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A pioneering approach to small group training has helped Baltimore boutique emPOWERed put itself on the map with a high-quality HIIT offering which also serves as a lucrative source of ancillary revenue. Owner Angela Davis shares the secrets behind her thriving boutique concept that can’t stop growing.
emPOWERed club owner Angela Davis
For Angela Davis, owner and CEO of Baltimore’s emPOWERed, launching a boutique fitness club was always going to be a project rooted in passion.
Having found solace in fitness at a time of deep family tragedy, she was inspired to create a community-centric club where others could find their fitness path with a tailored program designed to help them thrive.
“To say I was lost when my youngest child faced serious complications after routine surgery is a complete understatement,” says Angela. “But as she got better, I started to embark on an incredible fitness journey and when the opportunity arose to launch EmPOWERed Fitness in Summer 2017, I just knew I had to take it.”
The 5,000sq ft boutique specialises in group fitness, with a focus on chic decor and top-quality Instructors helping to round out the offering. The US$99 per month membership provides access to more than 50 weekly classes across the club’s two group fitness studios, offering everything from dance classes to barre, ballet, yoga and boxing.
But it’s been emPOWERed’s small group training courses that have really helped put the club on the map, delivering stunning results for participants, while creating an invaluable stream of ancillary revenue.
“Our small group training courses are run on Les Mills GRIT sessions and it’s been an absolute gem for us,” says Angela. “Last year, GRIT brought US$21k in additional revenue and this is increasing by more than 50% year-on-year – members can’t get enough!”
The club’s 8-week transformation courses offer two GRIT classes a week – one is always GRIT Strength, while the second alternates between GRIT Cardio and GRIT Plyo. Each 8-week course is priced at US$149 for members and US$179 for non-members, while competition for places has seen the club battling to keep up with demand.
“We’ve had to treble the number of courses due to their popularity with members and they’re still jam-packed,” says Angela.
“The retention rate for our GRIT courses is over 90% and as you would expect with such a figure, we pick up a great deal of new member referrals as a result.
“I hadn’t ever tried GRIT before our launch, but after researching the program I could clearly see the quality.
“GRIT’s been a big factor in our success so far and has strengthened our overall group fitness offering by setting the standard for the intensity and quality of all programs in the club.”
Results rooted in research
One of the standout reasons for emPOWERed’s thriving small group training courses has been the club’s ability to clearly demonstrate the results that they bring through canny use of research.
As well as leveraging Les Mills research insights, the club has conducted several studies in conjunction with academics, looking at the performance changes seen by participants over the eight-week period.
One such study, (Essel, 2018) found that participants on the GRIT course saw on average an 8% reduction in the time it took them to run 5km after just 6 weeks of the course, with the research concluding that similar benefits could be achieved by competitive endurance runners who added the workouts into their training program.
The second study made use of the BOD POD Body Composition Testing system to demonstrate the physical changes that participants on another GRIT small group training course experienced, with impressive results across the board. Despite changing nothing in their diet, participants lost an average of 3.2lbs of fat from taking part in the course, while gaining an average of 2.15lbs of muscle per person.
Amid a growing social media sea of fitness myths and dubious claims, emPOWERed’s approach to specific research outcomes has provided a compelling and credible source of results to support the club’s marketing efforts. Meanwhile, the focus on different outcomes (running times and body transformation) has provided proof points that enable the club to tailor its message to the needs of specific target audiences in a way rarely seen among rival health clubs.
Angela adds: “The research has definitely helped give our club the edge as it’s helped to clearly highlight the specific benefits of our intensive courses in a way that isn’t typically seen in our local area.”
“Obviously there are a lot of people out there looking to transform their body and a growing number of runners, so being able to appeal to them in a personalised way that they truly value has again helped us to stand out.”
Coaching and kit
Impressive results and high-quality programming may well have helped emPOWERed to spread the word and bring people into the club, but for Angela, it’s her team of Instructors that keep members coming back week after week.
We have a terrific team here and our Les Mills GRIT coaches are some of the shining stars,” she adds.
“They possess confidence, knowledge, approachability, proper execution and form – I absolutely notice a difference between Les Mills trained coaches and other coaches.
“The coach that stands out the most is definitely Melissa Fisher. She’s the ideal GRIT coach in that she goes all in for her clients, pushing them beyond their limits 100% of the time. She’s paved the way for all other GRIT coaches in our club and has raised the bar for our entire area.
“That ability to create a high-quality workout experience, where members can exceed their individual goals in a welcoming environment is exactly the vision I had when we first started emPOWERed. And it’s the blueprint we’ll stay true to moving forward.”