When Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler sold the last of their SoulCycle shares to Equinox in 2016, they stepped back from from a company that they had grown to consider their “love child.” Exits, they realized, aren’t always so easy.
After building the fitness brand for 10 years, the entrepreneurial duo took some time to recalibrate. Rice joined WeWork as a partner in 2017, while Cutler took some time off to spend with her family. “It just takes a minute until you find your way back to you, and you also begin to see new white space in the world,” Rice tells Beatrice Dixon, co-founder and CEO of The Honey Pot Company, in an Inc. Your Next Move streaming event. “If you really are kind of a creator, and you have that bug, you think the world starts to talk to you again.”
In 2019, they landed on another new idea of their own. Their new company, Peoplehood, will offer 55-minute facilitated “talking experiences”–a new category Rice and Cutler are calling “relational fitness.” The company will place people into groups, where they’ll have conversations on a range of topical and personal subjects facilitated by guides; the goal is to create a sense of community, even if everyone in the room is a stranger.
The pair’s first studio is scheduled to open in New York City in early 2022. Read on for the advice they shared during the event on how entrepreneurs can create businesses that resonate.
Create a positive internal culture.
What made it hard for Rice and Cutler to step away from SoulCycle? It was a place that they genuinely looked forward to going every day. The founders credit the success of their business to its positive company culture. “If you’ve ever read Simon Sinek, he always says, ‘Your happiest customer is only as happy as your happiest employee,'” Rice says. “And we pretty much created at the time what was a utopia.”
Listen to your customers.
When growing a company, Rice and Cutler say that passion for your idea is a must. But you also have to be willing to shift gears to accommodate customers’ preferences. “We don’t know better than the people that are using our products,” Rice says. “Put your own ego aside and listen if somebody wants it in a different way.”
Iterate on what works.
While at SoulCycle, the founders started working with a coach to improve their communication skills, enabling them to work better with each other and their colleagues. They realized that many people could benefit from this kind of coaching–and that was an opportunity.
Rice and Cutler knew that people went to SoulCycle not just for exercise, but also a sense of community. So they decided to create a different kind of space for connection–one that gives people access to communication coaching in an open, judgment-free environment. At Peoplehood, attendees will be able to “drop in and be in a group of 16 strangers, where you hold space for each other, and you get to express yourself and how you’re doing,” Rice explains. It’s the same SoulCycle-style community-building, without the sweat.