How SoulCycle Revolutionized Indoor Cycling and Sparked the Boutique Fitness Craze
How SoulCycle Revolutionized Indoor Cycling and Sparked the Boutique Fitness Craze

Co-founders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice brought innovation to an industry filled with similar concepts and business models.

By now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fitness enthusiast who isn’t familiar with SoulCycle and its signature yellow branding. The premium indoor cycling studio started a revolution in the industry back in 2006, and has been growing at impressive rates ever since.

The idea for SoulCycle first came about when co-founders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice met at a lunch and instantly bonded over their shared vision to create a new kind of indoor cycling studio. Five months later, SoulCycle’s first studio officially opened its doors on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. From that first studio on, it was clear that the brand was changing the game.

In an interview with The New York Times, Rice said, “When we started the business we always referred to it as a luxury brand. We thought about businesses like Apple—we never looked at other fitness businesses.”

That decision to model the brand after a luxury retailer is evident in every one of SoulCycle’s studios. The brand’s innovation efforts start with the workout itself. Each class is a 45-minute, full-body workout. But SoulCycle’s mission goes beyond helping customers burn calories—there’s also a spiritual and mental component. Each class is held in a dark, candle-lit room, and has a custom playlist blasting through the speakers in order to make every experience unique.

But the qualities that make the brand stand out in the increasingly crowded industry don’t stop there. SoulCycle also takes a unique approach to its employees, ultimately opening the door to an entire new business environment. The brand broke from the norm by making its instructors full-time staff members instead of part-time teachers who work at multiple gyms or health clubs.

Rice told The Wall Street Journal, “When we started SoulCycle, fitness instruction wasn't a full-time job, and we believed that if we could create full-time jobs for instructors, they could dedicate so much more time and focus to creating an experience that was unique every time. We run a thorough 12-week training program [for instructors] where we go over everything from how to create the emotional peace that goes along with the workout to music appreciation.”

By implementing that type of full-time employment, SoulCycle gives its instructors the opportunity to become true brand ambassadors. The brand’s tight knit mentality is evident in staff members, regular cyclists and even the brand’s clothing line, which sells products encouraging you to “find your soul.” SoulCycle is its own distinct community, and boutique fitness concepts across the country are constantly mimicking its technique.

The women behind the concept—Cutler and Rice—stepped down as SoulCycle’s co-chief creative officers in order to pursue other projects, according to a statement. But even after their departure, there’s no doubt that the brand will continue bringing its studios to new communities and consumers across the country.

“It becomes a tribal experience,” Cutler said to The New York Times. “There is something you can tap into in that room. Euphoria: that’s what we’re really selling.”