As their college careers wound down in late 2015, Spencer Graham and Patrick Posten used their last semester to formulate a business plan.
Inspired by their time working at Strong Gym – now Royal Barbell – the two Missouri State University students were determined to start a training facility of their own.
“There wasn’t really any apprehension,” Posten says of the decision to form GP Athletics. “We started it the month after we graduated from college, so it was kind of a time in our life when we thought we didn’t have much to lose.”
Both Graham and Posten graduated with bachelor’s degrees in exercise and movement science, with a goal to bring strength training to the fitness industry. They started with one-on-one personal training but have since added group fitness classes and open gym memberships with 24/7 access. The $39 monthly membership is a newer component of the gym, started at the beginning of the year, and Posten says they’ve sold around 15 as of mid-March. Their goal is to hit 100 members by the end of the year.
“Our niche is strength training,” Posten adds. “We use a lot of free weights, and we don’t have a lot of machines. We actually don’t have treadmills or ellipticals or things of that nature. Basically, our goal is to train people through strength training. That’s kind of our passion in terms of a fitness base, and we wanted to do something that set us apart.”
It may not quite have been love at first sight, but when the co-owners saw their current facility at 4268 S. Hillcrest Ave., Posten says there was no doubt they found a home.
“It was exactly what we were looking for,” he says. “We were hooked as soon as we walked in and saw the garage doors.”
Beyond the garage doors was plenty of open space.
Prior to searching for real estate, the duo had obtained an $8,000 loan from a friend – an amount Posten says they have since paid back in full. That money was utilized to cover a down payment, first month’s rent and equipment for the gym. Now, Posten says cash flow covers ongoing expenses.
About six months in, Posten says the business started undergoing changes. For one, the name was changed from 417 Fit to prepare for future expansion outside of the Springfield market. GP Athletics was born – incorporating the initials of each owner’s last name – as was the plan to expand in the current space.
Originally in 1,500 square feet, the business partners were able to take over next door, essentially doubling to 3,000 square feet, Posten says. Tucked off of Republic Road, near the Golden Avenue intersection, the building is owned by Whiskers Property Investments/White Plumbing.
Group classes, added in mid-2016 for $85 per month, were on the rise. Declining to disclose annual revenue, Posten says personal training packages are priced at $40 per hour-long session, with clients billed in advance. They’ve built up to about 60 one-on-one clients, and Posten says group training averages about three people in each of the six classes a week.
The expansion also opened the door to rent out space to coaches and massage therapists. Whether it’s a coach wanting to regularly utilize the space or conduct a one-time training session, Posten says those rentals bring in about $1,000 per month on average. Two massage therapists regularly operate out of the gym for a combined $750 per month.
“People working out naturally get aches and pains,” Posten says. “They get hurt or whatever, and thankfully, we’ve got (massage therapists) here to work on them.”
Crystal Rangen, one of the on-site therapists, agrees that the arrangement is mutually beneficial, as her clients overlap with the gym’s clientele. She gets quite a few referrals from the owners.
“It’s very nice to be able to have that dynamic where I’m able to talk with a personal trainer about how they are working with somebody,” Rangen says. “Then, how I can further them along, especially with their own goals. It goes hand in hand, which is really, really nice.”
Rangen’s therapy business, Remedies 4 Life, has been located in the gym for a little more than a year. While she expected to take a financial hit for her first year while building up a client base, Rangen says she broke even and believes the current structure is ideal.
“I feel a little spoiled being over there,” she adds with a laugh.
As for their own fitness, powerlifting is their thing. Graham has competed over 10 times and qualified for nationals in Strongman. Posten was crowned champion of the 2017 USA Powerlifting meet in Illinois, according to the USAPL database online.
“We really are excited to help other lifters that compete and do things like that get into the sport, or just continue their passion for the sport,” Posten says. “We’re very excited we chose this route.”
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