Career Change: How I Ended Up Opening a Personal-Training Franchise

A chance meeting at a buffet table in Mexico led to a career change for Sam Langer.

By Jason Daley

David Lang
A great fit: Sam Langer of GymGuyz.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sam Langer was having a quarter-life crisis. After graduating from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, he took a job as a sports planner at ESPN, mapping out commercial breaks during broadcasts. He was mildly unhappy. That's when his parents found themselves in a fortuitous buffet line.

On a trip to a resort in Mexico, Langer's dad, Alan, struck up a mealtime conversation with Josh York, founder of GymGuyz, a mobile personal-training franchise. After six years of going house to house in the New York City area with vans full of fitness equipment, York was beginning to franchise his business. Alan thought his sports-obsessed son would be a perfect fit.

Sam loved the concept. After moving back home to New York's Westchester County, the 24-year-old, his father, brother Teddy and friend James Bonavita launched a GymGuyz franchise in March, with Sam as managing partner.

Sam was able to pay off his franchise fee in two months. By his fifth month, he had paid off all startup costs and was operating in the black, employing four other trainers. We asked him to tell us how he has pumped up his wallet with GymGuyz.

How did you go from a business degree to personal training?

I've always been into training and working out. At ESPN there was a gym in the building, but no one used it. I recruited people to go with me. I'd help them if they didn't know how to use a machine and offer different muscle-development techniques. So, I have some experience and recently got my personal-trainer certification.

What is the advantage of using a personal trainer?

I think most people just aren't sure what they're doing in the gym. They like having a trained professional tell them the correct way to do things. We look at form to make sure everyone is doing the exercises right and that they don't hurt themselves. Also, no one pushes themselves as hard as someone else does. We also don't want clients to ever be bored, so we change up the routines. That's our motto: creative, customized and convenient.

So, do you roll treadmills into people's homes?

No, we don't need a whole lot of space. For example, we work out in living rooms or kitchens, and some people have home gyms. We use portable equipment like kettlebells, stability balls, medicine balls and resistance bands. Sometimes we wheel in free weights. In our vans, we have anything you can imagine to get a great workout.

Who are your clients?

It's wide-ranging. We work with youth centers, so kids ranging from 3 years old to teens looking to train for school sports. We have a lot of middle-aged clients, lots of stay-at-home moms and dads. We even have a 94-year-old client.

But the majority are in their late 30s to 50s, clients with kids who come home after work and don't have time to run out to the gym. We bring the gym to them. They don't have to change clothes, then get back in the car again after being away all day. It cuts out that travel time and saves them gas money.

About 90 percent want to lose weight. The rest are athletes who want to gain muscle or go faster.

It's ironic that this came about over a buffet table.

The funny thing is, GymGuyz founder Josh York is known as a really strict eater. But my dad met him because Josh had a plate with five or six brownies on it, and he made a joke about it! Then they started talking business.

Jason Daley

Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.

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