Justin Kanawyer, the brain and brawn behind the heart rate monitored fitness community’s studios; explains how it - and he - came to be
1851: Let’s start with the basics. Where are you from?
Kanawyer: I’m originally from Northern California, people assume I’m from surfer country, and the ‘California’ part is true, but my grandparents were farmers. I grew up in a town of 3,000 people on a dairy farm. My grandfather farmed produce and had a horse and dairy farm, I got a strong work ethic from seeing my mom and grandfather work hard on the farm, cows don’t care if you’re sick; they have to be milked early in the morning regardless. There were many trials along the way, but my entrepreneurial mindset and hard work ethic came from those early days on the farm.
1851: What was the younger you like?
Kanawyer: Fitness has been part of my life in different forms. I was an athlete growing up and played college baseball, however I had a shoulder surgery and had to stop training. Suddenly I was faced with looking for other fitness options for myself, I went to the gym and experimented trying to find out what the ‘revised me’ was capable of.
1851: Did you do the 9-5 out of college?
Kanawyer: Not exactly! When I got out of college, I ended up in a gym as a personal trainer and worked for a health club. I moved up quickly into a sales position and then became a district manager.
Eventually I ventured off independently, I had connections within the industry and I purchased three supplement stores in California. I was in that industry for a few years however retail wasn’t for me. Following an exit from that business, I partnered in a company and did outsourced personal training for 8 years, our company would partner with health club owners to provide personal training services. I ended up coming to Georgia and meeting Charlie Lindsey, my business partner, due to that business venture.
1851: What’s it like working with a gym legend?
Kanawyer: It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve learned a lot from him. Charlie’s been in the industry for 40 years and has a large consulting business, he has owned many health clubs, including being a multi-unit franchisee of an iconic fitness franchise. Both of us have been franchisees and can understand the franchisee perspective as we build out Solcioty and as we move into a franchisor role.
1851: How did you and Charlie Lindsey get on each other’s radar?
Kanawyer: Charlie and I have long relationship that has now formed into a partnership, I took over 5 of his clubs in Columbus and Auburn and then we bought another one in Panama City Beach. In that last health club, we had a separate room that was 2,200 square feet and we didn’t know what to do with it, so we looked at different boutique concepts in the industry. We tested the waters, and Solcioty was born.
1851: Why Solcioty?
Kanawyer: Originally, we tried different equipment and looked at different concepts, we gravitated toward group training because of our background. Solcioty has everything we were looking for and couldn’t find in other clubs, it helps and benefits the average person who needs resistance training and cardio. As we continued to develop the product, we realized we need to do stand alone studios because the business model is a win-win. We opened a corporate studio in Columbus, Georgia that’s been operating the last year, and we worked through all the kinks there. We are now rolling out the franchise in Atlanta and we are ready to expand beyond the Atlanta market.
1851: What are your hobbies?
Kanawyer: My hobby is researching the fitness industry, I have always had a passion for the industry and now I am consumed with Solcioty and ensuring its success. I also enjoy other activities from time to time, like golf and hunting.
1851: Why should people work out at Solcioty?
Kanawyer: Solcioty is a place for people of any fitness level, as we began the concept we wanted to make sure of that. With our technology we are able to demonstrate primary exercise movements that are more challenging, as well as modified movements for someone that just started working out or someone that may have challenges with injury. Our heart rate technology also allows each individual to know exactly the amount of effort they are putting out and the calories they are burning, in real time. Our team has done a great job of making fitness fun.
The Solcioty experience is addicting!
1851: How is Solcioty different than its closest competitors?
Kanawyer: We offer more variety in equipment than any of our competitors. This allows a broader market of people to experience the Solcioty workout, it also enables us to keep our workout fresh. You will never come into Solcioty and experience the same workout, we put an extreme focus on our fitness programming to make sure we are always changing and progressing the workout. The overall experience at Solcioty is one-of-a-kind, along with the technology package our team has put together, it truly is something that you would need to experience and will love.
1851: What’s up with the tech you use?
Kanawyer: Technology is a big part of what we do. Our heart rate monitoring system helps the instructors manage workouts more efficiently and effectively. Some customers want to look at a screen and see calories burned, others want to earn points and share on social media, we offer those options through the technology we have.
Because of our technology, I can coach a room full of 20 people, and know where you are at and how much effort you are giving. You can be next to an athlete and have better results because they have to work much harder. So the average person can feel good about this progress.
Our programming is a large part of the Solcioty experience, we program around the average person. We have two functional screens in our fitness rooms, we showcase what we are doing and provide feedback on effort. We show 3-4 movements and modifications for people who can’t do that movement, there could be 15 people doing workouts and 6-7 are doing modifications. You have a trainer in the room and heart rate monitors, but you also have a visual trainer who helps with reps and form. We have set up our programming and software to help make things as simple and effective to bring you the Solcioty experience.
1851: What happens when you walk into Solcioty?
Kanawyer: When you walk in the door, you will be greeted by one of our Rockstar front desk employees. It is important for us to get to know you, discuss your overall fitness needs and give you a tour of our studio. During your first initial tour, we will review each piece of fitness equipment and show you how it functions as well as the proper form and technique.
1851: What’s next for Solcioty?
Kanawyer: Our rollout plan is going to be the Atlanta market. We have already secured a franchisee for the Atlanta market to develop five units, our first opening is in January and then another in 2018. We are going to use Atlanta as a screen board market and grow throughout the US from there. Our initial development marketing efforts focus on the Southeast from the Carolinas to Florida and to Texas. We do best in major markets where the average income is $75,000, we have more specifications on demographics and buildout available.
1851: What types of franchisees are you looking for?
Kanawyer: We are looking for business people, in my experience in the fitness industry they are ones who are the most successful in terms of operating. We do not want absentee franchisees, but they don’t necessarily need to be owner-operators at the studio every day. Our approach as a franchisor is to help franchisees train other people to help operate the studios. It’s important to have people who are passionate about the brand, as that then flows over to the consumer, when they feel excitement and passion, they want to be involved. Consumers start seeing progress about the way they are transforming physically and mentally and want to continue their membership. The type of franchisee that we are looking for has business experience, meets our financial requirements of $1.5 million in net worth and at least $600,000 liquid to invest, we are interested in multi-unit operators who want to open at least three units.
Website: Solcioty Fitness Franchise