Some people visit the gym to bulk up, tone up, or slim down. Some people think about going to the gym because they know it will make them feel good. And someone like Karim LOVES the gym and helping people so much that he enthusiastically owns an Anytime Fitness gym. He encourages people with the biggest smile we’ve ever seen!
Traveling a strong journey fit for anyone
Karim Bhuiyan, 27, began his fitness journey after a breakup. It motivated him to get in shape to feel better, and, of course, to show his ex-girlfriend what she’d be missing! Karim calls it the “spark” that led him on a better path.
His exercise regiment started out with running. Karim ran from one mailbox to another. Again and again and again. Mailboxes turned into miles, which turned into half marathons. Karim quickly grew bored of just running, so he began exercising in a gym.
Karim was ready to switch up his training routine, but he had to do some research.
“As a guy, we don’t really want to admit the weakness of not knowing what to do,” Karim said. He researched workouts to learn about lifting weights. He wanted to educate himself to feel comfortable using machines and to create his own exercise plan.
Addressing family health concerns
As Karim built healthy habits, he continued to spend time with family. His dad has always been a focused business owner, while his uncle Harry was one of the most understanding family members.
Karim’s uncle was known as “Uncooly Harry,” which he dubbed himself. He didn’t have kids, and everyone thought of him as the favorite uncle.
Karim confided in uncle Harry about many aspects of his life, and considered him to be his best friend growing up. His uncle even let Karim borrow his Nissan 350Z sports car in high school! They bonded over cars and other hobbies.
But unfortunately, uncle Harry’s health was a serious concern; he was overweight at nearly 300 pounds.
After many attempts to improve his uncle’s diet, Karim understood that his uncle wasn’t going to change. Uncle Harry was standoffish and inconsistent when Karim tried to convince him to take care of himself.
One night, Karim received a call from his uncle’s wife, frantically telling him that uncle Harry was in the hospital. Karim raced down to see what was going on.
Visiting Uncle Harry in the hospital
When Karim arrived, he was shocked to see his uncle was hooked up to machines, and there were 12 different nurses trying to revive him with CPR. He was unconscious. 45 minutes passed. Nothing. It appeared that his brain lacked oxygen.
Finally, uncle Harry’s skin and color came back to life. However, he went into a coma for almost two weeks. Doctors said his heart was failing, but that he could live a normal life. “That was one of the moments where things needed to change,” Karim said.
Of the first-responders in the room, Karim noted that only the male nurse could get to his uncle’s heart to try to revive him. The other nurses didn’t have enough strength to get to him due to the layers of fat in his body. Uncle Harry passed away, which sparked both a sadness and a motivation in Karim.
Karim reflected…if only his uncle had eaten better and changed his lifestyle. This really upset Karim since his uncle was such a great support system. He understands now that he tried to save his uncle, and living without him is painful.
Karim felt depressed for some time after his uncle passed away. He mentioned when we start working out, we develop calluses.
“Those feelings of depression…you’re gonna have to feel it, because you’ll be a stronger person through it. When you you lift weights, you start getting some of these (points to hand). You get the calluses. It’s gonna build you up.”
Regardless of the circumstances, Karim kept a positive attitude, trying to change his own life for the better.
“You have to have that desire, that it will be good. You just have to keep moving forward.”
Choosing Anytime Fitness as a solid gym franchise
When Karim graduated from the University of Central Florida, owning a Little Caesars Pizza store was one career option he considered. However, he wanted a more stable franchise with lasting employees.
Karim chose to open up a gym instead since he knew he could run a better business in the fitness industry.
“What can I use my personality towards?” He asked himself. “Customer service is my thing. It’s natural for me. I like to empower others.”
He reflected on his own gym experiences to decide which franchise would be the lucky one. LA Fitness was too large, and the personal touch wasn’t quite there.
Karim tried to engage gym employees in conversation, but they didn’t seem thrilled about chatting with people. He knew LA Fitness and Planet Fitness were the only other two gyms in the area, but these gyms were packed.
Anytime Fitness, however, exuded a completely different atmosphere. “During the tour, they gave fist bumps to people,” Karim said. “I love that.”
Most Anytime Fitness gyms are modestly sized, with one to four employees (the owner and two to three trainers), so it has a very personal touch. Karim was ready to commit to opening this franchise.
If you build it, they will join.
The next stop was to find a place to build the gym. Karim wanted to open a gym in the Winter Garden area, and there was a prime location available next to a Vitamin Shoppe in Ocoee.
With the help of his father, Karim opened Anytime Fitness Ocoee on April 10, 2017.
“It was a scary, scary thing,” Karim said. “I had to convince my father [about it]. He came to Florida with nothing but a credit card, and he built his business up. He’s old school, so convincing him was tough. But we made it happen.”
Karim’s father is so into the idea of the business now that he asks when they’re going to open more gyms. Karim is very involved with the gym operations, spending an active amount of time in the gym office. He is dedicated to keeping it that way.
“The gym runs itself,” Karim said. “But that doesn’t mean that the owner can’t be involved.”
Personable customer service
Now, with more than 700 gym members at Anytime Fitness Ocoee, Karim keeps the positive attitudes (and the members flexing) at an all-time high.
He likes to get to know members on a personal level. “I really got to know the members, and I really wanted to build on that.”
He even rewards some really hardworking members for pushing through tough personal training. Karim gifted gym member Claude with a Fitbit to celebrate his fitness journey.
Some of these members walk in to Anytime Fitness knowing exactly what they want to achieve. They meet with a trainer, or they walk in with their own routine, and they’re ready to jump right in.
Other members are still trying to figure out what they want to achieve, and how. This can sometimes lead to members feeling discouraged. We all have those off-days where we want to stay home, or we don’t have the energy to hit the gym for an hour.
“When I look at people that come through this door, and they tell me that they wanna change their life…I couldn’t help my uncle,” Karim said. “But these people are here to change their life. And all I have to do is be the tool to help them.”
Hit the gym, don’t beat yourself up
Karim asks these members the “why” – why they signed up for the gym, why they go to the gym, why they want to feel better. “You just gotta look forward. Just keep moving.”
He knows there are days when people don’t want to go to the gym. He says on those days, the “why” is stronger than their willpower, which motivates them to work out.
“Build a habit. Once it’s a habit, and it continues…you’ll like it, you’ll love it, and it’ll be your sanctuary.”
Working out helps us mentally more than anything. Karim tries to be everyone’s cheerleader. “I wanted this gym to personify my personality, and I feel like it has.”
“Every gym has a treadmill. Every gym has weights. What makes us different?” The relationships and the personalized experience set them apart from the rest.
Maintaining high standards for the franchise
One of the most difficult parts of opening the gym was asking members to sign up before the gym was even built!
100 members signed up during a pre-sale. Karim hustled, speaking with potential members outside the gym, speaking with customers inside the Vitamin Shoppe next door, and finding his target audience.
However, people didn’t want to sign a contract for a gym that wasn’t open yet. This pressure caused a lot of stress for Karim. “It was all on me. I just stuck with it. I had positive reinforcement,” Karim said.
Thankfully, other gym owners and gym franchises have shown a lot of support for Karim’s Anytime Fitness. Even though they might be viewed as competition, Karim still receives good feedback and encouraging words from other owners.
Karim explained that he pays a royalty fee each month to use the Anytime Fitness name and franchise. The good news is, it’s a set fee each month, so he’s not penalized if a large number of new members sign up.
“If I’m killing it, I’m killing it! I don’t have to pay more because I’m killing it.”
Monitoring a 24-hour gym
A major plus side to Anytime Fitness is that it’s open 24 hours / 7 days a week. So when you’re thinking about making that late-night McDonald’s trip…stop by the gym instead!
In all seriousness, it’s very convenient for the facility to be open at all hours. Members can come and go as they please. Anytime Fitness gyms are surrounded by cameras, both inside and outside the gym to keep members safe.
Karim monitors member check-ins. At the same time, he can also monitor when non-members walk in without using a key fob. These people usually follow another member inside.
Anytime Fitness allows guests inside for a fee during staffed hours. Non-members are discouraged after hours.
These rules keep the gym a safe place. Someone walking in with their friend might be innocent, but we don’t know what that person’s intentions might be.
Karim is also notified on his phone when members check in. When people tell him to finally go home, he laughs and says, “I love it here!”
Setting personal goals for a positive future
Karim keeps pushing through with plenty of positive energy. He says hasn’t paid himself since opening in April 2017, but the connections he’s made and the lives he’s changed are priceless.
“I don’t know if there’s a job or a business that you can truly help people, enjoy it, and make money,” Karim said. “I like putting smiles on people’s faces. That’s my biggest thing.”
Karim doesn’t worry about advertising the gym either. He knows his Anytime Fitness members are the best form of advertisement as they are his “walking billboards.”
People spread the word through referrals, telling friends and family about the gym. Anytime Fitness also has a referral program where members can earn a free month, or free months, based on how many referrals sign up.
As Anytime Fitness Ocoee grows, Karim continues interacting with members and expanding his business.
“I’ve been fearing that I’ve made a mistake this entire time,” he said. But perseverance helps him push through to know that he’s doing the right thing.
“At the end of the day, I love what I do. Whether I make a dollar or not. It’s the smile I see on people’s faces, and people making progress.”