Founder Shares His Journey to Adaptive Fitness Brand Franchise, Special Strong | Franchise News

Daniel Stein was diagnosed with a learning disability when he was 4 years old. Wanting to help, Stein’s parents got him involved in sports, thinking a physical outlet might alleviate some of his hyperactivity issues.

In Stein’s experiment, there was a “clear correlation” between playing sports and improving behavior. He cycled to the local YMCA every day and started lifting weights in college. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I loved it,” he recalls.

Fast forward to November 11, 2011, a momentous day for Stein. At the time, he was working as a personal banker. One of his mentors sat him down and said, “He had a vision for my life that came from God. He saw me working with disabled children and adults,” Stein said. “I really took this to heart and something jumped inside me. Even though it didn’t make sense to me, I went after it.

Stein became a certified personal trainer in 2012 at a local gym and had the opportunity to work with a paraplegic client who had a drug overdose at age 21 and had to use a wheelchair. With this rewarding experience, Stein knew he wanted to make it a full-time career, so he and his wife started an adaptive fitness studio, Special Strong.

“We left it all behind, put all of our savings and investments into starting this business in McKinney, Texas, and it’s grown steadily ever since,” he said. “There was such a need for it.”

The concept uses traditional strength and resistance training with specialized equipment tailored to the unique needs of clients. Specific brain-targeted exercises work on both sides of the brain, such as up and down movements that help with emotional grounding and regulation and “crossing the midline,” which helps improve mental health. balance and coordination and the ability to multitask.

The decision to launch the concept franchise came after Stein released a video in 2019 of one of his clients, Brandon, who is shown walking independently for the first time in eight years after working with him. Special Strong for three months. The video garnered about 10 million views collectively and was picked up by multiple news outlets, Stein said, prompting a flurry of messages from people around the world asking Stein where they could find a similar service where they were living.

“I started copying and pasting my response, which was ‘sorry, we’re not in that area, and I don’t know anyone who is,'” Stein explained. tell so many people, so our leadership team took a step back and said, how do we scale this business? Obviously there is a need, but how can we evolve? »

After rejecting the idea of ​​a strictly corporate expansion due to limited capital, Special Strong filed its franchise disclosure document in 2020 and grew to open six franchises in Texas, including three in Houston and three in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Sites in Arizona and New Jersey are also under development.






Special Strong uses traditional strength and resistance training with specialized equipment tailored to the unique needs of clients.


The biggest challenge was Stein’s lack of experience and knowledge in running a business, as well as the lack of working capital, which led to the maximum use of credit cards.

“Those were really big weaknesses for me, I didn’t even know I had until a few years in the business, and we were flowing badly,” Stein said. “We couldn’t figure out why we were sinking because we had good income, but it never looked like we had any money. We didn’t know our numbers. The first time I consulted an income statement was three or four years after the start of our activity. »

Stein joined a five-year business training program and hired an in-house accountant, which helped start turning things around, especially after creating budgets and measuring key performance indicators.

Attracting ‘zees without any advertising budget

Another challenge for Special Strong was filing an FDD and launching a franchise early in the pandemic, Stein said. A Paycheck Protection Program loan helped sustain the brand, which saw leads come in organically through LinkedIn.

“We haven’t paid a single dollar in advertising costs for our six franchisees,” Stein said. “I post a lot on LinkedIn, people see our videos and see us working with clients, and for a lot of people it really touches them; how can i do something like this?

If potential franchisees don’t have a compelling story about why they want to work with people with special needs, Special Strong doesn’t take the next steps with them, Stein said. And while many franchises use ROI metrics to attract operators, Special Strong finds it “unattractive” if applicants “aggressively ask about ROI.”







*1000px special strong adaptive fitness (2) copy.jpg

Daniel Stein, left, became a certified personal trainer in 2012 at a local gym and had the opportunity to work with a paraplegic client. With this rewarding experience, Stein knew he wanted to make it a full-time career.


Instead, Special Strong focuses on finding people who share company values, such as putting people before profit. A financially qualified candidate from New Jersey said “all the right things” on the phone and on Zoom, but when he came for discovery day in person and was exposed to working with clients with special needs, he says the R-word about eight times, Stein said. An official flag like this warrants an immediate no, even if that person is willing to sign the check, he said.

“Our entire management team is present during the discovery day. As a franchisor and CEO, I don’t have the final say in terms of yes or no to a person; we need to have a mutual agreement within our leadership team,” Stein said. “We always tell our prospects – and we don’t say this to scare them away but to let them know how seriously we take verification – that strategically we only go ahead with about 1% of applicants.”

“We leave a lot of money on the table, but at the end of the day we have the right people on the bus.”

The total upfront cost of a Special Strong franchise ranges from $59,000 to $70,700, a lower investment because franchisees rent existing gyms or train customers at home. Starting next year in the first quarter, Special Strong plans to open its first physical business location and add it as a franchise model option.

Comments are closed.