4SC CrossFit (四季健身) was born out of a passion to help clients achieve long term fitness.
A boutique CrossFit gym based in Taipei, 4SC CrossFit focuses on overall fitness performance through a combination of bodybuilding, gymnastics, and endurance training.
Founder Simon Chi, a fitness enthusiast for 20 years, saw the importance of endurance training and knowing how to minimize sports injuries. For him, fitness is more than maintaining a good figure.
“Many gym goers are influenced by fitness influencers and assume that they must have ripped and muscular bodies, or small waistlines through bodybuilding,” explained Simon. “While bodybuilding is great for looks, it does not always contribute to a person’s performance and physical well-being.”
The beginning of 4SC CrossFit
In the recent years, more people are actively seeking out ways to live healthier. The gradual rise of the fitness industry and proliferation of gyms is a phenomenon observed in many countries. In Taiwan, it’s no exception.
Despite that, Simon and his friends saw an opportunity when he discovered CrossFit and realized that it has yet to take off in Taiwan. He took the plunge and started planning for the first CrossFit gym in his neighborhood. As a working professional in the IT industry, the prospect of pivoting from IT to the fitness industry excited him.
“When we were planning to start our CrossFit gym, the first condition is that we required a Level 1 trainer. I went ahead to obtain the Level 1 Trainer license,” said Simon. “I brought on board different trainers, who bring forth their strengths and knowledge to build a space where people can keep fit and stay healthy.”
Shelving plans to start 4SC CrossFit as COVID-19 hits
In 2019, Simon began his hunt for the perfect studio space to build 4SC CrossFit, amongst other preparations from getting his CrossFit certifications to assembling his team. While he currently has business partners, this was a journey that Simon had to navigate on his own initially.
“At the beginning in 2019, I was the only person doing all the research, conceptualization and getting my training license,” explained Simon. “When the COVID situation got better, I started to expand on my plan, roping in my business partners to join me on this journey.”
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Simon shelved his gym opening plan.
“I started looking for a shop space for 4SC CrossFit in 2019, but COVID broke out in 2020. Thankfully I haven’t found a shop by then,” said Simon. “Months later, when the situation in Taiwan was under control, I convinced my business partners to continue with our plan and we eventually opened our gym in Dec 2021. But we faced the second lockdown in May 2021.”
Overcoming challenges during nationwide lockdown
Simon’s grand plan came to a sudden halt with the second lockdown in May 2021.
With gyms barely allowed to operate from May to September 2021, Simon had to little time to put together solutions to keep his business afloat. This was aggravated by the locals’ lack of interest in attending online fitness classes.
“We tried doing online classes, but people in Taiwan are not as used to online coaching like folks overseas, where gyms are not as accessible due to proximity,” explained Simon.
“In Taiwan, there is a high density of gym. It is very convenient for folks to visit gyms in their neighborhoods. Therefore, during COVID, it was challenging for locals to get used to the fact that their neighborhood gym isn’t open. Also, people tend to be shyer when it comes to working out together online with their cameras on.”
Despite the lockdown and clients’ hesitance in joining online classes, Simon took this opportunity to continue marketing 4SC CrossFit through social media. His team introduced short workouts that people could do at home during the lockdown.
Eventually, some people who attend 4SC CrossFit’s online classes and did their online workouts visited the outlet for workouts when restrictions were lifted.
However, COVID-19 has resulted in another long-term challenge that Simon needs to face - manpower crunch.
“Before COVID, there was an abundance of fitness businesses in Taiwan. When COVID hit, many fitness instructors went out of job and had to switch industries. As a result, they exited the industry.”
It became challenging to recruit instructors even when the situation got better. Coupled with strict travel restrictions and lockdown, Simon was unable to invite overseas trainers to Taiwan to conduct CrossFit training and have his instructors certified.
Still, Simon is optimistic. He has overcome a tough period in his entrepreneurship journey and wants to keep looking forward.
The importance of branding: building an online presence with GoDaddy
Simon and his business partners rely heavily on digital platforms to market 4SC CrossFit.
Perhaps due to their background as IT professionals, their first step was to establish a website. While people have encouraged Simon to use only social media, he preferred that 4SC CrossFit had a website.
“I did a lot of research on the platform that we’ll use to build our website. My main consideration was to ensure that the platform would be easy to use and maintain,” said Simon. “For example, when I am unavailable, my employees would be able to maintain the website and do content updates. Eventually I decided to go with GoDaddy.”
GoDaddy’s offering was no-frills and easy enough for my instructors to use and update our website.
Knowing that 4SC CrossFit needs to reach people actively searching for fitness options in the locale, Simon is currently using a combination of website, Google ads and social media in their marketing.
For Simon, the website is an important part of establishing a trusted brand.
“Having a website gives customers an idea of our business and brand, and instils a sense of security in them, that we are a legit business,” explained Simon. “Unlike many small businesses who only have a Facebook page, a website is like a digital calling card. We can show our website to potential clients.”
Hard earned lessons in entrepreneurship
4SC CrossFit was Simon’s first foray into entrepreneurship. While he has experienced plenty of challenges on this journey, he is undeterred. In the midst of setting up 4SC CrossFit, he became interested in entrepreneurship and subsequently set up other businesses.
In Simon’s opinion, the pressure of entrepreneurship stems from two places.
The first one is accountability to his business partners.
“They have put in resources and their trust in you, so you must be accountable to them,” said Simon. “I was lucky to have business partners whom I’ve worked with for a long time before we started this business. However, this is also the reason why I felt especially responsible in making sure that things worked out.”
The second one is accountability to his employees.
“The pandemic was challenging because we were unable to operate, which impacted salaries,” elaborated Simon. “When lockdowns were lifted, we continued to face various restrictions from distancing to limits in class size. There was a point where I had to incur losses when I operated the gym compared to keeping it closed due to these restrictions. Still, I had to ensure that my employees continued to get paid.”
For all aspiring entrepreneurs, Simon has one simple advice: first impression matters!
“Brand identity and appearances matter a lot in forming first impressions,” mused Simon. “Be it your shop front or website, that first impression determines everything. An ugly website is likely to deter customers, and so is an ugly shop front.”
When Simon sets up his second gym outlet, he hopes to improve the attractiveness of the space.
Looking into the future of 4SC CrossFit
For now, Simon is happy with the current state of business for 4SC CrossFit.
Thinking about his clients, Simon is thankful for the strong sense of community in his humble gym space. He is especially proud of his elderly clients for their determination in achieving fitness at an age that few people thought were possible.
“We have a member who has been with us for a long time. She is 73 years old and still improving on her fitness skills. For me, she is a true inspiration.”
With what he experienced in the past two years, business stability is key. Simon is excited to continue his journey in entrepreneurship. Besides expanding his fitness empire, Simon hopes to return to his roots in IT and develop his own digital solutions!
For now, the sky is the limit.
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