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Thinking Of Opening Your Own Studio?


By Philippa Church 4th Sept. 2009
Please Note:  This is a repost of an article formally censored by another site.


I first posted on the previous forum on June 13th.. Only 10 days later I wrote the following:

“ Sorry to hog the blog a bit here! Having started to look at getting a Vibration Plate for personal use I have got so excited about what they seem able to do that am seriously thinking about starting up a small studio here in the UK”

…And set up a studio I did, opening at the end of August.2008. So 11 months down the line I thought I’d share my experiences for those thinking of doing the same!


When I first looked through the forum I remember thinking the choice of machines was huge and I would never be able to narrow it down. However, once I had decided from reading the articles and comments that a steel lineal was the only way to go, my choices actually came down to 4 machines: Hypergravity Gym O Vibe/ Total Vibe Extreme; Fitvibe medical; Bodyshaker and Vibrogym. The lack of availability (indeed any willingness to help) of Fitvibe and Bodyshaker ruled these out. So that left Vibrogym and Hypergravity. I tried and Vibrogym and the team there were really helpful, positive and I liked the machines. However they were more expensive than the Hypergravities (the dollar was low against the pound at the time) After several calls to Lloyd Shaw and Mike Hair who both recommended the Hypergravity – I decided to take the risk and ship these over – without ever having stepped foot on one! I bought a Gym O Vibe Trainer and 2 Total Vibe Extremes. The company had a good track record and was very highly thought of on the forum and by Lloyd and Mike.

How did I get trained ?

Lloyd stressed the importance of a good training and support package and for this reason I bought the machines through Mike Hair’s Quality Vibes as this included 3 weeks training from one of Vibra-train’s most experienced trainers, Chrystal Orr and ongoing support. The whole customs/ import issues were a nightmare (more about this in the tips at the end). But eventually half way through August three enormous crates arrived containing the huge machines! There is no doubt, these machines particularly the trainer, look really impressive– they are massive and curvy and create a real wow impact when people walk in. The training was excellent; Chrystal gave me a thorough hands-on working understanding of Vibra-train’s Safety Programme and by the time she left I felt really confident about putting people through the Programme myself.

The machines.....

Things were great for a few months – everyone loved the machines and they knocked spots off the local Powerplate studio! Then one of the machines started to make odd noises… a week late a smell of burning, a puff of smoke and eventually one motor burnt out. Over the next 6 months the machines had problems at around an average of one a month. The impact of this immense, and I think difficult to fully appreciate until you’ve been through it.

Being one machine down means cancelling about 20 clients a day (this could be double this in a really busy studio). The result is a huge loss of time, income, reputation and causes untold stress. You can’t book people in for the future until you know when the machine will be fixed. My sleep was appalling whenever the machines went down, every noise they made out of the ordinary sent waves of anxiety through me. In total I would guess we lost about 300- 400 sessions over the 9 months, the last thing you need when opening up a new business.

Hypergravity were good at sending over new motors/ spare parts and even sent over one of the partners from California to try to fix the problem. However these would take about 5 days to come at the quickest and were then dependent on an electrician being free to fit the parts – anyone in the UK will know you have to book electricians about a month in advance!

8 months and many many new motors later it became clear that the problem was the machines were just not up to true commercial use. The first big piece of advice I would give is make absolutely sure that the machines you buy can withstand commercial use – but also make sure that your understanding of commercial use is the same as the manufacturers. The Hypergravities would be used on average for about 12 sessions of 20 mins per day (our current machines each get used about 20 times a day for 20 min sessions). I would say that this is the kind of use a studio should be looking and really busy studios in major cities could be looking at 50 or more sessions per machine per day. The Hypergravities had been used in ‘commercial’ settings before but I think maybe in gyms etc. where they were probably getting used about 5 times a day. In reality we were trying out their commercial viability for the first time. In a vibration training studio machines will get pounded; they can be in constant non-stop use for 5-10 hours at a stretch. Any one thinking of opening a studio must make sure that the machines they buy can withstand this sort of use and that they have a track record of doing so. Lots of companies claim commercial status on their machines, but they are in fact untested in a commercial setting.

Getting help.....

This was without doubt one of the most stressful times in my life, and without the support of the IVTRB  ( in my case this was Lloyd and Mike )  I think I would have packed it all in. This is my second crucial advice point; make sure you have a good support network in place. These two were great and offered practical advice at all hours and ultimately were responsible for making sure that the right outcome happened. Lloyd particularly was brilliant and just knowing that the backing and support were there all be it on the other side of the world made all the difference.

As a result of the machines being not fit for the purpose they were bought (and with the support of the IVTRB), Hypergravity were gracious enough to give us a refund for the machines ( Lloyd stepped in to help with this ). We lost about £13,000 in shipping / crating/ customs charges. However after hearing some people’s horror stories I think we were lucky - we could have been left with just a roomful of scrap metal.

Moving forward......

As we moved into new and bigger premises we were looking for new machines. Our three contenders this time were Bodyshaker, Vibrogym and Vibra-train. Bodyshaker and Vibrogym were both reliable but much much smaller than the Hypergravities which our customers were used to. I did in the end decide to lease Vibra-trains because they were big machines, capable of withstanding torrents of abuse and having a track record of heavy use. Ultimately though, I chose them because I have total trust in Lloyd and that quality of the work he puts out and so far we couldn’t be happier.

The customs etc were even more of a nightmare than before but eventually the machines arrived and they are amazing; we have seen better results with the Vibra-trains and all our customers are impressed by the increase in muscle fatigue/ muscle growth. They are much much more powerful than anything I’ve tried but also have a much smoother feel. They are tougher yet at the same time more comfortable. Most importantly I can feel assured that they won’t break down but will in fact get quieter and stronger as they age. They are also designed to fit the programme like a glove and studio use which makes life so much easier. The machines structure helps people get into and hold correct positions and the delay timer means the trainer doesn’t have to run about like headless chicken pressing buttons but can concentrate on checking and adjusting positioning.

How important is the programme.....

This leads me onto the third piece of crucial advice I would give. I cannot imagine running a good, safe, effective and efficient studio without following Vibra-train’s Safety Programme and the more I do it the more I see just how well it works. The positions ensure that clients leave the studio better that when they came – no bad backs, hips or knees. Our clients have a really hard time remembering the correct position for these limited number of positions – if more were added there is no way they would be able to remember them. Our customers like knowing what they are going to be doing and are feel confident that we are keeping them safe. The programme ensures that people do get through in the time allotted so there is not a worry about pushing them out when there time is up. The only time we have toyed with the programme (getting people to sit back into the wide stance squats thinking it would activate more muscles at the back of the leg) we began to hear comments about knee pain. The programme is there for a reason; it’s tried and tested - it works whilst keeping your customers safe and lawsuits off your back.

So to summarise…

The 3 Biggies
  1. Research your machines and check they are capable of being hammered day in day out.
  2. Ensure you have back up – IVTRB membership if possible
  3. Get good training in the Safety Programme and stick to it.

And some other bits to think about…

  • Find a good electrician who that will come out eve/ weekends and squeeze you in. Use any means to win them over! Our electrician was at times a lifesaver – I owe him my mental health. Thank you Dick!
  • If importing machines you will have to pay duties. In the UK you will need to pay 15% VAT and customs duties (value of machines and freight charge) and this includes lease machines. You will need to get a Pseudo turn number in advance so your machines can clear customs. (We were not aware of all this and got some horrid shocks!)
  • Be aware if you buy/lease a good steel machine just how heavy they are. Our Vibra-trains took 5 men to lift and probably could have done with one or two more- so make sure you have organized man-power.
  • Get a small back up machine if you can
  • Set your rules out and stick to them – e.g. customers can’t bring children with them, cancellations policy etc.
  • Follow the Safety Programme and be vigilant about making sure people don’t deviate from it.
  • Beware of too many bells and whistles on machines – there is more to go wrong and more to confuse the customers!
  • Delay timers will bring you serenity and calm.
  • Look for machines with variable time setting – 1-3 minutes (ideally with 15 second increments). Lots of machines only run for a minute which is a real pain in a studio setting.
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