Almost ten years ago, Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler met at an arranged lunch and immediately connected over a common vision to create a luxury cycling studio. They joke that it was the best blind date they ever went on.
Fast forward five months and they opened their first SoulCycle location.
“There is really something about putting people in the dark, letting their endorphins flow, playing loud music — we call it the perfect storm,” Rice tells The New York Times.
Today there are almost 50 SoulCycle locations across the US, and the boutique fitness chain boasts a cult-following of Joe-schmos and celebrities alike, making it the most popular luxurious cycling brand in America.
“It becomes a tribal experience,” Cutler tells The New York Times. “There is something you can tap into in that room: euphoria — that’s what we’re really selling.”
And people are buying like crazy. Charging $34 a class, the company brought in a total revenue of $112 million last year, up 76% from its $36.2 million total revenue in 2012, according to the company’s IPO filing with the SEC.
So how do they do it? Rice and Cutler recently shared a few tricks with The New York Times:
Don’t emulate other fitness brands.
“When we started the business, we always referred to it as a luxury brand,” Rice says.
Instead of looking other fitness companies to emulate, she says she and Cutler thought about businesses like Apple.
Treat instructors like valued employees.
“One thing that we recognised early on was that it seemed crazy that fitness instructors, of all people, didn’t have health benefits and couldn’t make a living in one place,” Rice says.
“And so what we really understood was that, if we could create a home for fitness instructors with full benefits and paid vacations, that people could be not only instructors here, but they could be ambassadors for the brand,” she explains.
SoulCycle employs more than 1,200 people, and all its employees complete hospitality training at its “Soul University.” Instructors “go over everything from how to create the emotional peace that goes along with the workout to music appreciation,” Rice previously told The Wall Street Journal.
Constantly work on communication.
“One of the things Elizabeth and I are really proud of is our partnership,” Rice says. “People assume because we are friends or because we’ve been partners for a decade that we always get along — but that’s not necessarily true.”
Rice says the cofounders have a business coach that helps them communicate when they disagree on business decisions. She says the cofounders have also fed the communication skills they have learned to the rest of the organisation.
“To actually execute on making people feel better is a really difficult thing to do,” Rice says. “But its a million little things that go into making up one simple mission, and you’d be surprised at how hard it is to get those feelings right.”
Watch the full New York Times interview below:
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