Why Revl boutique fitness founders have a new growth strategy

Revl founders growth strategy (1)
Josh Mildren, right, talks to Franchise Executives about the new path for Revl. (Source: Supplied)

Ben Woolford and Josh Mildren founded group training franchise Revl in 2020. They’ve grown the footprint in Australia, and taken the brand overseas. Now the pair has reviewed the growth strategy and reset the path to success, with lifestyle sub brands, company stores and new tech in the pipeline.

Franchise Executives spoke to Josh Mildren to find out more.

Franchise Executives: What has sparked this shift in focus and strategy?

Josh Mildren: “It has been a real shift in direction. We came away from the FIT Summit last last year and no-one was really speaking about their members or coaches or studio owners, it was all about studio growth. That’s not us and we were very naive thinking that was our path.

“The goal is to remain in the boutique space and not fall into the same path of striving for a few hundred sites across the world.

“We never wanted Revl to be over-commercialised. We want to make sure the brand was aligned with our original mission, to expose a long term training solution to more people.

“You need a high touch point in the studio and a high-quality training product. We have years of progression in our four walls, and members with us since day one four years ago.”

Franchise Executives: Is a pull back on growth going to constrain the business?

Josh Mildren: “I don’t see it as a constraint, more an opportunity to diversify the brand. Our vision isn’t to stay solely in the training space, we will add some sub brands perhaps in the running space, or apparel.

“It allows us to position ourselves as more of a lifestyle brand rather than group training.”

“It’s all well and good to say we don’t want to grow to a few hundred studios; of course we need to make money. For us it’s about diversifying where the revenue comes from. 

“We have a highly engaged membership, almost at 5,000. We need to think how we can we serve them better, without having to multiply units and dilute the brand.”

Franchise Executives: Tell us about your branding exercise and the move into the lifestyle space

Josh Mildren: “We have spent the past five months doing brand positioning and internal work. When we first launched Revl, we didn’t do too much brand work. We had a cool product, cool brand, people loved it and we grew organically.

“I’ve had a vision for the lifestyle space and we wanted to go back and to work on the brand, we owe it to our coaches and franchisees.

“We want to be able to speak about the brand quite articulately when we are mapping out that five year plan. 

The target customer

“The big question is ‘who is the target consumer?’. Our ideal member is 25 to 40, a young professional, young parent, with a fairly high disposable income because we charge $60+ membership a week.

“Now we are pushing into the lifestyle space, our image is more accommodating. It looks less edgy, but it is still bold. We’ve seen fitness move into the feelgood arena, it is not all about looks any more, it’s an approachable, sexy look.

Lifestyle model

“You will start to see our lifestyle model in our Collins St, Melbourne location scheduled to open in June/July with health and wellness offering, saunas and contrast therapy rooms offering ice baths and heat treatments.

Tiered membership

“We will have different tiers of membership based around fitness, with wellness an extra, and provide access to the gym. Our regular classes run from 5-10.30am, some franchisees run midday sessions, most run classes in the afternoon.

“The reaction from franchisees has been overwhelmingly positive, they can see what’s happening in the market and they don’t want to be another number. They are happy for us right now to pull back on growth, and focus on what we do well. There is more clarity for the brand.

“At its core, Revl is a group training studio, that is our foundation, but we will allocate some time to other ventures.”

Franchise Executives: What does this mean for franchise growth?

Josh Mildren: “We will franchise but be really selective about our locations and our partners. A lot of the franchises will potentially be joint ventures.

“Our eighth studio in Adelaide, in Brighton, is our first company owned site and this is an important development for us.

“We don’t want to lose touch with what it’s like to be on ground level with franchise owners. As you grow and expand there can be a division, they see the franchisor as calling the shots, we want to maintain that network respect, delivering a service that speaks to the franchisee nor the franchisor.

“Having Revl corporate stores involved in local community, and being in touch with the network, is only going to be positive. It will improve the system, and keep our fingers on the pulse.”

Franchise Executives: How will this expansion into company-owned stores be managed internally?

Josh Mildren: “Essentially, we’ve structured two different models at HQ, one company, one franchising. We’re very wary of franchisees not receiving the same touchpoint and service.

“It will allow us to have leaders in each region, to drive the brand and vision in that region.

“The biggest thing is profitability of our current studios. There is no point in having twice the sites and half the members. We want happy franchisees, happy coaches, happy members.

“I would love to continue to open up a pathway for coaches to become franchisees, it is great to accommodate that inside a model that works longterm.”

Franchise Executives: Tell us about international expansion

Josh Mildren: “There is one Revl studio in Dubai, and we are about to open numbers seven and eight in Singapore. Singapore is flying; studios are opening with 160+ members each which is fantastic in our boutique space. 

“These are still operating under a master franchise agreement with a commitment of 15 sites over five years. Our master franchise has already opened eight sites in 12 months so they may well exceed that original goal.

“There is quite a bit of opportunity out of the city centre and near other fitness brands.

“We have interest in Canada, the UK, and Korea, and we’ll deal with agreements individually. For us it comes back to maintaining the integrity in the brand.”

Franchise Executives: So what’s coming up next

Josh Mildren: “Next on the cards is exciting technology we are introducing to the network mid-2024. It is the first iteration of evolving the in-studio product. New tech, and add-on features will improve the member and coaching experience.

“We are taking time, delivering more value to the consumer who wants diversity and flexibility. You can’t be a one-stop shop but given our size and direction, we can lean in certain directions to facilitate the journey for members.”