Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! Our names are Alec Abend and Paul Dickey, Co-Founders of Hexbox Fitness. We are a state of the art, upscale Fitness Facility. The combination of our own branded class and 24 hour Member access has created our own unique model carving out our own lane within the ever growing Fitness Industry.
Our HXBX® Class combines HR Technology, community, and a strength and conditioning based program; in a game structured format to give our Members the best and most fun workouts they’ve experienced. With an emphasis on building lean muscle, all while improving cardiovascular endurance.
On top of being a community driven facility, our members get the convenience of 24 hour access to come in and use the equipment any time, any day. We currently have 1 location in the Monterey, CA area, and are working on locking in a few franchise and licensing deals to expand.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Growing up I was always the athletic kid who always had a little extra ‘love’ on him. I was constantly teased about my weight, but always laughed it off growing up. However, my 1st year of college was when I really let myself go. I bypassed right by the Freshman 15 and put on 40lbs. This led to a deep depression that was very hard for me to dig myself out of. Playing team sports I was familiar with working out, but it took me falling into that dark place to truly appreciate the importance of the gym; both for my physical and mental well-being.
I fell into the Fitness Industry in 2014 naturally, after being an active gym-goer. Over the next 5 years I moved my way up the food chain starting as a Membership Consultant (salesman) to the General Manager of the largest Health Club in the area with over 8,000 Members. Through this experience, I quickly realized the disconnect between our Club and Members on a personal level was not what I wanted for my career. I belonged to a CrossFit Box for years and even competed at a high level in my free time. I loved the community in the smaller facility and the results it got their Members. But I saw a need for a strength and conditioning based program that was geared to everyone. So many people are intimidated by the physical judgement of CrossFit and it keeps them from stepping into a box.
I saw the need for a Strength and Conditioning based program that catered to ALL! But combining this results driven class with the traditional 24 hour access for Members to do their own thing really put us in our own lane. This led to Hexbox® and HXBX®. Paul and I met at the Health Club I was working at before leaving to pursue my own Facility. When we quickly realized our goals and ambitions were well-aligned, we teamed up. The birth of HXBX® came very naturally and quickly after first discussing what we wanted to do.
While you are building you will pivot and change a ton of times. Some things we thought were going to work or be more popular weren’t, and other things that we didn’t pay much attention to came out being some of the best things.
I’ve always been active as far back as I can think, with many other businesses I’ve started or tried being related to the sports industry in some way shape or form. Alec and I first connected through business when he helped me model some shorts from another company I started, Spuds.
Working out in a gym setting started to become a normal routine of mine around 2012 after I found the mental health benefits, almost more so than the physical health benefits. I found that I was starting to get bored, though, only really doing weight training and jumping onto the treadmill for a few minutes each day.
In late 2018, I noticed that Alec was no longer working at the big box gym I went to, so I reached out to him to help him with some marketing for the personal training he was doing. We continued to connect on a business standpoint and actually started working on an app designed to make working out like a game. That idea quickly morphed into the idea of creating a physical facility in our local area as we found the need for something like Hexbox® was apparent to be a solution for making workouts fun again.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The presales, startup, gym design, equipment, and all the other logistical things came naturally coming from the Fitness Industry. Construction, permits, getting Foundational Members (members to join before we open our doors), was the easy part.
It was the creation of the HXBX® Method that was the stressful, time consuming, and scary process. Whenever you’re creating something a little different than what people are used to you never know how people are going to respond. How can we create a fun nostalgic experience for our Members using the Heart Rate Sensing Technology, concert style music and colored lights, all without sacrificing the workout itself kept me up at night. But it was also the most rewarding when we did open our doors and the AMAZING and POSITIVE response we got gave us the validation we were hoping for. It was so rewarding having people coming in saying, “Yes, this what I’ve been looking for!”
My main task when we were opening was to focus on designing, rendering, and keeping construction on track all while setting up the backend systems of the business in terms of technology and software.
The space we got was very difficult in terms of figuring out a design to create that made sense both for classes and 24 hour access. The other difficult part was being able to show people what the facility will be, without even being open yet, all while trying to get them on as a foundational member. This was all achieved through Google Sketchup and some careful planning / photoshop work to showcase what the facility will be.
In terms of construction, we did everything on a shoestring budget and timeline. Myself, Alec, and his father did most, if not all of the work to help make sure that we were under budget and on time. This was an extremely stressful and painful process, working all the way up until about midnight the day before we opened making sure all equipment and systems were working properly.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Once we found the right space and signed the lease in early February, we set an aggressive open date of May 4th. One of the first things I said to Paul was we are NOT going to push our open date back like most Fitness Facilities do. We WILL open our doors on time and hold ourselves accountable to everything we commit ourselves to. We owe it to our Members to hold a high level of integrity, transparency, and customer service that is lacking from some Fitness Facilities.
We were also committed to sticking to our budget and projections financially, as well as the goals we set for presales. Paul and I put in $80,000 of our own and received a personal loan of another $50,000. We knew what we wanted to spend and what we wanted to open our doors with still in the bank in order to make it through the infant stages. I am proud to say we were within $1,000 of our projected budget and had close to 60 Foundational Members when we opened our doors. The buzz around our Facility was unexpected and mind boggling. The response from the public was amazing! This also had a lot to do with an incredible Marketing and Advertising strategy that Paul was able to implement.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We have had a Cinderella story type of Membership Growth that I will never take for granted! We absolutely crushed our 6 month milestone of 125 Members, surpassing 200 Members by month 6. This is in a town of a population barely over 30,000 in a 5 mile radius. For our style of gym, this was a huge feat for us. I believe the major factors of this are our: unique HXBX® class, upscale Facility, outstanding customer service, and really getting Members the results they’re looking for.
The biggest marketing technique that helped us open with the members we opened with was our change to ‘open houses’ in the facility. Even while under construction, we hosted open houses to the public that allowed us to be able to show what the facility will be like with the renders that were made, showcase our technology, and to get people signed up for early access memberships.
After launch, it has been a lot of word of mouth with the only advertising we have been doing coming from digital ads on social media platforms. I prefer this form of advertising, especially in this day and age, due to the fact that we can really automate and track KPI’s in extreme detail.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The goal has always been to be able to say that the gym is running by itself without Paul or I having to be in the facility without any sacrifice on quality or compromise. Here we are, in month 9 and even though we are of course still in the facility everyday, we are lucky enough to say that if we were both to drop off the face of the earth the Gym would be just fine! We’ve been able to create the welcoming, engaging, and motivating atmosphere through an amazing staff of Front Desk and Coaches.
THE FUTURE is exciting for us. Hexbox Fitness was created with a bigger vision in mind. Paul and I both knew this was a dream we wanted to build into a brand. Everything has been recorded and templates were created in order to be easily replicated. Franchising was always in the cards for us. And we are lucky enough to say that journey has already begun earlier than expected. We are VERY EXCITED for 2020 and partnering up with like-minded individuals in our first round of Franchisees who are going to play a pivotal role in the Hexbox brand.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I believe the most important thing I learned through starting Hexbox® has been time management, personal health, and being lean in starting up.
From doing construction to the first few months of business, we basically did everything ourselves, as it was the only way financially to make things work. This was the most difficult thing as it was truly long hours with little to no breaks in between. The first few months of being open were some of the hardest as it was 14 hour days in the facility making sure classes and front desk were taken care all while trying to grow the business to profitability (which happened in about 45 days!)
This took a toll on both of us mentally and physically. I was down 20lbs of my normal weight, just because my body was so exhausted. I personally made many errors when doing work, because I could tell I was mentally exhausted as well. Once we were able to hire a full coaching and front desk staff, things changed for the better, and we could start to have a normal life again.
To put things simply, I believe we both learned that truly hard work does pay off, but at a cost. It is important to have set breaks for our own sanity as the momentum of the business you create will continue even if it is a couple hour nap.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Squarespace for Website Hosting
- Gymmaster for Member Management
- Google Suite for Everything
- Zapier for Automation
- Mailchimp for Email Newsletters
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Both of our favorite podcasts that we like to listen to together are How I Built This by Guy Raz on NPR.
Youtube and Google for basically answering and learning about anything else. :)
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Build build build. No matter what stage you are in or even if you think somehow has done what you are thinking of already, build it anyways. I believe that having an end goal is important but sweating over the little details aren’t as important. While you are building you will pivot and change a ton of times. Some things we thought were going to work or be more popular weren’t, and other things that we didn’t pay much attention to came out being some of the best things.
The most important thing though was that we were continuously building new systems, building new games, and continually adapting as we went. We didn’t slow down too much when it came to set backs as we adjusted on the fly and continued building. I believe that is one of the most important things when starting out as it gets your momentum going and gives you less time to think about the “what if”.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are lucky enough to say that we already have an amazing staff of Front Desk and Coaches. Our main focus now, is finding the right Franchisees who also see the need for our particular niche that are going to help us disrupt the Fitness Industry.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can find all things Hexbox related on our website, everything from our signature HXBX® method to how to get more information on the Franchise.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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