Diary of a Startup
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It's been a long and interesting journey toward the opening of Karen Jashinsky's teen gym and hangout. We initially visited the 29-year-old entrepreneur in December 2005, and we've watched her various triumphs and setbacks as she's battled to open O2 Max Fitness. Although there's been a delay in the scheduled opening date, Jashinsky is still plowing full speed ahead toward a 2007 launch.
It was the ongoing consultations Jashinsky had with her advisory board that convinced her to think bigger. Originally planning to launch the gym in a smaller space with an SBA loan, she is now finalizing investment deals to raise $1.6 million in startup capital to build out her 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot space. "After crunching the numbers on the various locations we found, the return on the bigger space just made more sense," says Jashinsky. "And [my] advisors felt strongly that that was representative of what the market can really support."
All Jashinsky's business networking and searching for funding and advice confirmed that her idea was a timely one. She found a lot of interest in her concept from both the fitness community and the business community at large, especially amidst the growing alarm over childhood obesity. Her advisors told her to think big and make provisions, even during her startup phase, to open a second location. With that in mind, she's now factoring some growth capital into her startup costs.
Still searching for a Los Angeles-area location, Jashinsky has narrowed it down to three places. She's also continuing her high-energy marketing. She has partnered with The Princeton Review to offer tutoring services at her location. She also organized Energy Rocks in September, a teen workout event held at a local middle school with nearly 350 kids, to get the word out about her company. And continued research with her targeted teen customers has helped her pinpoint their needs and wants. "It's very valuable to learn all that before we open," she says. "It'll make our official opening that much stronger and leave less room for mistakes."
Jashinsky plans to target older teens first, which will hopefully bring in younger teens later. She's even got a MySpace page to boost the O2 Max brand. "I've had this idea for so long, and it's evolved so much," says Jashinsky, who hopes to open her gym in early 2007. "Even with the hard-core fundraising process and not sleeping, this is definitely my passion and what I want to do."