((305)) THE BIZ
((305)) is so much more than beats to make you bounce and some ass-kicking choreography. It’s a family, it’s a lifestyle, but it’s also a group of people who are dedicating their lives to making fitness fun and sweat sexy. We hear from junkies all the damn time that they wanna know what makes the company tick, so we got our founder and HBIC Sadie to walk us through the business side of thangs.
BREAK IT DOWN FOR US. ((305)) FEELS LIKE A TIGHT KNIT, SMALL COMMUNITY, BUT HOW BIG IS IT ACTUALLY?
We have 31 instructors and 19 DJs across three cities. All together, we currently have approx 160 classes/week. We have been in Washington, D.C. for over a year now, with a fiercely dedicated group of junkies (seriously, the people down there are bananas over our classes!). We just launched in Boston, where the response has been crazy popular. Boston has never seen anything like us. In New York, we average 2,500 sign-ups/week. That's wild. I remember when I used to teach the same 10-20 clients/week. That wasn't too long ago...
WHO RUNS THE SHOW BEHIND THE SCENES? WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING ((305)) RUN SMOOTHLY ALL DAY-N-NITE?
We've got an amazing, highly dedicated staff of 5 full-timers. We work around-the-clock to give ((305)) the high standards it deserves. We find resourceful, creative ways to still have a big presence, even without a ton of experience or cash on hand. Everyone on our team is under the age of 28.
We've got a Director of Operations, who handles our construction, studio build-outs, HR, all the details that keep this place running smoothly.
We've got a CFO -- who is actually my brother! -- who runs our financials, like accounting, projections, budgets, and sales goals.
We've got two amazing Studio Managers, one who runs the Village and another who runs Midtown and oversees all studios (including The Village, Boston, and D.C.). Their jobs are huge, because they commit endless hours to making our studios run seamlessly. They are our boots on the ground, fighting the good fight every day, making sure instructors, DJ, and clients are all having the best experience possible.
And we have a Master DJ and Graphic Designer, whose job is 50% graphic design and visual art and 50% recruiting, training, and hiring DJs. He makes sure our music is always on point and ahead of the game.
And finally, there is me! I oversee the management team, train instructors, supervise our social media, run our general marketing strategy, and create new ways to communicate our brand. I am the creative director behind all we do, so I devise and execute new class offerings, apparel, and new cities. I'm also responsible for raising money and communicating with investors. I have a close relationship with all our instructors, so I also spend a lot of time helping them grow. A lot of my time is spent being the face of the brand, too -- something I don't mind at all. I do photoshoots, panels, talks, public speaking, and all media opportunities. Fun fact: I also write our newsletter every week! Where I have the most value in this brand is in being able to find and train amazingly talented instructors. At the end of the day, the success of any business depends on its talent, so maintaining high quality standards -- training new instructors, observing current instructors, helping all of us grow -- is my most important and beloved role.
DANG. HOW DID YOU CREATE THIS BANGIN’ FITNESS EMPIRE?
I really got into dance cardio classes like Zumba as a teenager. When I arrived at Brown University in 2008, the very first thing I did was look at their group fitness schedule. No Zumba to be found. So I marched right up to the manager and I said, "Look, I'm a first year here. I'm really passionate about this class. You don't offer it now. Can I please teach it? Give me two classes per week and I'll build it."
When I first started, I called it Zumba, and that's what it was. But over time, things changed. The young people taking class wanted to hear less Latin music and more of the fun stuff they heard when we went out to bars, so I played more Pop and Hip Hop. And then I sped up the music. And then so many of the regulars were plateauing, so I had to find ways to make it harder. So I added more sports drills.
MOST PEOPLE KNOW THAT THE CURRENT NAME IS IN HONOR OF YOUR HOMETOWN OF MIAMI, BUT HOW DID YOU LAND ON “((305))”?
My class at Brown ended up being a very different class than Zumba, so it needed a different name. At first I called it Studio Mio. And then I called it BodyRox. We were just kids, being playful.
I didn't think the name mattered much. I still don't think the names matter much, and that's one thing I tell entrepreneurs starting out. Don't stress about the name. Is ((305)) a good name? I don't know, probably not. Is Google a good name? I'm not sure, probably not. But companies are founded on the strength of their product and the vibe of their tribe, not in the name.
WHAT WAS THE MOST SURPRISING THING YOU'VE LEARNED?
I never expected to learn so much about the construction industry. After having built two studios in NYC, I find I know the ins and outs of permitting, architecture, bidding, soundproofing, electric, lighting, engineering, etc.
WHAT’S A CRAZY IMPRESSIVE THING ABOUT ((305)) THAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW?
One of the things I am most proud of is how high our engagement is. We have weekly e-newsletters with 25,000 subscribers and our average open rate is 38%. This is incredible. In most industries, you're lucky if 10% of people read your stuff. But people are obsessed with ((305)). They wanna hear the message. They wanna listen to our playlists. They wanna get to know our instructors. They wanna engage more and more.
Same with our Instagram. It's small. We only have a few thousand likes. But people like and comment like bananas. They want to engage, engage, engage, because they know we are listening and we care.
BOUTIQUE FITNESS CLASSES ARE ALL THE RAGE RIGHT NOW, BUT ((305)) IS NOT YO MAMMA’S GYM CLASS. WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES ((305)) STAND OUT FROM THE PACK?
We have a lot of things going for us that others don't. First of all, we've pulled off a dance workout in a way that's incredibly fun and wildly effective. Most dance workouts aren't that challenging. And most workouts aren't that fun. We mix the best worlds of the two.
The DJ factor is huge, too. Investors ask me, ‘Do you really need a DJ?’ And I tell them: 'You just don't get it.' The DJ isn't a gimmick. We can't automate that. The live, raw, surprise element to class makes it so that class never feels boring. As an instructor, I've now taught over 2,000 classes in the last few years. I never know what's going to play next. It keeps me laser-sharp focused and engaged and excited. Clients feel that energy too.
SPEAKING OF INVESTORS, WHERE DOES ((305)) GET THE DOLLA, DOLLA BILLS TO DO THINGS LIKE BUILD NEW STUDIOS AND HIRE MORE BADASS INSTRUCTORS?
One of the coolest things about ((305)) is just how little money we've raised to date. A large portion of our expansion has been self-funded, meaning we only grow because we are that good, because clients are paying for this class and signing up like crazy, not because some guy in a suit wants to throw cash at us in hopes he can make a return. To date, I've raised less than $2 million and we've gotten to two full-blown NYC studios and two other cities. 99% of companies can't say that.
All of the funding to date has come from friends, family, and passionate clients who can see we really have something very special here. I haven't gone to institutional investors, which is partly why we continue to be so scrappy, creative, and resourceful. Most importantly, this means we are free to make our own choices! I get to pursue ventures that I think are inspiring and creative, not because they will add to our bottom line.
HAVE YOU TRIED TO FIND OUTSIDE FUNDING?
Luckily, I haven't gone to institutional investors, and with such a bangin' business, I don't think it will be a challenge to raise money if we were to do so in the future.
Many institutional investment funds are focused on technology only. It's difficult to find groups that are willing to do retail, because retail is, by nature, risky. You put a lot of money into a brick-and-mortar concept, and it could fail. The upside is also smaller. We can't get to 10 million downloads. We have to do it class-by-class, each with an instructor and DJ. It's a patient business, but it's the only one I could ever do.
#305POP, working on Boston, and another city (or two) comin’ atcha in 2016 alone. And we’re working on expanding our selection of Yoga and Sculpt in NYC and big news for DC soon!