Founder Allan Charney thinks the combination of group fitness and boxing training will be a knockout at his new Gymjab club in Minnetonka.
Launching Minnetonka fitness club Gymjab, which combines group cardio training with boxing and kickboxing, has been an entrepreneurial endurance test for founder Allan Charney.
He spent four years honing his business plan and the Gymjab concept, which pairs top-flight trainers leading small-group classes with innovative new technology to assess members' health. A wearable monitor wirelessly streams each member's heart-rate and other data to displays in the club, to guide workout intensity, and to the cloud for tracking progress online.
As Charney's corporate travels took him across the country, he spent evenings sizing up boxing and fitness clubs, counting visitors with a clicker and later talking numbers with management.
Seeking financing, Charney made 60 presentations to local investors but came away empty-handed each time.
With the moxie of a ring veteran, however, Charney kept punching away, persevering until he succeeded in opening Gymjab two weeks ago in the Ridge Square North shopping center.
"Nothing was going to stop me," said Charney, 40, who boxed as a teen and put the gloves back on in recent years as part of his own workout regimen. "I boxed for three years and was a pretty tough kid. I loved the rush of being empowered. ... I'm tenacious. I never give up."
Charney ended up using his own money plus financing from Unity Bank to raise the $400,000 he needed to build out and equip the 6,500-square-foot gym and develop Gymjab's branding and website.
He also relied on his business background. Charney was still a student at the U of M when he founded Play Ball Sports and Entertainment in 1990. He sold his majority ownership of the company, which sold toys and sports collectibles to amusement parks and arcades, in 2001. His corporate experience includes working as national account manager for accessory maker Totes-Isotoner.
But Charney was eager to get back into business for himself. He landed on the group fitness/boxing club combination because hitting a punching bag was the only workout that had held his interest over time. He believes Gymjab's experienced trainers, new technology and cardio-and-boxing mix will serve a niche in a crowded fitness sector that includes locally based Life Time Fitness, Snap Fitness and Anytime Fitness among others.
His plan and tenacity persuaded Unity Bank to help finance Gymjab, said Craig Boeckers, vice president and commercial lender at the bank's Edina location.
"He had done extensive research to identify a niche that he could capitalize on," Boeckers said. "With this research he was able to come up with a concept that takes small-group fitness to a new level.''
Charney projects first-year revenue of $560,000 with 500 members, rising to $1.15 million and a maximum of 800 members after five years.
If he meets his first-year projections, he plans to scout for new locations in six to nine months, with a goal of opening three to five corporate stores in the next three years. He'd like to expand through franchising but may give investors another shot.
Gymjab's 14 employees include director of fitness Mark Neumann, a Life Time Fitness veteran and fitness consultant who has earned several national certifications, along with high-performance amateur and professional athletes.
Charney's boxing and kickboxing coordinator is Adonis Frazier, a former amateur and professional boxer and now a certified instructor with the Circle of Discipline, the south Minneapolis gym owned by his father, Sankara Frazier. Under a partnership, Circle of Discipline fighters are teaching boxing classes at Gymjab; instructors include professionals Jamal James, Minnesota welterweight champion, and Jonathan Perez, both still undefeated after recent knockout wins.
A one-year, unlimited adult membership costs $169 for the first month, which includes the cost of the heart monitor and health assessment, and $89 a month thereafter.
New Gymjab member Blake Anderson of Minnetonka said he joined because he enjoys working with the club's trainers and found that its technology helps him "work out smarter."
"I just fell in love with the place," said Anderson "The staff is really good, very welcoming and they know what they're doing."
The expert says: Dileep Rao, president of InterFinance Corp. in Golden Valley and clinical professor of entrepreneurship at Florida International University, said Charney "should think 15 times" before he gives up any equity.
"He has done the heavy lifting and has taken the punches,'' Rao said. "This is when investors will dangle carrots to encourage him to grow faster and give them control. Charney should resist the temptation."
Rao cautioned Charney to study everything about his first gym, such as who joins, why and how to keep them happy, before expanding.