Jim Harrer had a business opportunity in the palm of his boxing glove and didn’t even know it.
Harrer, a long-time member of the iLoveKickboxing franchise, thought it would be neat for him and his wife Debbie Harrer to open an iLoveKickboxing studio of their own since they already make a living as business owners, anyway.
The couple, who make their home in Gig Harbor, decided the city that needed a studio most was Federal Way. And with Debbie Harrer taking the reigns as the franchise owner, the duo opened the doors to the city’s first iLoveKickboxing studio on Oct. 5. Since opening its doors, the Harrer’s have received over 1,000 website membership inquiries and 300 already-established members.
The Federal Way location, which is at 1320 South 324th Street, is the state’s fifth franchise. It incorporates the workouts of professional fighters, and aims to help those looking to lose weight and get in shape in a way they’ve never experienced. In classes, members have the opportunity to gear up with authentic boxing gloves and perform genuine conditioning drills and kickboxing techniques, all while instructors motivate members to “go the extra mile” throughout their workout.
Debbie Harrer said the booming numbers within the first month of the Federal Way studio is no surprise given the benefits the company’s structure has provided for Jim Harrer.
“Jim was actually a member at the location in Gig Harbor,” Debbie Harrer said. “He went for about five months and lost 35 pounds. He got to be friends with the owner, they got to talking, and got interested. Then he came home, talked to me about it, we researched it and went from there.”
As business professionals, working with various credit unions developing an expertise in customer service, the couple also saw an opportunity.
South King County had nothing like iLoveKickboxing as an alternative to the average gym. The Harrers made plans to put the franchise roots down in Federal Way, but the two are thinking moves ahead.
They purchased the rights to open more iLoveKickboxing studios from Federal Way to Redmond. Company policy allows franchise owners like the Harrers to open five locations throughout their given territory, but Debbie Harrer said she thinks their magic number is three due to busy schedules.
iLoveKickboxing provides a high-intensity, full body workout with kickboxing principles at its core.
Members will participate in an hour-long class with a very strict structure. The first half of class consists of conditioning focused on raising heart rate with intervals of rest. The last half of class focuses on kickboxing, where instructors aim for members to drop 6-800 calories per class.
Debbie Harrer said the atmosphere of iLoveKickboxing classes is far superior to the stereotypical gym because it is focused on community.
All members use the same techniques at the same time, and members are encouraged to go at their own pace.
“That element is what really made Jim fall in love with the company,” Debbie Harrer said. “There were people in the class far younger than him, but they were always so encouraging. So we’ve made sure to bring that atmosphere to the Federal Way location.”
After opening the doors, the Harrers were tasked with hiring kickboxing instructors to teach their new business.
At first, the couple flooded sites like Craigslist and Indeed with job ads looking for applicants with a fitness background, or just people with a high level of enthusiasm for fitness.
Once the Harrers hired their employees, the couple decided to accompany their new hires to the company’s training facility in New York.
Instead of taking in the sites, the duo entered themselves in the training classes alongside their new instructors.
“It was such a great and rewarding experience,” Debbie Harrer said. “I’m so glad Jim and I decided to do that. We learned so much about the business and the passion involved in kickboxing.”
Debbie Harrer said the couple could look to members who have excelled in training and have an interest in teaching when hiring future employees.
iLoveKickboxing offers a three or five-class special. When people sign up, that’s how the Harrers begin building a client base.
When the Harrers checked their system in July, three months prior to the studio’s opening, the couple discovered over 500 wanted to schedule a special.
“That was tough because when you first open a franchise, you’re limited to just two classes per day,” Debbie Harrer said. “So we had 25 people per class, 50 people per day that we were getting in to get started. But the people of Federal Way have been incredible.”
Debbie Harrer said another challenge she and Jim Harrer faced was communication with local property managers. She said they looked at numerous locations throughout the city, but hearing from property managers was a grueling process.
“We actually looked at several locations,” Debbie Harrer said. “But the property managers just never got back to us. But we looked for several months before we picked where we are now. It’s really centrally located, right off the freeway so people from Auburn, Kent, Tacoma could also come. It just felt right.”
Harrer said the reception of kickboxing in Federal Way has been an overwhelming sense of joy.
Getting started with Federal Way’s iLoveKickboxing is simple. Debbie Harrer said those interested should start at iLoveKickboxing.com and sign up for one of the web specials, which are 50 percent off for the month of December. Finally, an instructor then reaches out and schedules a first class.
Debbie Harrer said while the opportunity to own a thriving business in Federal Way has been wide open for quite some time, she said it’s been the residents who have made this business decision a no brainer.
“This was kind of a new adventure for us,” she said. “But the people I have met here has just been outstanding. They’ve made it all worth it.
“When I go into the studio and see the people that come in and how happy they are to be there and the progress they’re making, oh gosh, that just makes it all worth it.”