the hot new workout trend
How many times have you had an idea, permitted yourself to get excited about it for a minute or two, then allowed the whisper of your inner idea man to get drowned out by the shout of your inner naysayer? This happens all too often with lightbulb moments big and small: we get excited, then intimidated, by the prospect of attempting something at which we’re not sure we’ll be able to succeed, whether it’s saving the world, writing a bestseller, or knitting a poncho.
When New Yorkers Alicia Thomas and Pam Graf had grown bored of their workout options, they created an entirely new concept: pop-up ﬁtness. Inspired by temporary restaurants and stores, business models with low overhead and high buzz, they decided to see if anyone would be interested in, say, spinning in an art museum. The answer, of course, was “hell, yeah!” and the rest is history. Here, Thomas tells the story of Kiwi Sweat.
KiwiSweat is a “pop-up” ﬁtness company. Everyone asks us what that means. Well, KiwiSweat is a branded platform focused on providing the highest quality ﬁtness in unique destinations. Each KiwiSweat event features a top instructor in a unique location. Our primary goal is to take the monotony out of working out and make it more fun and social. For example, instead of offering spin in a non-descript studio, we offer spinning taught by your city’s best instructor in a really unique location, such as a warehouse, an art gallery, or an urban farmer’s market. We create several “pop- up” events per year. Each pop-up lasts between 1 day and 4 weeks.
It’s hard to believe that it was only a year ago that we launched our ﬁrst spinning event at Chelsea Market in New York City. I almost can’t remember life before KiwiSweat; that’s how much space it occupies in my brain. In order to draw as many people as possible to our ﬁrst event, we featured some really well-known instructors, many of whom traveled in from out-of-town and had their own followings. The whole thing had a very “get it while you can” quality, which is what we were going for.
When my business partner, Pam, and I ﬁrst started, we toyed with the idea of opening a studio–but anyone who’s been to Manhattan lately knows that its streets are basically a mosaic of specialized gyms. We didn’t want to open yet another studio, and given the state of the economy, we didn’t want our customers to have to commit to steep monthly fees. We wanted clients to walk away with a feeling of accomplishment and excitement, not guilt. Although I’ve always been pretty athletic, I get bored easily and need some extra motivation when it comes to carving out the time to work out–especially since giving birth to my son a few years ago. I wanted to create–and attend–a workout that was fun and kept both my mind and my body guessing what was going to happen next. That’s how we arrived at the
idea of the ﬁtness pop-up. It provides a consistent ﬁtness opportunity, but it feels ﬂuid and ﬂexible.
It’s key to point out that neither Pam nor I have a ﬁtness background–working out is just something we like to do. Pam worked in event production, and I earned my MBA and worked as a consultant before starting KiwiSweat. We rely on our trainers to take the lead in the ﬁtness area, which is a lot of fun for us, because we always have something new to learn.
We realize that neither our business, nor our story, is in any way conventional. When we explain KiwiSweat to people, they either love it or they don’t understand it at all– there’s not a lot of in-between. We’ve certainly had our share of naysayers, and they’re those people who love to have a routine. They eat the same thing for breakfast every day. They’ve been going to the same gym classes for the last 10 years. They just can’t understand why anyone would want to travel outside of their neighborhood to work out in random places. I get it. I’m actually jealous of these people. They don’t get bored with working out. My husband is this way. But me, I’m bored after running a 2nd loop around the reservoir in Central Park. I need my workouts to be more social, more fun, more interesting. I hate knowing what to expect. Basically, I like to forget that I’m working out. Our supporters have been people just like me.
Soon after we launched our ﬁrst event, KiwiSweat was featured in both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Their coverage let us know that even if people didn’t really understand our business, they were intrigued by it. It was extremely exciting to know that we were doing something worth reading about, and it kept us motivated, even during our ﬁrst major setback. Early on at Chelsea Market, we realized that we had been a bit optimistic with our projections. We had hired too many people, scheduled too many classes, and over-committed ourselves. That being said, we learned a LOT, and the missteps were worth it. Since then, we’ve learned how to predict demand for each of our instructors and we schedule accordingly.
By no means do we feel KiwiSweat has “made it” yet–we’re such a young company, and we have so much more to learn. That said, we knew we were on our way to success when people started to contact us for private and high-proﬁle events. We were recently included as part of Bike Expo New York and have produced multiple ﬁtness events for Fitness Magazine. Our next challenge is how to scale the pop-up ﬁtness concept to move beyond just New York City and into the rest of the country. We’d like to work with celebrity trainers and expand into the online ﬁtness arena. We have some amazing instructors and we really want to introduce them to a larger audience. We’re not exactly sure of how to do this, but we’re blazing ahead anyway. Our intuition has led us in the right direction so far. Get the latest KiwiSweat news at KiwiSweat.com.