Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here, another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio, and this is going to be a fun one. Today, we have with us Matt McCollum with BODYBAR Pilates. Welcome, Matt.
Matt McCollum: Hi, Lee. How are you today?
Lee Kantor: I am doing great. I'm excited to learn what you're up to. Tell us a little bit about BODYBAR Pilates. How are you serving folks?
Matt McCollum: Yeah, absolutely. So, BODYBAR Pilates offers a modern take on Reformer Pilates in an environment that, really, is built around building strong communities filled with members that love, respect, encourage and motivate one another to be strong, healthy, happy human beings. And we're often referred to as your favorite happy hour. It's that kind of workout where you're getting a great workout, but you're also getting to spend time with those people that you enjoy doing life with. And that's what we're all about, is just building communities and helping people become the best versions of themselves.
Lee Kantor: Now, specifically, can you tell us about the BODYBAR Pilates workout? What is that like?
Matt McCollum: Yeah. So, we offer 40 to 50 minute Reformer Pilates workouts. And if you've never been on a reformer, it's somewhat like a modern-day torture device, but it does all the best things. It's all about building strength, increasing flexibility, improving posture, boosting overall health. Now, what we do, we do high intensity version of Pilates. So, it's still very low impact, full-body workout. It's something you can do from age of 13, all the way up to 113, if you want to. And it's all built around making sure that your body is able to move the way it's meant to move and really increasing the longevity of your quality of life.
Lee Kantor: So, like, is the workout 30 minutes, 45, 60 or it varies? There's different classes, or is it always the same class and just kind of the intensity is different?
Matt McCollum: Yeah, great question. So, it's a 40 to 50-minute workout every time. Most workouts are 50 minutes. Our express workouts are 40 minutes. We have various routines, but I can tell you, our base model is called the Reformer Class. And if you've done a reformer class and you did the same reformer class the next day, the next day, it's always different. Our instructors have creativity to always be changing up how we fatigue the muscles, so that we can get a different part of the body that's really focused on every single exercise. I've done dozens and dozens of classes, and I've never repeated the same class and none of our clients do. And that's what they love about it. They can come and take the same format of class, but it's always different, it's always changing, and it's always improving different parts of their physical health.
Lee Kantor: And it's full body?
Matt McCollum: Full body. Yes, sir. We do have some classes that focus on like we have abs and arms, which is focused on the abs and arms. We have lower body burn that focuses just on lower body. But the majority of our class formats work the total body.
Lee Kantor: Now, is the vibe in the room, is it like blasting music? Is it kind of meditative music? What is kind of the vibe in the room?
Matt McCollum: It's very contemporary. We have pop music going, and we'll have different playlists. Yesterday, we did a Tejano playlist that clients just loved and really got into. We do different types of music. So, definitely, that definitely helps set the mood. But we're not blurring it, we're not blasting. The people need to be able to hear their cues and know what's going on in class. I would say it's really kind of like going to your favorite kind of happy-hour spot where you've kind of got some background noise, but you're really kind of focusing on yourself and talking to your friends. It's just a very fun, comfortable environment.
Lee Kantor: And then, how many people can participate in a class?
Matt McCollum: So, we have 14 reformers. So, we can have up to 14 people per class at a time.
Lee Kantor: And then, so what happens? Like you said, it becomes a community. So, people are taking the class with their friends and they can interact with each other like, "Oh, this is hard," or "This is fun," and then "How are the kids?" that kind of a thing?
Matt McCollum: Yeah, absolutely. There's always fun when you've got a class full of friends that are bantering and maybe chiding the instructor under their breath a little bit. But, yeah, our whole model is built around building communities, so much so that we even build out a lobby where people are able to gather and visit before class, get to know each other after class. And so, then, when they enter the class, they're friends, they're just working out together, they're pushing each other, they're helping each other become better individuals. And, yeah, you'll hear people chit chatting about how hard the workout is or or saying, "Hey, you can go a little bit harder. I know you're trying to get that bikini body," or "You're trying to get that golf swing in full force." So, it's really fun.
Lee Kantor: Now, when you're in this kind of boutique fitness space, are you attracting clients that are people who are familiar with Pilates and are just like, "Hey, this is a different kind of Pilates that maybe I'll enjoy," or you getting the person that doesn't know anything about Pilates and doesn't know who the guy is, the history of it, none of that, and they're just like, "Oh, this is a great workout"? Do you get people that have never done fitness and say, "Hey, let me try this. I know I got to do something"? Like how do you kind of attract people to these kind of specialty boutique fitness?
Matt McCollum: Yeah, Lee, it's a mix of all of those things. I've seen classes where we've had a fitness enthusiast that's done Pilates for 30 years on a reformer next, to somebody that is a working mom that's let their fitness go that's trying to regroup, to somebody that's eight months pregnant, to a gentleman that's midlife that's just trying to improve his flexibility, so that he can get on the floor and play with his grandkids. It's all across the board.
Matt McCollum: And that's what's so great about Reformer Pilates. It's a low-intensity, full-body workout that just helps you build the strength and the flexibility you need to live just the best life possible for as long as possible. It improves posture, everything. So, we find these folks through word of mouth. When people come and take a class, they can't wait to tell their friends, "That was the most amazing thing I've ever done. You've got to come with me." We do it through social media and helping people understand the brand.
Matt McCollum: One thing that I'll tell you, this has been around for over a hundred years, but it's really only come into focus to the masses in the last decade or so to the scale that it is moving towards. And there's way more demand for great Reformer Pilates than there is supply. And so, that's part of our mission is to build BODYBARs all across the country and eventually across the world to increase supply, so that individuals can have a great workout, a great experience, do it with their friends and their family, but then just live better quality of life for a longer period of time.
Lee Kantor: Now, do you find that the fitness consumer is a different kind of person today than maybe 20 years ago? It seems like there are so many kind of choices for the person who wants to get fit. And are they buying one thing and saying, "This is my solution," or are they saying, "I have a portfolio of activities that I enjoy and BODYBAR might be one of them, but a spin class might be another," or some sort of a boot camp might be something else? Like, are they kind of have a menu of items that they're cycling between or are they just kind of going all in on one kind of type of fitness?
Matt McCollum: And I love that question, Lee. We are definitely seeing a different consumer today than we saw 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. No two people are alike. You have some people that they want to have their gym membership, or spin membership, their Pilates membership, and they just figure out where they want to go based on that day. We're definitely in the generation of one size does not fit all. The big boxes just can't serve the clients today. People want to work out the way they want to work out when they want to work out. And we've really seen that.
Matt McCollum: What's great about Reformer Pilates and the BODYBAR method of bodies, and we hear this all the time, people that love Pilates or that have never done it, they'll go and take some Pilates classes, but they have to have their spin studio or the boot camp because Pilates is great for building strength and flexibility, but they'll tell us, "I'm just not getting the cardio that I need out of it. So, I'm going to do a 50-minute Pilates class, and I've got to go and spin on a bike for 45 minutes."
Matt McCollum: What we've done is we combined strength and cardio in one amazing workout. And that's what BODYBAR is all about. We want to get your heart rate up, intensify the workout, so that when you're done, you don't have to go and spend 45 minutes on a bike, or go do a boot camp, or play basketball, or tennis or whatever it is. You can, and we have clients that will do that, but for the most part, we've had people tell us, "Hey, I was able to cancel this and cancel that because this just meets all the things that I'm looking for."
Lee Kantor: So, now, what is kind of the back story of the brand? Did it start out as just kind of "Hey, I got this idea of way to kind of refresh Pilates," and then it was started as one location or was it built to be a franchise from the beginning?
Matt McCollum: It was not built to be a franchise from the beginning. The founders were Steve and Laurie Gatlin, and Laurie had spent her career in fitness cells, and they came up with an amazing concept. My wife, Camille and I were actually customers. We went and took a class. My wife took a class with her, and she called me, and she was training for a marathon, was in an amazing shape. I've been a college athlete. And she called me and said, "Hey, I've got to go down some stairs and my legs are shaking so much. If I fall, nobody's going to know that I'm going to die."
Matt McCollum: So, we knew the workout was amazing. And when they started to franchise the business, we were interested and we decided to become a franchisee of the brand. We were the first franchisee to come into the brand. And we learned really quickly that the founders - great, great people - but they shouldn't have gotten in the franchise, and they didn't have the infrastructure. They didn't really know what a franchise meant and how to run one. My wife and I ran our studio, we grew it, we did it on our own and sort of built the model. And when we went to the Gatlins and said, "Hey, I think it's best if we just break away and do our own thing," they asked us if we wanted to come in and take over the franchising business."
Matt McCollum: And so, I've run start ups. I was a master franchisee for another brand. So, we did a yearlong case study, business development, business plan review, and met all the players that we could, understood everything we could about the market. And what we really realized is that Reformer Pilates, just like I said earlier, there's so much more demand than supply. There's definitely room for a number to move in the space. And so, we jumped at it. And since we came on and took over running the brand in 2019, even through the pandemic, we've grown from three locations to 23 sold. We'll have seven or eight open by the end of next month. And, really, our focus now is to empower entrepreneurs to bring your favorite happy hour to your local community and just build those micro communities where people just love coming to class, they love seeing their friends and they love getting a great workout.
Lee Kantor: So, now, what is that kind of ideal franchisee look like? In your mind, is it that person that's adding to their portfolio of fitness concepts that they already run or maybe they have complementary businesses that they're just adding this to the mix because they're already serving a similar client?
Matt McCollum: Yeah. So, we do have an owner/operator and an absentee model. It can go both ways. We have a strong support team. We really look for somebody that's got more of a pioneer mindset with an interest in fitness. We are a micro emerging brand with the sky's the limit. So, folks that want to come in and see this as an investment opportunity, they're going to recognize with the smaller footprint that we've got today means they're going to able to carve out a larger piece of the market.
Matt McCollum: We hear a lot of our candidates that come to our discovery days that they looked at brand X, Y, Z but the territory they wanted wasn't available. We're wide open across the US. And we're seeing great presell activities with our current franchisees where they're opening their studios at or very near cash flow from the day one. And so, our support is going to come in. And if you're an owner/operator or you're an absentee, many of our franchisees, they have other jobs. And so, we help them with hiring their studio manager, their sales associates, make sure they've got the right people in place because you and I both know that people are everything. You've got to have the right people on the team to really bring your dream to fruition. And that's kind of what we're seeing right now.
Lee Kantor: But especially when you're talking about people, especially if one of your brand promises is community.
Matt McCollum: One hundred percent, yes. You've got to have the right people that are empathetic, that are going to want to build community. You really got to have the desire to go out and get to know your people by name. And I always think that BODYBAR, we really play on the bar theme a lot, your favorite happy hour. I think about the TV show Cheers, which I love watching when I was growing up. Like, this is a place where everybody should know your name. And that's what our our mantra is for our team members.
Lee Kantor: So, now, when you're working with somebody, and they're going about the hiring, how do you kind of coach them up to choose wisely when it comes to their personnel?
Matt McCollum: Yes. So, we look for poor people when we're hiring or we're coaching our franchise partners to hire, we're looking for people that have a background in the fitness industry. Ideally, they've opened a location, they've gone through a presell activity before, but then they have that extra quality of empatheticness. They're able to be empathetic to understanding the concerns of their their clients and make good decisions regarding how they interact with those clients. Actually Camille, our CFO, will actually do final interviews with our franchise partners if they'd like her to, just so that we can make sure that we're helping them dial in the right type of individual to really lead their studio.
Lee Kantor: So, right now, the pedal's to the ground and you're looking for those pioneers because, like you said, there's an opportunity for them to really kind of take over a territory at this stage because the country is wide open.
Matt McCollum: One hundred percent, yeah. So, so far, we're open or we have locations sold in six states. Our first out-of-state location to open was Georgia in Alpharetta, Georgia. But even in the Atlanta suburb markets, we have open territories. So, yeah, we're growing everywhere. We've got interests, heavy interests all over the US, registered in most states. And yeah, we're open for business and excited about just the coming out of COVID, the trend. We're seeing a lot of interest in investing in the fitness space, in folks ready to get back out, and get back into the community and get healthy again.
Lee Kantor: Right, I agree. I think there's pent-up demand for people who want to interact with other human beings face to face that they had not been able to do for quite some time.
Matt McCollum: Yes, sir.
Lee Kantor: So, now, if somebody wants to learn more, what's the website?
Matt McCollum: They can go to bodybarpilates.com. And that's bodybarpilates.com. And there's a plethora of information on there. They can also email me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org, if they'd like to learn more.
Lee Kantor: Good stuff. Well, Matt, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You're doing important work and we appreciate you.
Matt McCollum: Lee, I thank you very much and appreciate what you guys are doing as well.
Lee Kantor: All right. This is Lee Kantor. We'll see you all next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.