Fitness Frenzy – the Rise of Smartfit with Edgard Corona
Growing a chain business in Brazil requires a lot of grit, planning, and enough drive to compete against the plethora of small independent gyms in the neighborhood. Starting his Bio Ritmo fitness brand in 1996, entrepreneur Edgard Corona has all the qualities of a salesman and innovator while also being so bold his rivals refer to the man simply as “Madness”. Initially trained as a chemical engineer employed in the family business, change in management found the 40-year-old Edgard Corona looking for employment and through his group of friends set up the first gym. Initially, the plan hit snags as space and trainer availability caused customer service issues. Eventually, Edgard had to sell off a few of his real estate holdings to keep Smartfit open through 2007.
Today, the 265 gyms networked around Latin America show Edgard Corona’s trademark business model of offering low-cost training through digital means and being hot on any available commercial spaces that appear on the market ripe for development. The now 60-year-old founder’s “warlike” expansion strategy has been so efficient its spread past Brazil and into more of Central America as locations open in Mexico, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.
The brand has seen skyrocketing success with over 30 percent growth in the last few years with serious buy-in from investor group Patria and minority partners like the Sovereign Fund of Singapore that saw the growing popularity in Bio Ritmo. With such popularity, it was soon standard to see gyms pop up modeled after Edgard’s layout. The popular chain Just Fit started when a former executive of Smartfit, Marco Lara, left in 2012 after disagreeing with company practices.
All this success is not stopping Edgard from adapting to his customer base. Early 2017, when the Health Ministry noted a sharp decline in adults going to the gym, developing a line of food and clothing products to sell as his gyms see over a third of the regular crowd staying home.
When not running his business, Edgard Corona enjoys a simple life in an apartment in Jardins with his partner and twins while enjoying time in Campinas on weekends. With SmartFit still growing, the man wants to reach peak success and see his favorite soccer team in the upcoming championship.