How the founder of KX Pilates disrupted the fitness industry
Written on the 7 April 2018 by David Simmons
Aaron Smith was just 26 when he returned from London with an idea to transform the fitness industry.
Living and working abroad as a personal trainer and sports scientist, Smith discovered dynamic pilates in London and immediately knew he wanted to bring the style back to Australia.
In 2010, Smith founded the KX Group by establishing the first KX Pilates studio in Malvern Victoria. He had no formal business qualifications and was totally following his gut instinct that his idea could make a massive mark on the fitness industry in Australia.
Smith wanted to improve the sector with a boutique workout style that combines creative flare with a modern sense of style.
Japanese for "change for the better", the Kaizen eXperience or 'KX' is a philosophy that focuses on small and ongoing movement. Smith's centres offer a fast paced, high intensity, body-toning workout in 50 minutes.
After his initial success at Malvern, Smith opened a second and then a third KX location. Realising the potential of the brand, Smith decided to franchise the model in 2013. Now, KX has 42 studios across Australia.
Business News Australia spoke to Smith about the group's rapid expansion, the philosophy behind the brand, and what's in the pipeline for KX.
You've got studios all over the country but the brand is only seven years old. How did you grow so fast?
I would say hard work and amazing people. We started out in 2010 with one studio that I worked in tirelessly for the first 12-24 months. In the second year I opened studio two, and in the third and fourth years I opened up three more studios with one of my trainers. We really kind of grew our name and reputation in Melbourne. Then I started franchising in 2013, I opened up a Sydney flagship in late 2013 and moved to Sydney. From then on its just been finding amazing people and we've been really lucky with organic growth in the company but 80 per cent of our existing owners come through the client route or trainers who want to go to the next level and have their own business.
What differentiates your studios from others in Australia?
We offer group fitness classes of 12 people max per class, so we push ourselves in the personalised boutique fitness scene. The base of the company has a solid foundation with our vision our mission and our values being extremely strong. We spend a lot of time, money and energy making sure that our staff and our trainers are really well looked after. They are incentivised and given a progression path where they can potentially lead their own business, which many have done. We run dynamic Pilates which is a lot more intense and quite different to what's out there in the market today. Pilates is traditionally very clinical, slow and boring. We revamped that with pumping music, and young, dynamic people working for us that provide an exceptional experience to our clients.
The name has a Japanese background, where did that inspiration come from?
It all comes down to what we stand for as a brand. The Kaizen experience and Kaizen philosophy is about very small and ongoing improvement. It's something that's is based off my personality of always constantly wanting to improve and never stop learning. Even our brand values came back to what I personally believe in and it resonates really easily because if you met any of our trainers and any of our owners they share the same values such as respectful relationships, positivity, going above and beyond for anyone you come across and evolution through innovation. Our vision is to be the most beloved boutique fitness brand in Australia and beyond.
What's the future for the company?
So we've got 42 studios currently, and we'll have close to 50 soon. The only states we're not in at the moment are Canberra and Tasmania. We have a goal of 500 studios globally. Australia can probably only have 100-120 studios but the growth we see is definitely overseas.
Business News Australia
Author: David Simmons