Smart people look for solutions to their problems. Visionaries, however, go create them. Take Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, founders and CEOs of SoulCycle, the truly addictive workout that needs no introduction to a certain set of New York spinaholics. Slots for the 45-minute classes — during which riders burn between 400 to 550 calories (or more!), and cycling is treated more like an immersive hobby than a tiring sport — are as coveted as beachfront property. In just a handful of years, it's evolved from a rootless idea to a minor health craze to a full-fledged, ingrained part of city culture, bringing in millions of dollars of revenue a year.
This venture, however, took a while to get out of first gear. Basically, it all started when the CEO tag team joined forces after repeated, fruitless searches for cardio classes that were actually, you know, fun. “We were both consumed with finding a fitness solution we could love and find joyful,” they say. “Nothing felt right, so we created SoulCycle for ourselves in the hope that other people would like it, too.” This meant renting a space on the Upper West Side with no exterior signage — so that when someone actually found them, they were treated like gold.
As additional locations sprout up in Beverly Hills and San Francisco this fall, SoulCycle is a bonafide, bicoastal hit, complete with daily celebrity sightings (Lena Dunham, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chelsea Clinton, Katie Holmes, et al). But the real genius of the alterna-gym movement comes from what fans call a “cult-like community”— and a healthy dash of genius branding. (It’s not unusual to spot Soul gear during a weekend stroll.) Here the founders speed us through their success story.
Snooze Alarm Begone
Rice: “There was a hole in the marketplace, especially for the female consumer, for a fitness experience that was joyful, efficient, and provided community. Indoor cycling could be inspiring. We both believed you could incorporate upper-body and core workout into the routine...And, we believed, with some great branding, a beautiful environment, and outstanding customer service, the 45-minute class could be transformed into a special experience each time. Bottom line, exercise can and should be fun! Not a chore."
Live Free, Ride Hard
Cutler: “In the beginning, we tried so hard to get each rider through the door. We worked twice as hard to retain each rider that actually gave us a try. There is nothing we wouldn’t do to make our customers happy. Today that same thoughtfulness goes into every rider that walks through our doors — we continue to earn every ride, every day. Each rider feels important and connected to the brand as a result of the Soul culture and dedication to customer service. That has never changed.”
Rice: “Some of our favorite brands to look for inspiration are J.Crew, Virgin, Net-A-Porter, Baked by Melissa, MoMA, and Zappos for customer service.”
Cutler: “We are the users. We know what we like; we know what we don’t. We know what works and what doesn’t and can make decisions based on these findings. If you are the consumer, you can make the best decisions for your brand.”
Rice: “As a small-business owner, you have to LOVE what you do, because you are going to be working harder, longer, and more hours than you have ever worked before.”
Cutler: “We are creating a workplace that feels like a family where people have each other’s backs — where you are rewarded for being a team player. We wanted to create a culture where we would want our daughters to work and spend a lot of time and resources on developing our teams. We want everyone to grow with the company. Our future is all about bringing Soul to the people. It is what we do.”
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