A Must Read Podcast Review: "How I Built This - Soul Cycle"

I’ve been trying to raise my podcast game in recent weeks and re-discovered a great series on entrepreneurship called “How I Built This.”  It’s a series of interviews with founders from successful companies, some of which I’ve never heard of.  One that aired recently that I did know was SoulCycle. SoulCycle was founded in 2006 in New York City by Elizabeth Cutler, Julie Rice, and Ruth Zukerman, and before long was a phenomenon that went well beyond spin classes.  


Ten years later, they sold for almost $200 million to Equinox, who owns the brand today.  


There is so much to learn from their experience, that I wanted to share as I found it pretty inspirational. Some are unique to their story, but a lot is common among startups that break through. Whether you are an entrepreneur yourself or not, these 4 key takeaways are awesome topics to keep in mind for whatever it is you do. 


  • They worked hard - really hard.  One change that really drove their following was following up their Upper East Side studio with one out in the Hamptons where many of their clients went in the summer.  So they barely did more than work, eat and sleep for 3 months… which is sometimes the commitment you have to make to make your startup take off.

  • They reimagined the customer experience - before SoulCycle, the idea of spin classes with upbeat energy and music was unheard of.  So was making people pay for each individual class; the “gym business” was based on subscriptions and the hope that not too many would actually use them. They turned this upside down and sold an experience, not a service. This had the added effect that the cash register went back to zero every day. They had to stay hungry for every dollar.   

  • They kept it lean - they started with limited capital and could not get more, so they made it work with what they had. They got cheap real estate and made it work. They started selling shirts and SWAG because they needed the extra income. Then these took off like wildfire and turned into marketing for them… which was a good thing, because they couldn’t afford to spend a lot on this either.

  • They made hard choices - along the way, one of the partners departed the business.  They faced many situations where they had to decide whether or not to expand to other cities or make certain hires. And then they had to decide whether or not to sell. Running a startup is a never-ending series of decisions in fast-changing circumstances with not a lot of information and a few reference points other than your mission, vision, and values.

  • SoulCycle is the classic story of a few people saying “why not?” and building a movement. Sometimes this is even the basis of a great business -- for them, and kind of for STIK, it’s the movement that matters most.

    What are some of your other favorite podcasts? Let us know in the comments.   

    XO,
    Peter B

    2 comments


    • LIsa Tullis

      How I Built This is awesome. They have some really good pieces now called How I Built This Resilience- how businesses have dealt and pivoted in the pandemic. STIK would make an amazing episode!


    • LIsa Tullis

      How I Built This is awesome. They have some really good pieces now called How I Built This Resilience- how businesses have dealt and pivoted in the pandemic. STIK would make an amazing episode!


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