SoulCycle Founders’ Secret to Success: Face Your Fears

When SoulCycle opened its doors in 2006, offering cycling enthusiasts an intense all-in-one cardio experience, its founders say they hoped for 75 riders per day. Co-founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler said their goal was to offer something different from the typical work-out gyms in New York City.

Fast forward to 2013, and Cutler and Rice indeed brought in their hoped for 75 riders per day, and then some. The indoor cycling studio today has 14 locations in New York City and Los Angeles, and plans to open 17 new locations in the year to come, creating 550 new jobs. More than 4,000 club members “SoulCycle” each day, according to the studio.

“We wanted something that would inspire and give you a bit of a mental break,” Rice said. “We had to reinvent the group fitness experience, because people were used to the all-in-one fitness model, so when I would answer the phone at the studio, people would say ‘Why would I pay for an indoor cycling class?’”

The best way to convince them was word-of-mouth, Rice said. The original studio they opened on 72nd Street in Manhattan had a back-door entrance, making it more difficult to be found.

“We had to hit the streets and do a real guerilla marketing effort,” she said. “We stood on street corners and handed out schedule cards, went door-to-door and had to tell all of our friends.”

Now, the founders say, that task has been streamlined thanks to Twitter and Facebook, which the business relies on heavily for marketing.

The planned 550 to be hired will break down to about 40 employees per location, Cutler said. The company offers health insurance to its full-time workers, about 25 per studio, and Rice said they don’t have plans to change under ObamaCare in 2014.

“Elizabeth and I set out to do that in the beginning, and offer health insurance, which was not the industry standard,” she said.

Rice said no matter what field you hope to open a business in, never be intimidated by your own ideas, but instead jump right in.

“Ideas don’t have to start out so big,” Rice said. “I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, you have this idea and spend so much time thinking about it, that it somehow becomes overwhelming to actually go ahead and start it.”

For Rice, customer service and the Soul brand will always be her top priorities. She still not only uses her product, taking up to five classes a week, but also works at one of the New York studios weekly.

“I make sure that every week I get out of the office and still work behind the desk at our studios,” Cutler said. “Because there is no doubt, that if one person is in the lobby complaining that the towels aren’t soft enough, or they didn’t like the class that day, there are 40 other people that thought that… Every rider that comes in is so important, because we remember how much we had to fight for them in the beginning.”