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How Self Esteem Brands Drives Boutique Studio Growth

How Self Esteem Brands Drives Boutique Studio Growth

SEB will lean on the power of Anytime Fitness as it grows boutique brands including Basecamp Fitness, The Bar Method and Waxing the City

Self Esteem Brands (SEB) is best known as the parent company of Anytime Fitness, a highly popular gym chain with over 5,000 locations worldwide, but the franchisor is also building a burgeoning portfolio of boutique fitness and wellness brands as part of an ambitious global expansion plan. 

The Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen-founded Self Esteem Brands has set itself the lofty goal of opening 10,000 fitness, health and wellness clubs worldwide by 2030. Part of that plan will include scaling SEB’s boutique studio brands including The Bar Method, Waxing the City and Basecamp Fitness (along with Basecamp’s Australian sister brand, Sumhiit Fitness). 

Basecamp, which offers HIIT-style group fitness classes, has 21 locations already opened along with nearly 70 franchise licenses sold in the U.S. as of August. Basecamp is in what Self Esteem Brands calls “a high-growth phase,” recently becoming the first of SEB’s studio brands to offer franchising outside of the States. The Bar Method, meanwhile, has around 80 open locations; SEB plans to restart its expansion efforts for the Barre-inspired group fitness brand, which is now fully recovered from the pandemic. 

On the wellness side, SEB had much success with Waxing the City, which offers waxing services along with skin and beauty care products. Already the second largest waxing franchise in the U.S., Waxing the City has more than 150 locations open across the U.S. and is on pace to end 2023 by opening twice as many locations as it opened the previous year. 

credit: Self Esteem Brands

Still, as Self Esteem Brands looks to build its boutique brands into household names, the company will lean on the power of its already established brand: Anytime Fitness.

The SEB Franchise Network

“One of the things that’s great about being a franchisee of any of our brands at SEB is that you have access to our global franchise network, which includes many resources across all of our brands,” says Nick Herrild, president of studio brands for SEB.

While some larger boutique fitness franchisors may also have several brands under their corporate umbrella, they don’t have access to the data of Anytime Fitness, a big-box gym with thousands of locations and nearly three million members spread across the globe.

“We really are a unique platform in that way,” Herrild says. “Because of the size and scale of AF and the resources of SEB, we have a level of sophistication each of the brands couldn’t have if they stood on their own.”

Nick Herrild (credit: Self Esteem Brands)

Self Esteem Brands is actively investing in offering its boutique franchisees access to the same data and insights Anytime Fitness franchise owners have. For example, SEB has compiled robust consumer segmentation metrics that it uses to help inform its franchising strategy for each individual brand. That data helps SEB and its franchisees evaluate the opportunities and likelihood of success for different boutique brands in different areas. 

“Basecamp may tap into that segmentation differently than The Bar Method, but the segmentation is still consistent, so we know where there’s overlap and where there isn’t,” Herrild says.

SEB also offers “analytical scoring sites,” giving franchisees intel on how potential locations would perform based on attributes like population, income and gender distribution, among other demographics.

The advantages of franchising with a big brand like SEB extend across the board, Herrild notes, including marketing, development, real estate and even preferential access to vendors. 

“We can get better pricing and better technology opportunities because of our scale,” he says.

Brands Are Complimentary, Not Competitive

As SEB looks for ways to continue growing its boutique fitness and wellness brands, expect the company to lean on its already established network of Anytime Fitness franchisees.

SEB is starting to see interest from Anytime Fitness franchise owners who are drawn to the community-driven atmosphere of boutique studios and want to get in on the action.

“We have Anytime Fitness franchisees who are highly interested in the studio concepts for that reason,” Herrild shares. “There’s a lot of opportunity, particularly for brands like Basecamp and The Bar Method, to target sophisticated owners that want to look at a multi-unit portfolio.” 

Right now, most cross-company franchising interest is between Anytime Fitness and Basecamp, Herrild says, but he expects interest to grow among franchisees who want to try other SEB combinations.

credit: Self Esteem Brands

For franchisees looking to get adventurous, there are benefits of owning two different boutique brands under the SEB umbrella, since concepts are complimentary in terms of the types of customers they attract but not competitive in the services on offer.

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“A Waxing the City and Bar Method location could literally be sharing a wall yet have complete insulation from each other in terms of what they’re offering,” Herrild notes. “But they would still have access to each other’s consumers because they’re similar.”

Sharing Best Practices

Operationally, having multiple brands under the same umbrella allows SEB to test new things, finding what works for one brand to bring those learnings over to the others. 

For example, SEB has been rolling out several new tech innovations at Waxing the City, including mobile POS systems, geofencing and automated check-ins and check-outs for members. Herrild says it’s all part of the company’s overall philosophy of leveraging tech to lower labor costs and streamline operations at its studios, which makes things easier for franchisees and customers alike. 

The team at SEB chose Waxing the City to pilot those innovations because of the brand’s relatively large size with 150-plus locations, but it’s transporting those same tech learnings to Basecamp and The Bar Method. 

“Using Basecamp as an example, we’ve re-worked how we coordinate the start of the workout with the lighting, the music and the monitor, so each member knows exactly which group they’re in and which workout they’re doing,” Herrild notes.

Inter-brand collaborations are important, but the team at SEB also works hard to ensure it’s supporting its franchisees down to the individual level, including with monthly check-in conversations.

“By brand, we have franchise business consultants and franchise business coaches,” Herrild says. “They work with franchisees to help them look at their business and benchmark different pieces of their P&L to help them understand where they have the opportunity to drive profitability from the top line to the bottom.”

credit: Self Esteem Brands

The robust approach to the business of franchising is likely why the team at SEB feels confident it can meet its goal of 10,000 clubs by the end of the decade. Post-pandemic, the company assures it’s doing better than ever, with a healthy franchise culture to match.

“We’re having a really great 2023, and we had a really great 2022 fiscal year,” Herrild says. “Our brands are all in the process of looking for ways to bring franchisees the best performance they can and grow, so we’re excited about where all of our brands are and where they’re going.”

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