The Phenomenal NYC Startup: SoulCycle

By now, you’ve heard of them. They’re the upbeat, new-age, cycling fitness craze that’s swept the nation; SoulCycle. But who’s behind the meteoric rise of this company? And what makes this female run New York based startup so appealing? Today, Ignitia takes a closer at, SoulCycle.

The Right Partner

It’s hard to imagine a major U.S. city today without a variety of boutique fitness studios. But in 2006, this wasn’t the case.  At the time, SoulCycle founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler were both living in New York and both looking for a workout program they loved. It was then that the pair took a lunch meeting together which they later recalled, ‘was like the best blind date ever.’

At that meeting, both expressed a desire to find a workout routine that was both ‘joyful and inspiring’, and which would help them connect to their best selves. Six weeks later, they opened their first studio on the Upper West Side. In describing their vision Julie remarks, ‘It’s a combination of inspirational instructors, beautiful branded spaces, and amazing music. It’s a dark room that you can lose yourself in. It is a 45-minute cardio party and spiritual experience on the bike.”

The Right Idea

SoulCycle’s story is a classic example of doing something different. According to Rice, when they first started out no one thought the idea would take hold. After all, who would feel inspired to workout in a room lit only by candles? But the idea did take hold, and SoulCycle began to expand rapidly.

According to Rice, their goal in expansion was, ‘to make every SoulCycle feel like it’s the only SoulCycle.’ And so far, the plan has paid off. Since 2006, SoulCycle has opened 85 locations and hosted over 440,000 riders. At $35 per session, SoulCycle is turning a handsome profit. In 2014 when the company filed to go public, according to the filing that year the company saw $34.8 million in profit off $112 million in sales.

The Right Timing

As of today, the company has yet to go public, but in 2011 the pair of co-founders successfully managed to sell a majority share in the company to Equinox. That sale netted each of the co-founders just shy of $90 million. Although the pair have subsequently exited the business to pursue other opportunities, they remain on the board, and are very proud of what they were able to accomplish.

Throughout it all, SoulCycle has never let go of its core philosophies. What sets SoulCycle apart are the benefits its participants claim they achieve beyond the physical exercise. SoulCycle has always prided itself on being as much about personal growth as it is about fitness. By promising an inspirational and meditative fitness experience that nurtures mind, body, and soul, SoulCycle is the type of first-of-its-kind business model which was easily able to move to the head of its pack.