This post was written as part of a partnership with MyStrongCircle. As always, we only write about products, brands, and services we truly love.
There are a few different ways fitness lovers can spend their hard-earned cash:
- Join a big-box gym and pay an all-in-one monthly fee, but that often limits location choices and variety (especially for group fitness lovers).
- Use a service like ClassPass, which offers you a ton of flexibility with workouts, times, and locations, but often hikes up the credit price of in-demand studios and times.
- Or, commit to a boutique fitness studio you love, making the most out of an unlimited package but sacrificing variety in your workout routine as a result.
Borislava Baeva, founder and CEO of MyStrongCircle, found herself encountering this dilemma of choices after she left her job at Life Fitness.
“During my fulltime job, I was working out before or after work and on weekends,” she explains. But with more free time and flexibility on her hands, she saw that random midday classes often only had a few people in them—and her business mind started working.
Industry leaders like ClassPass and MindBody were just starting to experiment with dynamic pricing, but for Baeva, saving a few dollars wasn’t going to incentivize her to go to a less-convenient location or an unfamiliar studio.
Baeva did crave variety in her routine, but she recognized that it was expensive and impractical to pay for unlimited memberships at multiple studios, or shell out for class packs that might have expiration limits.
“I had a few favorite types of exercises, a few specific studios clubs, but I wasn’t committing to a fulltime memberships because it didn’t make financial sense,” she explains. Buying one full membership and supplementing it with packs or one-off classes wasn’t working for her.
“I wouldn’t go as often to the [studios I was buying packages for], and buying individual classes isn’t conducive to forming a routine. I also felt like I was cheating on the studio that I’m a member of!” Baeva shares.
She had a gut feeling other gym-goers were in the same boat. And so, she started brainstorming the idea that would ultimately become MyStrongCircle.
“Forging alliances among indirect competition”
Baeva took inspiration from the airline industry, where different airlines often band together under alliances to offer customers more flexibility while still protecting the airline’s resources.
“If you’re a cycling studio, you’re obviously not a yoga studio,” she reasons. “Studios are so specialized—I wondered, could they form virtual alliances to provide a full product of services?”
Baeva began to build out her idea even further: clients would “bundle” studios together, purchasing unlimited memberships at two or three gyms for a discounted rate. Then, clients would be able to personalize their ideal fitness routine however they like, whether that’s a blend of HIIT, yoga, and cycling, for example, or pairing one boutique studio with a more traditional gym—all with unlimited access to those spaces.
“Ultimately, you can get up to 50 percent savings from buying three individual unlimited memberships” by bundling the memberships via MyStrongCircle, she confirms.
However, since the pandemic’s toll on everything studio fitness, Baeva has had to pivot—several times. After launching in late February, their Illinois gym partners shut down three weeks later.
“As an early stage startup with limited resources, we had to make a tough decision: do we address the current situation or do we prepare for the future? I chose to prepare for the post-Covid future, when studios will operate in a dual mode of brick & mortar and digital classes,” Baeva explains.
During that time, they stopped accepting new members and worked on internal improvements to the software. The plan is to relaunch on January 1 with only digital classes from their studio partners, hoping for a return to in-person in spring.
How gyms benefit from the MyStrongCircle alliance
While services like ClassPass or buying one-off classes at a lowered dynamic price might get butts in the gym, they don’t always lead to return customers, Baeva points out.
“We give gyms members versus transient users that just show up one or two times a month. The members can benefit and see the results of the exercise they’re doing, and they also feel like they’re part of the community,” Baeva reports. “Personally, I felt like an outsider at my non-membership studios, so building community is such a big appeal for the boutique fitness studios.”
MyStrongCircle is also a turnkey solution for studios, too. Baeva says the platform offers a very simple, transparent, predictable pricing model. Plus, MyStrongCircle integrates with MindBody, which alleviates any administration headaches for the studios.
Liza Solberg, owner of Spynergy Wicker Park cycling, has found the service to enhance her membership options so far.
“At Spynergy we do one thing really well, and I appreciate that our clients can be both loyal to us and also seek variety in their weekly routine,” she explains. “I love the idea of partnering with other studios without the hassle of pricing, marketing, and executing each individual partnership.”
Paul Michael Rahn, CEO/Founder of SWEAT Fitness Studios, agrees. He especially appreciates supporting another local business that offers more variety for clients to explore top, locally-owned small businesses that do specialty training.
“Allowing clients to frequent three different workout varieties for less than the cost of some ‘box gyms’ is another amazing option within the industry,” he points out.
Luckily, says Baeva, the pandemic hasn’t changed MyStrongCircle’s value proposition for gyms.
“We still help them attract the variety seeking members while not diluting their profit margins and brands. It is an added bonus that we are relaunching with only virtual classes for now, which, theoretically, don’t have capacity constraints. That, plus our new API integrations from ZingFit and Mariana Tek, should make for an easier decision to join MyStrongCircle as a studio partner.”
But what about the competition from connected fitness equipment brands, like Peloton, Tempo, or Mirror? Baeva believes that MyStrongCircle has an advantage, in that studios can hold on to their specialization rather than trying to add more programming to compete with those do-it-all brands.
“Yes, it’s important to adapt and embrace digital to compete, but we also need to look back 10-15 years ago at the beginning of the boutique fitness studio boom and ask ourselves why did customers ditch the big box gym and paid times more for boutique memberships? For many that was the specialization, then came the community and the results,” Baeva points out. “If we concentrate on what we do best, we have a better chance of competing successfully with the connected fitness equipment brands which seem to be in a rush to lose their specialization to fight their own direct competitors.”
What advantages does MyStrongCircle have over other class subscriptions?
Similarly, MyStrongCircle has retained their core value for fitness enthusiasts, even through the pandemic.
“We still help them create a personalized routine with enough variety that helps them stick with it and see the results that they want,” Baeva explains. “We have an inside joke that the MyStrongCircle membership helps you be in a committed but not exclusive relationship with your gym.”
As far as their core features go, Baeva notes that unlimited access is a major part of MyStrongCircle’s appeal to consumers.
“As far as I know, we’re the only platform that offers unlimited access to multiple clubs,” she shares. “No credits, no max number of classes—you can mix and match, and go as often as you like.”
She also points to the personalization inherent in the platform, as well as the savings users can get in comparison to multiple unlimited memberships.
Finally, Baeva believes that MyStrongCircle is a better option for gym-goers who want to build a long-term, appealing fitness routine and enjoy that inclusive feeling of “belonging” to a gym.
“You’re part of the community, you’re a member—and you still get that variety that makes it sustainable for longer,” she concludes.
MyStrong Circle plans re-launch for January 1
After surveying their customers in October, Baeva was encouraged to see that there is still a desire to go back to in-person classes once the pandemic is over. To that end, she plants to relaunch on January 1 with only digital classes from top independent Chicago studios.
“We hope we can help people, not only to stay active but to maintain that personal connection and community from local studios,” she shares.
To stay up to date on MyStrongCircle’s relaunch and new studio partners, follow MyStrongCircle on Instagram @mystrongcircle. They will start accepting new members in the next couple of weeks, and then fitness enthusiasts can go on their website and create their own “strong circle.”
Curious about trying MyStrongCircle? Learn more about MyStrongCircle and its partners here.