Opening up gyms that have a “mom and pop” feel has been Mike Singer’s calling for the past 22 years. In the early 1990s, at the age of 24, he opened up his first personal training studio in Miami, Florida. What followed was a string of small studios focused not just on personal training, but Pilates as well.
However, being a “mom and pop” owner had its challenges. “My wife and I would be running one facility at a time, and it was very difficult,” he said.
So in 2011, when Singer was introduced to Orangetheory Fitness, he saw an opportunity to be the owner of a business that still had a “mom and pop” feel, but that allowed for growth. “I think what really attracted me to being an Orangetheory franchisee was finally seeing a realistic way to own four or five, maybe even six, facilities,” he said. “Having corporate support with your employees and training, and all the aspects of what a good franchise has to offer, allowed me to branch out, which was always a dream of mine.”
In that endeavor, he’s proven to be successful. Singer currently owns three Orangetheory Fitness studios in Miami, with two additional locations in the works. He has done all this while maintaining the “mom and pop” feel he so cherishes.
“I’m so involved with the members that if I walk into one of my facilities I basically get attacked by 10 members who want to tell me about their family and their kids,” said Singer. “I love going in and having those relationships with people, because that’s how I started in this business, and I don’t ever want to get away from that. Those are the relationships that keep you in business.”
When Singer first became an Orangetheory Fitness franchisee, he struggled with letting go of some of the habits that can be developed when you own just one location. “When I first started I was treating it like I did my prior businesses,” he said. “I was micromanaging, I would say. Now that I have three open locations … I’ve grown tremendously with having moved away from micromanaging and more towards larger picture views of everything.”
For Singer, the larger picture involves growing the concept he fell in love with from the get go, back in 2011. “From the fitness side, I will tell you I truly believe this is probably one of, if not the best, fitness concepts in the industry right now,” he said. “When a franchisee comes in and implements it correctly, it’s a home run. It’s usually a huge success in whatever city they’re opening up in.”
Singer used his first location in Pinecrest, a sub-city of Miami, as an example. “We were able to open up with over 500 members, and a 500-member studio in this type of micro gym setting is already a pretty busy studio,” he explained. “We can only handle 24 to 28 people at a time, so 500 members is actually a really nice number to open up with. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to generate positive income streams the day you open.”
According to Singer, the amount of interest generated around the concept is possible because of one key fact: people see results. “The results have been tremendous,” he said. “We’re changing people’s lives, and when you change people’s lives, that’s when you see people telling all of their friends. When they see results they can’t stop talking about it and they keep coming in droves.”
These results stem from Orangetheory Fitness’ workout philosophy, which was inspired by Ellen Latham’s “The Ultimate Workout.” Classes span 60 minutes, during which time participants are encouraged to reach their “Orange Zone.” In theory, this zone creates “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” which leads to an increased after-burn effect on the metabolism.
“In my opinion, metabolic after burn is the holy grail of health and fitness,” said Singer.
When members enter an Orangetheory Fitness they’re fitted with a heart-rate monitor. During the workout, which combines cardiovascular, strength and functional fitness, the exerciser’s heart rate is wirelessly transmitted onto flat screens placed strategically around the studio. This takes the guess work out of how hard members are working.
In addition, by basing the workout around heart-rate “zones,” Singer explained every fitness level could be catered to. “You can have an 80-year-old working out right next to a 16-year-old, and both of them are getting equally as intense of a workout that meets their fitness goals,” he said. “We have every size and shape, and really have been able to cater to every fitness level — that’s another big reason for our success.”
Judy Aguirre, 60, has been a member of Singer’s Pinecrest location for two years. She attested to the results the workout can provide. “My running has improved and I’ve given up having a [personal] trainer because I feel that I almost have a personal trainer in Orangetheory Fitness,” she said. “It’s just overall a great workout for me.”
In fact, although Singer owned personal training studios in the past, he loves that Orangetheory Fitness can provide members with the results they’d likely see from personal training, minus the cost. “It’s more affordable,” he said. “At $70 to $80 an hour you’re really only reaching a small percentage of the population. With Orangetheory, it’s kind of a personal trainer tiller. For $10 an hour, you can get just as good, maybe even a better workout.”
Consumers seem to agree. Since its founding in 2010, the franchise has received enough business to sustain fast growth. In five years it has expanded to 200 locations across the U.S. in 28 states, with plans to expand internationally.
While Orangetheory Fitness’ corporate office focuses on international and national growth, Singer’s goal is to continue to expand in Miami, where he hopes to share his colorful “mom and pop” businesses with other Floridians. In addition, he has taken on a franchisee advisory role for Orangetheory Fitness’ other aspiring entrepreneurs.
In all that he does, Singer works hard to ensure each studio he opens has a small business feel — central to his roots — where members feel like part of a family. “I love what I do,” he said. “We’re succeeding on every level and when I’m able to change people’s lives, it makes me happy. That’s what I always kind of come back to and feel in my heart — as long as I’m changing people’s lives in a positive way, we’re doing something right.”
By Rachel Zabonick