Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to go behind the brand. First things first, though, what is something about you that the many people who follow you don’t know?
Anna: Most people probably don’t know I have three citizenships. I was born in Canada, then moved to Zurich to accommodate my father’s job at Credit Suisse. I moved to the United States (California) when I was nine and have lived here ever since.
Adam: How did you get here? What is your inside story?
Anna: After graduating from the University of California at Irvine with a BFA in Dance, I moved to NYC to pursue a career as a professional dancer. When I was first starting out, I was extremely ambitious and took almost every opportunity that presented itself. From performing on Broadway, touring with shows like “Fame,” choreographing and performing with Shakira, major motion pictures, TV, event planning, working at a law journal, I often held “5 jobs at a time” and I loved being a young entrepreneur. Alongside my career as a professional dancer, I started working at the Reebok Sports Club, NYC’s premiere luxury gym. I dabbled with every kind of workout from spinning to Pilates to powerlifting, but never felt fully satisfied by any of them. I wanted to find a way to combine fitness with the transformative power of dance, my first love. This led to developing my namesake technique. Unlike most dance-fitness classes on the market, AKT is a comprehensive dance fitness program rooted in exercise science – the true marriage of dance and HIIT. AKT bridges the gap between big box gym and the boutique fitness studio by offering curated programming in the supportive and exhilarating community of the boutique studio.
In 2012, after testing my class model for two years in two different markets, I decided it was time to open a brick-and-mortar studio of my own. At first, I personally managed all the operations, marketing, sales, and branding that were necessary to get the studio up and running, working 18 to 20 hour days, which could include up to 7 hours of exercise, teaching, training, certifying my instructors, and creating the class programming. I was excited to take my entrepreneurial spirit, along with all the professional training and experiences from the last 15 years of my life to finally open AKT. After the success of the first studio, I self-funded the expansion of the AKT On Demand platform, the AKT DVD, and two additional studios, one in NYC and one in East Hampton. With attendance booming and celebrities like Kelly Ripa and Karlie Kloss flocking to the workout, I decided it was time to scale. I set out to raise Series A funding and spent the next year searching for the right partner. I found that partner in Xponential fitness in March of 2018. With Xponential’s support, we plan to open over 300 studios and expand internationally.
Adam: What are the best lessons you have learned from your entrepreneurial journey?
Anna: Surround yourself with people who round out your weaknesses and highlight your strengths. As an entrepreneur, you need to develop a strong team of mentors, advisors and employees. Never try to do it all on your own. You will be much stronger and more effective with a great team behind you! Additionally, don’t keep your idea a secret! Talk to as many people as possible to gather feedback, ideas, and extra support. You may be surprised at the level of excitement generated from your conversations. People may so inspired by your concept that they offer to help you build it! And if they’re not, that’s good to note, as well. Use your resources to spread your passion and get constructive feedback whenever possible.
Adam: What is your best advice on attracting and working with a celebrity clientele?
Anna: In order to generate interest around a new product or service, make sure that you are filling a void in the market. Set out to create a product or service that does not currently exist. Celebrities have access to all of the latest and greatest – what would make them choose your businesses? Own your expertise and provide them a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Once you attract celebrities to your business, remember to do your job. Don’t let their stardom distract you and pull you into socializing. They came to you for a reason. Keep your focus and provide them with the best service and experience possible!
Adam: What are your three best marketing and branding tips?
Anna: First and foremost, create a strong logo and put it on everything. Your logo is the first thing people interact with. Whenever someone encounters your brand, they should interact with that icon.
Secondly, your brand experience online should feel cohesive with the in-person product/service. For example, the look and feel of your website should coincide with the aesthetic of your brick-and-mortar and the overall vibe of your classes. Nothing should be unexpected or surprising when they walk into the space.
Use positive language in your brand voice. Avoid words like ‘but,’ ‘can’t,’ ‘won’t,’ etc. It’s important to create a positive voice and image for the brand to inspire people and associate feel-good vibes with your company. That’s what brings them back and makes them want to become a part of the community/brand! Make sure to not put down other products or services in the market to elevate yourself. That energy will seep into your culture. Just focus on what makes you stand out and highlight it.
Lastly, your marketing should start with an organic approach. For new businesses, the best marketing is word of mouth. Then you can make changes, test out the market, community, and take constructive feedback to hone your product/service. Once you get the kinks out, then invest the time and money to amp up your social media, digital marketing, etc.
Adam: What are your three best fitness tips?
Anna: The best thing you can do for yourself is stay committed. Whether it is ten minutes or an hour a day, set a goal and stick with it. I personally recommend working out four or five times a week. The amount of time doesn’t matter! Just commit to it and show up for at least 2 months. It takes 40 days to build a new habit and feel the euphoria that comes with it!
Don’t underestimate the impact that nutrition has on your fitness goals. There is not a workout in the world that makes up for poor nutrition. You are what you eat and your body, motivation, and energy will reflect that!
My third recommendation is to make sure there is at least on moment in each workout where you feel a little uncomfortable. Whether that is pushing yourself to perform just one or two more reps, increasing your range of motion or speed, or pushing through a water break, remember to always challenge yourself! That’s the only way to break through your plateaus and reach your goals.
Adam: What are your three best health, lifestyle and nutrition tips?
Sleep is the wave of the future. There are numerous studies that link the overall success of your workouts and weight loss with the total hours and quality of your sleep. If you only average 4-5 hours a night, you most likely won’t reach your health goals. I recommend everyone get a sleep tracker so you can start being more conscious of not only how long you’re sleeping, but how much of that time is quality rest.
To ensure you are receiving the best quality of sleep, make sure you turn off all screens an hour before bed, and stop eating two hours before bed. If you wake up in the middle of the night around 4 am, it may be a sign that your liver is detoxing. If this happens to you, make sure you cut back on your alcohol and sugar intake after 6 pm. Additionally, be cautious of over-exercising, this can also negatively impact your sleep and make it harder to fall asleep.
In regards to nutrition, start paying attention to your net carb intake. By consuming less net carbs, you may find that you have more energy and can absorb nutrients more effectively. Our lifestyles aren’t active enough to warrant an excessive amount of carbohydrates. Cutting back will help streamline your energy, decrease inflammation, and increase focus and concentration. I would suggest staying under 100g of net carbs every day.
Adam: Who are the best leaders you have been around and what have you learned from them? What do you believe everyone should know about leadership?
Anna: The best leaders are people who aim to inspire their team to reach both their professional and personal life goals. They are concerned about their teams’ wellbeing and seek to give them the skills they need to be their best and continue to both learn and succeed.
Great leaders are also great listeners. Leaders should listen more than they speak and give actionable feedback and goals to their team. Follow up on the goals you set, and provide solutions for challenges that arise.
Never underestimate the power of being kind. Being kind and empathetic is vital. You should truly care about the people who are helping you to be successful in your role.
Leaders should be inclusive. Don’t just give orders. Be collaborative and support the growth of your team.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Anna: I’ve recently started a book club with five friends who are also entrepreneurs. Since some of us live in other areas of the world, we sometimes hold our meetings over Zoom or Facetime. The book club gives us a reason to make time in our lives for a hobby that exists outside of our personal and professional lives and gives us an opportunity to discuss concepts and ideas that are inspired in response to the chosen publications, not the drama of those very full and productive lives. It’s a nice escape – very cathartic and fun!