Fitness opportunities and financial opportunities are coming together in Latin America, where there’s been a boom in people wanting to be in better shape.
This growing demand from the population for fitness services and fitness products over the last decade has led to a larger number of fitness companies providing classes, neighborhood gyms and fitness studios, and other opportunities to help people look better and feel better.
In Brazil, for instance, more than 8 million memberships have been established at various fitness centers. One of the more prominent fitness companies involved in this effort is Smart Fit Escola de Ginastica e Danca (SMFT3), a public company that now has a presence in 160 cities in all of Brazil’s 27 states.
At the end of 2022, Smart Fit had 3.2 million active members in 1,121 gyms and a presence in 160 cities in 14 countries. It’s the largest fitness company in Brazil, and it also has a growing presence in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and others. It’s also considered the fifth-largest fitness company globally.
More than 365,000 SmartFit members are now subscribed to its exclusive work-out program, Quemia Diara, as well as its nutritional app Nutri.
Smart Fit is backed by Patria Investments, a local private equity firm that’s part of Blackstone, as well as GIC, a sovereign wealth fund based in Singapore. This equity has helped it expand into these countries, whether creating a new presence or purchasing existing companies, such as when it acquired Inversiones O Dos, a gym group based in Chile in 2018.
Smart Fit was founded by Edgard Corona, who brought more than 30 years of experience in the fitness industry, as well as experience in other business ventures, including working in retail and science and at his family’s sugar mill.
Edgard Corona said recovery from a skiing accident, which included physical therapy, made him look more closely at the fitness industry, particularly opportunities for individuals to design their own fitness plan and customize their own exercise routines.
His research in the mid-1990s came at a perfect time, when many residents in Brazil avoided gyms, thinking they were places where you only went if you needed help, rather than putting in the time and training to get good results. He visited gyms around the world, including the Planet Fitness chain in the U.S., to look at offerings as well as subscription models.
Edgard Corona and his son Diogo Corona, the COO, advocate the “HVLP” approach, which is short for High Value Low Price. They began offering traditional individual and group exercise programs.
After seeing higher and higher revenue, including $197.1 million in 2016 and profit of $61.4 million in 2016, it went public on the Brazil stock exchange in 2021. The initial public offering raised more than R$2.3 billion.
Smart Fit focuses on growth as well as innovation. The company is constantly looking for new services to add to its gyms and fitness centers. Today, members can try everything from Smart Box boxing/fitness program to Shape courses to dance to High Intensity Interval training.
Although it was impacted by the COVID pandemic, the numbers are once again climbing.