Posted: 3:40 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, 2013
By Allison Fass
For the founders of SoulCycle, careers in real estate and entertainment helped shape them as entrepreneurs.
00:09 Allison Fass: So Elizabeth had some entrepreneurial experience before--Julie not quite as much. Could you speak to your previous careers and how they helped you get SoulCycle off the ground?
00:21 Elizabeth Cutler: Well, Julie’s career was very glamorous, but I starved a lot, which I think is really good training for an entrepreneur. I remember that day when I was like, oh my God, there is 14 dollars in my bank account and I have a thousand dollars in the savings. I need to get going! But I do think that sort of looking at things from--one of the things I think we really enjoyed working together is that we start to see trends before they start to happen just because you can see in a market where there is something that is a need, and that’s why all of you are here today because you have seen that as well. For me, I think all of the training--we joke all the time that every single thing that we learned along the way we are always using. Every kind of misstep or every kind of--I remember just being--
01:10 Cutler: My first job--this is so politically incorrect. I was like literally--not like--I worked with a lot of guys who had no filter, let’s leave it at that and I was the only girl. I remember just like it was all about keeping your chin up and smiling and just thinking, yeah whatever, let’s keep on going. I think I learned a lot about just not letting things ruffle my feathers at all and looking at just the opportunity that was there instead of the buzz kill that was all around me. In terms of the entrepreneurial part of it, I think when you start to see trends or you start to see that there is a need out there, there is a strong I think will inside of women to want to fix it. They want to go out and like I can do this better. I can make it better. I can make it for other people. I can make it better for myself. I think that that’s something that we definitely both leverage on a regular basis.
02:00 Cutler: And then as far as some of the entrepreneurial stuff that I personally did, I had a really good friend who started a beverage company after their daughter was born. They hated the fact that there was no sparkling fruit juice--now there’s tons of it, but there was no sparkling fruit juice out there for kids that--and for adults that had just fruit, no sugar, and so they started this company. About three years into the company, it was really scaling well in Colorado. We still had a lot of places, but they ran out of many and so--my husband and I had no children and we--I called him and I said, "I really want to invest in this." He said, "I cannot do that. You are my best friend. I’m going to lose your money. This is going to be terrible." The next day the phone rang. He was like, "Oh my God. We just got a huge order from Whole Foods and we don’t have any money to fill it, and if you could just pay for that next run then I think we’ll get more orders off of that." We did that. The next seven years went by and we were like, oh, I guess it was doing real well. It’s called IZZE.
02:57 Cutler: Three months after Julie and I started the business--we had borrowed money from me and my husband to start our business--I remember standing in our kitchen and I opened this FedEx and there was a check in there for the exact amount of money that we started SoulCycle. I was screaming my head off, I was so excited, because it meant that we were free. We were free to kind of do what we needed to do to be able to make the decisions for the business that were based on the business and we didn’t have to be accountable to anybody else. That was a pretty phenomenal moment. That was a bet that paid off.
03:29 Fass: You also had worked in real estate in Colorado, so that turned out to be quite applicable to what you are doing with SoulCycle now.
03:36 Cutler: That is very true, and that’s where all the guys were. No, it is true. Whenever you take those deals - like I said, anything that you have that you have drawn on in the past you will end up using 100 percent.
03:50 Fass: Julie, how about you with your experience as a talent agent?
03:55 Julie Rice: Well, I worked in the entertainment business for about 15 years first. I also was starving for a lot of it. I just got to go to movie premieres. I was making very little money. There are a lot of lessons that I learned that were applicable. I represented actors. I put them in film and television. When I went to Los Angeles, I actually worked at a company that was pretty innovative. I worked for one really special guy who his big talent was turning actors and musicians into companies. In the early days, I was very lucky to sort of watch the careers of Jennifer Lopez and Will Smith and Sean Combs being built. And what I learned from those experiences was how to really build a brand. What we really did was do more than just put an actor in a movie, but we really sort of looked at people as companies and said how do you build the core business and then how do you build the ancillary businesses? It was actually very interesting and very applicable, although at the time I had absolutely no idea that it would be used later on. And then I actually think the most important thing that I learned in Hollywood, and I am sure that you have all seen movies like Swimming with Sharks and the likes of those--it’s actually fairly true. There is no turning to your boss in Hollywood and saying, "Sorry, I couldn’t figure it out, or, uhm just didn’t get it done."
05:15 Rice: Like any glamour business, there are a thousand people that want your $20,000 a year job, so there is no - the workday never ends. There is only yes. If you think - if somebody asks you for a cup of coffee and you forgot to ask if they like it with milk or sugar, you bring one that’s black, you bring one with milk, you bring one with milk and sugar and you bring one with just sugar. You just bring four coffees back. That’s just what you do, because you never want to show up with the wrong thing. I think that actually that has been very applicable to our business. We have made so many mistakes. I mean there have been so many times that we have not done the right thing not because we weren’t working hard or because we weren’t trying - just because we didn’t know how to soundproof a studio or we didn’t know. You know what, though? When those things happened, you just figure it out. You keep going. You don’t leave your desk until the job is done. You are working overtime and you are really problem solving. I have to say that that is probably the number one thing that I learned was you are going to figure it out. That’s really what I think a lot happens in entrepreneurship because we all will make many mistakes and it’s just really about the tenacity to keep on going.
06:30 Cutler: Yeah, and the vision. I think that’s really true. When you take a person and you turn it into a brand or you take a dusty parking lot and pretty soon it’s got 50 buildings, it really shows you how you can manifest a dream.
06:43 Rice: Totally.