Health and wellness are core values for Delvin A. Burton, an educator and leadership coach, and his wife, Dr. Charlotte Jones-Burton, a physician and pharmaceutical executive. And while they were already considering starting a business in the fitness sector, it wasn’t until 2015, when they stepped into a cycling class on their 20th wedding anniversary cruise, that they discovered exactly what they wanted it to be.
BLACK ENTERPRISE caught up with the couple to find out what led to their ultimate decision to open a cycling franchise.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What drew you to indoor cycling, and how did you choose CycleBar as the right franchise for you?
Delvin: We were looking for a business that aligned with our values. We knew early on that whatever we would be involved in would be in the healthy food space or fitness. We had considered starting our own studio, but when we looked at all the details, intricacies, and nuances of starting your own brand, particularly in fitness, there was a lot involved. I knew I didn’t want to spend time developing a brand from scratch.
Charlotte: We’re both high-energy people, and when we took the indoor cycling class on the cruise, it was an amazing experience, and we wanted to re-create this for others. In starting to explore what was available in the cycling realm, CycleBar was really the only franchise at that time. With our busy lives and the fact that we didn’t have the “means” (aka generational wealth) to simply quit our jobs, fund a business and operate it full time, we knew a franchise was the best option. We knew a franchise would allow us to continue to work and fulfill our dream of business ownership because it comes with a business model, operating procedures, training, and ongoing support.
As we began to learn more about CycleBar, it was just a great fit with our values, as Delvin mentioned. Being a physician-scientist and having family members impacted by cardiovascular disease, I know a large part of this disease can be prevented or modified through exercise. At the time, CycleBar was a new franchise, but they had already built into the business model “cause marketing,” and that really resonated with us. It has a mission around building community both inside and outside of the studio. The combination of health and wellness and community made it the right fit, and we decided to invest.
BE: How are you managing two full-time jobs and business ownership?
Charlotte: That’s a good question. Initially, we started out with the vision of being part-time (semi-absentee) because we knew we would be keeping our full-time jobs. But we ended up working our main jobs full time and being in the studio full time. One of the learnings is that being “hands-off” is not really true. It’s a huge investment. We’ve had to shift our model. Delvin is working on the business 100% of the time, both in-studio when needed and behind the scenes. As my career has progressed, we’ve had to shift how we work. Delvin is now doing more independent consulting versus having a full-time job. We’ve had to flex and shift our model to meet the needs of our franchises over time.
BE: You recently opened a second CycleBar studio in North Carolina. How did you decide it was time to open another one and choose that location?
Delvin: As part of my coaching work, I had an engagement in the region and would fly through Raleigh-Durham on occasion. I always look for other CycleBar locations to get a workout in. I visited the location in that area, and it wasn’t performing well. I spoke with the owner, and he was looking to let that location go and focus his efforts elsewhere. We always knew we wanted to do more than one studio but doing it in New Jersey was cost-prohibitive in the near term. So, the idea of being able to acquire a new location that was already built out and running was very attractive. We recognized that resales were another way to grow. Whether you’re looking to get started or to expand, researching this option is worthwhile.
The second studio is a turn-around situation, but it’s in an area that is growing, so there is potential. I’ve realized that finding the right team of people to put in place is critical. When you’re absent, semi-absent, or remote, you really need to have a strong team that’s there, able to work together. You must leverage your skills to build and help your team function because it comes with all the challenges that any team in any industry would come with.
BE: Lastly, can you share your best pieces of advice for people considering business ownership, whether it be through franchising or an independent startup?
Charlotte: A few things have helped us stay in the game. Our financial discipline prior to purchasing the franchise also really helped us. When we made the decision to buy a franchise, we had financial health that afforded us the opportunity to become business owners. Another is developing a financial strategy for the business that was based on our assumptions. We did not simply believe the financial assumptions provided by the franchisor, which were “best-case” assumptions. We made sure to set aside more cash than they recommended, and that some of the numbers they built into the planning process, we divided in half when we were making our own assumptions.
Delvin: I would add that selecting the right business partner has also helped us. We made a conscious decision to partner as husband and wife. Early on in our marriage, we were able to do things that allowed us to see how our strengths and our growth areas worked in conjunction with each other. Charlotte is a visionary, and I can take those visions and ideas and create a plan to execute around that. Whether you’re in partnership with your life partner or with other individuals, understanding each person’s strengths and growth areas and how they match up avoids the problem of having only one part covered of what it takes to run a successful business. You want to have a well-rounded team. We are, and that has served us well!