Wilfred Valentaopened its first “micro-gym” almost two years ago, redeveloping a 580 square foot office space in downtown Montreal and renting it by the hour to physical trainers and small groups of people. training.
He couldn’t have known at the time how fortuitous his timing was.
Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many large gyms to remain closed, his business,Silofit Inc., rushes to develop. After five openings since September, it is adding a dozen branches in Toronto next year.
He is also speeding up plans to break into the $ 32 billion U.S. gym market, backed by money from U.S. and Canadian venture capital firms and NFL player Ndamukong Suh, a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And it prepares complementary services for fitness trainers, its main clients.
“We’re at the point where we see such an appetite that we would like to grow faster,” said Valenta, co-founder and CEO of Silofit, in an interview. “The industry was moving away from big gym memberships – COVID just accelerated this.”
The virus has been brutal for fitness clubs, leading to a string of bankruptcies, while propelling companies like Peloton that help people exercise in private.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Silofit was in the same situation as its big rivals. Even though it planned to add more locations, it was ordered to close the existing locations. After Montreal reopened over the summer, occupancy rates at Silofit’s facilities were still below pre-pandemic levels.
The turning point came in the fall, when the temperature dropped. In Montreal, Silofit was allowed to stay open for two-man workouts, even after the government forced large gyms to close again. Newly opened Toronto micro-gymnasiums garnered media attention and booked.
“It really set the wheels in motion, and after that it snowballed,” said Valenta.
There are signs of pent-up demand. The number of people downloading the company’s planning app tripled to 6,000 in six weeks through the end of November. Even though the pitches were booked, people were checking availability every day.
In a December survey for U.S. investment bank Harrison Co., 27% of respondents who exercised regularly said they canceled their gym memberships during the pandemic, and 12% planned to do so. . Research firm IBISWorld expects industry revenue to decline 13% in 2020.
Silofit’s private gym concept caters to people’s desire for activities outside the home, while providing a relative sense of security – there are no strangers sweating next to them. you and the space is cleaned between sessions. Reservations are made through the app and a code to unlock the door is sent a few minutes before the start of the session.
Rates range from CAN $ 15 ($ 11.70) to CAN $ 30 per hour, depending on the time of day and the size of the room. The space has a boutique gym feel, with decor geared toward selfie enthusiasts, including light woods, grass, plants, and mirrors. The company targets personal trainers, who make the majority of reservations.
In the traditional personal training model, coaches give a big cut to the gym they are attached to. But the pandemic has offered the more business-savvy a chance to develop independent online tracking, according to Paul Byrne, a fitness industry veteran associate at Harrison Co. personal trainer, up from 1% before the pandemic.
“It’s been good for the coaches, it’s really given them a boost,” Byrne said of the crisis.
Silofit’s longer-term goal is to offer everything trainers need to start and run their business, both online and in person, saidLearn more about Parikh, partner of the American company Courtside Ventures, one of the company’s investors.
The company has received C $ 4.7 million in funding since its founding in 2018 and is seeking to raise an additional $ 10 million to support its expansion in the United States. Besides Suh and Courtside, other investors include Whitecap Venture Partners and Alate Partners, of Toronto.
“This is an opportunity to truly own the entire professional fitness and wellness ecosystem,” said Parikh, who sits on the board of directors of Silofit.
Silofit plans to take a step in that direction next year, with the launch of monthly subscriptions offering coaches recurring gym reservations and promotional photos. He will also connect coaches with potential clients.
To succeed, he will have to convince thousands of trainers like Sandrine Cassis of Montreal. After developing an online program of workouts and positive affirmations, Cassis received requests for individual sessions earlier this year. She taught outdoors and more Zoom before finding Silofit in his search for cold weather options.
“It has everything I want – it’s clean, it’s cozy, it’s bright,” Cassis said.
With locations fully booked lately, Cassis says she would pay a subscription to have easier access to bookings. Being featured on the platform would also be appealing as she tries to grow her business.
“It would be really good for me – to have new clients,” she says.
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