Home » Episode #388: Navigating the Fitness Industry’s Hangover: Helaine Knapp’s Tale of City Row

Helaine Knapp, a self-professed "tech junkie" with a Big Ten education and a penchant for healthy living, risks it all to launch a boutique fitness empire, only to discover the water is colder and the monsters more fierce than she ever imagined. City Row is over 10 years old and they were one of the first to "make rowing sexy" and bring it to the forefront.  She is now an expert in connected fitness, having built a best-in-class software platform and content production. 

Helaine was always a fitness enthusiast, but she had to learn the hard way to take it slow. After college, Helaine was working in tech startups when her love for fitness kicked in again. She was a "Spinning junkie," trying to out-work everyone else, but it led to her herniating three disks in her lower back. After this, she developed a concept for a boutique fitness studio, and recruited her old college friend Annie Mulgrew to help. Together, they built City Row from the ground up, and in the process, created an empire. Despite the challenges they faced, Helaine learned that the best way to succeed was to go together, not alone.

As someone who never started a business prior to jumping in with both feet, she states "As I tell young entrepreneurs all the time . . . I knew that it was going to be pretty hard, but I also knew that I wanted to bet on myself. And I would say, jump in if you really want to do it, but go in wise, with eyes wide open. This is not rainbows and butterflies. The water is cold, and there are fucking monsters lurking below. And if that sounds appealing to you, then you should definitely have some fun and jump in. But the water is cold and there are sharks!"

In this episode, she and Pete discuss: 

1. How Helaine used her tech skills to create a successful boutique fitness business.

2. What strategies she used to build a strong team culture and successful franchise.

3. The challenges entrepreneurs faced during the pandemic (and now post-pandemic climate) and how to overcome them.

Click here to download transcript

Other episodes you'll enjoy around boutique fitness:

Julian Barnes: https://www.halotalks.com/episode-326-julian-barnes-ceo-co-founder-boutique-fitness-solutions/

Greco Fitness: https://www.halotalks.com/greco-fitness-jenna-york-and-mike-donnelly/

Sumner Hanna: https://www.halotalks.com/episode-370-sumner-hanna-senior-instructor-at-soulcycle-designer-and-co-founder-sumner-leigh-athletics/

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