CrossFit Licensee, Sean Tangney

When fitness isn’t just a way of life, it’s a great business opportunity as well.

CrossFit Licensee, Sean Tangney

Fitness has become more than just a craze for the dedicated few, and the number of franchises, independent gyms and large brands with growing footprints is testament to this fact.

For Sean Tangney, an ex-professional athlete and personal trainer, being introduced to CrossFit was revolutionary.

Instead of remaining a personal trainer operating out of a large gym, he suddenly saw an opportunity to open something of his own, based on models and a methodology that aligned with his own fitness principles.

Obtaining a licence

CrossFit doesn’t operate as a normal franchise. Licensees apply to become an affiliate through the CrossFit Head Office in the US.

“I needed to complete a Level 1 CrossFit Coaching Certification before I could apply,” says Tangney.

”This cost $1 000. Once my application was approved, I then had to pay a further upfront annual affiliate fee of $3 000.

“This entitles me to use the CrossFit logo and brand, and I’m registered as an official affiliate on all the relevant sites and have access to their resources.”

The model


According to Tangney, the affiliate model works well because it allows the affiliate owner complete control and freedom to run their business as they see fit.

“We aren’t governed by rules or regulations regarding our pricing structures, branding, class content etc.

“The use of the CrossFit name gives us credibility and the support and advice given through the international site, The CrossFit Journal, is a great value add.”

However, there’s also a downside to the affiliate structure.

“There’s no local ‘governing body’ when it comes to CrossFit in South Africa, so you have no control over who opens a box in your feeder area or how closely they are positioned to you.

“Still, this does help to ensure that standards are kept high and that the various boxes strive to remain competitive in all aspects of their business. We’re effectively all in competition with each other, so we each strive to be the best.”

A growing community

“With the fast-paced, technology driven environment that we are living in, people want to return to the basics,” says Tangney.

“We’re tired of just being a ‘number’. I find my clients want more personal interaction and love the community feeling that comes with a smaller environment.

“They support each other in local competitions, cheer each other on as their fitness improves each week, and become involved in reaching their personal weight goals. There is a lot of camaraderie that develops in such a challenging environment.

“I really believe it has the power to change the lives of people willing to try it.”

Getting off the ground

“I had to wait a fair amount of time for the availability of the course to obtain my Level 1 Certification. They are only hosted in South Africa every few months and the cost is quite high.

“Once certified, I then had to wait about eight weeks after my submission for confirmation of my affiliate approval. During this time I was searching for a suitable location.

“This is probably the most difficult and time consuming part as a CrossFit ‘box’ requires a specific type of space.

“Warehouse space is preferable due to the high ceilings and not bothering neighbouring tenants with the loud music and dropping of weights, but you also want to be in the heart of traffic zones — remember classes are in the early mornings and late afternoons, generally on the way to or from work, so a main arterial route is best.

“Once we had secured a location we needed to order equipment (which can take up to 12 weeks if there’s no available stock) and renovate the site to include bathrooms and changing facilities. In total, it took me about six months to open my doors.”

Steady growth


“After six months we had grown beyond our capacity and needed to expand into the space next door.

“This allows us to have two studios, which means we can run two classes at a time, separating our beginners from our more advanced members.”

Advice for aspiring franchisees

“I would strongly recommend that only those who have an in-depth knowledge of physiology and exercise science consider pursuing CrossFit as a coach. CrossFit covers a wide range of exercises, including Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics.

“People can get injured if you don’t know how to impress good form and technique on them.”

Got what it takes?

The Schedule

  • 04.30: Wake up
  • 05.00: At the gym
  • 05.30: First class kicks off
  • 09.30: Last class ends
  • 12.00:  From 9.30 to 12.00 personal clients are booked
  • 12.30: Admin and paperwork begins, and takes up most of the afternoon
  • 17.00: The first afternoon class begins
  • 20.00: Home time






Nadine Todd
About the Author
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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