Emily Walsh and Adam Kinson plan on opening btone Fitness Hartford in May 2022. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price sat down with the couple to learn more about their experience opening a business in Hartford and becoming part of the small business community.
NAN PRICE: What made you decide open a fitness studio?
EMILY WALSH: The idea of business ownership took us both by surprise. I had become a devotee of the btone workouts when we were living in the Boston area. When we moved back to Connecticut, we heard btone Fitness Founder Jody Merrill was interested in franchising, so we connected with her to learn more…and one thing led to another.
ADAM KINSON: I discovered that I like the idea of taking an entrepreneurial view and managing every aspect more than being focused on one aspect of a larger giant business.
NAN: Do either of you have any prior business experience?
EMILY: I’m a writer and editor in the nonprofit sector, which was experience that came in handy while crafting the business plan and much of our content.
ADAM: I have a business undergrad degree and I worked in insurance for about eight years an actuary, which touches on many general business aspects as far as pricing and figuring out things like fixed and variable expenses.
When we started looking into opening this business, I jumped right into building a spreadsheet, which became our business plan. I had to harken back to the Accounting 101, Finance 101, and Marketing 101 classes I took as an undergrad to start piecing together the business plan.
NAN: Did you utilize any local resources to help formulate the business plan?
ADAM: With the business plan, we worked with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC), which was great because we got more than one person’s perspective on it. We also met with an accountant to go over some of the details.
We knew we were going to need a loan and wanted to work with a local bank. Our representative at Webster Bank was also happy to review the business plan with us beforehand.
NAN: What’s it like to step in as business owners of a franchise?
EMILY: As we’ve gone through this process, we’ve definitely understood “franchise” to be a loaded concept because it can mean so many different things depending on whether you’re a fast food restaurant or a boutique fitness studio.
Jody has helped set us up for success. She’s been an amazing counselor, mentor, and partner to us in every aspect, from the loan to the machines we’re going to order to the design elements.
We were the first people she talked to about franchising and we’re opening the first btone in Connecticut. This will be the 12th location to open, the others are concentrated in the Boston area. Our process was delayed due to the pandemic, but now that we’re closer to opening I think the timing is great.
NAN: Are you able to have some creative license?
ADAM: Definitely. For us, it’s ideal as far as the opportunity goes. We feel like we get the best aspects of the franchisor. We obviously love the brand and we love that we’re sharing with that brand, but there’s also a lot of flexibility with pricing, salaries, and even brand color variation.
EMILY: We also love having these great models with our sister studios and HQ support.
NAN: Why Hartford? Why open the business downtown?
EMILY: I’m from the area. I liked the idea of opening a btone in Hartford because it’s the type of amenity that can appeal to a lot of residents and commuters but isn’t available to them yet. We’ve always had family and friends living and working in the city, so over the last decade or so, even before we moved to the area, I could see what kind of community it’s becoming for young professionals and small businesses.
The demographics here closely match what you’d find in downtown Boston. Also, there’s so much Hartford pride in terms of supporting small businesses like btone, which is a niche small business that appeals to a huge variety of people.
There’s a connection between the businesses downtown that’s almost like a brotherhood. The idea of joining that kind of community is really exciting. And it’s appealing to think of starting a new business nearby other small businesses that will know a lot of the same challenges, even if their services are completely different.
NAN: Was that part of the reason you became a member of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce?
ADAM: Absolutely. It’s basically like joining this community of peers. We joined the Hartford Chamber of Commerce to help make those connections and create opportunities for partnerships or collaborations. There are so many small businesses downtown, if you walk in, there’s a good chance the owner will be there.
NAN: What’s next? When are you opening?
EMILY: We’re targeting early May for mock classes with our new team of instructors; our official launch will be within weeks after that. Construction is complete and we should be getting our custom-engineered machines in the next few weeks. Once we have those and our team of instructors in place, we’ll essentially be ready to open.
We’re super excited to offer something that the downtown area doesn’t have that could appeal to a great number of people who live and work in the area.