Edgard Corona’s journey from a budding engineer to the visionary founder of Smart Fit is nothing short of remarkable. His relentless pursuit of innovation and commitment to democratizing fitness have transformed the fitness industry across Latin America. In 1996, Corona took the first step towards his fitness empire by establishing the first Bio Ritmo gym in Santo Amaro, São Paulo, with limited knowledge of the fitness industry. Little did he know that this modest beginning would lay the foundation for a fitness revolution that would change the lives of millions.
Although Corona initially pursued a degree in Chemical Engineering at FAAP, life took an unexpected turn when he faced challenges in his family’s sugar and alcohol mill. This pivotal moment prompted him to follow his passion for swimming and establish a swimming academy. Over time, the academy evolved, providing a glimpse of the grand vision that was yet to unfold.
The game-changing moment came in 2009 when Edgard Corona launched Smart Fit—a “low-cost” fitness concept that would redefine fitness accessibility and affordability. This revolutionary approach quickly gained traction, propelling Smart Fit to become the largest gym network in Latin America, boasting over 360 branches. BM&C’s in-depth analysis of Edgard Corona’s journey to becoming one of the newest Brazilian billionaires after the IPO sheds light on key factors that contributed to Smart Fit’s phenomenal success.
A Journey in the Industry:
Edgard Corona’s path to success was marked by challenges and unwavering determination. Inheriting a struggling sugar cane mill in the mid-1990s, he displayed remarkable business acumen and turned it into the 13th largest producer in Brazil. However, a shareholder dispute forced him to part ways with the company, marking the end of his career in the sugar mill industry. Unfazed by setbacks, Corona shifted his focus to the swimming academy—an area that aligned with his passion for swimming. Drawing inspiration from business experts, he introduced swimming pools and circuit training spaces to the academy’s offerings, making it a more comprehensive fitness center. During a trip to the United States, he encountered a consultant who introduced him to the concept of “metanoia”—a management approach that emphasizes employee participation and involvement in decision-making.
Eager to innovate and improve his business, Corona embraced the idea of metanoia and implemented it within his fitness centers. This participatory leadership style not only fostered a positive work environment but also led to better customer experiences and improved business outcomes. Absorbing insights from the fitness industry in the US, Corona recognized the potential for democratizing fitness in Brazil. This realization laid the foundation for the innovative “low-cost” model of Smart Fit. The gym chain standardized facilities, employed motivational lighting, and offered affordable pricing, making fitness accessible to a diverse demographic.
Fortune Surges in IPO Debut:
Smart Fit’s IPO debut on the B3 was nothing short of spectacular. The company’s shares (SMFT3) surged by 34.78%, closing at R$ 31.00 per share. The IPO raised an impressive R$ 2.3 billion, catapulting Edgard Corona’s fortune to an estimated R$ 1.6 billion, according to Forbes. The IPO’s resounding success is a testament to the confidence investors have in Corona’s vision and Smart Fit’s potential for further growth. The funds raised will be strategically utilized to expand Smart Fit’s footprint across Latin America, empowering more individuals to embrace a healthier lifestyle.