How owning a gym became a retirement portfolio

  • /
  • How owning a gym became a retirement portfolio

Welcome to our newest gym owner business profile. Offered up once a month, these profiles are created to share ideas and challenges between gym owners. Each privately owned gym fuels from a unique set of circumstances. Hopefully, you will find inspiration in their experiences. 

Kelly Morgan

Gym owner profile: MorGainz Fitness, Pennsylvania

It started as a retirement plan. After careers in nursing and police work, Kelly and David Morgan were ready to switch tracks. Always total gym people, they dusted off a business plan written for a college nursing course, and decided to fix a problem. Their small Richland, PA, community did not offer a gym up to their exacting standards. 

“We made so many mistakes, I could write a book,” explains Kelly. Despite the frenzy of opening late due to equipment snafus and signing a regrettable triple net lease, the location boasted 500 members within one month. 

Today, the four MorGainz Fitness gyms provide 24-7 access, childcare, personal training, body composition evaluations, and a spectrum of free weights, machines, and cardio fitness classes.

Gym growth came in twos.

From 2012 onward, approximately every two years, the couple seized an opportunity to add locations. For the first one, a local apartment owner asked them to add a gym to one of their properties in Ebensburg. “I thought they were crazy. But life is short, be crazy,” Kelly said. 

The mistake made with their second location? Buying cheaply made equipment. Bad welding, bolts and steel turned a $200,000 investment into an expensive blunder. Upon reflection, it would have been better to buy used but better-made equipment. Today, they have an established relationship with Matrix Fitness.

The third location arrived in the gift of an empty bowling alley. The building needed a ton of work, Kelly explains, but it became their first commercial property. 

By the time retiring owners of the Somerset property stopped by to pitch the couple on buying their gym and property, they were struggling to keep up with the first three fitness centers. 

To take on the Somerset location, they outsourced billing to a national software management company and rebranded all four locations to MorGainz  Fitness. 

Kelly Morgan
Stretching their talents to run four gyms took giving up control to managers and switching gym management software companies.

The rebranding worked well, but the billing company was a nightmare. The firm subcontracted both its door access system and merchant accounts — resulting in an unpredictable entry system and untold extra fees. 

They soldiered through, though, recognizing the value of owning land rather than pouring money into leased sites.

Kelly and David’s optimism paid. In 2021 when an unexpected tip led to a good deal on an empty building in Jackson. The chance encounter allowed them to release the Ebensburg lease and own three of their four gym locations. Now they were on their way to building a substantial retirement portfolio.

Woman-owned gym in a male-inspired industry

Perhaps because Kelly is an Air-Force veteran and spent years as an active duty nurse, she does not consider her sex a barrier.

Instead, she considers being a female gym owner an exciting place to be. Even today, she finds, many women are afraid of free weights, worried the barbells may bulk them up. Her athletic, fit, 50-year-old frame proves otherwise. Two kids? A husband of 25 years? No problem. With the right diet, exercise plan, and mindset, anyone can live the fit life. It’s a motto branded into her community through management, marketing, and across social media.

Kelly Morgan. 3

Great captains are never made from calm waters.

Kelly speaks of her successes and challenges in the same intense, direct language. Both are natural for her. 

Unlike national chains — the arrival of which nearly put them out of business in 2015 — Kelly and David care that their members show up, exercise, and create the best body possible.

To serve their clients, Kelly offers an Ignite 90 program that teaches members how to use the gym, provides nutritional guidance, and includes a full body-composition evaluation. She may see the client only four times in the 90 days, but the program’s design creates structure and accountability for success. 

The hardest part of owning multiple gyms?

Giving up control to a good manager. To take on the Ebensburg locale, she needed an independent, self-driven manager. The first hire flamed and burned within a week. 

The second person required a leap of faith. An earnest 24-year-old who cared deeply about the brand, the gym, and the company’s success, he brought the location along for nearly two years before leaving for graduate school. 

Kelly Morgan

Sage wisdom learned from four fitness locations

  1. Never base decisions on how you feel about something. Do the research first. 
  2. Gyms don’t run themselves. They need attention and a sprinkle of love. Absentee ownership won’t work without a good manager.
  3. Establish a line of respect from the gate — with employees and members. 
  4. Build a noncompete clause into employee agreements. 
  5. Invest in good, easy-to-evaluate gym management software. Kelly replaced her expensive software company with Gym Insight and the rollout has simplified facility management.

The future is wide open for these two. They’re promoting franchises and driving forward with the plan, providing their community with accountable fitness programs, well-outfitted gyms, and a powerful, healthy experience. 

Gym Insight

We hope you’ve enjoyed our client profile. All of our software users run unique, fresh from-the-ground-up gyms, and we are here to make sure each one runs to its optimum capability. Call us today at 1-855-FOR-GYMS to learn how our easy-to-use, affordable gym management software can change your facility for the better. Ask for Anthony, our sales specialist and host of the “Gym Owner’s Podcast.”