We asked Jamie Dennis, from CFHX, to share their startup story and offer some tips for new affiliate owners.

Chris & Jamie Dennis and Zach & Courtney Hill opened CrossFit Helix in December of 2011.

As a great bond and friendship quickly evolved while coaching at another box, so did the idea of opening up our own CrossFit affiliate. While the other gym we were coaching at was progressively losing its CrossFit foundation, requests for more equipment and more CrossFit-style programming falling on deaf ears, our desire to teach others “true” CrossFit became too much to ignore. We found ourselves throwing down WODs outside of class times so we could do “true” CrossFit all the while with envious eyes of other CrossFitters that were a part of dedicated, community-embraced CrossFit affiliates that we were not a part of. Outside our own individual coaching abilities and personalities, it quickly became clear the four of us could each bring some incredible talents to our own box. Diving in head first and watching everything fall into place almost too perfectly, we also were quick to make promises to each other to see that CFHX stayed true to its original roots. Plain and simple, we wanted CFHX to always embrace CrossFit in the fullest sense; camaraderie, community and the pursuit of constant excellence.

With that motto being the driving factor in all the decisions we make for the box, in 3 short months, we now are 60+ members strong with new members joining our community every week that come from all different backgrounds and are of all ages. What is most incredible is that we have done all of this with $0 spent on marketing efforts (aside from the initial website creation cost). We have formed unique bonds with every single member and each one of them understands that we passionately care about their success in and out of the gym wholeheartedly. Suddenly, their friends and family members start showing up and the cycle continues. We use our website and Facebook to post the Daily WOD along with tons of pictures of our members, relevant CrossFit articles and videos, share the personal accomplishments of our members and use both platforms to create an interaction between our members that really makes them feel like they are a part of something so much bigger than just an interest in physical fitness. What we truly love most about our community is that they are as dedicated and excited about the sport of CrossFit as much as we are. We run about 24 classes every week with our same four owners/coaches, limiting our class sizes to 12-15 people so our members get the attention and coaching they deserve while also being able to fully utilize our equipment and space.

From the beginning, we knew it was important to have a website that potential new members could navigate and get excited about coming into the box. Although a few of the other owners were hesitant to spend the money on the site, they will all testify that spending the money on a professional, unique and distinct website was one of the best decisions we have made for the box thus far. With the help of 321GoProject, we created a website that nearly 100% of our members utilize every day. Not only that, but the website is a great resource for potential new members where they usually can get most of their questions answered by browsing our website and then by the time they come in to check out the box in person, they have a really good feel for what CrossFit is all about. 321GoProject created a killer, functional website for us that we would absolutely not be where we are at now without. In short, 321GoProject under-promised and over-delivered a website that fits our needs, personalities and goals. Clay was very open to all our suggestions throughout the site creation process and having a CrossFit-minded company and individual creating your site was a tremendous benefit. As we all know, us CrossFitters are a unique bunch and it takes someone from within the community to fully understand what we do. Had we hired a non-CrossFit minded company to design our website, I now realize how much of a headache the website creation process would have been.

Even though we are still young, a few words of advice that have paid off for us tremendously (in no particular order).
  • Spend the money on a killer website. Unless you live under a rock, you check Facebook or use the internet, so you need to make sure potential members are snooping around on your site and not your competitors.
  • Spend a good chunk of your start-up money on equipment. When potential new members walk through your doors, they need to see you’re serious about your business by giving them the tools they need to succeed. If you don’t have the money for a lot of equipment, limit your class sizes so that the training does not lack because you can’t support the number of members with your amount of equipment.
  • Personally invest in your members. Get to know them. Truly. The reward will be immense.
  • Utilize the talents and resources of people you know and especially your members (you’ll know this by doing #3).
  • Take photos. TONS of photos. And slap them all over your Facebook page, tagging every member. Trust us, people LOVE looking at pictures of themselves. And so do their friends and family. And how do you think new members are mostly referred into our gym? You got it.
  • Learn as much as you can. And keep learning. Go to every Cert you can afford to go to. Read the CFJ and every CrossFit resource out there. And most importantly, take the time to teach your members new skills. They are craving to get better.