Exclusive: George Foreman III scores VC investment for fitness chain

As fitness trends from CrossFit to spinning studios have proliferated, smaller upstart gyms have found a niche to play in the same market as big gym chains like Life Time Fitness (LTM), Planet Fitness (PLNT), Gold鈥檚 Gym and Equinox. And now George Foreman III is aiming to take on all of them. Foreman, who already has two locations of his EveryBodyFights model, has scored new investment from Boston-based VC and branding firm Breakaway to expand his gym line.

鈥淢onk鈥 Foreman, as he was called in the ring, was the only one of world champion George Foreman鈥檚 five sons (all named George Foreman) to follow his father into boxing. He went a perfect 16-0 in the ring, but tells Yahoo Finance, 鈥淚t was really a father-son hobby that got out of hand. At some point we looked up and said, 鈥榃ait, two or three more fights and we could talk about being in contention for a title fight.鈥 But wait鈥 this was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something other than hit people. Luckily, I had experience in the business world.鈥滱rmed with a business degree from Rice University, Foreman, now 33, retired from boxing in 2012. From 2003 to 2009, he was his father鈥檚 business manager, handling deals with the many different companies that still wanted the famous heavy-hitter to endorse their products. He also helped his father continue to expand the reach of the insanely successful Foreman Grill, and he appeared on the E Network reality series 鈥淔ilthy Rich.鈥 In 2014, Foreman opened up a huge, 15,000-square-foot gym in South Boston. The concept: a section for everything the modern gym rat could possibly want. EveryBodyFights (it changed its name last month from The Club By George Foreman III) offers weights, pilates, yoga, cycling, treadmills, ellipticals, and of course, boxing, using a training program Foreman designed and patented: BOXFIIT (Fight Intensity Interval Training).The flagship gym has four classrooms for circuit, core, boxing, and endurance training. Foreman calls it 鈥渢rains, body, bags, and roads.鈥 He thinks of it as a 鈥渟hopping mall for fitness.鈥漈he model proved its appeal: last October, Foreman cut a deal to open a 1,800-square-foot boxing room inside a competitor gym, GymIt, in Watertown, Mass. It opened in February of this year.Now, with a $1 million Series A investment from Breakaway (which has also invested in alcohol delivery app Drizly and sports app Fancred), Yahoo Finance has learned, Foreman will open a Manhattan location and a second Boston location by the end of the year. In the next 2-3 years, he aims to have three or four locations in both New York and Boston, then move down the East Coast. At the same time, his plan is to keep franchising smaller studios inside the gyms of other operators and free-standing, 5,000-square-foot gyms to proven fitness franchisers.鈥淧eople don鈥檛 want to just check in and move around like mice, they want to do something that means something physically,鈥 he says. 鈥淭hrowing a punch, nothing releases tension better than that.鈥漃erhaps most impressive and surprising for a gym built on boxing: 70% of the members are women. 鈥淓ven though we make the workouts as hard as we possibly can, we attract more women, because women take it more seriously,鈥 Foreman says. 鈥淎nd for whatever reason, boxing is big right now.鈥漈hat鈥檚 good news for an entrepreneur who grew up in boxing. (George Sr. sits on the board of EveryBodyFights.) Foreman III worked at his father鈥檚 training camps, counted his rounds, tied his shoes, sat watching him day in and day out. 鈥淚t was very much in my blood,鈥 he says. 鈥淏ut I never did it myself. Then when I was 25, I was overweight and my brothers had been teasing me because I had never been a varsity athlete. So I got them all on a conference call and I said, 鈥業f I fight in one amateur boxing match, will you guys stop it.鈥 So I started training, and I鈥檓 kind of obsessive when I start something.鈥漀ow he鈥檚 obsessive about taking his one gym and turning it into a national fitness brand. To help do that, he鈥檚 embracing technology, because brick-and-mortar locations aren鈥檛 enough. Hence, new trainers at his gyms get certified via the BOXFIIT trainer app, which launched in February. (In August, EveryBodyFights will launch the BOXFIIT fighter app, for customers.)That may sound counterintuitive鈥攈ow can someone learn to run an in-person fitness class by completing tasks on their phone? Foreman says it鈥檚 more rigorous than it sounds: a potential trainer has to submit a video in which they perform, and then teach, every movement or action that will come up in class. Foreman views and grades every one of them. In fact, he says it鈥檚 superior to the two-day, in-person training certification programs that have become popular in recent years. 鈥淵ou can鈥檛 learn that stuff in just two days,鈥 he says. 鈥淢aybe in two weeks. But you can do it at your own pace. We spit out a better trainer remotely than those programs do in person.鈥滳ould EveryBodyFights be the next Soulcycle, Flywheel, or David Barton Gym? If both George Foremans have anything to say about it, yes鈥攁nd maybe bigger. To be sure, success isn鈥檛 automatic in this space: Planet Fitness had a disappointing IPO last year, and SoulCycle has had to delay its own. But Foreman III says the best advice his father gave him in the business world was to think big. 鈥淒on鈥檛 do this for 1,000 people,鈥 he says, 鈥減repare for it to be done for a million people.鈥漎ahoo Finance Sportsbook is our new video series on the business of sports. Check back for future installments, and join the conversation on social media with hashtag #yfsportsbook.–Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. 聽Read more:5 ways new technology is coming to the golf courseIBM is pairing up Watson with Watson at The MastersAdidas sees sneaker success, but golf woesUnder Armour is on an insane endorsement deal hot-streakFitnessSports & RecreationGeorge ForemanPlanet Fitness


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