News | Turning a fitness studio into a lifestyle brand

January 22, 2014

By Katy Stewart | Houston Business Journal

Original Article

Since fitness guru and entrepreneur Henry Richardson started his company, Define, four years ago, he has been flagged as a top young professional in Houston and his company is seeing major growth.

Richardson, a Houston Business Journal 2012 40 Under 40, has the stronghold on barre-method fitness classes in Houston — he opened his company before Pure Barre entered the area. Now he is expanding the company geographically and through new product lines.

The signature class, called Define body, combines Richardson’s training in barre method with other fitness techniques. Define also offers spin and yoga classes.

Define has also started offering cooking classes, baby fitness classes, and classes with the proceeds designated for charity. The latest news is that Define will debut its new line of fitness apparel this month.

The clothing line, called DYI: Define Your Inspiration, launches in mid November, and Richardson’s sister, Leslie Denby, is the designer and pointperson for this new branch of the business.

Every element still revolves around Define’s three core fitness goals: strength, length and balance. Adding new product lines makes the business more of a lifestyle brand than just an exercise studio, Richardson said. Define’s growth gives clients an even more well-rounded view of what a healthy life should be, he said.

The company is also growing geographically. Though Define has expanded in Houston with studios in Tanglewood, River Oaks, West University, Energy Corridor, Sugar Land and the Woodlands, outposts are opening in other cities such as Austin and Midland.

The franchise grows where qualified instructors are willing to take it. Richardson plans to open six to 10 more stores in 2014, including Cincinnati and New Orleans.

Classes aren’t cheap — individual classes cost about $20, and the studio offers multiclass packages. Yet almost every class has a waitlist, and the 90-percent female clientele clamors to win spots.

Richardson says Define’s star power isn’t a flash in the pan.

“I’m not looking to have a lot of stores. I want to have good stores, and if it’s a lot, so be it,” he said.

For example, the rooms were built with antimicrobial bamboo flooring.

As the company has grown, Richardson has become more of a quality control manager — as well as chief branding office and head innovator — while his employees bring their own ideas to the table. So the strengths and interests of his staff lead the company’s growth.

“We utilize their abilities and expertise to enrich the Houston community,” he said.

To keep the client in mind throughout its growth, Richardson has created personas to define his target market — Meg, the young professional; Paige, the stay-at-home super mom; Valerie, the working super-mom; and Cindy the empty nester. When making decisions about what’s best for the customer, having a mental image of the target audience helps “keeps their face in mind,” he said.

“We’re not trying to be something for everyone, but at the core, we’re something that everyone needs,” Richardson said.

The Richardson File:

During a stint in New York with Teach for America, Richardson, a native Houstonian and all-American springboard and platform diver, studied barre-method fitness classes to ease chronic pain after a back injury.

He returned to Houston to pursue his MBA from Rice University. He took an independent study course with a professor, and what emerged was a plan for a fitness studio in Houston’s Tanglewood neighborhood. In Define’s first month, Richardson made $20,000 teaching classes.

By the Numbers:

575: Classes taught a week between locations

5,000: Square feet in the River Oaks location

$250,000: To open a space, including the retail and furniture (The original store cost $125,000 to open)

$40,000: Sales goal per store per month (Richardson achieved in his first four months of business)

$50,000–$60,000: Actual sales per location per month

Houston Business Journal, November 22, 2013