Building REVL: How Two Entrepreneurs Transformed the Fitness Landscape

Ben and Josh, the co-founders of REVL Training, began their entrepreneurial journey with a clear vision: to revolutionise group fitness by combining strength and conditioning in a boutique setting.

Drawing from their backgrounds in fitness and marketing, they identified a shift away from traditional gyms to more specialised fitness experiences. Their story starts with a simple realisation about what today’s fitness enthusiasts were really looking for and how they could meet that need with REVL Training.

In our conversation, they share the initial challenges of starting a business, the evolution of their fitness philosophy, and their strategic approach to fostering a community through fitness.

Ben and Josh, with such a diverse background in the fitness industry, what was the ‘aha’ moment that led to the creation of REVL Training, and how did your individual journeys influence its founding? 

Leaving Fitness First/commercial gym space and entering the boutique fitness world to run marketing for another brand that was cutting edge at the time. I could see the market start to shift away from big box gyms and commercialised brands (F45 etc.), into more boutique offerings.

The consumer was becoming more educated and more aligned with brands who specialised in a particular field – for us, this became group strength and conditioning training. Pre-empting this move in the market is why we’re still here today and I believe we’re at yet another crossroads, pre-empting the next shift.

My personal journey of wanting to open my own business as a personal trainer and not knowing the first thing about leasing, fit out, finance etc. led me down the path of wanting to create this opportunity for those who are now in those same shoes.

Owning a fitness business has never been so accessible, which is both a good and bad thing – at REVL, we take pride in recruiting owner operators who are the right cultural fit; they’re humble, understated and always looking to learn from those around them.

Starting a new venture is never without its challenges. Could you share some of the initial hurdles you faced getting the company off the ground and how you navigated these obstacles? 

With the company being completely bootstrapped, we were pressured to deliver a franchise system to our first 4 studios that came under the banner straight away. We were very fortunate that these studios took a punt on Ben and I in the early days, requesting royalty payments for a franchise system that wasn’t completely built was a tricky situation to navigate.  

In the early days, Ben and I were still conducting PT sessions on the side during the day to supplement our income and it wasn’t until 18 months in that we could actually afford to pay two equal salaries inside the business. 

Once we started to build momentum the three next biggest challenges were; 

  • selling franchises; we constantly felt like we had to justify both our brand and product to the market – we had very few runs on the board compared to our competitors. 
  • supporting our network – we grew in breadth due to COVID lockdowns, demand, and ultimately naivety chasing the hype. With studios in 7 regions across 3 countries by 2022 (2 years in), we learned very quickly the importance of building a robust franchise operating back end and were fortunate enough to engage invaluable advisors during this time to help us stabilise our top-co and set REVL up for future growth. 
  • cash flow – by this stage we were still running the business off royalties and upfront fees, with no external funding onboard. Balancing the cost of supporting our network and continuing to develop our franchise system with income/cash flow has been without a doubt our number one challenge to date. Ben and I are two of the most stubborn people you will meet, and we refused to let the system fail regardless of the cost. So if it meant writing training programs, designing in-studio display screen templates or managing fitouts abroad at all hours of the morning/night, we just put our heads down and got it done. In hindsight I think this has only benefited our appreciation for our staff who continue to operate many of these processes inside the business today.

Your approach to group training is quite revolutionary. What do you believe sets you apart from other fitness experiences, and how does this resonate with your members? 

We entered the market with a vision to expose a diverse demographic to a training style that we knew worked, while prioritising our team-based approach. In our minds, these were the two most addictive outcomes; results + connection/community. 

We didn’t reinvent the wheel, and I think that’s what’s so special about our product; we developed a blend of evidence-based strength and conditioning training principles, with fun and engaging team-style formats to produce the ultimate hybrid between results and community. 

Ben and I’s background in fitness meant we were always focussed on making the training program and system better than it was yesterday. There have been many lightbulb moments over the years that have shaped the program to the point at which it flows inside our studios these days. “The structure of the program” being one of the key pieces of feedback we receive from our members today. 

The REVL experience services close to 5000 active members daily, and with an average 14 month retention rate I think it’s a combination of a brand staying true to its core mission and identity (not commercialising for further growth), while delivering a product and experience that “makes sense”. The majority of our members wouldn’t be aware of the “nuts and bolts” behind prescribing exercises, formats, sets and reps like we do, however what they do know is that the program “just works”. 

Community seems to be a cornerstone of the REVL experience. How do you foster this sense of belonging and support within your studios, and why is this important to you? 

This starts with the REVL welcoming experience and is reinforced by the development of our program and studio flow (members are taught to work in pairs, 3’s or 4’s), and is solidified with our high touchpoint events, activations, and initiatives. 

Our members bond over shared experiences, whether that’s spotting each other on a lift, digging deep during a tough workout, completing a 13-week training block together or taking part in either a charity or competitive event. Ultimately, everyone wants to feel a part of something bigger than themselves, and we facilitate that. 

REVL Training provides members with 4 x 13-week training blocks, 2 x REVL Team Games (RTG) and 1 x 28 Straight per year designed to connect and engage our member’s long term.  

Ben, from recognizing a market gap to opening in Maroochydore and beyond, what key factors have contributed to the success and appeal of REVL as a franchise opportunity? 

Our brand and product is appealing to a franchisee because it’s unlike the others, we are continually redefining what fitness is, and we always want to develop what we’re doing to constantly become better.  

Over the years, REVL Training Studios have outperformed competitors when it comes to delivering exceptional services to members. We’ve got runs on the board, and success in the network both locally and abroad.  

We believe we’re still playing in our own space in the market, other brands come close, however as we take time to focus inwards this year, we will continue to develop an authentically unique brand and training system that keeps us pioneering this space. REVL is set to evolve into so much more than what it’s currently perceived as.  

Growing from within – The essence of REVL lies in its ability to unite individuals who possess similarities. As the brand continues to evolve, we’re excited to share our strategy with the next generation of REVL staff, operators or owners from within the existing community. 

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for REVL Training, both in Australia and on the global stage, and how do you plan to sustain growth while maintaining the quality of the experience? 

We’re shifting focus to open more company owned or joint venture studios to solidify the network’s foundation here in Aus. We’re satisfied with our current franchise network and we’re not in a hurry to add more owners to the mix – we’ll be extremely selective from here. To our previous point, our focus is to grow from within over the next 5 years. 

Abroad – Singapore will continue to open booming franchises. We have strong opportunities in markets such as the UK, Canada, US, Korea and Indonesia. These are exciting prospects that we’ll continue pursuing over the next 12 months, however understanding the importance of bringing quality partners into the network, these are not opportunities we’ll rush by any means. Nonetheless, we can’t wait to see REVL expand across the globe and replicate the same impact we’ve seen in both the Australia and Singapore markets.

Finally, with your extensive experience and success in launching and growing REVL, what advice would you give to aspiring fitness entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in the industry? 

  1. Get ready to pour your blood sweat and tears into whichever venture you choose. Building a fitness business takes a mountain of work and for us, it was consistently showing up to push on with our mission daily, that got us through COVID lockdowns or periods of financial stress.  
  2. Surround yourself with people who have walked your path (or parts of it) before. There are smarter, more experienced people out there, so go find out how to use them. At the same time, remember it’s always easy to provide advice… It’s how you filter this advice and transfer it into actionable steps inside your business or venture that makes all the difference. 
  3. Stay authentic – it’s easy to fall into the trap of diluting your vision for the sake of closing a deal or increasing profits, however we’ve never been disappointed to let opportunities slip that didn’t align with our core values. 
About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.