Boutique fitness has its fads and trends, and sometimes it’s tempting to chase them, but…
We all know it takes tenacity and a sustained effort to build a studio brand that will grow — especially when you’re based in a small town.
zingfit client MARVIL FIT, located in Hampton Bays, New York, knows all about overcoming that challenge. Studio founder Marisella Villano shared her business story with us for our series on inspiring boutique fitness stories.
(We love Marisella and the story of how she became a studio owner—and you can read more about her journey from ‘spin class’ attendee to boutique entrepreneur here.)
Location, location …
While I was searching for my future location, I needed to create a business plan. Opening a studio because you like to exercise and thinking you can make a profit off a fad is not enough! The Hamptons market is a tough crowd because of its seasonality.
… plus a little expert advice.
Once a location was secured, I was fortunate enough to connect with Barbara Chauncey, the president of Indoor Cycle Design. She helped put my plan in action and helped design my studio. She connected me to great resources like Solmark Creative, to design and develop my brand and website, and zingfit, to provide a professional booking platform.
MARVIL FIT started out as a small, 720 square foot studio with 17 bikes. On opening weekend, we waitlisted every class. All bikes were filled with friends, family and a very curious local community. I couldn’t believe it! With a town population of 10,000–14,000, this was quite an accomplishment.
After the initial success, what’s the path to boutique studio growth?
Originally MARVIL FIT was intended to be a dedicated indoor cycling studio. I was still teaching outdoor boot camps and renting outdoor space to do it. Tired of renting the outdoor space, I decided to take the boot camps inside the studio and make the classes smaller. I also added some fitness fusion classes to the schedule because my clients kept telling me they wanted more classes and didn’t really want to go to any other studios. With 720 square feet, it was very challenging to keep moving the bikes out of the way for these special classes.
After 8 months of opening, I was fortunate enough to have the space next door to me become available. Going with the opportunity, we expanded and doubled our size in less than one year. Once the mat studio was created, I focused on creating my own version of functional fitness classes. The MARVIL Method was created! The classes were not designed to show people how strong I was. They were designed to leave my clients feeling strong and empower them both physically and mentally.
In other words, it’s not just about the fitness programming.
I wanted to create a special community where shame and guilt were non-existent. Where we encourage our clients to be their best. In a world filled with constant distractions and obstacles, your clients need support. When one of our clients is going through a tough time in their lives, we do our best to provide support for them.
Sometimes it’s a hug. Sometimes it’s a 5:00 am wakeup call so they can make the 5:30 am class and start their day on a positive note.
Sometimes it’s an email saying, “We are thinking about you and are here for you.”
Aside from having great classes, a great studio needs to offer a feeling of comfort and acceptance. A person should be able to feel hospitality from the minute they walk in the door, and they should continue to feel that way until they leave. I credit my Sicilian heritage for this. Growing up Sicilian, you always bent over backwards for your guests. While we offer amenities like mints, hair ties, complimentary towels and complimentary cycling shoes to enhance client experience, the most important touches are the personal ones.
On February 2nd, 2019, we celebrated our 5th anniversary!
I could not have done this alone. I have an amazing, hard-working crew at MARVIL FIT that believes in me and helps keep my vision relevant. My family and friends have been very supportive and patient dealing with my crazy hours and helping me deal with all the hurdles along this journey. Lastly, my incredible community inspires me and has kept me in business for all this time!
—Marisella, founder of MARVIL FIT
Note from zingfit: Thanks, Marisella, for sharing your story! Just as you empower clients to grow as people, we thrive on empowering our studios to grow their businesses. We’re happy to be a small part of “the guts behind your glory” with our studio booking software.