Kevin Yates and TRIBE3 are rapidly expanding into local neighborhoods and the Metaverse with a fitness experience that’s carefully curated end-to-end.
When boutique chain TRIB3 (“tribe”) accepted their franchise fee for a Madrid location in cryptocurrency, industry insiders sat at attention, and some may have even scratched their heads. But for Founder and CEO, Kevin Yates, the transaction was a logical extension of the forward-thinking, millennial-savvy strategy that has brought the UK-based entrepreneur his escalating success in the group training experience.
Born in a small English town and brought up “hustling and selling through the miners’ strikes in the early ‘80s,” Kevin played football (aka soccer) “well but not brilliantly” and eventually spent years in the military through various conflicts and as part of the battalion personal trainers. After his service, he got a job at the then-new Fitness First, which he helped to grow into one of the largest wholly-owned fitness clubs in the world. He then moved on to luxury fitness clubs and local authority leisure and cultural facilities. By the time he conceived of TRIB3 and opened his first store in Sheffield in 2016, he was primed and ready to pull up his entrepreneurial boots.
Why is locating outside city centers been so pivotal to your expansion strategy?
When we began, boutique fitness was just starting out in the UK – it had been going in the US for a while – and I said: we need to create a boutique that’s not just London-centric, something that fits outside of the city. TRIB3 is about bringing communities together through next-level workout experiences and I wanted to show that whatever London can do we can do better. If we put the club in a place where you’ve got disposable income, living density, and good values… we get the right demographic: workers coming in at 6/6:30 in the morning; moms coming in after they drop their kids at school for the 9:45, and the hard corers coming in after work.
You started in Sheffield and Leeds. Where are you now?
As of today, we’ve sold [franchisees for] over 60 stores in different areas around the world – Glasgow, Republic of Ireland, UK, Finland, Russia, Spain, and we’re moving at lightning speed. In 2018, I met with Jonathan Fisher of Holmes Place… [and a year later] the Fisher family took a majority share of the company… We have an exciting strategy for the next 5 years which is, quite simply, 1000 stores in 36 countries by 2026. We’ll be coming to the US at the end of 2022.
You’re expanding into the Metaverse, as well. Talk a bit about that.
I’ve been studying the Metaverse for a while and thought we should be the first fitness company in the world to build a fitness center [there]. That’s what we’re doing right now in OliveX, and we’re going to be working in Sandbox as The Land. We’re going to build the most amazing NFTs. You get sweat coins when you train at TRIB3 and you can exchange those for DoSCoins in the Metaverse and spend them as you would cash – to buy clothing, or a sword, or tickets to a TRIB3 concert or special events we’ll be running… We’re really excited about it.
We’re living in a graying society, yet you seem to be targeting the millennial mindset.
That’s true, though sometimes based on where we’re located, we end up with clients who are my generation – Generation X – who want to be millennials and just missed the cut. Let’s face it: times have changed. Look at the ladies on the new “Sex and the City”- they’re fabulous and they’re the same age as “The Golden Girls” were when they debuted, so we’re worlds away from that. We’ve got people that want to feel young and work hard, and high-intensity training is very inclusive. That’s why we have our proprietary heart rate system that tracks your workout and gives you your levels to make sure you stay in the right zone for you.
Describe the TRIBE experience.
When you come into a TRIB3 there are beautiful scented candles… warm lighting… luxurious shakes… All these experiences before you’ve even walked into the studio. We’ve got a seven-minute curated soundtrack played in every studio around the world to get you in the zone. In class, we’ve got the treadmill, resistance, and intensity – that’s the 3 in TRIB3. We’ve curated all the music and the lighting, and we have a digital chalkboard that tells the coach what people are going to do next. The coaches choose the music and timings, and then the workout is automatically loaded onto the digital chalkboard. There may be seven minutes on the treadmills, then seven minutes on the floor with resistance, then seven on intensity, which is an air bike. Then perhaps a second round for seven minutes each, then maybe the third round of three minutes each. You’ll never know what you’re going to get. Every workout is different. At the end of class, you get a cool, damp towel and our signature cool-down track. [Then you head to] the sensual rain showers where you get a 600g Egyptian cotton towel… It’s an experience from beginning to end. Everything matters.
Where do you think the pandemic is leading the industry and consumers?
I feel the real opportunity will be in the franchise – and I’m not just saying that because we are in a franchise but because [people entering the business] can see there is more support there. Customers are savvier and they have lots of choices… [While] research shows that people are willing to spend a fair bit on their health and wellness, inflation and the rising cost of living are an issue and we’re all going to have been mindful that there’s less money in people’s pockets… So, the experiences that you offer are going to have to be really thought about.
How do you support your franchisees?
As a franchisee, what you’re buying from us is all the IP, platforms, and systems that make running your store simple. We spend a lot of time doing what you wouldn’t be able to afford yourself. We focus on new registrations, making sure we segment the market, using SalesForce, and Sales Cloud to send the right messages to the right type of communities so we can get them into your store… We control franchise buildout and focus hard on value engineering clubs to build. We’ve been highly efficient and successful, opening with the cost per square foot at half of some of the franchises we’re hearing about. That gives you a really [smooth] move to market…
What part of your work is most meaningful for you?
What drives me is employment. I’m proud of every single time I can employ someone. It’s the one thing that gets me awake in the morning but it’s also the one thing that keeps me awake at night. I see it as a real privilege to see my team on holidays, getting marries, buying their first houses, or showing me the cars they bought. There wasn’t much employment when I was growing up… and to be able to provide that is definitely my calling, my legacy. When I drop the mic, as they say, and I’ve created 1000 stores in 36 countries, and we’ve employed all those people, I’ll be happy.