‘Never wanted to leave’: Ex-F45 CEO joins $25 million gym franchise


The former CEO of F45 has joined a new gym franchise as its official partner and strategic partner, as it prepares to launch 2,000 sites across Australia in the next five years.
Ex-F45 CEO Rob Deutsch (L) and The Yard co-founder Dan Bova. Image source: Supplied

The Yard Gym, co-founded by Dan Bova and his wife Tiarne in 2020, has brought on a man that knows a thing or two about group fitness – the ex-CEO of F45, Rob Deutsch. While F45 may not be the success it once was (with 151 gyms in ‘distress’ as of November this year), The Yard reckons it’s got what it takes to avoid a death spiral like that.

So far, the gym, which sells itself as a ’boutique strength and conditioning space’ claims its estimated value is $25 million – and says 150 franchises are due to be sold by the end of 2024 across Australia and the US. But it’s a team-effort: Tiarne brings the creative, and Dan brings the product, and their five-year plan is to boast 2,000 sites globally.

To invest in one, you’re looking at upwards of $300,000 – but the company claims estimated turnover could be upwards of $750,000 per annum.

“Our network is getting stronger, and our brand is creating change in the industry,” Bova tells Forbes Australia. “Within six weeks, we can flip locations and have the space kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment. While enjoying a better work/life balance, low overheads and a 40-45% profit margin, our success is their success and vice versa, which helps to create close partnerships.”

Bova, who runs the joint as CEO, is also ex-F45. Him and his wife owned and directed three studios, before selling out in 2019 and pouring the cash into a lease for The Yard’s HQ in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in March 2020. Not the best time to launch an in-person gym, but Bova says the pandemic gave the pair time to refine the company’s business model and create online traction.

But Bova’s passion for fitness started long before that – it goes back to 2008, when he’d round up his mates to work out in his parents’ backyard garage. Or, as the group would later call it, ‘the garage of terror’.

“Those early days set the stage for what would become The Yard Gym,” he says. But the later days at F45 taught him a bigger lesson: “Don’t over-saturate your brand”. (At its peak, F45 was valued at $2 billion with 3,300 studios in 67 countries.)

And Bova’s awareness of just how quickly things can turn is why Deutsch was so keen to get involved.

“I never wanted to leave the fitness industry,” Deutsch tells Forbes Australia. “I was always coming back at some point. The question was, do I do my own concept or not?”

“In my due diligence and team catch-ups with The Yard, I saw an amazing team focusing on product, brand and community. All the things that resonate with me to build a successful fitness company.

“The longevity comes with innovation, creativity and a well-nurtured franchisee network. I am extremely confident Dan, Tiarne, and their team can continue on the amazing beginnings of the brand. Hence, I have invested and re-branded over 30 franchisees in 2 weeks to a new, happy, well-managed home.”

In this reporter’s previous research, data from fitness class booking app, ClassPass, found users were less keen on aesthetic-driven fitness (like tough boot-camps and Crossfit), and more keen on low-impact fitness styles, like Pilates and yoga. But Bova reckons the right kind of strength and conditioning is key.

“In my experience, genuine strength and conditioning training is one of the most life-enhancing training you can do,” he says. The right S&C training is ultimately the key to life longevity and our main focus at The Yard.” And if you want Pilates, they’ve got that too: “We also offer mat Pilates at some of our locations to give our athletes a change in routine depending on what they are looking for out of their workout that day.”

Currently, there are 22 franchises, with the majority based in New South Wales. Looking ahead, the business says its expanding its franchise network – 150 are set to roll out by the end of next year, then it’s onto that lofty 5-year goal.

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