When launching a new studio or gym, there were many things to be sorted out prior to opening day—your employee manual, class choreography, how you’d market to the neighborhood demographic. But as with any new business, something likely came out of left field: a problem, situation or realization that you never saw coming. We talked to ten studio owners about the most surprising things they learned as new business owners—lessons you’ll surely find helpful on your own path to success.

“Acknowledging that my employees will never see me as their peer was very challenging to stomach in my first two years of launching my studio. As a young businesswoman, I craved the camaraderie of my team, yet I have had to learn that a little healthy separation between myself and them is necessary.”
Carly Grace Hinchman, Thunderbolt Power Yoga, Altanta, GA

“I think most studios make big scheduling mistakes upon opening. Open with a soft schedule and add as needed, that way you are not out of pocket and your instructors don’t get frustrated with small classes that are poorly attended. Very few studios open all classes at capacity. It takes time… a lot of time!”
Debbie Wolff, Fusion Fitness and O2 Yoga, Coral Springs, FL

“Like having a baby or buying a new home, being a new business owner is all encompassing—in the best of ways. It requires nurturing, sleepless nights and really tall ladders. But like anything you pour your heart and soul into, my studio/baby/home-away-from-home loves me right back—tenfold. Best thing I’ve ever done!”
Gina Striffler, Bar Method, Madison, NJ

“For me the greatest thing I have learned is investing in your team, because they are everything when it comes to building a successful brand. The goal is to develop leaders within your studio who will take ownership.”
Nick Oram, Revolve Fitness, New York, NY

“As a new small business owner, I had no choice but to wear many different hats from marketing to HR and accounting, even cleaning toilets and handyman work. All of these jobs forced me to simply figure things out, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but never the less, always learning and continually applying those lessons to future situations. In the role of business owner, there’s no time to say ‘that’s not my field,’ there’s only time to figure out what needs to be done and do it.”
Kate Carski, TITLE Boxing Club, Springfield & Falls Church, VA

“The most surprising thing my husband and I learned as business owners is how our ‘pearl street fitness’ brand is an extension of who we are at our core, and the stronger we become as people, the more our business exploded. We were able to stop all advertising and grow the business organically through massive word of mouth. Another surprising thing we learned was how to effectively build the community both in person and online. We blended the ‘real world’ workout experience with a digital virtual world, where we all spend time socially. It boosted our business outside our gym walls and now we reach thousands more each week through our Strong Confident Living group.”
Laura St. John, Pearl Street Fitness, Denver, CO

“Who would have thought you needed a towel security system!”
Larry Track, Track Fitness, Toronto

“I think the biggest surprise for me has been that every changebig or smallmatters. I’m always shocked and often perplexed at the reactions clients have to changes we make in the studio. It doesn’t matter if it seems tiny (like changing the brand of deodorant we offer) to bigger (like when we switched scheduling software or starting requiring shoes). Change is hard and we hear about it! At the end of the day, though, I love that our riders are so passionate, as it almost always comes from a passion for fitness. And that is something I can live with!”
Deborah Collard, Ride Oakland, Oakland, CA

“It’s hard to find time to workout! But I make time, regardless of how busy or tired I am—I have to be proof that my program works.”
Grace Martinez, Run 2 Be Fit, Everett, WA

“You have to be able to pivot. You may think you have the greatest idea ever, or that a class time is going to work, or a retail item will sell like crazy, or a teacher is going to have an amazing following—and sometimes it turns out you were wrong. It’s imperative that you can quickly turn around and say, ‘I thought this was going to work, time try something else.’”
Jane Brodsky, Biker Barre, Washington, D.C.