late Spring ‘22, they’ll be one of four boutique brands housed in a novel New Jersey fitness concept offering luxury amenities, childcare, a smoothie bar and open gym at value pricing. It’s the kind of low overhead, revenue sharing partnership that jibes well with Fhitting Room CEO Kari Saitowitz’s forward-looking mindset.

“In this new world, asset light is a big part of what we’re doing differently,” says Kari of operating post-pandemic. “We have almost nine years of training trainers, developing incredible programming for clients, building community, and marketing and branding, and we’re looking for ways to deliver that to more people in more places in a way that is asset light.”

That’s the plan for this savvy “accidental entrepreneur” who studied at Wharton and Harvard and cut her teeth at American Express and Pepsi. After giving birth to her second son, Kari left big corporate and thought she’d be a stay-at-home mom. Instead, she started her own business.

“I was working with a personal trainer, initially to lose the baby weight,” she says of her introduction to functional training, which had her moving intentionally through everyday movements like squatting, pulling, pressing, lunging, and rotating. “It was the first time I found working out fun – full of variety, lots of different equipment. I never did anything for more than 45 or 60 seconds, and I saw the best results I’ve ever seen.”

At that time, boutiques had started hatching in NYC, and while customers clamored to group classes, they were also going to the gym for resistance and personal training. “Coming from a consumer behaviour background, that was intriguing to me,” Kari says. “I didn’t have the time or desire to go to the gym five to seven days/week. I wanted to be with a group of friends [and get] total body conditioning.”

And so Fhitting Room was born. Behind the scenes, nationally accredited trainers curate routines that roll out to every location. From the kettle bell-curious to the kettle bell-obsessed, every body receives individualized attention – even if they’re live online.

While Fhitting Room On Demand launched prior to the pandemic, Kari considered it a value add where she could test the waters to evaluate their viability. Then Covid hit.

“We changed [On Demand] from a seven- to 30-day free trial, lowered the price to $9.99 to make workouts as accessible to as many people as we could,” Kari explains, but she knew the pre-recorded format could never deliver on their brand promise of customized support in a fun communal setting. Therefore, she leveraged their existing technology for livestream classes, limited participants to 24, encouraged cameras on – “connection not perfection” – and tried to maintain schedules to reinforce community.

Clientele responded and digital classes currently generate as much as a bricks-and-mortar location. There’s still a way to go before Fhitting Room hits their pre-Covid $5MM annual revenue, but the company is innovating as they roll with the punches. They built a data warehouse to aggregate information from a variety of platforms (retail, booking, CRM), and consistently upgrade technological and human resources as they pursue new revenue streams through brand partnerships, corporate wellness and education – like their soon-to-launch certification for external trainers.

“In general, I think we’re in the midst of a massive reformation of the entire industry,” says Kari. “Covid disrupted and obviously had a devastating impact for many fitness businesses, but it was also a catalyst for some positive change that I think needed to happen. It’s an opportunity to right size for some individual businesses, an opportunity for everybody to evaluate their business models and pressure test how sustainable they were, reassess organizational design, the services we offer, how we offer them.”

Kari maintains that growth and client retention is not going to be about the workout. “It’s about ensuring that you’re providing a true community connection for people; having a voice and taking action on matters that are important to your clients; offering services where and when clients want to consume them, not just where you want to deliver them. Really becoming consumer-centric.”

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Fitness Business Insider magazine was created to support you, our valued fitness business owners, at all stages of your entrepreneurial journey. This endeavor is dedicated to sharing teachings from start-up visionaries and a network of expert business leaders and entrepreneurs who are focused exclusively on providing inspiration, education, and tools for your success. Evolution and education are imperative during this highly competitive, post-pandemic rebuild. We strive to support you, the movers and shapers at the frontline of our industry. Let us help you build back better and stronger!

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