How to Start an Exercise Empire: Ruth Zukerman, Founder of Flywheel, Explains

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When Ruth Zukerman founded Flywheel in February 2010, she had a clear goal: “Make indoor cycling epic.”

Now, with over 16 studios across the country and an international location in Dubai, Flywheel has transformed the concept of spinning and the group exercise industry as a whole.

With top-notch instructors, superior equipment and effective branding, the company has amassed a cult following: Ruth’s classes, and those of other popular instructors, can sell out in under a minute online.

So, what’s the key to Flywheel’s success?

Ruth opened up to LearnVest about how she started her company, the challenges she faced and the advice she would give to other entrepreneurs.

How did you get the idea to start Flywheel?

I had been teaching indoor cycling for several years and began to feel that the time was ripe for something new. I wanted to create a fun, energetic and welcoming environment where people could come to escape their day, work hard and see real results. I met two incredible people who shared my vision and decided to join forces with them. Together, we opened the first Flywheel Sports in 2010 and today we have over 17 studios nationwide.

How did you know spinning had the potential to become so popular?

I had been teaching indoor cycling for several years before opening Flywheel and I knew that this form of workout had staying power. It’s for all ages, it’s safe and most importantly, it’s fun. At Flywheel, with our amazing playlists, we keep the riders engaged and focused, which helps bring change to the body. Along with that there is the mental release one experiences, and people end the class feeling energized yet calmed.  I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t do it!

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You started Flywheel when SoulCycle was already on the market. How did you differentiate Flywheel from the competition?

I was able to create a strong brand by aligning myself with wonderful partners. There are three of us and we each have very separate responsibilities that match our individual areas of expertise. Between our loyalty to each other, an extraordinary amount of motivation and belief in our product, we had no fear of any competition.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your role as a partner? What area of expertise did you bring, specifically?

As Creative Director at Flywheel, I have to stay on top of our instructors to ensure our classes are top notch. Because we are expanding so quickly, I also have to make sure we have a pipeline of talented upcoming instructors. We hold auditions often, followed by regular training sessions, which I oversee, until we feel an instructor is ready to teach. I also take time to meet with my partners, whether in person or on the phone, so that we can update each other on different aspects of the business.

What was the greatest challenge you had to overcome in the process?
The greatest challenge I had to overcome when starting Flywheel was finding a balance between befriending the instructors and mentoring them at the same time. This has always been a bit of a challenge, but something I have learned to do well over time.

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With new studios popping up across the country, what are your goals for continuing to expand the company?

We would like to continue to expand across the United States and abroad, bringing Flywheel to as many people as possible. I love introducing people to a form of exercise that is not only challenging and fun, but keeps them coming back for more.

What do you think it takes to make an idea into a successful business?

To turn an idea into a successful business, you have to know your own strengths, understand your consumer and never doubt yourself.  It also helps to have smart, trustworthy partners, which has been key for me.

What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs?

The advice that I would give to women entrepreneurs would be to always go with your gut. I think that generally, women have strong instincts, yet many of us are conditioned to doubt ourselves. Do your research, know the consumer’s needs and go for it.