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Ohm Fitness Attracts Developers as It Rolls Out EMS Training Franchise

Jun 10, 2023

Senior editor of Franchise Times

Ohm Fitness customers work out in wireless bodysuits that deliver electrical muscle stimulation.

The new area developer for Ohm Fitness in San Diego, Danielle Conklin, is no stranger to running concepts associated with Massage Envy alums. "I started with Massage Envy when it was an extremely new concept," in 2006, recalls Conklin. She left corporate America to help her father, "who really had no idea what franchising would entail."

They sold out the area and built their own holdings to seven studios before selling them in 2013. Next came European Wax Center, built on the same membership model and with some of the same people as Massage Envy. Amazing Lash Studio was next for Conklin, in 2015, which attracted many Massage Envy franchisees.

"Ever since I’ve been in franchising, I ebb and I flow. I expand and contract," said Conklin, an "avid fitness junkie" who probably runs "100 to 200 miles a month. Running is my clarity."

Now she has signed with Ohm Fitness, whose CEO, Doug Payne, was associated with Orangetheory Fitness, European Wax Center and Massage Envy. Customers of Ohm Fitness wear skin-tight body suits that deliver electrical muscle stimulation or EMS. They say they enjoy the benefits of a two-plus-hour workout in a half-hour.

"When I first heard of the concept, I was skeptical," said Payne, who saw an early version a couple of years ago. "The first look I had was of old-fashioned suits with the wiring harness and the buckles and the undergarment that needed to be wet in order for you to have a positive experience. I didn't see that as scaling and something that Americans could get behind."

His research turned up the idea of a wireless suit. "I built this program around this idea of a futuristic, tech-centric fitness experience that shatters the way we think about traditional fitness. We’re condensing it into a 25-minute package. We’re giving back time to our guests."

An electronics engineer by background, Ohm Fitness CEO Doug Payne envisioned a "futuristic, techno-centric fitness experience."

Ohm Fitness's EMPower suit sells for $299 and "looks like a wetsuit, but it's breathable," Payne said. "Sewn into the suit are 30 pads, and the pads communicate directly to the muscle through the skin, and they deliver pulses that cause your muscles to flex during your 25-minute workout."

Conklin said she was sold the first time she tried it, in Ohm's first studio in Scottsdale, Arizona. "You’re never sore the next day, but two days later I sneezed and I wanted to cry. And then I started laughing because I wanted to cry after I sneezed, and it hurt just as much," she said, but it's the type of hurt hard-core fitness enthusiasts love.

"People are so busy today. Do I see them doing a 25-minute EMS workout? Absolutely. And you will feel it. We were high-fiving each other. The music is bumping," she said.

Ohm Fitness's first area development agreement, for Arizona, went to two women new to the role. Alexis Krisay and Melissa DiGianfilippo are co-founders of marketing and PR agency Serendipit Consulting; they were hired to develop and run marketing for Ohm Fitness but then decided to jump in as franchisees.

They will sell franchise licenses to open up to 35 locations in the state over the next three years, and plan to open at least three themselves.

Their PR agency has many franchise clients, so "we’ve seen the secret sauce of what works," said DiGianfilippo. "It's a blend of the founder, the experience of the founder, and the concept. This is so different. When we talked to Doug to market this brand, when we dove in, my first words were, this is going to be bigger than Orangetheory." Founded in 2010, Orangetheory Fitness famously has more than 1,300 studios.

The women will continue to run their agency as well as serve as area developers for Ohm Fitness. Memberships at Ohm run from $90 per month for four classes; $250 per month for 12 classes and $360 per month for 20 classes. Cost of investment for an Ohm Fitness franchise ranges from $225,000 to the high $300,000s, Payne said.

Other franchises are in the EMS game, including Upgrade Labs, offering individual EMS treatments primarily to promote healing via a cuff wrapped around the injured area. Pulse Performance, founded in 2021 by JD Busch, offers EMS via personal training sessions, in which people wear full suits and harnesses to receive the stimulation.

An electronics engineer by background, first with the U.S. Navy and then with Boeing, Payne had a geeky answer when asked what "ohm" means in Ohm Fitness. "Ohm is the measure of resistance in an electrical circuit. And the person who came up with that is Georg Simon Ohm. We pay an homage to him."

Senior editor of Franchise Times

Well-versed in legal and public policy issues, Beth is quick to dissect a lawsuit or court ruling, and her M&A expertise yields fascinating content for FT's Dealmakers program.