Amanda Freeman – Co-founder & CEO of Strech*d

Episode 179

Today’s guest is Amanda Freeman, founder and CEO of SLT and co-founder and CEO of Stretchd. After going on a personal quest to find a group fitness workout that would give her the results she wanted, Amanda founded SLT so others could achieve the muscle tone she found through a combination of strength, cardio, and pilates! We also lean into Stretchd, her new venture focused on balancing smart workouts with 1-on-1 stretch sessions for recovery. Amanda is changing the game with her company’s innovations. Get inspiration on the latest episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I want to just sort of make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked out knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara golden show. So join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started.

Let’s go. Let’s go.

Hi, everyone, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I’m so excited to have my friend and next guest here, Amanda Freeman, who is today known as the founder and CEO of SLT and co founder and CEO of stretch. But I’ve known her for for many, many years and consider her one of my favorite serial entrepreneurs and so many lessons to learn from her. She’s such a smart cookie. And I really, really appreciate how she not only gets scrappy, and finds these great holes to go and launch businesses in but also, as I talked about a lot, it’s not just about the idea, but it’s also about scaling. And this is a woman that really understands how to do that. So welcome, Amanda, very excited to have you here.

Amanda Freeman 1:37
Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m so happy to be with you. Very excited. So

Kara Goldin 1:41
for those of you who do not know what SLT is, it stands for strengthen, lengthen and tone. It is one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken in my life. And it’s such an amazing fitness class that combines strength and cardio and Pilates for low impact upbeat workouts. And as I mentioned, she also co founded a company called stretched, which is a fairly new venture focused on one on one stretching sessions. It feels so good, highly recommended if you’re in the New York area, and she’ll talk to us more about about some of the other plans. And like I said, she’s become a true expert in fitness and wellness. And that industry as a whole. She is known as an expert in terms of millennials and knothole generation, but she’s also just an incredible serial entrepreneur. So let’s go back a few steps. Amanda, tell me a little bit about So growing up who was Amanda?

Amanda Freeman 2:48
So I grew up primarily in New Jersey. And I I’ve always been the same person I’ve always been extremely particular, not super flexible, very curious, and always had business ideas. And you know, that started young went through college, I always love to work, I’ll say, I worked during college, even though you know, my parents actually didn’t want me to I hid some of the jobs I had, because I truly like a making money and be being passionate and driven by something. And so I’ve been consistently that I’m a middle child, which I think also defines me. I was I say I was Neither of my parents favorites. But I was everybody else’s favorite kid. So, you know, people outside the family like to be the most, but not my mom and dad. I’m extremely close to my siblings, Kara, as you know, you know, both of my siblings, and we continue to be very, very close. They’re so terrific. And you guys are all on the New York area and one male and one female, so exciting and they’re awesome and entrepreneurs in their own right and many respects so.

Kara Goldin 4:06
So what was your first job? Then you talk about working. Tell me a little bit about that.

Amanda Freeman 4:12
So I had a lot of internships during high school and in my summers in college, but the first two paying jobs I went to Duke for college and they were both there. I actually delivered subs sub sandwich sandwiches, we call them subs to dorm rooms and apartments of students that also went to Duke It was called Little dinos. I don’t think it exists still in North Carolina, but they they the best honey mustard you’ve ever tasted. It was probably a million calories. And after I watched it being made, I stopped eating it. But I deliver I would drive my car I brought a car down to down to school and I was driving my car to people’s dorms and apartments and that’s the part of it that my parents would have like, not been psyched about so I didn’t really tell them that part and then I also worked at the on campus bar, there was one bar on campus and it was only beer and zema. But I, I worked there and I was a bartender. So and again, these were things you know, I really wanted to do it. It’s not like a paid my way through college. But so I was in the service business and the four wall business, you know, businesses that actually have spaces. And you know, I’m there again.

Kara Goldin 5:27
I love it. That’s so great. So I think I mentioned this to you, my daughter just started graduate school down at UNC Chapel Hill, so not too far from from Duke. She’s She’s so far just starting, but so far are loving it. So

Amanda Freeman 5:41
gonna love it. I mean, North Carolina is the best place to live for academic purposes.

Kara Goldin 5:46
Yeah, absolutely. Super, super fun. So prior to launching SL T, I guess that’s when I met, you had launched a company called vital juice, which was one of my favorite content providers. And it was a, it was so great. How did that come about?

Amanda Freeman 6:07
So So prior to doing that, and this was my original career, I did Generation X and millennial market research, consulting and trend forecasting. So we I was an expert, quote, unquote, I always say that in quotes, because who decides who an expert is, but in the young generations at the time, and around 2006, both generations, we’re getting into a trend that we called the rise of, well, consciousness. And it was prior to that time, people were very preventative about their health, they were, they would identify a problem, and then they would treat it and we used to say they would Dr. Google, so they’d be like, I have this thing. Let me see what it is. And they’d Google it and then diagnose themselves. But starting in the mid zero zeros, around 2006, people became preventative about their health. And we call that well conscious. They became well, they, things like doing yoga became mainstream, being vegan, became mainstream, meditating started to become mainstream. And these were all things that were fringe, but they started moving into the mainstream, and I at the time was around 30 years old. And I had loved this daily email that business that had existed that only some people still know. But it was called daily candy. And they delivered the latest in like sample sales, restaurant openings, all that kind of pop culture, a consumption oriented content, but I was starting to be less into restaurant openings and sample sales and more into understanding what drink Should I drink, when I’m thirsty? What ingredients shouldn’t be in my beauty products? What workout Should I try, and there really wasn’t a publication for that. So a partner who’s a very good friend of mine, Lisa Blau, and I started vital juice, and we said it was daily candy without the cavities. That was our pitch. It was the lady that we delivered the latest in fitness, nutrition and beauty and wellness into your inbox. And it was free to subscribe to, and it was an ad revenue business model. And so we were completely inspired by daily candy, but shifted it and that’s kind of that’s, that’s, I say I’m a copy enterpreneur I don’t know, the perfect way to say it. But I don’t really invent brand new things. I take ideas that work in a different category or in a different geography and bring them somewhere else. And so, you know, that was one of the first that was the first like real commercialized business that I started.

Kara Goldin 8:34
But I feel like when you look at categories, you you’re not looking at super crowded categories, right? because like you said, I mean, it was basically daily candy. It was daily candy, and you guys, right? I mean, was there. I mean, maybe there were a few others that were actually,

Amanda Freeman 8:51
interestingly, there was one that was in the green space, it was very focused on green living, because that was also a big trend at that time, you know, saving the environment. Obviously, that’s still going on now. But again, it started there. And then there was one in the male space that was called thrillist. But otherwise, yeah, I mean, I don’t want to do something that I feel like it’s already being done. So definitely something and a space with whitespace, I think is important.

Kara Goldin 9:19
So you it was an ad based model. And And so ultimately, what ended up happening.

Amanda Freeman 9:27
So ultimately, it was a harder business than I thought. And we ran it for about five years, we ended up we grew to about a quarter of a million subscribers, which you can monetize. But, you know, you do need probably closer to a million to really monetize something or at least at the time, and we ended up selling the business fortunately, to another daily email that had started after us that was called tasting table. And they were focused on food and was like food and I’d say wine but it was, you know, liquor or beverage, food and beverage, and we ended up selling it to them, they were most interested in our list in, you know, the people that were subscribing versus the content. So they basically bought us for the subscribers. And when people come to me because I invest, I’m an angel investor. As you know, when people come to me with content businesses, I’m always a little bit like, that is not an easy industry, because I it proves to be a hard business when you’re so reliant on selling the business to make money. These are businesses that really never can be profitable. And so, you know, my next business I was, I was intent on it being more of a cash flow business, because it is hard to run a business where you’re constantly dependent on fundraising. And it can never be self sustaining until you know, you’ll have some big exit at the end, which you’ve got to be so lucky to have.

Kara Goldin 10:56
Yeah, absolutely. And obviously, you were focused on wellness and you know, throughout this and so tell me how that transitioned into SLT.

Amanda Freeman 11:07
So I was we were writing about wellness, living and breathing everything. And boutique fitness started really to be a thing around probably 2008 soulcycle, I think was around it started around 2008 and, and was the preeminent one. And I loved this idea of boutique fitness, these studios that offered one workout and the best version of that workout all day long, in a dedicated studio space, but what I didn’t love the results, and I didn’t love the actual results. The actual workouts that were being offered, I wasn’t a spinner. I had been doing some of the bar focus classes. But I wasn’t seeing the results I was looking for a lot of the other clients weren’t seeing the results I was looking for I wanted the Pilates body. And I wanted it in the experience of all these other studios. And I always was very inspired by LA. So I lived in New York, but I went to LA to get a lot of my inspo a lot of health and wellness starts in California. But especially LA and I was introduced to this piece of equipment. That was amazing. It was an evolved version of a Pilates Reformer called the megaformer. And once I found the megaformer I was in love and I couldn’t understand how it wasn’t in New York yet. And I had no fitness background. Other than that I was taking classes. I wasn’t a trained instructor. But I was so convinced this and committed to the fact that this machine had to be in New York, I tried to talk to all of my friends and to bring it in New York because they were running fitness businesses. And when they both declined, I said I guess I’m opening an exercise studio. And I did it I overlapped it with vital juice. That’s like my other thing is I never have a low I usually am doing one when I start the other which is the safe way to start a business for sure. But it’s the hectic way to start a business. So I figured I’d have to sit in this. You know, I open one studio only I figured I’d sit there a few hours, but I’d get to work on vital juice still all day long. After I opened SLT I was there 16 hours a day. And it was a full time job. And fortunately we were in that we were already shopping vital juice around. So they overlap for a period of time. But I really went from one to the other. And it was my passion for for the workout itself that made me started. I was given advice very early on, I spoke to two founders of one of the bar studios that I had gone to and I ran into them. I said I’m opening this space. They asked if I was a teacher I said no I’m you know, I don’t know how to teach fitness. And they said, If you want your instructors to respect you, if you want to command respect, you need to be an instructor. And so I actually did train to be an instructor and I do teach sometimes I think I’m a pretty good teacher other than the fact that I don’t teach often. So I’m always a little rusty. But it was one of the best pieces of advice I got because it allowed me to like step in when I needed to step in. And it allowed me to command the respect of the instructor of all the instructors. So I started that in 2011. So this is our 10 year anniversary. We’re actually celebrating next month, unlike ours, in the last year and a half have definitely been the worst. But it’s been a great run.

Kara Goldin 14:23
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think that that’s a really important lesson for people too. I one thing that I’ve I’m always saying to entrepreneurs is understanding all of the different roles inside of your company. And I know you do that as well. I mean, you can jump in as an instructor or I’m sure you I mean you wrote the business plan you really understand

Amanda Freeman 14:45
I say apprentice sometimes check people in you know, can’t be you got to do everything can’t be too good for any role in the company.

Kara Goldin 14:52
You have to be able to do that. And I know that that is it that that is something that you you know, practice what you preach for sure. So That’s, that’s awesome. So stretched. I thought it was just when I heard that you were launching it. Actually, it’s funny. I don’t even know if I told you this. But I was walking down the street. I had never seen a studio like this, and I was walking down the street were stretched is and I was like, Oh, this is brilliant. And then when I google that, I said, of course, Amanda Freeman is behind this, and I just started laughing. And I think that’s when I texted you. And I said, God, I this is so perfect, because what do you want to do after your mega hard class that you put people through? That it’s a it’s brilliant. So how did this come about?

Amanda Freeman 15:44
So stretched I thought of stretch because of SLT. So at the end of every SLT class, we stretch people out, we have people stretch, for the last two minutes, the instructor teaches and then says, We’re going into the stretch, half of the clients leave before stretching. And some of the instructors will even say if you have time to save for the stretch, as if it’s, you know, optional, not as important as the class. And you know, I’m a believer in stretching is very important. But obviously, if you observe people, they don’t want to stretch themselves out, they don’t want to stretch on their own. But if you go to a gym and watch someone with their personal trainer, they love that last five to 10 minutes of their session with the personal trainer when the trainer is stretching them out. So the obvious observation is people, they like to be stretched out, they don’t like to stretch themselves out. And I think Pete most people will acknowledge stretching is good fear. There might be some like conflicting research out there. There’s conflicting research on everything. But most people understand it’s good for you. And you should do it, especially as you’re getting older, but they don’t like to do it on their own. And so the philosophy behind stretch is why stretch yourself when we can do it for you. Why was there not a place that you could show up and be stretched out for 25 minutes or an hour or 15 minutes. And so you know, whether you’re doing SLT before it or spin class, or just sitting at your desk all day, there should be what we were calling, you know, I always have my little pitch dry bar for stretch. And that’s what stretch is and you know, that’s where the idea came from. And you know, one thing I felt like I didn’t do as well as I could with SLT was branding. And so for stretched with me, it was so important to be like, very branded and branding throughout the space. And so I’m very proud of the way the spaces look and you’re referring to our first space, our flagship and, and flat iron, and flat iron, New York is it was it was referred to as, as the the wheat packing district, flat iron, New York is where all wellness businesses should start. And so we started there. And now we actually have three permanent locations. We opened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, we are in Westchester, and we have a pop up going right now in the Hampton. So, you know, since that location we’ve grown despite COVID. But I’m very proud of stretch. We also do things beyond just stretching all the other like recovery accoutrement, whether it’s, I can see it behind me, but one of the like, hypervolt. We do hypervolt massages, we do the Norma tech boots. And we have other services that we’re very focused on recovery because people live hard lives, whether it’s working out hard or working hard or traveling a lot. And they need that recovery to balance it out.

Kara Goldin 18:46
That’s awesome. What is your favorite and service at stretched?

Amanda Freeman 18:50
Well, I love a stretch. I mean, I also like a massage. But I think, a stretch, I ended up doing the 25 minute stretch, honestly, because I’m so busy. And I almost feel like I don’t even have time for the 55 which is a shame. But a 55 minute stretch is obviously better. But I end up getting the 25 and with the 25 You do have to focus a little upper body or lower body, it’s hard to do full body and it’s always my hips. You know, I’m always like, I guess you have to do lower body again, because it’s my hips. But a stretch feels amazing, because I think a massage is amazing. But sometimes you have a bad massage. I think it’s very hard to have a bad stretch.

Kara Goldin 19:29
Yeah, no, I totally agree. I loved it. I have bad shoulders. And so that’s c went upper body. I did all my upper body. And it was it was absolutely amazing. And yeah, I mean, they took my shoulders to places that I didn’t think that they could go. So I know it was it was absolutely amazing. And as you know, I would love for one to get out to San Francisco, you know, which leads to sort of the next question. So how do you an end This is more of a general, you know, thinking on on when competitors come into your space, how do you differentiate yourself? And, in particular, in the services business, like it’s, it’s, I mean, obviously, you’ve got services and even when you’re doing the, you know, the work to hire better people, you know, you’re paying more money, all of the things does the customer, it’s hard for the customer to see some of those things. Right. And, I mean, I guess you see it on reviews and, and that, but what how do you think about that? I mean, it’s, frankly, I think it’s easier than that, to some extent, in the product space, especially in the water space that I’m in, it’s like, just try the product. And, you know, and you can see based on a lot of that, but in services, I think it’s really, really tough.

Amanda Freeman 20:57
I agree and honestly, that that I think about that more now than I ever did, because there is a lot of competition now in this space. When we started. I’ll talk about SLT. First, when we started SLT, we were very differentiated there was no one in our territory is doing the same thing. And it was easier to differentiate from a completely different workout, you’re still obviously a competitor, because it’s someone’s workout time. And they’re not going to do two in a day or, you know, they’re only going to work out a few days a week. But once people came into our markets, and did really the exact same thing, you know, slightly different, but the exact same thing is when I really got focused on it, and that’s why I say when I started stretch, I really went brand because with SLT, I didn’t focus on the brand. And as a result, it didn’t give us as much of a first mover advantage, even though we were the first mover, you know, in our territories, and in this space. So I think brand is very important, you know, making it something people want to be a part of. So I think that’s creating the brand itself. And then it’s also the community that you create around it. And SLT is a very individualized workout, we don’t high five, our neighbors, you’re on your own machine, you’re not looking at other people, you’re very focused on yourself. And we don’t have large studios, and we don’t encourage people to come early or stay late. Because they’re small studios, they’re efficient studios. And, you know, that was what I wanted in a workout. I didn’t want to high five, my neighbor, or you know, spend an hour and a half in the space. But you know, that proved community proved to become more and more important. And in certain geographies that we’re in, it’s even more important. I think, in New York, there is this mentality of like, I don’t need new friends, I have plenty of friends. I’m coming for the workout, and I’m gonna leave. But we have had to rethink what community means to our brand as we’ve evolved, because that is one of the big differentiators. I think another differentiator is and you mentioned it earlier, is training and the quality of your staff and your workout and what you focus on. We have competitors that focus a little more on the fun, and the music, where we like that folk have a focus on the front of the music, but we are very focused on form and safety and a smart workout. And I think every so often, I’d say every year we’re like, what is our differentiator? You know, now that there’s these people around us what is our differentiator, and I think consistently it’s been this, we want to be the smart workout. We don’t want to be hard just to be hard. But you know, as you said, it is a extremely hard workout, but we want everyone to feel safe. And to get a smart workout not just like kill their abs, right? Like you could make everyone say this is the hardest, hardest workout, but they may get hurt, or they may be so intimidated by it. So it’s really finding that like that balance of we want to be accessible, but effective and challenging. And so I so I think it’s all those things, it’s the brand its community and its training and quality control, you want consistency, you don’t want some people to be like I only take that one instructor right. Like you want them to be able to take any instructor and have a great workout. And you know, similarly with stretched it’s we pride ourselves on on our training program. And and having the best stretchers and an amazing experience. We want you to love to be in the space as well. But you know, as you know, with COVID everything got a little blown up because for you know, however many months whether it stretched it was four months and SLT some of our slts actually had to be shut for a year, we had to read think our brand and experience without having the four walls and so the brands became about you know, other things in addition to that for a while experience.

Kara Goldin 24:56
So you mentioned the pandemic So, so Tell me a little bit about your perspective on it. So it’s it’s March 2020. I mean, where was your head at this point? Where was the business? What what was going on overall?

Amanda Freeman 25:12
Yeah, I mean, I’ve tried to block out probably march to July, they were pretty tough months if, and it was just awful. I think as we started realizing how long term this pandemic could be, we immediately realized we unfortunately had to let people go as quickly as possible. And, you know, this was something everyone in the industry was talking about, you know, what are you gonna do? And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, we laid off about 200 people, whether they were the corporate staff, the managers, the instructors, our client services team, and really, it was about the best thing for everybody was going to be to conserve cash as much as possible for the business. And so we really stopped the hemorrhaging as quickly as possible, we weren’t paying rent, we put in notice at locations where, you know, they were that that weren’t killing it pre pandemic, we knew they would have a really tough pandemic, if a landlord wasn’t willing to work with us pretty immediately, we had to put in notice. So we shot locations in order to be able to maintain other locations, we laid off staff. And luckily, we knew pretty quickly that the government was going to support people with unemployment and extra unemployment. We had contractors working for us who we thought at first, we’re not going to be eligible for unemployment. And that was heartbreaking. But luckily, again, the government stepped in and supported them with unemployment, and just making these unemployment decisions. And then the calls were, you know, of terminating people, it was painful. And then the landlord conversations, I mean, I am still doing negotiating with some of the landlords like, we still don’t have deals at two of our locations. And I had 26 slt locations at the time and three stretched locations. So we actually 30 leases that I was dealing with, and it was just, and I let all these people work for me go. So I was personally dealing with it. And it was brutal. But luckily, you know, as you started dealing with things, and you could check things off, you’re less to worry about, and you were worrying about fewer and fewer locations. Things started to clear a little I mean, we’re still in a pandemic, I would say especially in the fitness industry, I also got very involved in advocating for the industry. You know, there were industries that were very well represented the restaurant industry, Broadway, live venues were well represented, but fitness for some reason, we were the the fragmented industry that we weren’t very well represented. And so we really came together, whether it was locally or nationally, we’re advocating for ourselves, we’re still advocating for ourselves and trying to get this gyms Act passed or allocation of the Small Business committee’s $25 billion. And so I became this accidental activist as well for the industry because I do have one of the more sizable small were small business, but it’s one of the bigger of the small businesses. And so it’s honestly just been a nightmare. And the irony is now the demand is pretty much back at the locations or, you know, a

Kara Goldin 28:26
lot of the demand is back. What have you seen, like in terms of, I mean, before it was there was a ton of your 26 locations. Probably the New York City ones were the busiest right?

Amanda Freeman 28:38
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So and also, we have 13 of our locations were in New York City. And they were definitely the biggest studios. And you know, the best at the time at New York City is the city that stayed close for classes for an entire year. So what was great real estate all the sudden became the biggest liability. Honestly, one of my studios in Connecticut was the first one to open in Greenwich, Connecticut. And it Thank God, you know, that became our best data. We have people driving from New York State to Connecticut, it’s not that far. But because Connecticut opened and so if there was a shift in in the locations that were near workplaces, they became the worst locations immediately because people weren’t working in their offices anymore, right ones in residential areas became our strongest, and then some of our suburb locations that were able to open quicker or where people were more comfortable, or people hadn’t left. Those became our stars. And so you really had to reevaluate your real estate. And I became, you know, I used to be proud of my 26 locations. I instantly was jealous of my colleagues that has two locations, and flexible landlords, you know, I think there’s no way you can have 30 locations and have all great landlords, right? Like you have some landlords that are just not going to work with you. And so I just honestly, I was feeling sorry for myself, I was like, I can’t believe this is where I am. And it was, I used to joke like more studios, more problems, you know, more toilets broken. But it was really true. Once the pandemic hit like you wanted to have that one location business and a lot of cash, you know, you want to do have just raised money and only have one location and fortunately stretched was more in that position. We had just raised about two and a half million dollars. We closed on the final bit of it in February 2020. And we only had, we just opened our second location, which was unfortunate, because, you know, we opened it two weeks before, but we had more money to get through the pandemic. So you’d rather have owned, stretched ironically than SLT. Come March 16 2012.

Kara Goldin 30:53
That’s Yeah, definitely. So where is so where do you sit now with XSLT? With the 26? are you opening them all back up? Or what’s No, so what? What, what is it down to them?

Amanda Freeman 31:05
So we close nine studios during the pandemic, which really hurts because you spend all the money building them out, some of them had only been open like a year or so. You know, and we had a lot of internal debates, like one of my partners, I have a private equity partner private equities, you know, they’re into growth, like they don’t want to shut anything down, they want to grow. My other partner, who happens to be my brother, you know, comes from a distressed background. And so he was very much like, shut it all down, and then restart it. And so there was a lot of internal debate, and we did shut nine locations out, it did help, obviously, with the cash. And we are, you know, we’re in a great Well, you know, great is, is all relative, but we’re in a good position with the studios that we have. Our biggest challenge now is staffing, and I’m sure I’m not the first you know, that you’ve heard of this, or anybody’s heard of it. But what people are talking about this labor crisis is so real. And it is so real for my business. I mean, I had a staff call this morning, people resigning, we have one studio that we didn’t close but hasn’t reopened yet. Because we can’t staff it. It’s a slightly different concept. We had opened it two months before the pandemic and it’s SLT tread, half of the workout is done on a megaformer machine and half of it is done on a treadmill. And we haven’t been able to open it because we don’t have enough staff to do it. And you have to be specifically trained in both of these modalities and teaching them at the same time. It’s actually I say, if you can teach us how to trade you can teach any workout out there the best training for an instructor can have, but we don’t have enough staff. We can’t hire people quick enough. People are, you know, I think there’s you can you can explain it a lot of different ways. I think there is people are less motivated, people feel like they’ve been through hell this last year and a half, and they have different priorities. People have other options, they are getting paid to be unemployed. And people just reevaluate it. I mean, businesses like mine had to let them go. And I don’t blame them for being upset about it, and a little burned. But it is impossible to step up right now. And so that’s our biggest issue. So, you know, I would reopen some of our old studios, or at least in the geographies, but we can’t staff up so I’m not going to rush to do it.

Kara Goldin 33:25
Yeah. And I think it’s it is a it’s a conversation that everyone is having right now. So and I don’t know what the answer is. I mean, if as long as people are getting checks from the government, I mean, there are a lot of people who are choosing to travel and, or, or whatever. I mean, and I think it’s really, really tough, especially for small businesses who are trying to reopen and certain areas and I hear it in all different industries, so including ours, so it’s definitely it’s definitely an issue. So I don’t know what the solve is other than, you know, to tell people, it’s coming or whatever. But I mean, none of that has happened yet. And so I think that that’s a that’s a big conversation that I think does definitely need to happen. So are there any new studios that you see just based on trends of where people are moving? Especially, you know, given that you’re kind of in the New York and tri state area? I mean, did you upstate New York, or any places

Amanda Freeman 34:29
around our Hampton studios flourished during the pandemic. So that’s the one plus, you know, and again, if we were, I’ve said this, other people have said, I wish I was a company that had smaller, fewer locations and a lot of cash because there are people taking advantage of the environment by taking over closed spaces that were closed by other fitness studios, and they’re, they’re already built out and all they really have to do is paint them. And so I think there is there’s a lot of options. tunity right now, it just depends on like your cash situation, we would love to reopen. And in certain areas like the Upper West Side, I think the residential areas, neighborhoods are a little better right now, because this return to the office is a little murky. We thought everyone was going back in September. I know I have friends who run companies, and they pushed it to November. And so you’re best off now still being around where people live. And it remains to be seen. But you know, everyone’s moving to Florida, people are moving to Texas, like, those are the areas where it’s great to run a business. Also, the less regulated states, you know, personally, I don’t want to live in the less regulated states. But it’s easier to run a business in those states, we’re dealing with, you know, again, in New York, they they instituted a vaccine mandate, which I’m not against, but that means that your staff has to be vaccinated. And if they’re not, you lose them. So you know, you might have staff that are vaccinated, and then there, they go off your schedule, and your clients have to be vaccinated. And again, you might lose clients, and so we’re not out of the woods, we’re in a much better place. But there are businesses that survived so far, that might not survive, if they’re still these hindrances in the way, and I’m talking to more and more founders who found the motivation to fight through COVID. Because they saw this thing on the other side, it was going to be okay, on the other side. And now that we’re technically on the other side, I’m hearing from a lot of these people. Well, if this is like, the other side, I’m in trouble. And like, if it’s not going to get better than this soon, I don’t know how I’m going to hold on. And so some people think, like, all the damage has been done, right. And the 26% of studios, specifically in fitness that close that. That’s it, but no, I mean, from what I’m hearing from my colleagues, and now we really have come together as an industry, I’ll say, because we’ve had to, even though it’s a very competitive industry, I don’t know, you know, I think there will be some more collateral damage. And it’s really just about like, holding on as long as you can, right now. And so I think people thought it was gonna be this like, great time now. And it’s, it’s still not a great time.

Kara Goldin 37:18
Yeah, super, super tough. So looking back, like, what would you have done differently outside of, you know, having maybe less studios? I mean, did you? were you doing virtual? I know, a lot of fitness brands were trying to do that. There’s some, you know, like yours, where there’s a machine that you need to use? I mean, yeah, that like where where do you think fitness is over the next few years? I mean, assuming that we can actually have spaces, but how do you hedge your bets? I guess. So.

Amanda Freeman 37:53
I mean, to your point, my biggest regret was that I had kind of said, we are not an add home brand. We don’t do this workout off the equipment, you know, because we had opportunities to do floor workout floor versions. And I didn’t feel like we could own the floor version. So I always said like, No, we don’t do that. The minute COVID happened, I was obviously like, I wish we had made an at home machine. You know, that was regret number one and had been doing more online. But I will say the brands that thrive the most in fitness, were the ones that could go during the pandemic were the ones that could that were online or could go online easily. But post pandemic, those businesses are struggling to get people back in their studio. And so now they’ve got this online business and their studios are floundering. The minute we could open our studios, we’re doing pretty well I’m not gonna you know, I’m not gonna act like you know, we’re killing it, but our people came back because it very much is, you know, this machine is important or a machine is very important. So the way I see it evolving is especially for a brand like MMA, you know, and obviously, I wish that I own peloton, you know, perhaps a pandemic, not SL T. But I do think this hybrid model, this omni channel model is where fitness is going. I think people do want that in person experience and you can’t replicate it at home, that you’re missing some of the in studio experience. When you work out at home. It’s not the perfect experience. But there are days and circumstances and travel and all this stuff where you can’t get to a studio or you’re not near your studio or you don’t have the time, but you still want to work out. So to be a brand that can offer someone both of those experiences is the ultimate. And so I do think this omni channel is the future, but I think to get people in a studio now you need a differentiated product. So I do think it may be challenging for yoga studios because you can do yoga at home or Barre studios, you can do that at home. I mean, some people have taken the spin bike and done it. So that’s challenging now for the spin studios. I think our workout was very well positioned post COVID, horribly positioned. I always said, you know, and I, again, I felt sorry for myself during the pandemic, who is in a worse position than me, during the pandemic. I personally own a lot of my studios. I’m personally on the hook for these leases, like my personal guarantees, that was a big mistake. I’ll tell everybody who has a for oil business do not personally guarantee your spaces ever. And I was so heavily New York City and New York City and like California were the two worst during the pandemic, they the most regulations. And so I was like, nobody’s in a worse position than me. But now that we’re reopen, like, we’re in a pretty good position. As far as fitness goes, we have a differentiated product that people want to experience in person, you’re pretty far away from each other, you’re on your own piece of equipment, people feel pretty safe. So you know, I don’t I, you know, I don’t pity myself as much.

Kara Goldin 41:07
I love that. Well, I I agree. I mean, I think that it’s a, there is a hybrid in so many industries, I mean, you look at school, for example. And you know, I think that forever, there is going to be this option of virtual, I think teachers are going to have to be trained to be able to do virtual, right, we live in this new world where it’s no longer, you know, it’s no longer just about being able to teach in person, you have to really understand that connection. And, you know, as think Anderson Cooper was saying the other day, it’s like, the mass will go away in a drawer. But you know, no one’s throwing them away. Right? You’re gonna have it and I think it’s the same for businesses that we have to always be, you know, able now we’ve learned how to do it. And we have to be able to go into this process, and how do you bridge connections, and I think there is no better person to, uh, to be thinking about this for the fitness industry than you because you’ve obviously, you know, learned a lot about Gen X and millennials and bridging connections with community and so I’m excited to hear more from you on that for sure. So well, thank you so much for spending time with us. This was amazing. Amanda, where do people find more on you find more on SLT and also stretch.

Amanda Freeman 42:37
So so you can find anything about SLT at SLT NYC calm, obviously also on Instagram, also, SLT NYC stretch to stretch space calm and stretch face on Instagram and I’m at Amanda Freeman on Instagram. And you know, always happy to connect love founders and CEOs and talking about commiserating and all that and so glad to be able to talk to you, Kara.

Kara Goldin 43:08
Absolutely. And Amanda mentioned this briefly, but she’s an angel investor too, and the health and wellness space primarily in health and wellness, right,

Amanda Freeman 43:16
largely health and wellness, largely female founded, but you know, slightly broader as well. Love, you know, obviously, love every, the way we connected is because I was so obsessed with him as a product. Love. I’m so passionate about products or services that I personally love and love to get involved and invest in, help them grow.

Kara Goldin 43:37
I love it. Well, thank you so much. And thanks, everybody for listening. And if you liked this episode, definitely give it five stars on Apple and Spotify or your favorite platform. And you can follow me at Kara golden on most platforms. And finally, if you haven’t had a chance to purchase my book, I’m daunted. I’m very, very excited to say that it is still a best seller on Amazon and hit Wall Street Journal bestseller status as well. And of course, be sure to pick up a case of hint or sunscreen from hand or any of the great stuff that we do too. So thanks, everybody. For now. We’re here every Monday and Wednesday. And I appreciate all of you for listening. So thanks again. Bye. before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts. doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time you’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight? send me a tweet at Kara golden and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara golden thanks for listening