It starts innocently enough – a question (hey Sandy, how does innovation relate to your profession), and then a crisis (hey Sandy – you got to move your fitness club…er…now) and an irony (hey Sandy – your business is one of two finalists for the Best New Business in Victoria). POSTSCRIPT – we won Best New Business Award.
Welcome to the rabbit hole.
Please hold my hand as I take you through the tunnel and shine a light on the values of our society and how those are reflected in the story of “Victoria’s Best New Businesses” search for a home.
If you’ve read my recent posts then you’ve seen my supposition that intense physical movement is not considered a basic need and my conviction that it is. I suggest that without it we cannot build a healthy society and that we are corrupting our ability to innovate relative to a sustainable future. I’m also suggesting that we as a culture are asleep to this most basic truth and then we run around pouring money on problems like obesity, Type II diabetes, depression and the whack of preventable issues that can result from lack of movement and a poor diet.
Meanwhile – the fitness/diet industry continues to innovate quick fix solutions designed to make you look sexy in 4 minutes/day and throws money at magazines, TV and popular media to convince the public of the miracles behind their products. And the people – they lop it up in 3 equal monthly payments of $49. If I sound cynical, well… read on.
But amidst this superficiality, there are hidden magical locations where people are hard at work providing proven methods of keeping the body working like a well-oiled machine. Why are these location hidden you ask? Well, because we need about 2000 sq ft to do our work – about the same square footage as a convenience store, Starbucks and McDonald’s. We are hidden because our profit margin is substantially lower than theirs and we could simply never afford a high profile location.
Why are our margins so low? Is it because fitness trainers make lousy business people? Maybe. But maybe it’s because Starbucks makes more sales in an hour than we do during our busiest week. And we are competing for real estate. I don’t blame Starbucks though – god knows they’ve helped me get through the day enough times. I just wish that endorphins were as addictive as caffeine.
Fact: the public doesn’t value fitness as much as they do coffee. If you want to know what the public values – take a stroll through the busiest retail sections of any city and see for yourself.
I accept my position as subsidizing the health of the community and I do so because I want to live in a world where people are fit and am lucky enough to have a supportive husband who believes in my vision and brings home a paycheck. I like fit people and the world needs more of them. I have been extremely grateful that I have in been in a position to use my privilege, knowledge and motivation to do work that I feel great about.
But I’ve been running into one road block after another trying to find a new location and lately I’ve been wondering if it’s all worth it.
So why can’t “Victoria’s Best New Businesses” find a place to do business?
1. My square footage budget is low low low. See the previous paragraph about coffee vs. endorphins.
2. Building owners don’t have faith in the business. Fitness facilities come and go like pop songs.
3. Downtown aside, the zoning in the city requires 1 parking spot for every 150 sq ft – which means I need 15 stalls. Know any?
4. Most realtors laugh when I call. After they regale me with stories of trying to find space for other fitness facilities – they politely wish me luck.
Every independent studio I know subsidizes the well being of our community. The fact that I’m surviving is a small miracle and I’m presently celebrating that fact and our award with a glass of wine.
But I still haven’t answered the question.
Is it worth it?
Well, I’ll tell you my opinion if you tell you me yours.