Interviews

How Sadie Kurzban Went From Quitting a Job at a Gym to Starting Her Own Fitness Empire

How Sadie Kurzban Went From Quitting a Job at a Gym to Starting Her Own Fitness Empire

In The PathTM;, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, medical aesthetics, and more industries. Here, 305 Fitness founder Sadie Kurzban shares her road to success. 

In the early days of 305 FitnessTM; (circa 2012), first-time entrepreneur and founder Sadie Kurzban didn’t fret about mood boards, nor did she spend hours studying books about business branding. Instead, Kurzban, now 29, focused on creating something she actually wanted to consume: 55-minute dance cardio classes mixed with strength training, all equipped with a live DJ.

“I knew if it was a class that felt fun and inclusive — a place where I felt welcomed, and where others felt they could experiment and be their weirdest selves — then I would always be proud of what I built, no matter how many people came or what the bottom line looked like,” Kurzban said. She never looked back.

305 Fitness “junkies” (read: participants) agree with her sentiment. The high-energy classes have become a staple in the world of studio fitness, with six locations across New York City, Boston, and Washington D.C. — pop-ups in L.A. and Chicago, and licensees across the country. Celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Amanda Seyfried, Lais Ribeiro, and Hannah Bronfman are “junkies,” too.

Beyond finding popularity across the country with repeat clients and famous faces, 305 Fitness has a strong Instagram® presence. Kurzban, herself, has amassed a number of followers. On social media, she utilizes her personal account to share more than dance moves and her class schedule. There, she’s unapologetically vocal about her take on body image, politics, and even her beauty regimen. She’s open about the days she feels self-conscious— often sharing less-than-polished photos with witty and/or transparent captions. She proudly champions women and questions authority like it’s her job. 

In short, since day one, she’s remained true to herself — no filter. That’s immediately obvious when you chat with Kurzban in real life, too. Read on for our one-on-one with the outspoken founder to learn about her journey to success, how she’s switching up her beauty routine, her “nobody cares” mantra, and more.

Spotlyte: 305 Fitness is a staple exercise studio in NYC, but building the brand wasn't as simple as hiring a DJ and calling your friends. Take us back to the beginning. How did this start?

Sadie Kurzban: I built the brand by listening to our customers and listening to my intuition. I had never started a business before — and short of a few summer jobs as a restaurant host, had never worked anywhere. For the first few years, it really was all about the product. How could we always deliver the best class that we could? I didn't think about the logo, color scheme, Instagram, or the marketing spend. I just trusted that if the product was great, people would be hooked and want to tell their friends. Our customers, our "junkies," promoted 305 because they loved what the class was doing for their mind and spirit!

Spotlyte: When did you start working on the concept for 305?

SK: I graduated and immediately started 305. I began working on 305 as a side hustle my senior year of college. I had a job as a personal trainer in a windowless gym when I first moved to New York. They paid me $8.50 to rearrange weights on the floor. On the second day of that job, I walked into the manager's office and said, "I'm so sorry, but I can't do this." I walked out and never looked back. 

Spotlyte: What jobs, gigs, or influences lead to 305 Fitness? 

SK: 305 is a company that has truly come from my heart, from every fiber of my being. When I was a toddler, my mom did aerobics — the 90s! — and I sat and watched. When I was a teenager, I was in the gym constantly, trying to use exercise to purge because I had terrible self-esteem. Growing up in Miami, the music on the radio and in the streets is one of a kind. So many parts of my life influenced how I created this. 

Spotlyte: Who has been your biggest cheerleader since day one? How did they support you, what advice did they give, and what truly helped you get where you are today? 

SK: One of my biggest cheerleaders was my best friend, Sam. I met him on the first day of freshman orientation. When I was trying to teach fitness classes on campus, he went around with me and hung up flyers. When I was moving to New York — scared sh*tless — he reassured me. He was my roommate for the first three years in New York, when things were really tough and every day was an emotional rollercoaster. A few years in, Sam joined me as my first full-time hire. He's our COO today and the real yin to my yang. I couldn't have done it without him! 

Spotlyte: How about naysayers? 

SK: Of course there are naysayers! People hate change. They hate risk. And many people hate to see a confident woman in power. One of my jobs is getting others — whether it's team members, customers, investors — to see this vision and take a leap of faith with me. 

Spotlyte: How have influencers shaped or changed the fitness landscape within the past few years? How have you seen Instagram, YouTube®, and other mediums contribute to the success of 305 Fitness?

SK: The proliferation of digital/social media has been incredibly exciting for us as a company and for me as an entrepreneur! For one, it's allowed so many to have a voice. If people enjoy my content, if they feel connected to me and my message — it's a very powerful thing. So many awesome people in fitness are building these empires online, in a way that would have cost millions of dollars in a commercial just a decade ago. 

Spotlyte: Are there any downsides to social media?

SK: There are. For many, it's created more noise, more anxiety, and more insecurity. That's why it is so important to have spaces like 305 — where we can be together, interact with each other, allow people to be seen and included and loved. 

Be authentic. Today, everyone is selling an image. When you are genuine, you give the world a gift no one else can replicate.

Spotlyte: You're very outspoken about body image. How do you practice positive body image for yourself? 

SK: It's a work in progress! Sometimes I feel great about myself, other times I feel awful about myself. What I try to bring it back to is recognizing that my looks have literally nothing to do with my value as a human. I am good, I am deserving, I am smart, kind, creative, funny. These are all reasons to enjoy myself, and my body will change all my life, so best to not make it front-and-center of my attention. 

Spotlyte: How do you regularly showcase positive body image, supporting women, and so forth on social media? 

SK: I don't like this term: "positive" body image. What does that mean? Does that mean that I am supposed to love my body unconditionally? That's a tall order. The truth is, we wake up feeling great [some days] and other days we wake up feeling sh*tty. I try to regularly showcase my authenticity. I am who I am, what you see is what you get. I'm not perfect, but I'm pretty lovable, don't ya think? 

I'm hoping this message resonates with others. It's not about being positive or always thinking everything about you is great — narcissism like that is the other side of insecurity. So, I'm just trying to be real. The world needs more real. 

Spotlyte: What makes you feel the most confident?

SK: Dancing! Honestly! I didn't do 305 for three weeks, and I was wondering, “Why do I feel so bad about myself?” There is nothing as awesome to me as watching myself sweat and giggle in the mirror. It's so fun! 

Spotlyte: What's the best piece of career advice you received?

SK: There's no right time — there's never a right time. No right time to start a business, to switch jobs, to ask for more, to raise money, to not raise money. Just do it. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. 

Spotlyte: What does your beauty regimen entail? 

SK: My morning and evening are the same [smiles]. I really don't have any one routine. I love to test new products. I'm a huge fan of Soko Glam!® and Korean beauty in general. One thing I do regularly is I use an SPF moisturizer if I'm going outside. Elta MD® is awesome. And, I often use Laura Mercier® concealer, a quick Boy Brow® by Glossier®, and then finish with a spritz of Mario Badescu® green tea mist

Spotlyte: What beauty products are always in your gym bag?

SK: Neutrogena® Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes  — I love face wipes because they can also double as a shower for stinky or acne-prone areas like my chest, back, and underarms if I'm in a rush or in between classes. Kopari® Coconut Rose Toner  — I use this toner right after washing my face and before applying moisturizer. It's awesome for fighting redness and blemishes after working out.

Spotlyte: What is your stance on anti-aging?

SK: Is there anything more natural than the passing of time? The truth is, we can be beautiful at every age. We can be fit at every age. 

Spotlyte: Have you tried medical aesthetic treatments? 

SK: No. I don't get my fat frozen, or have my wrinkles injected, or do any of that. Having said that, I don't judge anyone who does. If [you like the results], that's cool. I regularly do full-body cryo. I find it to be awesome for sore muscles or aches and pains.

Spotlyte: What is your best advice on how to be rockstar fitness instructors or superstars behind the scenes?
SK: Be authentic. Today, everyone is selling an image. When you are genuine, you give the world a gift no one else can replicate.

Spotlyte: Do you have a mantra? 

SK: "Nobody cares." My team laughs at me because it's a pretty terrible mantra to carry around — but it's true! We are all wrapped up in our own self-absorption. Nobody cares if you fail or if you win. Nobody cares if you have a really, really good excuse. Nobody cares what you look like. If they care, it's their problem. At the end of the day, I have to be proud of the work I do and the mission I am building.

Spotlyte: Anything else you'd like to add about self confidence?

SK: The truth is, the only way to find the peace we seek is to be good with ourselves. And the only way to be good with ourselves is to know ourselves. To know ourselves, we have to be okay looking at the ugly parts of ourselves and knowing those parts are lovable, too. The impatient, the irritable, the worrying, the sick, the compulsive: those parts are still good parts, too! 

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