Gundula Cöllen opens the first Spinning Studio in Berlin: BECYCLE is more than just a normal Gym
A few years ago, “Gundi” was my neighbor when we lived in the same house in Berlin Mitte. Now she’s started a project close to her heart, BECYCLE, a counterpart to the American SoulCycle Studios. Here are a few valuable insights into how she got there and what she had to contend with on the way:
In 2014, I was in LA – on my way to Burning Man – when I tried SoulCycle for the first time. I hadn’t been to a spin class in ten years and that was a totally new experience for me. Then at Burning Man, I was cycling through the desert and thought that I just had to bring this to Berlin. I missed the intensity of that workout and cycling at Burning Man after I got back. Berlin has a lot of yoga studios, but if you are looking to reach your limits, and to do it in a good atmosphere with inspiring music, then there is really very little. Luckily I met my business partner, Viola Hütten, shortly thereafter and she had exactly the same idea.
We experienced the biggest obstacles while hunting for the right location – and a brick-and-mortar business relies on that! We thought it would be easy to find something in Berlin as there are still a lot of vacancies, but it took us a good nine months to find our studio on Brunnenstrasse. We had also hoped to try to fund the business entirely with female investors, but realized how few there are. That is something that needs to change.
None of us had ever managed a commercial building site before, and a lot more time went into overseeing the construction than anticipated. Next time, we’ll know to hire more experts so that we have energy left over for the fun parts of starting a business. But then it didn’t stop: at our first opening class, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. However, two people loved BECYCLE so much that they bought our special 6 Weeks unlimited Challenge Package straight away! It showed that even when things go wrong, our concept is strong enough to overcome that.
Always hire people who are better than yourself! We did extensive research in the US and found Christianne Phillips, who came over for three weeks to train our trainers, who we sourced locally through social media. Our people are what make BECYCLE, and we started looking early to find the right talent. Reaching out into areas such as dance, film, and music outside of the fitness sector helped to find motivated people who bring a lot of energy to their classes, people we found along the way who had similar ideas and joined us on this journey. Often it was pure luck: like how I met Viola, or finding our awesome studio manager, Jordan, who happens to live across the street from our studio. We didn’t have a mentor and only got one on board half way through who also acted as an independent third party for us.
This was a major learning experience for us. A spinning studio should remind me of a nightclub, with a great sound system and a lightshow. I like a studio not to remind me of regular sweaty a gym space. I think we managed to achieve that with BECYCLE. I love seeing people come out of our class happy. So far there is nothing that I don’t enjoy about my new job – oh wait, perhaps the long days, starting at 6.30am and finishing up at 9pm on weekdays. With BECYCLE, I want to lead by example and force the fitness industry to change by focusing on great customer service, celebrating our instructors, and paying a fair wage. And, of course, someday I want BECYCLE to be in every major German city!
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Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.