Where non traditional financing solutions became a Snap
Unlike a traditional gym, which is only open for a limited number of hours, Snap Fitness lets members come and go even in the wee hours of the night.
At Snap Fitness, you’re not just a member of a gym. You’re part of a community of like-minded people who frequent the facility to get some exercise, work on their health and improve their wellbeing. With a swipe of your key card, you have 24-hour access to a fully equipped workout center. Owners Lori and Brad Lockwood say that this gives members a feeling of ownership.
“We said, Hey that’s a great concept. We’re not going to be locked-in 24 hours having to work in it, but we can put a community gym in town,” said Brad. “We fell in love with the gym when we were customers there, and we wanted to be a part of it.”
The community feel was important to Lori and Brad. They didn’t just want to open up any old franchise; they liked the idea of a smaller, more intimate gym that would welcome citizens in a smaller community. “They do well in towns with eight to fifteen thousand people, small towns,” said Brad.
Now, the couple owns three Snap Fitness gyms in Berlin, Burlington and Milton. It was the first facility of its kind to open in Berlin and is still the only 24-hour gym in the town. The gyms are small enough to be intimate and encourage members to get to know each other. However, they’re large enough to provide plenty of space and flexibility. Fitness On Demand classes can be streamed virtually any time of day or night. Personal trainers work on site to bring members’ fitness to a whole new level. It’s the kind of place where members want to be part of the family.
When people are having a really hard time trying to get a loan from their banks, we let them know about Opportunities.
Although they had a lot of passion, Lori and Brad didn’t have experience in the gym industry when they started out. Brad had just transitioned from 17 years working at a manufacturing plant that produced hardware products. Although he had gotten his degree and begun his career in Vermont, he was transferred to Alabama to supervise a new facility as that company expanded. Eventually, the company was sold, and Brad was left with a one-year severance package.
The couple was in a scary spot. They had recently adopted their two daughters, Lori was a stay-at-home mom and they knew they would have to find another source of income within the next several months. When Lori signed them up for a gym membership at the Snap Fitness near their home in Alabama, everything clicked.
Lori and Brad liked the versatility that the business model offered to the members as well as the business owners. The couple decided that starting their own Snap Fitness franchise would be their next career move.
However, they were ready to get back to their roots. Lori and Brad returned to Vermont, and they opened their first Snap Fitness location in Berlin in 2008.
In order to get started, Lori and Brad had to pay a franchise fee as well as the rights to their territory. They were wise when it came to their investment. With two young children, they knew that starting their own business would be challenging. That’s why they chose the franchise model. “It saves you money in the respect that it saves you time. You’re able to duplicate a successful model and apply the same concepts to your community. Having branding, marketing strategies and national exposure already in place means that you can better focus your energy,” Brad said.
That didn’t mean that starting the business was a walk in the park. When they were setting up their first location, Brad and Lori would work until two or three in the morning sometimes. Their children would sleep on the floor of the gym until it was time to head home. Lori remembers saying to Brad one day, “Oh my God, I hope somebody comes in this gym.” It turns out that Snap Fitness was exactly what the community wanted.
At the time, Lori and Brad had gone through a bank that believed in the franchise model to help them lease the equipment that filled the space. It was an easy process, and it gave them hope for the future.
The future arrived more quickly than Lori and Brad had expected. Within a year and a half, Brad and Lori were looking to open a second location. The landlord of the plaza on North Avenue in Burlington stopped by the Berlin location one day and decided that he had to have a Snap Fitness in his building.
Brad went to work updating the business plan. Looking into small business lending options for the second location wasn’t as easy. He went to several banks and had no luck. Most banks saw that the Berlin location was doing well, but it had not even been up and running for two years. In addition, the business didn’t fit most banks’ models for small business lending.
Things changed when Brad met with Greg Huysman, the senior business development manager at Opportunities Credit Union. Opportunities saw the potential for future growth within the community. Greg thought the fact that the business was new and growing as a benefit. The Snap Fitness at 1127 North Avenue in Burlington opened in February 2010.
About a year later, both locations were doing so well that Brad and Lori knew that they needed to expand. There were so many members that the gyms needed more equipment and more floor space.
In May 2011, however, catastrophe hit. During a bad storm, the entire plaza where the Berlin Snap Fitness is located was submerged. Fortunately, Opportunities came through once again. The credit union provided a loan for the renovation of the Berlin location as well as for the expansion of both locations. Lori and Brad opened a third location in Milton in 2014.
They are grateful to Opportunities for believing in them when no one else would. In fact, they now have four loans through Opportunities, including the mortgage on their house. When asked if they would recommend Opportunities to anyone else, Lori said, “We do recommend the credit union a lot. When people are having a really hard time trying to get a loan from their banks, we let them know about Opportunities.”
The flexibility of the Opportunities parallels the flexibility of Snap Fitness. It’s a business that sees value in providing something for the community that wasn’t available before. Snap Fitness is a results-oriented gym with hundreds of classes, stretching areas, free weights, cardio and strength equipment and personal trainers. The company has stayed ahead of the curve when it comes to following trends in the fitness industry. Lori and Brad credit Opportunities with helping them become one of the most versatile gyms in the are
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