Snap CEO Peter Taunton Wants to Give You a Free Health Club
Wed, July 13, 2011 at 8:24
Kevin Foley in News, Peter Taunton, Snap Fitness

Snap Fitness founder and CEO Peter Taunton

Walk down the hallway at IHRSA’s annual convention and trade show and you’ll see hundreds, if not thousands, of entrepreneurs who penny-pinched, struggled and hustled to start their own businesses. Their paths to the top of the fitness industry would've been far easier had they known Peter Taunton.

The founder and CEO of Snap Fitness wants to give away a health club to one lucky, aspiring entrepreneur. Partner with Peter, a name as illiterative as it is literal, is a contest that boasts a free Snap Fitness franchise, and all it's trimmings, as its grand prize. The winnings includes the initial franchise fee, an equipment investment stipend, a lease security deposit, at least $20,000 of capital and the tutelage of Taunton himself. The total haul is worth roughly $250,000, according to the contest’s terms and conditions.

It's attracting a lot of attention, but Taunton insists this is no PR stunt. After achieving appreciable success in the health club industry he simply wants to share the wealth with someone who he thinks deserves it.

“I can’t imagine being that person,” Taunton explains, “who is so motivated, but lacks the capital necessary to start their own business.” He theorizes, out loud, about who might win his contest: a military member who’s just returned from deployment, perhaps; or a family from the Midwest who lost their farm and, along with that, their livelihood.

While Taunton is unquestionably blessed with capital today, he’s not that far removed from his humble entry into the health club industry. “Twenty-nine years ago I was a guy giving you a towel and a locker key,” he explains. His success hinged on a gesture less benevolent than a free franchise but equally beneficial.

The owners of a mismanaged health club told Taunton if he could turn the facility around they’d give him equity in the company. Taunton did turn the club around. He then went a step further and mortgaged his equity to buy out his partners, making him the sole owner of the club. Several years and five locations later Taunton sold his stake in the company in order to spend more time with his family. It wouldn't be long, though, before he'd be back in the business of running health clubs.

Running a chain of big-box clubs provided the groundwork Taunton needed to launch his decidedly more expansive club company. “I dummied down the club and scaled it back and that’s how Snap Fitness was born,” he says. While the club isn’t for everyone, “if you’re on the go, trying to find balance between family, work and exercise, it's a great product for you.”

He delves deeper into his elevator pitch - which must be a knee-jerk reaction for any entrepreneur - and begins to explain the difference between a mere room full of exercise equipment and a Snap Fitness franchise. He boasts about the support they offer franchisees and the power of the brand. He backs up each claim with an impressive statistic, but he needs only one to illustrate the rapid expansion Snap has undergone in just a few short years. The Minnesota-based company has gone from scrappy start-up in 2007 to the 33rd ranked company on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2011 Franchise 500 list.

When Partner with Peter was announced Taunton encountered a few skeptics. He says some people assumed he’d simply waive Snap’s franchise fee, which, at roughly $15,000, is underwhelming compared to the total cost of running a health club.

Not true, says Taunton, who plans to throw the entire weight of the Snap brand behind the contest winner.

"I plan to be working very closely with this business owner," Taunton says. "We’re going to track the club's progress as well. There are a lot of people that are going to pay attention to the results." There's a good chance the contest winner will find success running a Snap franchise. For each 100 Snap Fitness locations opened, an average of only four clubs go under. That places Snap among the top health club franchises in failure rate.

Taunton is keeping track of the applicants as they come in. He already has a few people in mind, but the race is still wide open. He's looking for hard working people who have experienced hardships in their life, but are commited to helping others.

His advice for those entering the contest: “Tell us why you think you would be a great candidate for this business. Be humble and tell us your story.”

To enter the Partner With Peter contest visit

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