[Editor's note: This piece, based on my PandoMonthly interview with Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, originally ran on Startups.co as part of an editorial collaboration with Pando aimed at sharing founders' struggles, challenges, and origin stories with millions of founders across America.]
After nearly twenty years of covering the tech world, I’ve been able to interview most of the great entrepreneurs of our time.
Rice and Cutler founded SoulCycle, which is not only an urban cult-like sensation in places like New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago and dozens of other cities, it started the boutique fitness craze.
It didn’t seem smart or obvious in 2006: To charge a whopping $30 a class, for something that was already bundled into most gym memberships. But it worked. SoulCycle did well enough, it sold almost all of its shares to Equinox, starting in 2011, reportedly netting each founder some $90 million.
Not bad for two new moms who had never built a company before, weren’t fitness instructors themselves, and didn’t raise a dime of traditional venture capital.
This interview took place after that sale and just before the company filed to spin off into an IPO. Rice and Cutler left the company soon after this interview, remaining on the board.
And today that potential IPO is in a“holding pattern” according to current CEO Melanie Whelan. Meantime, SoulCycle still hasn’t debuted an at home product to compete with the surging– and much more affordable– Peloton.
I have been a power user of both SoulCycle and Peloton. During a particularly stressful time in my life as a mother and a founder, I would SoulCycle more than five times a week, and now I have a Peloton and I do the same amount at home.
I love the flexibility of a Peloton– hopping on it quickly while my kids are asleep or if I’ve got a 30 minute pocket in between meetings in the afternoon. And even considering the cost of buying the bike, I’ve saved thousands of dollars.
But there is absolutely no substitute for the experience of SoulCycle. Rice and Cutler explain below how the cult was formed, the thought that went into each and every part of the SoulCycle experience, how they feel about knock-offs, and why mothers make amazing entrepreneurs....