Steve and Michelle Friot had only been dating six months when he asked her to do something wild: move to Virginia and start a new business together. Everyone close to them advised against it, saying they’d be back within a year—but Michelle took a leap of faith. They went all-in on a move and a business with no backup plan and barely enough money to last 90 days.
Fast forward six years, StarFit Studio has two thriving locations that specialize in women-only strength training and won the 2017 BOLD Award for Greatest Customer Growth—and Steve and Michelle recently became parents to their first child.
We sat down with Steve to discuss what led to their business’s success.
When StarFit first opened, only hour sessions (half hour of strength training, half hour of cardio) were available. But Steve started noticing that their attendance was fizzling out, and after some research he realized why. His clients were bored of cardio. He recognized a need in the fitness community for women: learning how to do functional moves with equipment that most are too intimidated to touch in a big box gym. He scrapped what they had and ditched the treadmills. Instead, they filled their gym with things like Olympic bars, bumper plates, dogsleds, battle ropes and other equipment that fall under the category of “whoa, that seems scary”. Now StarFit runs hour-long pure strength training sessions with two groups alternating every half hour.
Doing less to do more
When asked what advice he had for other businesses, Steve says, “Do one thing. Too many people out there are trying to do a lot of stuff, but they can’t do any of it well…Just be really good at one thing, and people will find you.” This has proven to be key to StarFit’s success in increasing their number of clients 105% from 2016 to 2017.
With such high customer growth, one might expect StarFit to have heavy sales tactics in place—but it’s actually the opposite. Steve explains, “I wanted to take away the sales process from everyone, client and staff. I don’t want anyone to have to sit in a room and I don’t want to go over prices. I want them to get on the floor, grab their phone and book a session—all within 10 minutes.”
Finding what works
This system took around five years to perfect, and Steve did it by constantly making changes and staying transparent with his clients. Having the right tools helped, too. StarFit uses MINDBODY software and features like the branded app to let customers book whatever and whenever they want, and the business app to enable staff to check people in quickly and start class sooner. Steve says, “Make it super easy for the client and they love it. When everybody’s happy, you make more money and people stay longer.”
Integrating technology with fitness
In addition to a streamlined sale-less process, StarFit delights their clients with technology to track their results. Clients wear a heart rate monitor that measures their effort, calories and activity level during workouts. To do this, StarFit uses FitMetrix, a MINDBODY partner. This integration records and emails each workout’s work to the client, so they can see their personal progress after every visit. They even display the studio’s total calories burned—which Steve says his clients love. “You’d think having analytics would make it a huge competition, but it actually encourages everyone to cheer each other on. Seeing a number like 2 million calories in a year is an awesome thing to see.”
To studios unsure about whether or not to make this technological leap, Steve says, “You have to incorporate technology and keep changing. People love information and information being displayed. It’s so easy to integrate.” The proof of this is in StarFit’s numbers. With over 400 active clients, they hope to open their third location soon.