By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire
- Before becoming CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp, Joey Gonzalez was a client of the boutique fitness studio in West Hollywood, California.
- Gonzalez climbed the ranks, and under his direction, Barry’s has grown to 45 total locations including a dozen international studios.
- At the core of Barry’s global expansion is a reliance on a carefully-crafted brand and a mission of changing lives.
Before becoming the CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp, Joey Gonzalez(opens in new tab) was a working actor and a Barry's client obsessed with the high-intensity workouts offered at the boutique fitness studio.
Gonzalez was attracted to the killer workouts, but also the entertainment appeal. The class had lights and music, and upbeat trainers encouraged clients and controlled the energy of the room.
Gonzalez, who confessed to Grow Wire that he had "absolutely no intention to go into business," suddenly became interested in this new kind of performance. He joined the team, climbed the internal ranks, and started to plan for the future.
"I came in as a customer first, then an instructor, then a manager, and finally, after working with Barry's for four years, they allowed me to co-invest,” Gonzalez told Grow Wire. “Then I began opening up locations in San Diego and New York City.”
Gonzalez became the CEO of Barry’s in 2015, but during the first phase of domestic expansion, he was able to test the scalability and portability of the concept. Gonzalez also realized that with expansion, he needed a renewed focus on the Barry’s brand, so he set out to refine the lifestyle component in preparation for company growth.
Gonzalez (L) and Greenleaf CEO Jonathan Rollo at a recent Barry's event
Phase I: Barry's Bootcamp finds its stride in New York City
When Gonzalez opened the studio in New York’s iconic Chelsea(opens in new tab) neighborhood, the Barry's brand set the foundation for its future global footprint.
“I was evolving the concept,” said Gonzalez. “The first studio I opened in Chelsea was a complete revamp.”
The Chelsea studio included a host of features never before seen in Barry’s locations, like locker rooms, showers, brand partnerships and the Fuel Bar, a community space where clients could get nutritional advice, supplements, and shakes. At the Chelsea studio, the concept clicked into focus, and every location was created in alignment with the new Barry’s brand.
“My goal was always to elevate the brand and make it feel premium,” said Gonzalez. “But additionally, we wanted to get frequency out of our customers, and we wanted to do that in the safest [branded] way possible."
Phase II: To Norway and beyond
Barry’s was early in the boutique fitness studio movement(opens in new tab), which kicked off in the early 2000’s. The movement started with entrants like Bar Method and Pure Barre, characterized by small, upscale studios, focused workout routines, inspiring music and fantastic instructors. Boutique studio clients pay per class, with an industry average around $20(opens in new tab).
When Barry's opened in Norway,"boutique fitness studios had not really emerged as a major industry,” said Gonzalez. “So the level of interest was limited to people that were falling in love with the product.”
A couple that owned gyms in Norway had indeed fallen in love, and they became the first international franchisees. Since then, Barry’s Bootcamp has exploded in the region with multiple locations across Bergen, Oslo, and Stockholm.
Today, through a combination of joint ventures, partnerships and franchisees, the company has locations in the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Italy and Australia.
A member of the Barry's team in London
“What ultimately ends up pushing us one way or another, is the people,” said Gonzalez. “This is a human capital business. As long as I have incredible, strong partners and feet on the ground, I know it’s going to be a success.”
Gonzalez created a department solely focused on researching the international market. They provide insights on where to go next, when and why, analyzing factors such as the economy, lifestyle and demographics.
This research gives Gonzalez the ability to make what he calls “data-informed decisions," but ultimately, he says, “having the right partner is the final deciding factor.”
Phase III: Honing hyperlocal communication
Barry’s knows their workout system produces results. But for Gonzalez’s international studios to be effective, they must also represent other aspects of Barry’s: a sense of magic that happens in the studio, superior customer service(opens in new tab) and high-quality instructors.
Additionally, any new programs developed in the Los Angeles headquarters must also be communicated to Barry’s 40+ locations across the U.S. and overseas. For this, Gonzalez has created a hyper local(opens in new tab) communication process.
“We created a team of community marketing people, one in each city or region that liaise between marketing and operations,” said Gonzalez. “They translate to our studio managers on a local level.”
Community Marketing ensures sure clients have the best experience possible. If a client has a bad workout, a marketer takes a class with them to understand what went wrong and how to fix it next time. They'll also deliver cake for a client birthday and a bottle of champagne for an engagement or wedding. Now that's called going above and beyond!
Phase IV: Keeping the brand, with a local touch
Community managers also create a reverse feedback loop for Gonzalez, in which studio managers tell headquarters what's working on the ground.
“We have succeeded only because we are hyperlocal, and our community marketing team listens to our local studio managers,” said Gonzalez.
At times, customer preferences in markets can be very nuanced, and Barry’s must be aware of these "tastes." For instance, in Milan, the Fuel Bar shakes must be made with less sugar. In the UK, meanwhile, Barry’s received the feedback that they needed to use less ice.
Depending on the market, changes also happen in the studio, with some cities preferring 80’s music and others enjoying R&B or pop.
Barry's goes to great lengths to satisfy customers. They know that clients need to see and feel results, and that’s what keeps them coming back.
The Barry's Fuel Bar is tailored to local tastes internationally.
Phase V: Analyzing impact
Barry’s grew out of a desire to bring a life-changing experience to people, and that passion continues to drive Gonzalez and the team.
“I didn’t go about this growth journey thinking about EBITA, valuation and exit,” said Gonzalez. “I became part of Barry’s because I was obsessed with this workout, and I wanted to be able to change as many lives as possible.”
Gonzalez has one piece of advice for other organizations about to go global.
“Do your diligence,” he said. “You have to learn the local nuances, which extend beyond culture and communication, to operations and technology, both from a brick and mortar standpoint and online.”
Barry's expects to have 50 US studios by 2020 and have inked a deal with Quadrant PE's Fitness and Lifestyle Group(opens in new tab) through Asia-Pacific to build 23 studios over the next few years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
Now that's some international growth to get pumped about.
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