Work it out in local boutique gyms

By Lauren Caggiano

LOL Health and Fitness Studio in downtown Goshen, Indiana, is a place where women of all fitness levels can go to get fit with friends in a supportive environment. The studio offers classes for women only but provides personal training and the design-your-own classes to anyone interested.

Clients at the gym are encouraged to test themselves and stretch their limits — in other words live out loud (LOL). This philosophy is so important to gym co-owners Maija Stutsman and Jami Hawkins, that it’s reflected in their business’ name.

“Don’t just work to live, but make it part of your energy,” Stutsman said. “Make it memorable.”

Doing something offhand is not part of the pair’s DNA. They believe nothing happens overnight and it takes hard work to turn a profit. That’s why the plan was to start small and grow from there, which is exactly what Stutsman and Hawkins did. The trainer-friends started in 2008 in a small studio owned by some friends. The schedule was modest then grew as demand increased.

Today, the studio offers 27 unique classes, some of which are trademarked. In fact, the instructors design most of the classes themselves, Stutsman said. Clients can choose from a variety of workouts including power barre, Zumba and kickboxing. Monthly packages and drop-in sessions are available. Stutsman also offers massage services on site.

This class-based model, also known as a boutique gym (vs. open gym) allows for Stutsman and Hawkins to get to know clients on a personal level — a point that sets them apart from many chain gyms.

“We know the names of everyone who comes in the door,” Stutsman said. But the relationship doesn’t stop there. Stutsman is concerned with providing a consistent, quality experience. “Our success lies in always giving a great workout to people but always building on the relationships with the people who come in. We put the experience first.”

According to Hawkins, LOL Health and Fitness Studio is really a community, and that’s an asset. The studio is located in a building known as “The Bubble,” that houses other health and wellness focused businesses. Still, the company’s growth depends largely on referrals, because they want to focus on “getting the right people” in the door. They want to attract people who see a membership as an investment, versus just another expense.

Of course there would be no classes without instructors. Stutsman said it’s been challenging to find qualified instructors. Oftentimes this calls for looking in their own backyards to recruit.

“We’ve found the most successful approach is to call our clients who have a passion for fitness,” Hawkins said. Stutsman said she’s happy with their growth so far, but she would like to continue on an upward trajectory. It would be nice if every class were full, she said. Her advice for fellow entrepreneurs: “Start with what you’re passionate about and go from there. If you don’t love what you do, people will see that (and take note).”

For more information about LOL Health and Fitness Studio, visit Lolhealthandfitness.com.