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USA Ninja Challenge Takes the Gold, Partnering With U.S. Olympics as It Expands With Franchisees Nationwide

The number one kid’s Ninja franchise is stepping into a global spotlight, raising awareness about the sport as it continues to grow with some of the fastest ROIs and highest EBITDAs in the industry.

By Morgan Wood1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSORED 12:12PM 07/12/24

Ninja, as a sport, is reaching new heights, and franchisees have a chance to get in on the action. The obstacle-focused sport, which includes swinging, climbing, jumping, balancing and other agility moves, has been a household favorite for decades thanks to programs like “American Ninja Warrior,” but now, excitement for the sport is even clearer with Ninja set to appear in the 2028 Summer Olympics as an official event. USA Ninja Challenge, the only Ninja franchise partnering with the Olympics, is looking forward to explosive growth as it steps onto a global stage. 

With 28 Ninja gyms open across the U.S. and more set to open in 2024, USA Ninja Challenge is establishing itself with kids and families nationwide. In addition to the daily presence it has in local markets, the franchise has built an impressive platform through its partnerships and give-back efforts, positioning itself as a clear leader in the industry.

“Since Ninja is now becoming an Olympic sport, we’ve partnered with the U.S. Olympics to do a fundraiser, and our top athletes will get to go train with Olympic coaches at the Olympic Training Center this summer,” said Richard Knight, founder and CEO. “They see us as the number one player in the Ninja industry, and they’re trying to get the word about Ninja out even more, so the partnership was a natural fit. This is a key opportunity to bring our sport and our brand to global attention, and we’re excited about the growth that will accompany that exposure.”

When USA Ninja Challenge was formed 11 years ago, awareness of Ninja was relatively contained. At a business networking meeting, one of Knight’s friends showed him a video of children working through a homemade obstacle course, and that sparked the idea for the business.

“That started the discussion about whether this could be a business,” he said. “About six months later, we founded our first gym in Manchester, New Hampshire. It has been a successful business ever since the early stages, and it still operates today.”

USA Ninja Challenge’s Low Risk, High Margins and Reliable Revenue Give the Business Longevity

Over time, Ninja-based competition shows became more common, and publications began to feature the sport more freely. With this, both consumers and entrepreneurs became more keen on the opportunity — a key driver of the brand’s sustained success. USA Ninja Challenge leverages its safe, structured model to increase access to Ninja courses, specifically catering to kids, bringing something entirely new to the marketplace.

“We’re really passionate about working with children; it’s all about helping kids overcome obstacles both mentally and physically, one at a time,” Knight said. “In addition to that passion, there are very practical reasons why we don’t offer courses for adults. It changes our business model significantly. Right now, because every obstacle and course is reviewed extensively, our liability risk and exposure are low. This is great for franchisees as it mitigates their risk, and it helps us stand out with parents.”

USA Ninja Challenge sources its obstacles and equipment from the best providers, and every item and training program is carefully reviewed in partnership with the insurance company before it reaches an operating gym. Franchisees can trust that they are offering only the best to their customers, and the kids and parents in attendance take note.

“Our USA Ninja Challenge franchise has been an excellent experience,” said Thomas Pielech, a franchise owner in Katy, Texas. “Parents like that we are a positive experience for their children. The professional design and installation of the Ninja equipment also provide parents the confidence to sign their children up for our classes. Parents and children’s jaws drop when they come in through the front door and see our facility.”

Families are excited to have a resource like USA Ninja Challenge, and the brand’s system-wide financial trends reflect that — which paints an attractive picture for the future. Brand novelty helps franchisees start strong, and with a membership-based model, franchisees can rely on steady, predictable revenue. 

Thanks to USA Ninja Challenge’s relatively low initial investment requirements — starting at just $321,200 according to its 2024 Franchise Disclosure Document — and the support franchisees receive from the community in the early days, many owners are able to go cash-flow positive within the first month — or even week — of operations. Many owners are able to fully recoup their initial investment within 18 to 24 months, and Knight said the model lends itself to profitability well above the 15% that is generally considered to be “good” in the franchise space.

“Our average unit volumes are anywhere from three to four hundred thousand dollars; our top gyms will do $500,000,” Knight said. “And we have super high EBITDA. Owner-operators can achieve 50–60% EBITDA, and semi-absentee owners, depending on how tight they run the business, can achieve 35–50%.”

Over a decade of experience and operational improvements are backing the USA Ninja Challenge name as it steps into its new global spotlight, and the opportunities are only getting better for entrepreneurs looking to join in on the fun.

USA Ninja Challenge Eyes Development Nationwide as Kid’s Fitness Market Is on Pace to Double in the Next 10 Years

“A lot of times, in the business space, you dive in with one goal: either to make money or to uphold a set of ideals,” said Joshua Faber, franchise development manager. “Our goal is to do both. We are passionate about ensuring that we are utilizing the experience of the franchisees to make the business model efficient, help owners go cash-flow positive quicker and build successful locations that can thrive for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. But we’re also passionate about making an impact on kids and giving them a space for full-body fitness.”

Faber explained that U.S. childhood obesity rates are higher than ever. The number of kids involved in traditional sports has decreased dramatically and children nationwide are missing out on the social, emotional and confidence-related benefits of physical activity.

“Fitness is about so much more than just being good at a sport,” he said. “It’s about discipline, physical fitness, problem-solving and teamwork.”

This need is clear and consistent across the country, and so is the opportunity with USA Ninja Challenge. Currently, the brand has about 40 units in development and is looking to award another 15-plus franchises before the end of the year, targeting expansion in California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas, Colorado and New England. By focusing development on hubs that are attracting families, USA Ninja Challenge is increasing brand awareness and supporting franchisees in launching businesses in markets with a preexisting customer base.

For this growth, the team is interested in partnering with entrepreneurs who are passionate about kids and already active in their communities.

“Some of our most successful franchisees are people who have been involved with their children in the community before they got into the business,” Knight said. “They have relationships with parent-teacher organizations or local youth organizations. These are some of the marketing keys we focus on at launch. We do fundraisers for those organizations, and that drives activity to our gyms. So if you’re already involved in the community and have built genuine relationships, that’s best.”

“I call it a business with a soul,” Faber said. “There’s a passion and desire to run a strong business and affect the world in a deep, positive way. That’s really what makes us unique.”

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