Pando

VIDEO: How SoulCycle went from a business plan scrawled on a napkin to an IPO candidate

By David Holmes , written on March 13, 2015

From The News Desk

When asked about what the future holds for SoulCycle, cofounder Julie Rice told the audience at this week's PandoMonthly fireside chat in New York, "We think about different things every single day."

A cynic would say that only someone with something to hide would dare answer a question so vaguely. And they would be right, it seems: Sources revealed to Reuters today that the cult-like cycling chain, which began 9 years ago as a business plan written on a napkin, is considering going public.

As for what prospective investors might expect from a newly-public SoulCycle, the answer is simple: more cities -- like London and Chicago -- and more events -- like the upcoming SXSW SoulCycle takeover and a USO partnership to "bring SoulCycle to the troops," but the same relentless focus on people and experience.

But while growth is important to the pair -- and will be even more important if they go through with an IPO -- on a personal level, cofounder Elizabeth Cutler still thinks of SoulCycle as a passion project. She recalls her husband telling her that in 25 years as a banker he never received a "thank-you note." (And what should we thank the ex-Lehman Brothers banker for? Causing the recession? But I digress). Cutler, on the other hand, regularly hears words of thanks from riders like the women who found solace through SoulCycle while her sister battled cancer.

"That is, to me from a very personal perspective, so gratifying to have the privilege of putting that into the world," Cutler told Sarah Lacy.

When SoulCycle journey began on that fateful Starbucks napkin, neither Cutler nor Rice expected to build a giant business.

"If we could have 75 people a day, we’d be able to pay part-time babysitters," Rice said of SoulCycle's genesis. Now the company's in a position to be bigger than either cofounder ever dreamed. 

This isn't the first taste of liquidity for the founders, however. The pair sold a majority stake in the business to Equinox in 2011 for a sum reported to be approaching $25 million. Now, it appears, the founders wand to sell most or all of the remainder of their stakes. But, if their passion for SoulCycle runs as deep as they say, it seems they may stay involved and continue spreading the fitness religion.

Watch Cutler and Rice discuss the future of SoulCycle:

[illustration by Yulia Rock]