Connecting over a mutual love of fitness and socializing, the three entrepreneurial founders of Uplift, Leanne, Helena and Katie, are showing women that they don’t need to sacrifice their social lives to meet their fitness goals. Their studio (p.s – it’s women only. Sorry boys.) offers challenging work-out classes or one-on-one training, not to mention a coffee bar, a reading area and a locker room filled with yummy body lotions…you may never leave! We asked the founders a few questions about their journey launching a business and a cutting-edge fitness brand. See what they have to say…
Quarterlette: How do a freelance writer, a lawyer and party planner team up to open a fitness studio?
Leanne, Helena & Katie: When things are meant to be, they happen! But seriously, the three Uplift partners did come together from very different professional backgrounds, that is true. However, we all share a love of fitness and camaraderie/social interaction, especially among like-minded women, which are the two building blocks for our business. We actually came together because a couple of years ago when Leanne was delving into the world of fitness through training and coaching, Daily Candy wrote an article about her services. Helena—and old college friend—saw it and contacted Leanne for some advice about getting into the professional world of fitness herself. Katie saw it and became a client of Leanne’s. It wasn’t long before Leanne brought the three of them together to seriously consider starting a business.
Qlette: Helena, you once told us that you went on leave from the world of corporate law to start Uplift. What was the moment when you knew you wouldn’t be going back?
Helena: Things were progressing very quickly with Uplift and we were feeling a lot of great momentum, so I had been thinking that I was going to stick it out as long as I could. On the night that Katie, Leanne and I formally signed our partnership agreement, it was about five weeks before I was meant to go back to my firm and we had a glass (ok, six) of champagne to celebrate. At almost exactly the same time, they both looked at me and said, “Yeah, you’re not going back.” And I immediately agreed. We toasted to moving forward – and I haven’t looked back!
Qlette: Every business faces the highs and lows of self-employment. What has been your all’s highest high and lowest low? As inevitable challenges come up, how do you motivate yourself to get through those roadblocks?
Leanne: Managing to raise money and open our studio—in a very short amount of time and amidst a shaky economy—has been a huge high. It might be secondary, though, to the feedback we’re getting from our clients: as a women-only fitness studio focusing on back-to-basics cardio & strength training (rather than a method or fad), plus our cozy, congenial atmosphere that allows women to hang out, be comfortable, and meet new friends, we seem to really be hitting multiple cords with women. Nothing makes us happier than a studio humming with women who keep telling us that we’re positively impacting their lives. As to what keeps us going through challenges, that is fairly simple: we believe whole-heartedly in what we’re doing, and we’re fighters. We never give up. If one door closes, we find another one, or bulldoze through!
Qlette: What gets you out of bed in the morning? What keeps you up at night?
Katie: It’s sort of one and the same. When you own your own business like we do, we eat, breathe and sleep (or not, as the case may be sometimes!) it. We have this huge vision of a big brand that has a lot of impact among women in our country and beyond. But when you’re first starting out, the devil also has to be in the details. We need to worry about folding towels and stocking our locker room just as much as we need to worry about our branding and opening other studios! So it’s an interesting balance between constantly growing but also staying focused on the present, needs of the studio, etc.
Qlette: As business owners, what is the one thing you cannot live without?
Helena: Our Google calendar: it’s more than a calendar, actually, instead acting like another form of communication among the three of us. We share it and have our own coding and verbiage–it is the only conceivable way we could operate. We juggle client, class and trainer schedules, vacation time, time off, meetings, important goings-on in the studio and everything in between. There is a LOT to keep track of!
Qlette: Uplift was born from your playful combination of working out, socializing and yummy cocktails. How do you continue to show women that they don’t have to give up their social lives to stay fit and healthy?
Leanne: We show it first and foremost by living it. The three partners are all fit and healthy, but we consider socializing (and if you like, some wine-drinking along with that!) to be a major component of a fit and healthy life. Deprivation is not remotely healthy and is not a long-term strategy. In fact, as we were preparing to open Uplift, we read a lot of studies suggesting that the key to content, healthy and happy women is a combination of physical fitness and a robust social life, filled with friends. We engender that environment every day in our studio.
Qlette: Women often judge their own self-image against celebrities. What celebrities would you consider healthy looking with attainable bodies?
Katie: It’s hard to know/judge celebrities from pictures in magazine or interviews. Some people are very naturally thin and some are curvy. Some deprive themselves completely to get in shape for a role, and some, like for example, Jennifer Hudson, may realize that the extra weight they’re carrying isn’t healthy for their body types, so they commit to losing weight in a healthy manner. The bottom line is, celebrities in many ways are in part exalted for their physical appearance and thus represent an unattainable ideal for the rest of us. We say, instead of comparing yourself to celebrities or anyone else, determine what is the healthy state your body can/should be, and work to get there or stay there, but in a healthy way.
Qlette: Going into winter many of us are prone to hibernate, any advice to get women off the couch and moving around?
Helena: As Nike once said, “Just Do It.” Our number one tip for fitness during the dark days of winter is to NOT use it as an excuse to stop exercising and diverge completely from a somewhat healthy workout routine. Even if you’re not a morning person, we advise fitting in workouts in the morning—there are just too many temptations later in the day, whether it’s your mom’s couch and home-cooking, or just tons of holiday parties that crop up this time of year. Also, getting your workout in first thing in the morning has a twofold benefit: you’ll feel good all day (and it can serve as a tangible reminder to better choices when it comes to eating and drinking) and also you’ll burn more calories throughout the course of the day. No matter where you are, you can fit in a 20-minute workout most days. It’s a fallacy that a good workout has to be a two-hour endeavor. Also, the great thing about working out is that fitness can be found everywhere. You can find us going shopping and lunging down our hallway doing bicep curls with shopping bags, and things like that!
Qlette: With that motivation to get up, what are your top 5 fitness moves to strengthen and feel like you can take on the world?
Leanne: First is cardio: things like jump ropes are very portable and you can do it in most weather conditions. We also advocate using stairs. Most houses/apt buildings have them and running stairs for 5-10 minutes is a great calorie burner. Then do repeats and variations of our master circuit: perfect pushups, dips, squats, lunges, and planks. This is an easy, portable, and no-excuses-allowed way to carry on with your fitness no matter where you are or how little time you think you have!
Qlette: So then, what’s next?
Katie: Studios around the city. After that, the world! We’re nothing if not THINKING BIG!