Sadie Kurzban, 305 Fitness
Sadie Kurzban (aka, "The Party Starter") is the pint-sized powerhouse that's bringing out your alter ego, inner superhero, and most booty-full Beyoncé qualities. Fresh from graduation at Brown, Sadie dove soul-deep into building 305 Fitness, where she's (very successfully) turning every workout into a raging party scene. Featured everywhere from Good Morning America to Harper's Bazaar and Fast Company, Sadie is a brilliant business woman and equally as tapped-in-sprit-sister. What does she say to expect from a class with her? "A whole lotta air humping, and enough motivation to set the tone for the rest of your week." Sign us up.
What was the journey to 305 Fitness?
I grew up in Miami, which is a really looks-conscious and body-conscious place, especially for women. I started working out a very young age. At 11 or 12, I was counting calories on the elliptical and treadmill. As I grew up, I started to get into dance and that was life-changing in terms of how I felt about my body. I could see not only my body changing, but how I could do new moves and achieve new things. My body suddenly became a vessel and a tool for things that I wanted to do, rather than something to punish or try to change.
When I went to Brown my freshman year, there were really no exercise classes that I was drawn to. I went up to the gym and said, ‘Let me teach a class…’ even though I’d never really taught before. It started as Zumba and evolved from there. The college students were telling me, ‘Hey we want something faster — we want something less Latin and more pop.’ Little by little, it grew very organically from my heart. It was never an idea to start a business from, but was something that I just loved to do. I wanted to spread that with others as this way to connect to your body and feed your soul.
Senior year, I was encouraged by my best friend to start a business out of it — the inspiration came from being out at a night club. I thought, ‘I can fuse all the teachings I’ve been given into making a workout environment feel like a rave.’ So I entered a business plan competition, and I won. I took that money and bootstrapped it in New York. Fast forward a few years, and here we are.
What were your next steps and biggest hurdles?
I was always told that entrepreneurship is really hard, and that you shouldn’t do it unless you have to do it — meaning, you’ve lost your job and have kids to feed, or you have a passion burning inside of you that is so unable to be repressed, that you absolutely have to do it. For me, it was the latter.
Once I had this idea that I wanted to do it, nothing else paled in comparison. I had all of these applications for consulting or for teaching. I would look at them and let the deadlines pass, because I knew in my heart that this was really want I wanted to do. I had to let myself be pushed — I was in a sink or swim mentality.
How has your relationship with your body changed over time? Why is that relationship so important to you?
My mother and my sister both struggled with eating disorders as I grew up, so that was an environment I was very aware of. For me, I didn’t want to spend my life wrapped up in my own head. There is so much to experience in this beautiful world — so much magic outside of our own minds. We become real prisoners to our minds and the struggles inside. I’ve struggled with that, as well. When you can step outside of it and not continue to battle with yourself, life feels a lot better.
Part of it is also taking a stance as a woman and saying, ‘I am so much more than my body. I’m not just on display for other people. I have intelligence and passion and creativity — I have so much more to offer the world.’ It’s a cost benefit analysis — that’s how I rationalize it. I can waste my time miserable, or I can spend my time being productive and doing something for the world.
How do you bring the feeling of sexy into your workouts and your body?
We’re very much a workout where you can take on an alter ego — I think that’s fun for people. I take it on too when I’m up there instructing, or when I’m taking a class. The energy is really palpable. People feel like they can be Beyonce. This is a place where you can have a voice — a different voice than you’re used to - and that’s what sexiness is about. It’s stepping outside of your comfort zone and being somebody else, if you choose to be that.
When we say “Make Sweat Sexy”, it’s not about objectifying ourselves or being put on display. It’s really about embodying this powerful personality. You can go to many other workout classes and when the teacher walks in, they can make it all about them. Our selection of instructors is really complex because it’s very much about the feeling that you get when a person walks in the room. We host open auditions and see four hundred people, sometimes all in one day. From there, we’ll choose about four people.
When I teach class, I tell people that I have no idea what I may look like by the end — my eye makeup may all over the place and my hair may be crazy and there may be food in my teeth. I’m really focused on the energy in the room and making eye contact with everyone else, and holding everyone accountable. This is really a job for people who want to give and not take.
Do you have any routines that you do every day?
I meditate, usually mid-day, but if I can do it in the morning then I will — just for 10 minutes. I like to wake up and stretch, and then I like to stretch before I go to bed — it’s so good for my body and clears my mind. That way I don’t feel so rushed getting to work.
What's your relationship to food like?
I really do eat whatever I want. I know a lot of people say that, but I really do. For me, I have to be careful with my energy — that’s the most important thing. I definitely eat a lot of junk food. The real reason for that, honestly, is that I think we all have this reserve of willpower and I don’t want to be beating myself up about trying to be too perfect in every area. For me, all of my willpower right now is dedicated on growing this business from zero to 1,000. If I slip up, or I end up eating junk food all day long, then it’s okay. I really try not to be hard on myself about it.
How has your experience been as a female leader in such a male-dominated industry?
As an instructor and as the creative director of programming, I’m in a really good position to understand women and their voice. I’ve been to fitness classes where there’s a lot of body comparing and a lot of shaming. That’s not what I want. I sometimes see that going on when I’m in other studios. I tend to see it more with male instructors with very militant backgrounds.
The only way I’ve really seen it shake out in a sexist way is during the construction of studios — this is a very male-dominated industry and can be very corrupt. There’s a lot people trying to cut corners. That was a place where I really had to step into a powerful role and assert myself. When you're managing two million dollar budgets for studios, it can become expensive and really risky. I want to make sure I’m making the right decision.
What is your go-to advice for entrepreneurs?
One of my biggest pieces of advice is that as you’re starting, create something that’s for you. Create something niche that doesn’t appeal to everybody because there’s a lot of other people like you — people that think like you and are passionate about the same things. I think people make the mistake of going too large, and then falling flat. It all has to come from your heart and it has to be something that you would want to consume as a consumer. I love to take this class all the time when I’m not teaching. It’s really the only workout that I do, and if I had created something more mainstream, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. It turns out that there’s tens of thousands of people that love this just as much as I do.
What is your idea of legacy?
In one word — joy. I really want to leave that legacy on people. In terms of business, I’d like to grow it to many more studios. I’d like to be a national brand, maybe an international brand. I’d like to launch apparel, which we’re doing soon, as well as some other lifestyle offerings. Then one day, I like to think about starting another business that’s totally unrelated to fitness — like chocolate. That’s probably my next move.