Never-Ending Stories

Shaping Up

What: An alternative to overcrowded gyms
Who: Robert B. Shapiro of BodyScapes Inc.
Where: Newton, Massachusetts
When: Started in April 1997

During his tenure as a health-club manager, Robert Shapiro made three observations: Some clients found it intimidating to use the equipment for the first time, many had to wait to use the exercise equipment during peak usage hours, and there was high demand for personal training.

After he was laid off from the club, Shapiro wrote a business plan, sought out a $70,000 loan from the SBA and opened a different type of club. "We have five or six people an hour working out at one time," explains Shapiro, 34, who intially relied on word-of-mouth and grassroots marketing. Shapiro sets his business apart by not offering gym memberships; instead, clients can buy six, 12 or 22 sessions at a time, a feature that Shapiro credits for his club's 90 percent retention rate.

BodyScapes offers the latest in workout equipment, an intimate setting and workouts by appointment only. (Clients are met by trainers who take them through their individualized workouts.) Clients range in age and fitness levels, including many who are undergoing physical rehabilitation, and 65 percent are women.

Plus, the clubs are staffed by top-notch professionals: "We have athletic trainers, physical therapists and exercise physiologists," says Shapiro. "We have the best of the exercise sciences."

With 2002 sales of $1.3 million, BodyScapes has three locations in Massachusetts, chosen for their proximity to affluent areas--after all, it takes a high-income demographic to afford the $60-plus fee per session.

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This article was originally published in the February 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Never-Ending Stories.

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