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Writing a Climbing Gym Business Plan - The Key Elements to Condsider


Writing a business plan for a climbing gym is definitely tedious and not the most exciting part of being an aspiring climbing gym owner. But it's something you have to do. Unless you can fund the entire enterprise yourself, you are going to have to convince your capital partners that your business will not only survive, but thrive. And maybe even more importantly, you have to convince yourself.

 

Generically, a business plan should clearly outline the below. And I personally like doing it in this order. A lot of time when I work with clients I share the Japanese concept of Ikigai. See the diagram below. Your business should help you and others achieve Ikigai:
  1. What the opportunity is

  2. Why you & your team so excellently qualified to take advantage of the opportunity

  3. How you will take advantage of the opportunity and execute

  4. Make the ask - Financial need & Timeline




 
Hot take: There are not enough "climbers" in any city in the world to sustain a business long term. You have to know your market and become an educator, you have to turn people into climbers.

The Opportunity

Doing good market research and understanding what the short and long term opportunities are is an absolute must. If you don't do the right due diligence on the market, the demographics, the growth potential and more, you could end up in a really bad spot owing people a lot of money and running a business that isn't succeeding. On the flip side, if done right you could be thriving and nail the timing of the market and have enormous potential ahead of you. So what defines an opportunity? It varies a bit my situation and market but generally you should be including the following, and it should be backed up by good believable data not just anecdotes:

  1. Demographics - Today (and this NEEDS to change) the core demographic for climbing gyms is something like the below. So it makes good sense to make sure you have the core demographic available in your intended market, or to have the right business model and plan to attract non-core demographic. make sure to be considering how much of the serviceable market you can capture, how much that will grow, and HOW you will do it :

    1. 18-35 years old

    2. White

    3. Split pretty evenly between male and female identifying groups

    4. Income of $75k or more annually

  2. Commuting & Transportation behavior - This should heavily influence your real estate decisions. Gone are the days of opening climbing gyms in industrial warehouse spaces in the middle of nowhere. The first rule of retail is "Location. Location. Location." and understanding where your desired customers live, work, and how they commute and travel will matter. One of the key influencing factors in gym membership purchasing decisions is convenience.

  3. Competitive Analysis - Know who you are competing against for consumer purchasing choices. I love competition. It keeps us honest. The more climbing gyms there are in any given market, the nicer the options tends to get. However, don't only look at climbing gyms. Depending on your business model, competitors could be: fitness facilities, yoga studios, coffee shops or co-working spaces, miniature golf, day care or other youth activities like trampoline parks, ropes courses, the movie theater and on and on. Who are you competing for wallet share and talented staff with? That's your competition.

climbers hanging out in an climbing gym that is for sale

Once you have a good data driven understanding of the demographics, the growth potential, and the competitive landscape you need to be able to clearly enunciate how you will thread the needle. Be able to answer:
  1. What is the current gap or need in the market? What is the opportunity in the market? What problem or value gap are you solving and for who?

  2. How long will this opportunity last? (Creating a little bit of FOMO about this opportunity is a good idea)



You & Your Team

OK, so you are sitting in front of an investor. You've shared the opportunity and they are thinking "OK this is interesting. But why YOU?" At this point you need to make it clear that you have assembled the right people to execute your vision:

  • Who is on the team

  • What are their backgrounds and experience and how is it clearly relevant to driving success on this venture? -- Quick tip, if you don't have good operating experience go find it.

  • Consider including an org chart at different phases of the business: planning stage, construction stage, opening stage, nd post-opening steady state.


Capital partners will be really focused on this part of the plan, especially private investors. Yes your spreadsheet had better look appealing but the team to execute is where the rubber hits the road. Having a lifelong dream of opening a climbing gym does not make someone highly qualified to give a bank or an investor a return, so make sure you build the right team.

The How

OK, opportunity? CHECK. Believable talented team to execute? CHECK. Now convince me how you are gonna do it. Building a cool gym is not enough. I want to know your marketing strategy, your customer service strategy, and most of all I want to know your sales strategy. I want to know that you have a believable plan in place to ensure strategic control of your revenue and operating expenses.
  1. Who are your customers, what is your customer service standard and how will you deliver it?

  2. What is your staffing plan, who is your leadership team?

  3. How will you attract, sell to and retain customers? How will you grow membership?

  4. What are they various main revenue streams and operating expenses, what influence them and how will you maintain strategic control over them?

  5. What exactly is the product and service offering

  6. Briefly touch on risk management (Don't scare investors away by going too hard on this topic)

  7. What are they Key Performance Indicators of the business and how will track and manage them?

  8. Overview of financials. You should have an entire separate financial file with modeling assumptions so this should just be the highlights.


This is a huge section with nearly infinite permutations given your specific business vision. For more detail, just click the button below to download the template.



Making the Ask

Once you've outlined the opportunity, the team and the how, you have to make the ask. What are you looking for? What timeline are you working off of to get your gym open? What's in it for the investors?

This section is pretty critical. It needs to be clear and concise. My one recommendation is to not put specifics in around what sort of equity you are giving away on what terms, that comes in a later conversation. If you've done a great job on the previous sections this part should flow easily and people should be thinking "Ok Ok I'm ready. How much?"
 
Rise Above works with clients on building their vision into a believable and executable business plan, including financial modeling and building pitch decks. Let's talk.

 

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