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Orange County Register (California)
When businesses look to expand, they typically do it in stages.
Potential sites are evaluated, customer demographics are explored and a growth strategy is carefully developed. Then there's capital. They need plenty of that to finance the growth they envision. For many businesses, the process is slow and can take years to complete.
Not so with The Camp Transformation Center.
The Chino Hills-based fitness chain launched franchising in late 2016, growing quickly to 106 locations, with an additional 25 in development. They can be found throughout Southern California, other U.S. states and Mexico. Locally, Camp centers are in Santa Clarita, Lancaster, Van Nuys, Woodland Hills, West Covina, Fontana, Chino, Long Beach, Anaheim and Irvine.
Alejandra Font, who co-founded The Camp along with her husband, Louis and business partner Saman Bakhtiar, is as surprised as anyone by the company's rapid trajectory.
"It's been surreal," Font said. "But we've always been focused on our client experience and delivering great results. We believe if you do that, everything else will take care of itself. That's the culture we try to instill in our franchisees."
The cost of opening a Camp Transformation Center runs between $167,000 and $326,500. That covers expenses such as the lease deposit, initial franchise fee, construction costs, training and travel expenses, signs, and plans, permits and licenses, among other costs.
Those costs vary, depending upon location, real estate rates and construction costs.
Stepping into the industry
The Fonts' entry into the fitness industry wasn't exactly planned.
"We had a Subway franchise and ended up selling that to open up a different type of business in the housewares industry," Font said. "We were forced to close that in late 2009 because of the recession. At that point, we had kids, a mortgage … and nothing coming in."
The couple found comfort and community in a small, local gym in Chino, and they forged a connection with an especially inspiring trainer, Sam Bakhtiar. They lost weight, got in better shape and began to get back on their feet financially.
Seeing how successful their own physical transformations were, they asked Bakhtiar to join them in launching The Camp Transformation Center in 2010.
Clients turned franchisees …
"It's been an amazing ride," Font said. "Our initial growth came from our own client base. They saw what we were doing and wanted to be part of it. A lot of our clients who came in saw their own physical transformation and thought, 'My God, this is great.' They wanted to help others as well."
Each fitness center employs the company's signature Challenge, a six-week program designed to help members shed 20 pounds. It includes a nutrition plan, check-ins and the posting of before-and-after photos to show the physical transformation.
"The Camp was exactly what I needed to gear me into a healthier lifestyle," Client Mandy Oliver said in a testimonial on the company's website. "I have signed up for my first Spartan Race in December and will conquer that, too! I'm incredibly thankful to The Camp and all staff."
Client Kelly Murphy Marshall is equally happy.
"I just completed my first Challenge and lost a whopping 24 pounds in six weeks!" Marshall said. "This is the same 24 pounds I have been trying to lose for 10 years with diet pills, starvation diets and every crazy tactic out there."
The Camp's basic regimen consists of circuit training, according to Font.
"It's a combination of cardio and strength training," she said. "It's set up in stations and each one typically lasts about a minute. But there is flexibility within those parameters to design your own workout."
Getting in shape is big business. The global health club industry generates more than $80 billion a year in revenue with nearly $28 billion of that coming from the U.S., according to figures from Statistica.
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