Financing Alternatives for Your Fitness Business

by Carrie Myers Smith on Apr 25, 2016

When I opened my studio several years ago, I had very little credit available to purchase equipment. Okay, the truth was I was drowning in debt because of my divorce. There was no way a bank was going to lend me money, so on went the creative thinking cap.

One of my clients had retired from a major Fortune 500 company and was a very successful entrepreneur and consultant. I approached him regarding a loan. I went prepared with a shortened, modified business plan (as opposed to a long, drawn-out one) that included my ideas, what I would spend the money on and how I would make money through the studio. I estimated how much money I would need for equipment, signs, business cards, a radio campaign and website costs—everything required to get started.

My lender opened a bank account with $5,000 in it and handed me the debit card to purchase what I needed.

Obtaining a loan from a friend is just one way to fund and grow your business, whether it’s a startup or it’s already established. Here are a few more options:

Bartering and Presales

Since my lender was also my client, I was able to resolve the debt with a combination of monetary payback and bartering—that is, providing training in exchange for the money lent.

Bartering your services in exchange for money in the form of a loan is similar to presales, which can be “a very powerful form of both funding and validation for small businesses and startups,” says John Turner, CEO and founder of UsersThink.

“Presales can be an especially powerful option for those with limited financial resources but a fair amount of social or online reach,” Turner explains. “So those with large social networks, large newsletter lists or websites with a good amount of SEO benefits could test the waters with preorders on their own site, then promote the offer further and qualify it by saying that only a limited number of spots are being created or a limited number of items are available. This method might be better for those who don’t want to take an ‘all-or-nothing’ crowdfunding approach. It’s also worth considering if you already have a fair amount of clout and reach.”

I recently used this approach on a smaller, more personal scale, when I needed money for a certification program. I offered a deal to a long-term client: If she would prepay for a larger training package, I would give her an even better per-session rate than she was already getting. I received the money I needed to pay for the certification program up-front—which saved me money compared with paying per month for the program—and she got a great deal.

Another, less traditional way to barter is to work out a deal for the rent or lease on your space. For example, my studio was in an old school building that already housed an established gym. The owners of the gym owned the entire building, and they were excited to add a studio to their tenants, as it would complement what they already offered. We even worked up a joint membership package. In addition, the owner wanted to see me succeed and knew how difficult it can be to get started, so he offered me a deal on the rent. Instead of a flat rate for rent, I gave him 30% of my membership fees per month. This took away the pressure of having to make a certain amount of money per month to cover the rent, allowing me to focus on my members and clients.

Partner With a Company

Want to host an event, but don’t have the funds up front to do so? Try partnering with a company that is willing to offer cash and product in exchange for exposure.

Several years ago, a PR professional advertising a new product from a large, established international company contacted me to offer this deal: The company would give me the funds necessary to cover marketing, space rental, anything that would be needed for the 1-day event—as well as gift bags with samples of the new product. In exchange, the company/product logo would be included in all marketing materials.

I was able to offer a women’s retreat day that included yoga and a guided snowshoe walk. I used the money for a radio campaign, fliers, snacks for the day and the guided snowshoe fee. The company got the word out about their new product, and I got to host a fabulous day for women in the community.

Chamber of Commerce

Your local chamber of commerce can be a potential source of funding for your business.

For tips on working with the chamber of commerce and alternative financing companies, please see “Creative Ways to Finance Your Business” in the online IDEA Library. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 14, Issue 5

Find the Perfect Job

More jobs, more applicants and more visits than any other fitness industry job board.

© 2016 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Carrie Myers Smith

Carrie Myers Smith IDEA Author/Presenter

As the former fitness and wellness coordinator at the Omni Mt. Washington Resort in the beautiful White Mountains of NH, Carrie has had the privilege of training and teaching people from all over the world. As a motivational speaker and author of the award-winning book, Squeezing Your Size 14 Self into a Size 6 World: A Real Woman’s Guide to Food, Fitness, and Self-Acceptance, Carrie touches people’s lives, encouraging real, lasting change, and offering a chance for them to find the courage within themselves to take the first step. Carrie also has experience speaking and presenting over various media, including radio and television and has presented to various sized groups--from small and intimate to over 500. Her signature yoga class, Yo-Fit™, continues to grow in popularity. With a foundation of vinyasa-style yoga, it is sprinkled with elements of fitness, and appeals to many who are intimated by traditional yoga classes. Carrie has a BS in exercise science and health education and is a certified Transformational Coaching Method Master Coach, and a therapeutic exercise physiologist with experience in disease prevention and treatment, as well as pre- and post-orthopedic surgery and rehab. She writes frequently as an expert for industry publications, including ACE and IDEA, and has also written for many national consumer magazines, including Shape, Fitness, Cooking Light and Health. She was also the head writer for IBM's online employee wellness program for eight years. Other writers frequently turn to Carrie as a fitness expert for their own articles, which has resulted in her being quoted in several magazines, including Self, Cooking Light, Better Homes and Gardens, Successful Living, and Family Fun. Her companies, CarrieMichele Fitness and Authentically You with CarrieMichele Coaching, strive to enrich women’s lives through wellness-related education, empowering each woman she touches to make their mark. Her goal: to not just survive, but to thrive, to live up to her potential, not just the status quo, and to find something to celebrate each day…and to teach others to do the same. Connect with Carrie on FB at or or Or on Twitter @CarrieMicheleM Or on LinkedIn at