The co-founders of S30 Studio have ambitious plans for the nightclub-style fitness service.
The fitness industry is booming.
Research from consumer comparison platforms Finder and Canstar Blue show that about a third of Australians own gym memberships and, on average, spend nearly $100 a month on fitness.
And research group IBISWorld estimates the sector will generate $2.3 billion in revenue nationally this year.
Numbers like those suggest an increased awareness of the benefits of physical activity and the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
For those in the business, however, finding a point of difference among the plethora of gyms and fitness studios is tough.
“Being in a saturated market like fitness, you have to be slightly different with your model,” Luke Faulkner, the chief operating officer of S30 Studio, told Business News.
Mr Faulkner cited his fitness background and having identified a gap in the market as reasons for establishing a brand that markets itself as a nightclub-style fitness studio with custom workouts developed by experienced personal trainers who guide weight sessions in groups.
S30 has four studios across Perth, including a venue in Myaree, which opened this month.
Mr Faulkner had co-founded the business in 2019 with his best friend and head trainer, Ret Hartley.
Both from New Zealand, Messrs Faulkner and Hartley moved to Perth in 2010 and 2012, respectively, and undertook personal training roles at other fitness franchises, including F45.
Mr Faulkner said S30 was different from other service-based fitness providers in that its customers were trained in groups but still received personalised experiences.
“At S30, everything is partnered,” he said.
“We have one trainer who trains 10 people [in] a block, but … one partner goes, one rests.
“So, the trainer is actually working to about four or five people in that section for 12 minutes … then [members] move on to the next section, and so on.”
Mr Faulkner said the one-to-five model ensured a more tailored approach to training.
And although personalised experiences are available at many Perth gyms, Mr Faulkner believes more and more people are seeking service-based fitness.
Examples of those include Heartbeat High, a Pilates studio that aims to “bring fun back to fitness classes” with a “bold design aesthetic and playful interiors”.
The business was founded in 2018 by experienced Pilates teachers Phoebe Woohhead and Olivia Stell, who discovered the workout through rehabilitation needs but concluded the upkeep often felt clinical, old or lacklustre.
Heartbeat High has three studios across Perth – in the CBD, Cottesloe, and now Shenton Park – offering both group fitness classes and private training.
Similarly, indoor cycling business Bike Bar focused on the design of its Applecross and Claremont studios to stand out in the crowded fitness market, offering a hotel-style reception with “premium amenities, fresh towels, mood lighting and sweet tunes”.
Its cycling sessions are held in group settings and guided by instructors.
Group training was one of last year’s biggest fitness trends, along with high-intensity interval training and wearable technology, according to health and fitness association Fitness Australia.
Inside S30’s South Perth Studio. Photo: David Henry
Mr Faulkner, who has a technology background having earlier managed a tech startup, said he was excited about where he could take S30 in terms of wearable devices.
It was his tech knowledge that brought S30 from the brink of crisis when Western Australia went into its first major lockdown in March last year, a move that restricted exercise to outdoors only.
“Pre-COVID, we were tracking to be one of the highest-performance studios I’ve been involved in,” Mr Faulkner said, having noted S30 was targeting 300 members within its first year.
“When we got locked down, I thought everything was over.
“It was a really tough time.
“Two days later… I built a platform that took our entire business online … and in 48 hours, we pre-recorded two months’ worth of content.
“I didn’t think too much of it.
“I went for a run … I came back and nearly 250 people had signed up to the pre-launch.
“We had people living in Canada, people in America who signed up to it.
“Our brand gets out to people all over the world, which we didn’t realise.”
The $20-a-week program, downloadable as an app, granted access to S30’s custom-made mixtapes and online versions of its workouts.
“We thought COVID was the best thing for us because we built a whole new model over the lockdown, but we realised when we came out of the lockdown that we are very much an in-person product,” Mr Faulkner said.
“We put [the program] on hold because it needs a full team to actually build and run it, but it’s something that we’ll move into as we start to look at some of our future plans.”
The development of wearable technologies is included in S30’s long-term plans, along with the establishment of streetwear and athleisure lines, referencing Mr Hartley’s interest in merchandising.
Perhaps S30’s most ambitious goal is developing 1,000 studios worldwide within 10 years, including in New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, the US and across Europe.
For now, its focus is on further developing the existing franchises and expanding nationally, with studios planned for Brisbane and the Gold Coast, followed by a launch into NSW and Victoria.
Mr Faulkner said he expected to raise about $2 million in the coming weeks to accelerate the east-coast expansion.
The business aims to sell between 15 and 17 franchises and reach 2,000 members across the S30 network before year’s end.
Until recently, the founders hadn’t spent money on advertising, with Mr Faulkner noting the brand’s strong organic growth through social media.
“Our members create a lot of content for us,” he said.
“The product itself is what’s sold us a lot of members.
“We’re only just starting to push into the marketing realms, especially around our franchising launch.”
Mr Faulkner said many customers were joining S30 from other group-based fitness services due to a desire to “level up” and try something different.
And while most customers are between the ages of 25 and 40, Mr Faulkner said S30 had a bigger age bracket than what most would expect.
“Our oldest member … is nearly 70,” he said.
“We’ve got a 60 year old at the flagship [CBD] who is probably one of our fittest at the studio.”
So far, S30 has more than 500 members across its Perth network, which comprises studios in the CBD, Mt Lawley, South Perth, and Myaree.
Mr Faulkner said the business had venues planned for Scarborough and Cockburn.
Luke Faulkner (left) with Brayden Andrews. Photo: David Henry
S30’s South Perth studio, which officially opened in September, is franchised out to three mine workers, cousins Brayden Andrews and Corey Wilson – who are looking to transition out of the fly-in, fly-out lifestyle – and Daniel Rochford.
All three have an interest in fitness, with Messrs Andrews and Wilson completing a certificate III in personal training.
Mr Andrews told Business News he and Mr Wilson were considering a fitness-related venture before coming across S30 about a year ago.
He was introduced to the brand by Mr Wilson, who at the time was training at the CBD studio as part of a free trial. It was soon after that the pair spoke with Mr Faulkner about S30’s franchising model.
“We jumped straight at the opportunity because we really loved the brand and wanted to be a part of it,” Mr Andrews said.
“Being FIFO, we thought buying a franchise would be the easiest option as a startup.
“We’ve always been looking; it was just a matter of what was right for us, at the right time.”
He said he and Mr Wilson weren’t well-versed in business management, but Mr Andrews took counsel from his parents who were also business owners.
“I’d love to get into some personal development and some business-orientated courses and really learn the nuts and bolts of everything,” Mr Andrews said.
“That way, I can go in with a bit more experience into the next venture that we want to do.”
Mr Wilson echoed those sentiments, noting he too is considering business management courses.
“We are thinking about the future and potentially more businesses, so we want to be as prepared as possible for anything that might come to our attention,” Mr Wilson said.
“The good thing about a franchise and working away is [that] a lot of things are done for you.
“At S30, the music is done, the programming is done, [we] just need to manage the business.”
He said the weeks leading up to S30’s South Perth launch in mid-September were stressful, noting delays with tradesmen during the fit-out and equipment not being delivered on time, but the process had been well worth it.
“People said it was going to be tough and they were definitely right,” Mr Wilson said.
“The six to eight weeks leading to open were quite full on … once doors opened, we sort of took a step back.
“But now, it’s [about] growing the business, managing the business, keeping staff happy, retaining staff, finding staff.
“[There are] still plenty of things to do, but I’m finding the balance now between Brayden, Daniel, and myself.
“We’ve all got our roles.”
Mr Wilson said he and Mr Andrews allocated about two hours a day to S30 in between 12-hour stints on site.
“The hours and the time and the effort and the stress, it’s been worth it,” he said.
“I’ve always had an interest in fitness and a gym is a pretty big part of my life.”
Mr Faulkner had recommended the cousins purchase the South Perth franchise with Mr Rochford, a long-time friend who also worked at the same mining operation as Mr Wilson.
Mr Rochford agreed managing a franchise was well-suited to his FIFO lifestyle, having worked in the industry for more than a decade.
“S30 felt good as it’s a new concept, fresh, and has a great set-up and support network, therefore it made sense to invest,” Mr Rochford told Business News.
Much like his colleagues, Mr Rochford had to learn the backend processes to operate the business remotely.
“[Running] both the business and working 12-hour days [on site] can mean long days into the night and working weekends, compiling emails, coordinating multiple trades, suppliers, dealing with legal teams, and accounting,” he said.
“It’s not easy, or for everyone, but it has been a good journey and keeps me busy [outside of] my family life and hobbies.”