I first heard about SoulCycle at an Entrepreneur’s Conference a couple of years ago. By that point SoulCycle was a recognized name, at least in the United States, and it garnered a cult following.
The company was founded in New York City by Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice in 2005 and quickly grew based on customer evangelism. Not only did clients talk about the studio they posted pictures and proclaimed its transformational power via social media. Just Google #findyoursoul. In a Forbes article they explained the studios’ success by the numbers.
“In 2011 the company was acquired by Equinox, providing additional overhead needed to open new locations. They currently have 25 studios and see approximately 8,000 riders a day…which equals $240,000 in revenue every day, and a whopping $87.6M in just one year.” That does not include sales from water bottles, shoe rentals, merchandise and VIP passes.
So yeah, SoulCycle is kind of a big deal. But what’s so special about this spinning studio? I wanted to find out. The first Canadian location opened in Toronto on March 2017. This was my chance and here’s what I uncovered:
They tell a compelling story
On their website, their mission is clearly articulated: “Anyone can be an athlete, a rockstar, a warrior… our riders come to us from all backgrounds, levels of fitness and experience. SoulCycle is for everyone. Our mission is to bring Soul to the people. Our one of a kind, rockstar instructors guide riders through an inspirational, meditative fitness experience that’s designed to benefit the body, mind and soul.” This is what ties the studio together- from the instructors they hire, to the design and flow of the studio, to the music and messaging they play during a class, they all tie in to their mission. They are not merely a spinning studio, they position themselves as a place where you can have a soulful, mindful experience.
They have the right amount of staff to keep things moving
When I walked in there was a welcome table and a friendly staff member who directed traffic: new members filled out forms while current members signed in and picked up their spinning shoes. In the actual studio there were a few staff members walking around assisting riders with their bikes, clipping them in and answering their questions, making sure they felt comfortable but also ensuring the class started on time. Afterwards, another crew walked in to wipe down the seats, pick up equipment and set it up for the next round. A nice balance of efficiency and friendliness.
They create a fun workout experience
The spin class itself is fine-tuned and orchestrated. The playlist is perfectly selected and peaks at just the right time. The music is loud and the studio is dark. So dark that you can’t really see other people working out making the experience far less intimidating. Movements are also choreographed to the music so you feel like you’re at a dance party. The instructor is peppy and energetic. People are encouraged to cheer and yell to get the energy blasting. The instructor uses visualization techniques to get riders engaged and motivated.
They pay close attention to the details
I’m a sucker for well-designed minimalist spaces and this one is beautiful. The branding is consistently showcased throughout the studio. They feature their own line of stylish workout clothes, they offer plastic bags for wet clothes (of course it’s branded), they have charging stations in each locker for your phones, and they have motivational quotes splashed on the walls. The studio is bright and cheerful. Complimentary high-end cleansers, body lotions and soaps are available and fill the washroom in luxurious scents. After registering on the website as a first time user, you receive a welcome email that confirms the details of your class and provides information about what you should expect, what to wear, what to eat beforehand, etc. The details really do count on the end users experience.
SoulCycle is opening another location in Toronto this summer. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares in the Canadian market. But based on the volume of people attending during my visit it seems that their formula for success will work north of the border.