We are celebrating International Women’s Day by highlighting entrepreneurial women who are making great strides across their respective fields. RéVive friend and inspirational entrepreneur, Amanda Freeman, talks to us about lessons learned, what and who inspire her, and her journey to founding two of the most popular boutique fitness studios: SLT and Stretch*d.
Inspiring Women: Amanda Freeman
Q: Since we’re celebrating International Women’s Day, we’d love to hear about any female mentors who’ve inspired you in your life.
Amanda Freeman: There are two women who I've worked with who've inspired me throughout my adulthood: my former boss, Jane Buckingham, and my former business partner, Lisa Blau. Jane was my first and only boss and she led her company as if it was a family. I learned a lot about hard work, leadership, loyalty, and inspiration from her. After working for Jane, I started a business with my friend Lisa. Lisa continues to inspire me with her commitment to integrity, generosity, philanthropy, and family. She taught me that it is more important to be respected in business than to be liked. She manages to be the most present mother while still achieving so much professionally and philanthropically. I've always been lucky to have strong female role models.
Q: What was your driving force behind building your own studios – SLT and Stretch*d?
A.F.: Every business I've started has been inspired by my own personal desire for it. I started SLT because I loved the idea of boutique fitness studios, but I didn't like the offerings or the results of the existing boutique workouts. I wanted Pilates-type results (long, lean muscle tone), but in a fun, challenging group setting. Out of that, SLT was born. And I started Stretch*d because I wanted a place to go to any time and for however long I wanted and get stretched out by a professional. I had observed that people didn't like stretching on their own, but they loved being stretched out by someone else. Out of that personal desire and observation came Stretch*d. It is imperative that you are passionate about the business you are starting, or it will be a very tough road.
Q: What steps did you take to make your dream of building your own business into a reality?
A.F.: When I have an idea for a business, I don't act on it right away. I like to give it a bit of time to see if I remain passionate about it. If it's an idea that I can't get out of my head and I haven't talked myself out of after months, I often go for it. Planning mode begins where financials and a deck are prepared to determine if it's a viable business and an undertaking I am capable of. I next go into sales mode and proceed to convince potential investors, employees, and partners to get on board.
Q: With this past year being so challenging, what has kept you motivated and positive moving forward?
A.F.: It has been a truly brutal year professionally. I'd argue no one has been hit harder than fitness studios, particularly in New York City. I've found my motivation in a few things: the great outdoors, the stock market, and innovation. Beach walks, swims, and playing outside with my kids has kept me sane throughout this past year. I've also developed a newfound passion for investing in the stock market, more enjoyable on the days when the market is up. Ha! And the silver lining for businesses like SLT was that the pandemic forced us to rethink our businesses and the best way to evolve to stay relevant and thrive in the new post-Covid world. Jumping into the at-home fitness world was not on our road map and quickly became a priority that will likely stick around forever.
Q: What is one thing that you have learned from making mistakes along the way?
A.F.: When I started SLT, I was simplistic in my thinking and viewed it as opening a single results-driven fitness studio. I didn't think of it as a company that needed to define its culture and brand until we were many studios in. As a result, we continue to hone in on who we are and want to be as a company. If I could do it over again, I'd define those things more strongly from day one.
Q: What positive changes have you experienced within the industry in your time as a female entrepreneur?
A.F.: There has been so much progress for female founders in fitness. Since I started SLT in 2011, the fitness industry has gone from being a boys club to being a diverse and very heavily female-led industry (particularly in boutique fitness). An industry that was once extremely competitive has become collaborative and friendly. I speak to fitness founders daily to confer, strategize, share, and commiserate. The best thing to come out of the pandemic will be strong relationships within the community.
Q: What excites and inspires you?
A.F.: Innovation and opportunity is what keeps me going on a daily basis. I love learning new things and being involved in growth and newness. I enjoy learning about innovative people and things.
Q: What advice would you give to other women looking to pursue their own dreams?
Go for it! Spend some time defining what it is you really want and what makes you happy and excited. Then craft a plan for how to achieve those dreams. It may take some time to truly be able to go for it but keeping it in your sights will keep you motivated and on track.