Having started with a single cycling studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2006, SoulCycle now boasts 41 studios and a partnership with Equinox Fitness. Co-founders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice have plans to add another 20 locations by the end of 2016. They talk about splitting up leadership tasks on the basis of their strengths.
–As told to Liz Welch
Julie Rice: We met at a lunch arranged by our mutual spin instructor. We both had the same idea to create our ideal cycling class–but our chemistry got it off the ground. We immediately clicked–I’d start a sentence and she’d finish it. When I left lunch that day, before my cab door closed, Elizabeth called and said, “You look for towels, I’ll research real estate.” From there, we’d start each morning by dividing our to-do list by our skill set. I was then a manager for actors and knew how to build mini businesses out of people, so I found and trained the instructors and did all the PR and marketing. Those were my domains.
Elizabeth Cutler: The gym experience has always intimidated me. So when I moved to New York City from Colorado, where people exercise outside, I felt I needed fitness, but couldn’t access it. I took one spinning class, which ignited this hope that I had found my exercise–but it was available only as a class. I wanted a whole experience, not just a single workout.
JR: Elizabeth can take an overlooked corner and breathe life into it with SoulCycle. Her real estate instincts and the confidence she has in SoulCycle have fueled us. I treated the trainers as our talent, and thought of the whole experience–from entering the studio to leaving–as “curtain up and curtain down.” We really designed this experience for us.
EC: And I focused on real estate–finding the space and then creating the experience inside the studio. Our first location was on a ground floor, and I saw how important it was to be part of the street experience. An entire community grew up around our first studio. What I look for has evolved over time–but overall it really just goes back to a vibe.
Julie and I made a conscious decision early on to keep our communication really clean–between each other, within the company, and between the brand and our clients. We hired a business coach two years in to define what that meant. We’ve really invested in culture and communication, beginning with, “How do we grow people up from the inside?”
JR: We have a sliding door between our offices. It’s always open and a good metaphor for the way we work as partners. Yes, we have separate responsibilities, but we share the vision. I want to overhear what’s going on in her world.
EC: And vice versa.