Behind the Business Plan: 9Round

Credit: Shannon Hudson

Shannon Hudson, co-founder and owner of boxing gym 9Round, knows what it’s like to train hard. During his kickboxing career, he attained the title of IKF Light Middleweight Kickboxing Champion of the World. When he retired from the ring, Hudson decided to support himself by bringing the level of personal training he had come to know as a professional athlete to the public. Hudson discussed his experience building the franchise and turned an eye to the future when he went behind the business plan with Business News Daily.

Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?

Shannon Hudson: 9Round is a specialized fitness gym that brings boxing and kickboxing fitness training moves to the average person in a nine-station circuit workout format. Everything is total-body, and the workouts deliver results in quick and convenient 30-minute sessions. Each station is different and offers challenging and fun workouts that I did when I was a professional kickboxer. There are no class times, and we have trainers always on-site.

BND: How long have you been in business?

Hudson: We opened our first gym in Greenville, South Carolina, in 2008.

BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?

Hudson: Prior to opening 9Round, I’d been in the membership business my entire life. I owned three karate schools at the time. We did not have a “formal” business plan when we started 9Round. We also did not have a “Plan B”! I believe that is why we did so well. My wife, Heather, and I just had to make our idea work. We knew it would be organic and hard work, so we put our blinders on, ignored any negativity in the media or market, and went for it. We signed up around 100 members in our first month with no marketing material or even a sign on our building. We were surprised by the success — but not too surprised, because again, we knew we were going to make it work no matter what.

BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?

Hudson: Heather and I were recently married, and we had one credit card with a roughly $2,500 limit. So, in addition to our funds, a friend loaned us $10,000 in increments. It was the true definition of a shoestring budget. To this day, we do not have debt on the company. We put all funds back into its growth, and it has worked very well for us.

BND: How much did you invest personally?

Hudson: When you count the credit card and the loan being paid back within two years, I’d say roughly $15,000. To get our franchising company up and running, it was more like $80,000 in increments. For instance, as we made enough to get documents needed to become a franchisor, we would do that. So we incorporated our franchise entity through LegalZoom. Then, when we could afford it, we got a franchise attorney to help us craft our [franchise disclosure document] and [franchise agreement].

BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset, or has it changed significantly over time?

Hudson: People ask us all the time if we ever thought 9Round would be this successful, and the answer is yes — yes, or it wouldn’t be here. We had an end goal in mind when we first started, and I believe that is why we are where we are now. We’ve had our noses down, and have been working hard without letup for seven and a half years. The nine-station circuit itself hasn’t changed; it is still in the same order. However, upgrades have been made to the administration area, our equipment is now branded, we have a nutrition component and we have added heart rate technology. We also have kiosks where people can sign up to become members, and we email daily workouts to each owner so they don’t have to worry about what workout will be featured that day, which allows them to focus on delivering a great service. We have evolved over the years, but the core business is the same as it was in 2008. 

BND: What are some lessons you’ve learned? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?

Hudson: I’ve learned that I can handle more than I ever imagined and that I can inspire and lead the masses, which is very humbling and exciting. If I could have done it differently I think I would have started sooner but learned to move with patience. I’m a “ready, fire, aim” kind of guy, and that has come back to bite me a couple of times, but I’m learning to be more patient. 

BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?

Hudson: 9Round’s success can be attributed to two things: amazing work ethic and high standards. We want our members to come in, participate in an amazing workout and feel like they are getting the best possible workout for their money. Good is the enemy of great, and I never want to be your average Joe. Our plan is to be the top fitness franchise in the world very soon. I have always had the unique ability to think really big, and I think that’s played a huge role in our success.

BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?

Hudson: I am writing my first book, and it’s almost finished. I’m excited to be able to share my philosophies for success in life, business and personal aspects with as many people as I can. I also love speaking publicly and take whatever opportunities I get to do that. I want to inspire not only my franchisees, but really anyone out there who is searching for their purpose or for inspiration.

BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?

Hudson: Be ready to be overwhelmed. Be ready to still love your business even on days when your bank account is low and not looking like it’s going up anytime soon. Be ready to put aside a few things you might be used to having in life for a while, and don’t let doubt creep in. If you know your idea is what the market needs, then that is all you need to know. See you on the other side!

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