How far along into your own fitness journey did you decide you wanted to run your own fitness business? For Matt and Lizzie, owners of CrossFit 2012, the decision came fairly quickly. Why? They loved fitness and found a passion for CrossFit. Without really knowing if they could in fact run their own box they decided ‘why not at least try?’.
We got to sit down with CrossFit 2012 co-owner, Lizzie Fisher, and chat with her about her experience launching their affiliate and how it has grown over the past 7 years. Lizzie not only shares the major triumphs they had early on, but also the struggles and obstacles they ran into and how they were able to overcome them. Their decision to open their box wasn't a labour of years of planning and discussing. They had an idea, were excited and motivated, and took that drive and built it into the successful and thriving business it is today.
Whether you are finally taking the steps to launch your business or are still contemplating making the leap, Lizzie shares her reasons why if you love and are passionate about something don't hesitate to take chance on it. It could just be the start of something amazing. She also shares her experience running a box during COVID and their plans for the future. Follow along with our interview to learn what she had to say and gain some inspiration for your own business dreams.
Tell us about CrossFit 2012
My name is Liz and with my husband Matt, we own and operate our CrossFit box, CrossFit 2012 in Surrey, England. We named our box 2012 because that is the year that we both discovered CrossFit and started training in a local box. After a couple of years of training and seeing what he liked, we opened our affiliate in early 2014 and began by renting a studio space, running our sessions at different hours in the week. We slowly started realising that we needed to give our members a fuller timetable, so the hunt for a space more suited to CrossFit was on. However, early we found that it was actually very tricky to find the right space, so we decided to build our own and our business took off from there.
What led you to discover CrossFit?
Starting our own business was really led by Matt. My background is in retail and business management and I worked for Lululemon for a long time. Matt is a physiotherapist and a personal trainer so he has always worked in the gym rehabilitation environment. In 2012 I wanted to do something with Matt and to be able to train and exercise together. I wanted to learn and didn't know certain aspects of working out and fitness. However, because Matt has so much experience in fitness and coaching when he would try to teach me we'd both get frustrated. Then one day I saw a Reebok commercial for CrossFit, and I said that is what we should do together.
We then started going to a local affiliate called CrossFit Bold which is about a 40-minute drive from where we are. We started together by doing a foundation course with a coach to learn the fundamental aspects of CrossFit, how to squat, how to deadlift, and once we learned and finished the course, we began to train that way in a global gym.
What made you decide to launch your own affiliate so soon after starting CrossFit?
It really was a full-time hobby for Matt. He loved being a personal trainer and was still doing so on the side so he said 'let's rent a studio and just see." He then did his level 1, we registered for an affiliate, invested in some kit and got started. It wasn't something in 2014 where we thought let's open an affiliate. It came from us realising we are both doing something we really enjoy and Matt can share that with other people as a trainer and see where it goes. It was very organic and I think if you are passionate about something, just start because you never know where it's going to take you. You don't need to have some massive idea, just do what you love.
Why did you decide to build your own box and space rather than rent?
Once Matt got the affiliate we started renting a dance studio space for three hours a week. Unfortunately, the space was not ideal for lifting, and to be honest, they didn't love us being there. We wanted to be there at 6 am and the spring floors were loud, and we didn't know what we were doing. We were just having fun and figuring it out.
So after hunting for spaces, eventually Matt contacted local sports clubs that had grounds. The space where we are now said we could move onto their grounds and ultimately we moved into their marquee which was a temporary structure on the rugby field. In the marquee, under a rugby grandstand, we began to build our box. We had to apply for planning and originally we didn't plan on building underneath the grandstand. We originally thought we'd get a pre-fabricated unit made and then that didn't happen. It wasn't a smooth road, but the only way we could move forward was to build our own space, so we did that.
It was very cool to build once we got started and the architect was very excited about it. To have our dream and to be able to build our box and make it exactly how we wanted was really cool. When Covid happened and we were allowed to return to exercise outdoors we expanded our footprint and built an outdoor box alongside our indoor box.
How did COVID affect your box and business?
It's definitely been challenging. To give props to ourselves and the coaching team, we adapted the best we could. We learned how to use Zoom and record and use Beyond the White Board for our programs. We learned how to upload things, and we took a leap and built our outdoor box when we were able to return to outdoor fitness in July. Originally there was only grass in that space and we couldn't bring the equipment outside so it made sense to build the add on. Unfortunately, we weren't able to use that space for very long when we went back into the tiered lockdown system in September. Then we could use it, but couldn't run classes, and between all of the lockdowns there have been a lot of adaptations to what we provide including kit rentals and managing what people can use and who has what.
How did you run your CrossFit workouts online?
Currently, we are offering the most online that we have ever had. We have gifted some of our kit to members on the basis that they return it. We are offering the most online content, the most Zoom classes, and are really working hard to offer people the highest level of online service that we can provide until we return face to face.
Some of our customers have no equipment at home, some have rented, and some have a lot. Matt has written every program with no equipment so that more members have can join, but the way he has written is that if you do have equipment you can use it. So a member can say I have this piece of equipment and the coaches will instruct them how to use it in the workout and adjust. The coaches are experienced enough to know what to do on the fly and ensure that everyone is doing what they should be.
I also have recorded yoga classes, as I am a yoga teacher, and we have released those videos and have a mobility chat set up. We have also done functional training as well, to maintain strength and use what they need to supplement the CrossFit program.
Our main marketing tools are social media and we've done a light bit of lead footing, although not a big amount. It's also word of mouth. When you're a fresh affiliate starting out with a foundations course for new people is key. We don't do that now, but at the start, it helped new members come in and enrol them in the specifics of Crossfit and how it is different from other fitness.
With marketing, it's all been really organic and self-taught. We set up social media and just went from there. We use our phone and a GoPro and it's just been very organic. As you grow you have to become more strategic in how you target and you have to follow a plan with the messaging you are telling people and align that with the box you are trying to become. Just do it and put that out there, get the attention, and don't overthink it too much.
How have you motivated your coaches and members during the lockdowns?
The CrossFit world where we are in Surrey is quite small. We know the other affiliate owners, and you have to talk to your coaches and members and see what they want. Some people haven't wanted to do Zoom so we have written them programs that they can do on their own or given pre-recorded content that they can use on their own too. We have written and adapted to them. It's very hard but when you can communicate with people you just need to listen to what they want. You can also watch what others are doing well and see what works for you. I feel like I am constantly on my phone communicating with our community, but that is what I can do until we are back face to face.
What are your re-opening plans and future plans for CrossFit 2012?
From March 29 we can open our outdoor box and from April 12 we can go back inside, but not for classes. We will have open gym inside and all classes outdoors. We knew a lot of people were on hold or cancelled so when we found out we could start outdoors again we started taking deposits and applied them as account credit on TeamUp. That holds their spot and since we are going to have much more limited availability and space with social distancing, we can now see who plans to come back right away. That was one of the biggest things we did marketing-wise and on social media and used TeamUp to hold peoples' memberships, take payments and add account credit to their profiles. Our members now are able to book our classes for that period of time.
I have also been able to sign people back up and start their memberships once we fully re-open so it has helped people want to come back. Being able to hold peoples' memberships was really helpful and now they can come back and we've been able to value them for being loyal customers. We are still going to offer and deliver online classes and on-demand content for our customers who aren't able to come back. We have so much pre-recorded content that we are going to be able to supply our customers with.
What has your experience been with using TeamUp to run your CrossFit box?
I'd highly recommend TeamUp. One, the functionality of it is very good, and TeamUp worked more for CrossFit classes compared to any other software I had tried out. The service you are providing as a CrossFit affiliate is a luxury service, and with that service you need to provide a booking system that is practical, easy to use and needs to be efficient. It is essential for any CrossFit affiliate to use an online system and one that works well because otherwise you are going to create more work for yourself and the service you provide to your customers won't be as seamless. TeamUp worked so much easier, especially from the get-go. This is the first system I've experienced for making bookings and it's been self-taught. TeamUp has great resources and you have the chat option for great customer support and response.
Thanks for reading!