Kickstarting Innovation: Alchemy Looks To Commercialize With Unique Fitness Tool
Mike Jones, owner of boutique Minneapolis gym Alchemy, believes the path to building a successful fitness franchise isn’t solely dependent on membership numbers.
In the case of his business, product development and retail is an avenue flush with opportunity, which is why Jones and his staff of 40 spent last weekend promoting a Kickstarter campaign for its first-ever fitness product, the Torpedo.
“We wanted to make sure our friends and family who would purchase it didn’t wait until the last day to pull the trigger,” he said. Between the gym’s staff and its 525 membership holders—350 at the North Loop gym and 175 in Northeast Minneapolis—the Torpedo crowdfunding campaign managed to reach its $40,000 goal in just two days. “That mark was our break even on product development costs, marketing costs and all of that stuff,” Jones added.
However, not all of the campaign’s initial backers were general consumers. The Torpedo—essentially a dumbbell with handles that can alternatively function as a barbell or kettlebell—has generated interest from competing fitness centers as well.
“We’ve pre-sold about 40 percent of our current total on Kickstarter to other gyms,” Jones said, “although I don’t necessarily think that B2B is our primary channel.”
Instead, Alchemy is looking to use the Torpedo as a central piece for its in-studio and online fitness routine programs. Similar to popular full-body video workouts P90X and Insanity, Alchemy has created its own digital program called the 365 Challenge. Alchemy’s program, which is included in every Torpedo purchase on Kickstarter, is set to launch in January.
“We’re trying to sell the Torpedo as a fitness package, not just a tool,” Jones said. With the program, customers are given daily workout videos for a six-week period, along with nutrition guides and online support from Alchemy’s fitness team. According to Jones, the effort is aimed at the company’s “big picture goal” to create communities (and ultimately a revenue stream) outside of its brick-and-mortar studios.
“It’s a great means to drive additional sales and raise capital internally to fund the growth,” Jones said of the Kickstarter. “Growing these locations otherwise is pretty expensive—about $300,000 to $400,000 per location. But we only need 300 members in order for our brick-and-mortar locations to be successful.”
Consumer and business adoption of the Torpedo and 365 Challenge, according to Jones, could fuel the company’s chances to hit its goal of opening 200 Alchemy locations in the next 10 years. After about a year-and-a-half so far, the company is looking to open its third location soon in St. Paul, while plans for other Twin Cities locations are in the works. Beyond Minnesota, Jones said his business is looking to break into Washington D.C. and Denver next.
Alchemy’s Torpedo has already been integrated into the gym’s in-studio classes. “All Alchemy studios use the Torpedo now,” he said. “Previously we had to get tons of dumbbells and kettlebells in order to meet the needs of a 40-person class. It took up a lot of space and was very expensive, so that necessity is actually what led to the invention of the Torpedo.”
If Alchemy is able to slim its cost to produce the Torpedo through future iterations of its design, the company hopes to eventually bring it to store shelves at places like Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Until then, it will sell the Torpedo exclusively on its own site starting at about $45 for the 10-pound weight up to about $80 for a 50 pounder.
Meanwhile, what further separates the Torpedo from the average Kickstarter, Jones noted, is the time it’s already spent in the gym. “The Torpedo has been in use at our both of our locations for some time now,” he said, “so it’s battle tested, so to speak.”