Small Start, Big Business – Fitness Management March 2008

Story by Meredith Nelson / March 3, 2009

Small Start, Big Success

By Anne B. McDonnell

March 2008

PrimeTime Fitness offers memberships and training programs in an intimate setting right on the beach.

PrimeTime Fitness is located in a turn-of-the-century beach house, and has the feel of a home, according to Owner/Trainer Meredith Nelson. Located on Sullivan’s Island, S.C. (recently named one of the most expensive zip codes in the U.S.), it is surrounded by sand and the ocean. “Its intimate size helps the staff of myself and three other trainers meet the needs of each one of our clients, from children and teens to older adults and people with disabilities,” says Nelson.PrimeTime is a key-access facility that allows members to work out anytime between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. It offers monthly memberships with no contracts or initiation fees, and provides personal training services for individuals, partners and small groups. “One of our most popular programs is our General Admission Group program, which is a set schedule of group workouts offered seven times a week,” says Nelson.

Another popular program is Outdoor Boot Camp, which takes place every year during the month of May. The classes are held daily for the entire month to get clients ready to hit the beach. Says Nelson, “Boot Camp was so popular last year that members wanted to continue their intense workouts beyond the one month. So, we created Survival School, a three-times-per-week outdoor class.” Boot Camp, Survival School, General Admission Groups and PrimeTime Spin (indoor cycling) are all profit centers for the facility.

Programs are determined based on demand and suggestions from clients. “Sometimes it’s the programs that we give little thought and preparation to that take off like mad,” says Nelson. For example, PrimeTime recently held a Jacob’s Ladder Challenge, which was created by the Jacob’s Ladder company. Members recorded their feet climbed during each session, and the trainers logged it onto the Jacob’s Ladder website. “We put no effort into this promotion — we simply described it in an email and on flyers posted in the club — and members clamored to get onto the Ladder,” Nelson says. “Had we known this challenge would have been so popular, we probably would have charged members to participate,” she says.


Sullivan’s Island, S.C.
843 883-0101;

Date facility opened: July 2000
Facility size: 2,500 square feet
Number of members: 75 monthly members, and about 50 private clients and group exercise members
Group exercise classes: Boot Camp, group cycling, Senior Fitness, yoga
Unique elements: Teams up with City Running Tours to provide guided runs through Charleston (

Since the facility has limited space, Nelson gives great thought to any major purchase. “Equipment has to be multi-purpose: It must be able to be used for more than one thing, in most cases,” she says. “I carefully plan the layout and placement of equipment, and use graph paper with little cutouts of the footprints of large pieces to determine the best arrangement.”

To promote the facility’s equipment and programs, a monthly e-newsletter is emailed to members. It features a spotlight on a client/member, and provides information on community events and happenings at the fitness center.

Community and facility events include charity work. Every year, PrimeTime gives three $500 scholarships to area college students. They are awarded based on an application that includes an essay on how they intend to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle through the challenges of college.

Another outreach program is a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club. Last year, PrimeTime trainers held a Push-Up Challenge. Clients and members pledged money for each push-up that was completed in 45 minutes. Together, the trainers raised almost $10,000.

The success of PrimeTime Fitness “is due to my hesitancy to start out too big,” says Nelson. PrimeTime began as an 800-square-foot personal training studio. As the demand for services grew, so did the building. After two additions, the facility is now about 2,500 square feet. Says Nelson, “I approached PrimeTime with an attitude of ‘give them a little, and when they want more, meet the demand.'”