Fresh off the back of opening Hitsona’s first Irish studio last year, owner Georgia Brophy reveals what her biggest challenges have been and how she’s overcome them.
It was only in January 2022, that Georgia Brophy opened a Hitsona studio in County Dublin, making it the franchise’s first foray in Ireland. The opening cost Brophy €85K, and she’s now got plans to expand and grow the business beyond its current size.
Why did you decide to open a Hitsona studio in Balbriggan, County Dublin?
I live in Balbriggan and have a child, so I wanted something close by to grant me flexibility. I inherited a sum of money and was looking for an opportunity to start my own business. I’ve had quite a varied career (recruitment, secondary school teacher) and consider myself a self-starter yet I’d never had my own company.
How did you become interested in the fitness industry and the Hitsona franchise?
I’m interested in health and wellness in general but hadn’t worked in that area myself. I’ve had my own health struggles and undergone a lot of cancer treatment but am fully recovered now. I believe 100% in taking full responsibility for your own wellbeing and want to encourage others to do the same.
Why did you decide Hitsona was the right franchise for you?
I liked the Hitsona Team. They spoke to me like a person instead of a source of revenue. Plus, it was affordable.
I also had lots of ongoing phone calls with the team, as well as training and in-person visits to help source a premises.
What’s it been like growing a customer base since opening?
We grew at approximately 15 members per month then growth slowed, and we changed some studio strategies. Growth is much slower this year but I have opened a second studio so I’m trying out some different approaches and measuring results.
I’m also marketing via Facebook lives, Facebook ads, Instagram posts, local networking events, handing out flyers at school runs and playgrounds.
What do you feel Hitsona’s unique selling points are?
25 minutes sessions, a trainer led experience, low impact sessions, a flexible timetable, and a community feel.
What have been the most difficult aspects of setting up Hitsona?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced is members assuming they can ‘pause’ their account if they’re away or not getting to their sessions. I’d like to set up a virtual terms and formal refund policy where customers can choose their reason for wanting to pause by answering questions. They’d then be prompted to choose to either pause fees or action a bigger early release fee. This would mean I could simply send the link.
We also don’t have many hours available for trainers which means we’re at risk of losing them to a fulltime job elsewhere. The solution is below in plans for future growth.
My Balbriggan studio also had the wrong permission on the premises and it was a complicated process getting the change of use filed with the council. This meant our proposed September 21 opening turned into January 2022.
However, I got a recommendation from an estate agent for a local person who helped me with my application for a very reasonable price.
I learned to be conservative with timelines and don’t be shy about asking your network for help.
How do you and your team foster a positive and welcoming atmosphere in the studio?
We know them all well, we adapt the sessions and timetable to the members. I’m very strict with my trainers to ensure they don’t coach HIIT, they coach people.
What’s the reaction been from members?
They talk about the fast results, how their attitude to exercise has changed, how they feel better mentally.
What are your future goals and aspirations with Hitsona?
Three studios by 2025 with 500-550 members at all times. We’re planning to achieve this with one studio manager in each facility, five coaches, and myself.
There will also be a centralised sales team (which is just me for the moment) and a Monday morning virtual staff meeting. Plus, a one-to-one face-to-face meeting with each studio manager once a week.
Session training will be delivered to staff once a month, led by different coaches on a Thursday morning. Financial support will also be provided for trainers wanting to upskill.
Systems will be automated, including actions such as bookings, members reviews, stats, the refund and pause policy, bring a friend, member feedback surveys.
A second or third revenue stream will also be on the premises, which will allow the studio to be open more hours, leading to increased footfall and visibility.