Sometimes when you least expect it, opportunity knocks. Or in the case of Rafael Sanmiguel, flexes its muscles.
The Lewis Center resident had long been an entrepreneur, owning a carpet, upholstery and window-cleaning company. After leaving that business, he wasn’t necessarily looking for another. But he got an email from a franchise consultant. “And this caught my eye.”
Now, he’s a GYMGUYZ franchisee, offering clients most of the opportunities afforded by a gym but brought directly to their home or office.
“We have a van equipped with all different types of equipment,” Sanmiguel said. “We can’t have a treadmill or elliptical machine, but we have weights, ropes, medicine balls, whatever the latest trend is.”
The concept resonated him with because “my true passion was fitness and nutrition. I’ve been involved in fitness pretty much since I was a kid — and I’m 49 now — so it’s always been a big part of my life.”
Sanmiguel is offering to bring his brightly colored van to a client’s location for workouts as early as 5 a.m. any day of the week, and as late as 10 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on weekends. The workouts are in the client’s location — usually a house but sometimes a business — using the equipment that is packed in the van specifically for that client’s workout.
A package of sessions typically breaks down to about $60 per session.
Before the workouts begin, Sanmiguel or a trainer he has trained puts a client through an assessment that measures body fat, current fitness level and past workouts, then determines the client’s goals.
No two workouts are the same “because no two people are the same,” Sanmiguel said.
Workout clients “can be anybody, but typically people who have trouble getting to the gym,” Sanmiguel said. “Maybe it’s a question of time, or not being comfortable going to the gym — those are major factors — or they’re looking to get healthier, lose weight, have a healthier lifestyle.:
The GYMGUYZ concept was created in 2008 by Josh York, a longtime fitness devotee who quit a job at a marketing company to start the business out of his parents’ dining room. “I had a van, a laptop and a vision,” York said.
Today, the chain, with headquarters in Plainview, New York, has more than 70 vehicles serving 4,000 clients in 14 states.
Upfront costs for franchisees are the van, training and a franchise fee — an initial investment of around $60,000.
“It’s very reasonable,” Sanmiguel said. “Since I was a franchise owner before, I know it’s a very good deal.”
The cartoon characters on the vans are modeled after York and his brother.
“It’s all about the branding,” York said. “That van is everything.”
In Columbus, the van has definitely been everything.
Sanmiguel started with one van. “The idea is as you grow, you add more. If you have more than 30 clients or so, there’s only so many sessions you can do in a day, so you order an additional van.”
Since quietly launching earlier this summer, the business has done so well that Sanmiguel is being joined by another franchise operator, Naomi Hoyt of Dublin.
Hoyt, who will serve clients in Dublin and Upper Arlington and on the Northwest Side starting next week, said the van’s importance goes beyond branding to its functionality.
“There’s a lot of trainers going around to people’s houses,” Hoyt said. “But do they have 300 pieces of top-of-the-line, professional equipment? No.”
The GYMGUYZ van is a marketing idea that’s “commendable to get somebody’s attention,” said Deborah Mitchell, a professor of marketing at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
“At this point, personal training and fitness in general is almost a commodity,” Mitchell said. “ And in the commodity category, there’s nothing new. So in a category like this, having something that gets any kind of attention can be useful.
“If you think about the Geek Squad when it started out, it had an interesting visual look with those Beetles and nerdy guys, and that really worked,” she said.
“The big question is, longer term, can it really be a source of competitive advantage?” she said. Often the answer is no. “They’ll need to back it up with something special to create loyalty.”