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Business Observer Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 12 years ago

Bonus, Baby

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Kristen Horler never thought her burning desire to lose pounds gained in pregnancy would be the ticket to a new business. But it was, and now she has ambitious growth plans.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Kristen Horler didn't set out to launch a nationwide franchise business in 2001, when she strolled into a park near her San Francisco home with her newborn baby girl Madison in tow.

Horler was really there to work on one of a new mom's biggest personal worries: Taking off pounds gained during pregnancy. In fact, Horler, a Southern California native, says she grew up around overweight moms, in hers and her friends' families, which made her even more determined to stay fit.

But that first workout transformed more than Horler's body. It also was the catalyst for Horler to launch Baby Boot Camp, which is now a Sarasota-based franchise business with a little more than 100 individual outlets in 30 states. Those individual franchisees offer exercise to new moms in various formats, from group workout sessions to yoga classes to mall-walking groups.

Horler, a certified personal trainer, initially licensed the rights to Baby Boot Camp to other new moms in California seeking extra income. Says Horler: “It was very clear to me from the first year we did this that there was a high demand for it.”

By 2005, when word of the classes had spread as far as Dallas, she decided to form a franchise entity to run the business.

That's when Horler and her family also decided to relocate to Florida. Horler wanted to live on a coast and have great weather, but she didn't want to suffer through California's tax structure that punishes businesses.

The company's current franchise count is about 10% off its peak of 114 franchisees, reached in 2008. The slight dip in franchisees, however, hasn't dented Horler's enthusiasm for the bold growth strategy she has mapped out for Baby Boot Camp.

Those plans, to be executed over the next two years, include efforts to double the number of nationwide franchisees; grow the company's international division; launch a second brand for small group personal training sessions for women; and generate some national media exposure for her new book, Baby Boot Camp: The New Mom's 9-Minute Fitness Solution.

Baby Boot Camp is essentially a business in a box — a stroller box. A Baby Boot Camp startup kit costs $2,600, which covers three locations with a population up to 100,000 people. The fee increases by $1,100 if a franchisee wants to buy rights for larger areas.

The kit contains business essentials, such as payment processing forms and marketing materials. It also has workout gear and support materials, including resistance tubes, T-shirts and water bottles. “We give you everything you need to start a business,” says Horler.

The startup kit also comes with two other essential items: A stroller and a diaper bag. Both of those are made by Kelty, an outdoor products company known for its durable gear.

After training, the franchisee can offer classes. A franchisee isn't required to be a certified fitness trainer, however Horler points out that if the franchisee isn't certified, she will have to hire someone who is to teach classes. That can cut into margins.

In addition to the startup kit, Baby Boot Camp charges monthly franchise and advertising fees. Combined, those fees range from $150 to $300 a month, depending on the size of the franchise.

The Baby Boot Camp corporate entity generates more than $500,000 in annual revenues, although Horler declines to elaborate on specific figures. One big way Horler hopes to increase revenues, and the company's franchise count, is through national media exposure. “That is what will move us forward,” Horler says.

Horler has aimed high for that goal: She hopes to get on the Oprah show with her book and business, reasoning that the show's demographics and Baby Boot Camp's franchisees and clients are a perfect match.

At A Glance
Baby Boot Camp
Year Franchises
2006 41
2007 78
2008 114
2009 102
2010 126 (projected)
Source: Baby Boot Camp, Entrepreneur magazine

— Mark Gordon

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