How We Started

Iron Tribe Franchising (home)

Iron Tribe was founded by fitness industry veteran, Forrest Walden, back in 2008 in his 400 square foot garage. Initially, it was just to have a place for Forrest to do group-based workouts with his friends because he couldn’t find anywhere locally that offered the right amount of space and equipment. There was no charge to belong, but you had to have a personal invite.

The original Iron Tribe members

 As more and more friends begged to come and join his garage gym, Forrest began to dream about what it would look like to start a brand-new concept that would take his team-based, group workouts to the next level and allow more lives to be impacted.

The first official Iron Tribe location opened in February of 2010. The response from the community was immediate and overwhelming. In fact, the 250 membership cap was reached in under 8 months with a growing waiting list . That location has operated at max capacity since  September of 2010 eventually moving across the street and expanding the location to serve 300 clients.

The first official Iron Tribe location opened in February of 2010. The response from the community was immediate and overwhelming. In fact, the 250 membership cap was reached in under 8 months with a growing waiting list . That location has operated at max capacity since  September of 2010 eventually moving across the street and expanding the location to serve 300 clients.

 

The original Homewood Iron Tribe location

The original Iron Tribe Homewood dubbed “the Mothership.”

Homewood location

The new Homewood location, across the street from the original gym.

With the goal of franchising the concept from the very beginning, Forrest systematically worked himself out of the business so that he could begin to refine the model and plan the next few locations. Initially starting on the floor, coaching for the first three months, then moving to manager of the facility for the next three, and eventually moving his office out of the first location within the first 6 months, ensured Forrest that he understood the model operationally and would be ready to duplicate it.

This led Forrest to grow his staff and open the gym’s second location. The ITF Hwy 280 location (located in a suburb of East Birmingham) is considered to be the franchise prototype, as it is located in a strip center (an “Anywhere, USA model”) and was not dependent on Forrest or the built-in referral base he had built from his garage gym. In fact, Forrest has never coached a class or sold a client in any facility since the first one.

Iron Tribe Highway 280 gym

ITF 280

The ITF 280 gym also had an amazing start and within 4 months, Forrest and his growing team began building a  humble 400 square foot “corporate office” to begin laying the groundwork for future expansion and franchising the model. The success of Iron Tribe’s  second gym also proved that a scalable business model and system existed.

Armed with the confidence that the business model could continue to be duplicated and grown, the search for a third location began. However, in this location, the ability to add a corporate office next door was paramount. Creating an “operations-based culture,” where the corporately-owned gyms rank at the top of the chain, ensures a constant involvement in the brand-wide delivery of Iron Tribe’s day-to-day experience.

The third location, ITF Downtown (located in the heart of Birmingham city proper), opened in March of 2012 and has also experienced tremendous success. In fact, it has grown faster than any other ITF location to date. The corporate office is, in fact, next door and corporate team members can walk over at any point to engage clients in conversation, work with a team member on a new system or just grab a workout in one of the classes!

Iron Tribe Downtown

ITF Downtown

The very next month after the Downtown gym opened, ITF Mountain Brook, AL opened up its doors as the fourth location. Following the lead of the three other locations this location grew quickly and is routinely in the top 10 locations in the brand every year.

Iron Tribe Fitness Mountain Brook gym

ITF Mountain Brook

Operating now five corporately-owned locations in Birmingham, gives amazing insight into the model and how it can be continually evolved. What this means for franchisees is that there is no “ivory tower” corporate office environment, where the ITF Corporate Team is out of touch with those operating a franchise in the system. Anything passed down to franchisees is tested and proven in corporately-owned gyms first. Best demonstrated practices and marketing plans will be refined and maximized before they’re ever systematized as an official part of the model.