25 FIT is a new age O2O EMS fitness studio franchise system. In this interview, Nguyen Phi Van – Executive Board Director of 25 FIT, talks about this low Capex, high ROI franchise model. This model combines small footprint brick-and-mortar studios with mobile in-home services enhanced through tech platform. EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation) is an FDA-approved technology that provides deep & intensive muscle training within only 20 minutes, twice a week in a private space with a certified EMS trainer. Staying fit and leading a healthy & active lifestyle is never easier, especially during the pandemic, with 25 FIT.
25 FIT was initially established in 2018 with the intention to scale the business globally via franchising. Therefore, this business concept has always been the perfect marriage of a tech start-up and a business franchise format. In order to achieve this vision, a diverse founding team has been established by experts in various fields including fitness, finance, tech, and franchising, all with 10-20 years of experience in their relevant fields. What we commit from day 1 is to build a solid foundation for both domestic and international franchising. Hence, we started domestic franchising in 2019 and now international franchising in 2022.
As a veteran in the fitness industry across Asia Pacific for 10 years, the first founder, Dominic Pham has seen the ups and downs of the industry and also a huge pain point being the low and stagnant penetration rate of traditional gyms across the markets. One of the biggest problem faced by today’s working population is lack of time. Normal time commitment per gym visit could cost a person up to 2-3 hours per session, with proper preparation of fitness gears prior to each workout. Therefore, we provide a solution to this pain point by establishing 25 FIT using EMS technology which requires only 25 minutes per session, 2 sessions per week with 4 times the performance thanks to deep tissue stimulation.
25 FIT is straight forward 25 minutes to get fit. Of the 25 minutes, 5 is for preparation and 20 is for workout. We ensure there is no excuse for anyone to not work out. A booking via our app takes 10 seconds. You don’t have to prepare anything in advance. Just walk in and get ready within 2-3 minutes on premise. What’s more? A 25 FIT member can book their workout at any studio near their location across the 25 FIT studio network. Now, there is no excuse to not work out at 25 FIT.
We would like to keep things easy, simple, transparent for busy individuals. As such, 25 FIT is 25 minutes to get fit. The pink and blue colors indicate youth, dynamism, and on-the-go.
25 FIT is not a traditional fitness chain. Our vision is to build a health & wellness platform using technology. Therefore, from the very beginning, we have invested heavily in technology, positioning 25 FIT as an O2O fitness franchise system where management is totally digitalized and where the brand could touch its customers at both online and offline touch points. As such, we pride ourselves as a fitness tech company, giving us the cutting edge competitive advantage to personalize our products and services through a data-driven approach.
Related Reads: Future of Franchising with Nguyen Phi Van
We would love to work with experienced retail operators especially in the lifestyle sectors catering to the same target audience. With an existing network or brand portfolio, it will be much easier for them to gain traction in a new market. Besides, since we position ourselves as a tech company, we do place importance in our partners’ team to understand and have the ability to utilize tech to scale in their respective market. And as a tech company, we are very agile in our approach and continuously prototype and pilot new solutions. Therefore, we would prefer partners with the same innovation mindset to build the future with us.
For our single unit and multiple unit domestic franchisees, ROI is within 15 months. Some of our great locations, especially near office buildings or high-end residential buildings can ROI within 8 months. And that is with the old Capex of around US$120k. Fortunately, we have recently remodeled our studio Capex to only US$70k. We are launching this new model as we speak and hope that would then bring the ROI down significantly again for our investors.
As an angel investor, mentor, and executive director of 25 FIT, my challenge comes from the need to upgrade and scale the top as well as the middle management team of the company, getting them ready on-the-go with such rapid growth. Within less than 3 years, given the 2 years of Covid, we have grown from 2 studios to 46 studios, with an in-house tech team from zero to 20, from a brick-and-mortar business into a tech company. This is the typical tech startup scaling methodology and it constantly creates pressure within the team to ideate, build, operate, finalize and document everything at the same time. 25 FIT is a very fast-paced working environment and not anyone can fit into such a culture. The constant demand to upgrade, upskill, and recruit new talents to meet the need of the growing business is indeed very stressful, both for the founding team and for the operating team. However, such a challenge is very rewarding for everyone, creating a learning and growth culture at 25 FIT.
After 3 years of commitment from the whole team, 25 FIT has been seen the one of the most amazing success stories in the fitness industry in the region, has grown from 2 to 46 studios, with the plan to reach 100 studios by the end of 2022 domestically and starts expanding internationally. The company which was started in 2018 with an equity of US$100k is now valued US$46 million. I think that is the start of a phenomenal journey as we continue to build exciting future milestones with our international partners.
I spend most of my mornings in silence thinking about new strategies and innovation. This is probably the most efficient time of the day for me when the day-to-day has not kicked in. To thrive in the creative economy, in the age of 40 and especially after the pandemic, when the need to become a digital enterprise becomes immediate, I believe that entrepreneurs have to think differently, build products and solutions differently, and definitely have to scale differently. Whether you scale by franchising or not, it is almost mandatory that the business model has to be digital, with multiple revenue streams, cater to its customers physically, and has the foundation to scale exponentially. This is a complex problem that leaders need to spend a lot of time thinking about, ideating, prototyping and piloting in order to take their business to new levels every day.
When I see existing franchise partners asking for permission to open more studios. We are very strict in selecting our domestic franchise partners to ensure they have the capability to succeed. As such, we do not allow our partners to open more studios until they can prove that their existing studios are financially successful.
Our vision is to scale 25 FIT into a global health & wellness platform through technology, through international expansion and M&A. We plan to IPO the company within the next 5 years and become a significant player in this sector globally.
Having been in franchising for close to 20 years, I cannot stress enough the importance to have a proven and future-ready business model. If you are looking for a franchise to buy, do look at how the brand can be scaled sustainably in the future. If you are building a franchise brand and system, start building the foundation from day 1 so that you can scale quickly and sustainably within a reasonable time frame.
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