December 30, 2021 — The Business Journals, https://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/inno/stories/profiles/2021/12/30/fitness-industrys-much-needed-tech-lift.html
The Smart Fit Method, a science-based personal fitness training program and lifestyle brand by father-and-son team Rob and Connor Darnbrough, is slated to open its second location in Koloa Village, Kauai in mid-January. The new 1,155 square-foot studio will feature innovative, artificial intelligence-driven exercise equipment, locally owned and operated by Kauai trainer Jodee Burris.
After a successful launch in Cardiff, California in July 2021, the company, with eight employees, has its sights set on executing a major franchise expansion plan, both in the Islands and on the Mainland.
“When I was going through health challenges, I reached out to my close friend and local personal trainer Jodee Burris,” said Rob Darnbrough, CEO and co-founder of The Smart Fit Method. “When I found these amazing machines, I sought Jodee’s advice on how to make this accessible to the everyday person, and Kauai was intended to be the original location. Due to Covid-19 restrictions and regulations, Cardiff became the first location of the franchise. Overall, Jodee has been an integral part of growing this business from day one.”
Darnbrough, whose career ranged from a trainer, an entrepreneur and competitive cyclist in Canada, retired at the age of 44. He was later diagnosed with a heart aneurysm at age 49, from what he believed was caused by over-training, and immediately began looking into healthy alternatives. He developed his own home gym, and soon after, his son Connor approached him about making his “more effective fitness result” method available to others.
The Smart Fit Method’s long-term goal is to create a positive relationship to food, exercise, and recovery; specifically, for those in the 45-75 years-old age range, aiming for eight locations in Hawaii and 30 along the coast of California.
How is succession planning integrated into your business model?
My previous businesses were all built on succession planning, so I came in [on this venture] to help my son in California and to assist Jodee in Kauai, but they’re the ones who will be running the gyms day-to-day.
What does it cost to open a new Smart Fit Method gym?
Each facility we open, the startup cost is $300,000, most of which is spent on the equipment and to provide enough capital to ensure quality service from the get-go. Once we double our break-even numbers, it’s time to open another gym. In Cardiff, for example, we hit that in six months. Now, we’re aiming for each facility to run at three times overhead.
[Through Covid], each facility will run at 50% capacity to serve 215 members (430 members at full); however, the intimate capacity allows our trainers, four per location, to be more attentive to each of the members. Once it exceeds that, we’ll expand to the next, and so on.
What’s been the most rewarding part of this business?
This industry has somehow evaded technology, but now it’s becoming disruptive. This tech opens doors. We’re talking about longevity here. It’s a little more than just looking good on the beach. It’s given me my life back. For me, it’s been cool to see one of our members lose nine inches off their waistline, especially during Covid. Now, people are going back to the gym, training harder and getting injured, so we’ve come up with safe way to get back out there and help clients get healthy and fit again.
Where do you see the most opportunities for growth next year?
On Kauai, we want to open a second location on the North Shore within the first year. We want to help the paddling community in addition to supporting other small businesses.
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 17 years old, so I see everything as an opportunity. When we grow to Oahu – and we plan to – we will create value in the market place, bringing personal fitness priced at group fitness rates. [The Smart Fit Method currently offers six membership programs that include access to The Smart Fit App.]
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Learn from every experience, whether it’s good or bad – get back out there and live your life!