Meet the man behind the most-Instagrammed locker room in the world
If you’ve been fortunate enough to step into one of the hundreds of thousands of boutique fitness studios in the country, chances are one of two things happened when you left the locker room — you either realized you didn’t even think about the locker room at all while you were inside or you were so baffled by the technology and design of the lockers that it almost outweighed your fitness experience itself (at risk of being overdramatic, you get the point.)
In either case, you were most likely in the presence of Hollman Inc. lockers.
"When is good enough truly good enough? We say never," reads the Hollman Inc. website. And after talking to CEO and founder Travis Hollman, it’s clear to see that this mentality starts from the top and trickles down into everything that employees do — and melts into products that clients have come to love and can expect:
"Our goal is to create the best product that we can create. Period," Hollman tells us with a smile.
With over 6 million lockers created an an estimated $72 million in revenue from this year alone, Hollman’s clients include boutique fitness classes and health clubs (Barry’s Bootcamp, Equinox and SoulCycle, which happens to be the most Instagrammed locker room in the world), major corporations and offices (Google, Amazon, Goldman Sachs), top-tier college sporting programs (Notre Dame Football, Ohio State University Football) and professional sports teams across all leagues including the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL -- just to name a few.
Hollman, Inc. was founded back in 1976 by Hollman’s father in a rather organic yet unpredicted way:
“My dad started building racquet ball courts which were a big deal back then … there were no athletic clubs, there were just tennis clubs, golf clubs and when racquet ball came in, they started building these clubs with like 20 or 30 courts and that was the whole club.”
It was thanks to the rise of jazzercise that the modern day athletic club and concept of fitness classes began, with classes taking place on and inside the areas that were previously solely for racquet ball and squash.
The trajectory of Hollman Inc. was anything but straight, unfiltered growth:
“In 1986, My dad got into the locker room business down in Oklahoma. His brother was running a plant, they had a big falling out and my dad ended up opening another plant and took the business and his brother ended up in the locker business also. My dad moved to Oklahoma and started making lockers down there, [along with] racquet ball courts and squash courts, and then in the early ‘90s he moved to Texas. I joined the company in 1995, ran the company from 1995 to 2001 (as my dad was overseas)."
Hollman was only 26 when he took charge of his father’s company, but was swiftly let go about 6 years later ("We didn’t see eye to eye"), making his return to Hollman Inc. in 2011 when his father moved back overseas — what Hollman found was the company in complete disarray:
“I got a call from the people who worked there who said "the company’s not in good shape" so I came back. We were about 35 employees with about $6 million in revenue … we just started moving from there. I hired the girl who worked for me in the ‘90s, and her and I walked in and started picking up the phones and wondering why the phones weren’t ringing. I came to [New York] and met with people like SoulCycle, Equinox, NYSC and New York Athletic Club … we just started calling all of our old architects and everything else and rebuilt the company.”
But it was much more than simply sitting at desks making dials. Hollman and his partner drove a car from Texas all around the United States visiting businesses and knocking on doors in an effort to regain old clients, sign new ones and assert Hollman Inc. as a force to be reckoned with in the locker industry.
The result of his efforts? Safe to say they speak for themselves:
“This year will be about $70 million in business, our market share for locker-only companies is over 70 percent in the U.S. and we’re also the biggest locker supplier to the Middle East, one of the biggest locker suppliers in Australia and the biggest locker suppliers in the world.”
Hollman’s sheer drive to go above and beyond to make his company the best it could possibly be at the beginning has essentially become the foundation of the way the company operates today— no locker will be deemed complete unless it is the most innovative, functional and unique locker that can possibly be created.
A big part of this comes in the features that a Hollman locker offers. It goes beyond high-tech add-ons like in-unit charging stations, LED lighting and facial scanners (though it’s not uncommon to find all of those in one of the company’s lockers.)
One big proponent of Hollman lockers? Making sure clients’ mental and physical health are being accounted for, using whatever materials and features possible to ensure that that happens:
“We’re literally out scouring the world —we’re going to Europe in three weeks to go to a show — we go to shows all over the world to look for new materials. The thing that’s interesting right now with millennials coming up and the materials that are coming out for locker rooms are called ‘soft touch’ [materials] … they feel velvety and there’s this call for the millennials to have very textured things because they’re not getting as much human contact and they’re on their phones so much that their sensors are going down … a lot of the surfaces now [look like ] wood, they look like they’ve just been cut out of a forest and that’s real popular right now because people can touch ad feel them and it brings them back to nature. The lockers are all this soft material so that it feels good to the touch … everything is also antimicrobial. Even the finish we use on our wood has to have a certain coating process to do it (which costs about $10 million.) You can’t get infections anymore — all of these workspace lockers are coming out where people are touching stuff all day long.”
Imagine being a professional athlete or engineer at Google or finishing your second SoulCycle class of the day — knowing that going and touching your locker to gather your belongings will be a germ-free, pleasant experience is something that can make all the difference in your mood, whether that’s conscious or subconscious:
“We do all of our design based on building a better product, building a healthier product … we’ve got USB ports, LED lights, companies will now do dry-erase boards so [employees] are putting pictures up … [many professionals] don’t have a desk anymore, what happens with [their locker] is that it become the only spot in the company or the space thats theirs. So if you want to keep pictures of your kids, your bike helmet, your purse, it has to be in this locker. Charging stations are included, lighting inside, security is important. The sides, shelving, backspace and all the planning for it. And you want to keep it so that [clients] aren’t getting sick by touching [the lockers], that there aren’t fingerprints everywhere."
Soft hinges, uniform design and custom color palettes are also to be expected from a Hollman locker room.
Out of all the projects Hollman and his team have had the opportunity to work on, perhaps none has been more coveted than that of re-designing the lockers for the new Apple HQ in Cupertino:
"Everyone in the world was bidding on this job … we walked in and I said ‘Hey, we’ll bid on it, but I want a meeting’ … so we go into the meeting ... [Apple] tells us 'We want your job, we're going to work together.’"
[Apple] tells us 'When Steve Jobs designed this place, he designed two things — one was the glass enclosure around the whole building and the other were these lockers that he hand drew. They give us the contract — we had a standing meeting every Wednesday for two years, for one locker — it was that detailed. We had to re-engineer the entire lock that went through he face, we had to make special hinges out of this special material to match the other material, it was the craziest thing.
But if you look at the lockers enough, and you open them up, there’s just something about them. And it’s because every screw, everything detail, everything in there is exactly the same material all done to perfection and installed to perfection. Every color was hand made — even the white, it was called ‘Apple White.’"
But to Hollman there isn't any other way to be, and when asked about the future of the industry and the company's upcoming projects, Hollman alludes that "the locker business has exploded — there’s a lot of cool stuff happening."
When it comes to Hollman's work, we'd say "cool" is quite the understatement.