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  • Writer's picturegheverly

Resources for Opening a Climbing Gym


This blog is probably long overdue. I do 1 or 2 discovery calls per month with folks aspiring to open a gym and maybe the #1 thing I get asked is: What resources are there for people like us? So i've tried to put together a relatively comprehensive list of resources that are out there. I want to be clear that opening any business is a daunting task and that these resources can help but certainly don't ensure success. Your best bet is finding mentors who have done it before, working with and hiring experts and building a strong team capable of executing your vision


 


Right off the bat you should know that opening a climbing gym is likely going to cost millions of dollars. Even if it's a small bouldering gym. Stay tuned for a conversation between Chris Ryan of Ryan Studios and I on the topic of how much it costs to open a gym.

Beyond that, opening a climbing gym also requires an enormous amount of time, energy and quite frankly resilience. The most recent industry report from the CWA it shows that getting a gym from concept to open takes 1-2 years on average. So you need to be prepared for a long haul of work before your doors are even open. The good news is that there are a lot of resources available for those trying to open a climbing gym

DON'T DESPAIR! OPENING A CLIMBING GYM IS HARD WORK BUT WELL WORTH IT.

I've opened 5 gyms in my career and have helped many clients do the same. In those experiences I've learned a great deal, including what NOT to do. I'll break down the process into some steps and then dive into the resources for opening a climbing gym available for each step. Of note these steps are not necessarily linear, some things will overlap or be done in concurrence:
  1. Planning & Funding

  2. Design-Build

  3. Pre-Opening & Launch

 

Planning & Funding

If you've never written a business plan before or gone out on the hunt for lenders or investors, I'd block off 6 months for this, although it could be slower or faster. In this phase you should be identifying your brand, your why, your values, and your intended business model. In addition, get yourself a very good reliable and adaptable commercial real estate broker. Without RE there is no project!

  • If the timing works out, attend one of the conferences for the industry. This gets you hands on with some of the software companies, insurance brokers, climbing hold manufacturers and consultants. The two to check out are the Climbing Wall Association Summit, and Indoor Climbing Expo

  • Check out the Climbing Business Journal. They have years of reports, dozens of helpful seminars, and other resources that can help you flesh out your market research and business model.

  • This is honestly a great time to start talking to subject matter experts who can get you up the learning curve fast, save you enormous amounts of time and money. The Rise Above Consulting Network has just about every expert you need.

  • Consider talking to local chamber of commerce, small and boutique banks about SBA loan options


At the end of the day this stage tends to just be about doing a TON of research and homework and turning that into a viable business plan and set of financials that accompanies a real estate plan.


Design-Build

Here is where the money faucet turns on, which means here is where mistakes and slow downs can get very costly. This phase is also where a lot of moving pieces need to be coordinated and come together:

  • Chris Ryan has some amazing resources to help you think through this phase. His YouTube is also basically a masterclass.

  • At this point you probably need to be thinking about your insurance program as well, I work with Granite and recommend a discovery call with them early, they will be a huge resource for you as you think through insurance during the construction phase as well as once you are open.

  • Both the CWA and Climbing Business Journal have vendor directories as well which might save you a bit of time on Google.


Pre-Opening & Launch


At this point it's getting very real! Are you ready? You aren't just building a gym anymore, you are hiring teams, training them, managing them, setting goals and getting ready to execute:



If you get this far and your doors are open, the hard work is still ahead. You have to build good culture, create an amazing customer experience, deliver on goals, manage a team, a budget and more. I hope these resources are helpful for you in your journey to getting there.

Rise Above Consulting has decades of experience opening and scaling gyms and has helped many clients do the same. If you want to learn a bit about how to go beyond these resources to take your vision from concept to reality, just reach out.


 






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