It Was All A Dream: Starting A CrossFit Gym

After being a coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn in NYC for 6 years I moved halfway across the country to open my own affiliate, CrossFit Lumos, in Austin, TX. This series will chronicle my experience opening the gym and what I am learning along the way. This article is Part 1 of the adventure.

Step 1: Throw Everything In A Van, Drive It Across Country

It all started with a van. A 1985 bright blue Toyota, a model that in a stroke of Japanese creativity is simply called the “Toyota Van.” Once I bought that van I was on my way, ready to open my own CrossFit affiliate after six years of working as a coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn in New York City.

That’s a joke. We are long past the day that you can just decide to open an affiliate, click a few buttons on Mainsite, hang a sign on your garage, and GET ELITE. Today the market is more and more crowded, with competition not just from within (other affiliates) but also exogenous competitors, whether they be HIIT programs, sheep-in-wolves clothing programs at globo gyms (X-FitZ @ Gold’s Gym © (™) ® ) or good ol’ yoga.

That said, I’d been thinking about opening an affiliate, seriously, for roughly two years. Honestly, I’d wanted to open one from the first day I did Fran, but first I had a full time guv’mint job to quit, then once I started coaching I realized how much I had to learn before starting something I could be proud of. Once I figured I was a decent enough coach and knew some of the business side, I started exploring opportunities.

First, I considered partnering with a co-worker in Brooklyn. We had investors, found an amazing space, had some great ideas, but I was reticent to start something in the backyard of CrossFit South Brooklyn, the gym that had given me a new career and was responsible for so much of my growth and happiness over the last few years. Further, the project quickly spiraled into a huge undertaking AND it was clear that I’d need to commit to staying in New York for years to build it.

I am one of the few strange people born in New York that doesn’t love it with all of their soul and can’t even imagine leaving. I’d tried my best to leave but got pulled back for good when I was assigned to a New York field office for my old job. So, I began to see the start of my affiliate as fulfilling a concurrent job of getting out of the city to somewhere with some more open spaces, slower, saner pace of life, and hopefully warm enough weather that I could ride my motorcycle year round.

Over the next two years I began to craft a list of smaller cities that inhabited a space inside a small Venn diagram made up of a few overlapping criteria. It would ideally be someplace that didn’t have a ton of affiliates, that was warm, already a great place to live (roughly determined by “Most Livable Cities”-ish awards and lists) and that was still growing, preferably booming. There were other little things I wanted (outdoors, good music, good food, etc.) but they were a little more flexible. While doing this, I explored other options- I flew out to Northern California to meet with a woman who wanted to sell her affiliate, flew down to North Carolina to meet a guy who was opening one and wanted a partner, talked to my coaching mentor in Phoenix about partnering- but in the end, building something myself was both appealing and ultimately easier than signing on with someone else.

Still, I needed a major push to make the final leap. A friend of mine, who had been a client at South Brooklyn, had moved to run his family’s real estate business in a new market, and he had been looking around a little for me. Every day he biked past a building that had a tiny, hand lettered “For Sale” sign out front. He went in and struck up a conversation and eventual friendship (seriously, they watch football together every weekend) with the elderly veterinarian who was closing his practice and selling his building. My brother had moved to the same city a year before, so I flew down to visit and take a look at the building. It needed a lot of work, but it was free standing (no neighbors to piss off!) had a cool backyard and was in the perfect part of town. My buddy wanted to buy the building as an investment so he gave me a great lease rate, and it was happening. A few months later, after an awkward but rewarding conversation with the owner of CFSBK, a few going away parties, maybe a tear or two, and a trip to the Games, I was back in New York, stuffing a motorcycle and all of my belongings in my Van © , en route to Austin, Texas, to start CrossFit Lumos.

Stay tuned, the road is long and windy.

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