Chris Welton would never admit it, but he’s somewhat of a local celebrity. But, fortunately, being a member of UGA’s last national football team in 1980 was only the beginning of his glory days. He earned a JD and MBA from the school, practiced in one of Atlanta’s most reputable law firms, then ran the sponsorship and marketing program for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Chris went on to own and operate two successful international sports marketing firms.
Meanwhile, Chris’ daughter, India, was coming into her own. A last minute decision led her to compete in track at Ole’ Miss, studying nutrition before completing her degree in integrated marketing with a business minor. Both dad and daughter were contemplating their next steps in Atlanta when India came in contact with 40-year fitness industry legend, Charlie Lindsey and his business partner, another former multi-unit franchisee and fitness veteran, Justin Kanawyer.
Lindsey and Kanawyer talked to India about Solcioty, a concept they recently developed. Solcioty’s goal is to be a gathering spot to engage participants through scientifically monitored hour long workout designed to create community and repeat business. It’s meaning has two parts. First, it is a group of unique individuals who, together, rise as a fitness community where personal growth is encouraged, supported and rewarded. Second, it means that out of many, one. One community; one purpose; one Solcioty.
“I went to my dad and said, ‘This is a really exciting fitness concept,’” India said. “We met with Charlie and Justin. Over a few months, we became convinced about what a great concept it was and decided to become their initial franchisees to develop the Atlanta market. We are opening our first studio at the beginning of 2018.”
From the experiences of her friends and from her own personal experience, India knew the boutique fitness industry is booming. And it’s not just her personal opinion. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017, wearable technology and high-intensity interval training are the number one and number two biggest trends.
Solcioty is a combination of both of these trends and provides a strong community experience that is missing from other fitness studios and especially from outdated big box gyms, explained Lindsey and Kanawyer. Putting together her opinion with industry trends and their experience, Chris and his daughter knew they were onto something.
“We are very comfortable being Solcioty’s first franchisees; somebody has to do it,” Chris said.
“Charlie and Justin have been tremendous to work with. They give good information with a quick response time. We couldn’t ask for better partners.”
Another reason Chris and India were able to believe in Solcioty’s concept was the addition of the concept’s franchise development executive, David Wheeler, who brings more than 20 years of experience leading high quality major franchise initiatives for multiple successful concepts. Wheeler will be focused on franchise recruitment in the Southeast, market penetration, real estate and partnering with operations, finance and marketing to make Solcioty’s multi-unit franchisees successful from the start.
“We chose the Atlanta market to start, and I believe we will grow in other surrounding markets quickly because our product is built using top trends backed by science, our own competitive advantage focused on community, plus we are led by industry veterans, former franchisees and best in class franchisor vendors. We will provide support to franchisees to grow and be successful,” Wheeler said.
Choosing Atlanta to start Solcioty was no random matter. The Southeast is home to half of 2017’s fastest growing cities. As Chris and India develop the Atlanta market with Solcioty’s first five units, the brand seeks to grow throughout the US from Atlanta.
“Our Initial marketing efforts will focus on the Southeast markets from the Carolinas to Florida and to Texas. We do best in major markets where the average income is $75,000 and above,” Kanawyer said.
“Justin and Charlie as franchisors are going to be ultra successful, and we wanted to be on the front end of that,” Chris said. “We think the Atlanta market is particularly well suited to introduce the first locations. Growth in Atlanta is expected to continue. It’s not sleepy. We live right here near the first location; it’s a great place to start this brand.”
Solcioty works best in communities with demographics that meet qualifying population and household requirements within a 3 mile, 12-minute drive time, including an average household income of $75,000. Its overall target age is between 19-60 years and 25-45 years old specifically.
Investment in Solcioty requires a three-unit minimum commitment. The net worth requirement is $1,500,000, with liquid cash of $600,000. The total investment range is between $489,000 - $770,000.
“There are many communities in the Southeast that can support these demographics. I don’t want to shotgun, and that’s why we are starting in Atlanta,” Wheeler said. “Wherever you are growing a franchise brand, you want to design a system that supports the franchisees and sets them up for success. My background is 25 years in the franchise industry, and Charlie and Justin are fitness industry veterans and former franchisees. This is THE concept to invest in, and Atlanta has communities with demographics to support the model.”
For Chris, he’s excited to work alongside his daughter.
“You have to understand every aspect of the studio from hiring, training and evaluating to make sure they perform at peak,” he said. “As we add stores, each store needs individual managers. Once we get to a critical mass, which is 4-5 stores, I foresee India stepping up a notch and managing the managers. But, first and foremost, we believe in the concept.”