A cool one that came across my desk recently was a ‘gratitude card.’ Someone gave it to me, and told me they were grateful for me, and then told me the story of the student that gave it to THEM, and it’s connected to an online library where you can track this big chain of gratitude and all the hands it’s passed across the globe! I think an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is something we can all try a little harder at. When you feel frustrated with someone or something, try looking around and checking in with yourself and finding something you feel immensely grateful for instead. It’s all about perspective. I’d also love to start some kind of a human connection movement, where you have to go out and have a raw and real, organic conversation with someone you don’t know every single day!
As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirsten Potenza, CEO and Founder of POUND® — Rockout.Workout. Potenza founded POUND at the age of 24, designing it to be something that connected people directly with the beat, using music as an escape to empower and motivate. She believes strongly that a workout should feel as powerful and moving as playing or listening to music. Potenza aspires to change minds before bodies and create a space and environment where everyone feels welcome and accepted. As a self-proclaimed fitness rebel, Potenza seeks to shift the fitness conversation and be a catalyst for change.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Kirsten! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 7, when I opened a store in a shack in my backyard called the forget-me-not-shop. I made my own business cards and sold homemade potpourri and puzzles to anyone who visited. I loved making things that put a smile on people’s faces. I can’t remember a time since then, that I wasn’t working. I also can’t remember a time where I wasn’t moving — or part of an athletic team. Cut to my early 20’s and post college, where I was a division one athlete at UCLA. Long story short — the world that I grew up in — where my focus was on how my body performed, suddenly shifted to how it looked. I didn’t love the traditional body centric ‘gym world’ I found when I got out of team sports.
The idea for POUND was born out of two of my greatest passions (music + fitness), and a gap I saw in the fitness industry that I wanted to fill. I wanted to create a space where people could connect with other human beings, and one where they could heal and rock out and lose themselves to the music like they would at a concert! POUND brought my favorite worlds together and its been the most rewarding journey I’ve ever started.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Definitely! There are so many, but one of my favorites speaks to how the universe can put you exactly where you need to be. When we were conceptualizing the business idea for POUND, we went to a local restaurant to celebrate our first official class. This was a time where money was tight and a trip around Trader Joe’s eating every sample we could see is what lunch looked like — so we must have been staring at the food at the table next to us longingly. Within minutes, the man sitting next to us had sent over a plate. We struck up a conversation and he ended up being our second advisor, and the reason we got an investment to launch!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I used to have a VERY casual approach to travel. For example — showing up 30 minutes before take off. That all stopped the time I missed a flight out of Mexico City and had to sleep overnight on the floor in the check in terminal. Long story short, it was an adventure of a night that led to 15 minutes of sleep before an 8-hour instructor training. Needless to say, I now arrive extremely early to airports for all business trips.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
“Be Good. Do Good.” It’s how I lead my life, and my company. Our goal is to lead with heart, to help humans connect with one another and to unleash the permission to ROCK in everyone we meet. We have over 20,000 instructors (pros) who are trained with these values in mind. When our POUND Pros go out and launch their own classes after training, they work to create spaces where people are free to be themselves. They help participants feel valued and strong, comfortable in their own skin and supported. They lead their students through incredible emotional releases with powerful music where they can literally POUND out all of their aggression and stress and leave it on the mat. They build local communities (POUND Posses) that pull together to rock out and raise money for good causes, they get their local communities MOVING in open and inclusive environments truly built for ALL ages and ALL stages (check out our awesome kids program Generation POUND too!), and they truly inspire and change lives for the better. Our community is the heartbeat of everything we do, and their impact can be seen and HEARD across the globe. (94+ countries now!)
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
There are truly too many great ones to pick from! Our testimonial docs and incoming DMs on Insta + FB have been known to crash computers. 😉 The stories we hear from students and instructors on a daily basis are enough to give you goosebumps or draw tears. We’ve had people survive hurricanes and tornadoes, lose absolutely everything they have, only to have their local POUND posse’s rally behind them to help them rebuild. We’ve had breast cancer survivors find their strength and their confidence again through POUND class. We’ve had people deal with traumatic loss — babies, spouses, friends — and find healing and comfort through POUND and their respective communities. We have people teaching classes with prosthetic arms, to children with special needs, leading ‘chair POUND’ at senior centers and weekly class at rehab centers, and in all cases it provides energy, light, healing and comfort. It’s truly miraculous and overwhelming when you witness the impact that our community is making in the world. They are changing it for the better, EVERY DAY, that’s for sure! We seem to attract very special humans.
Are there four things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Definitely! If I had to pick just four, I’d say the following.
- Normalize Mental Health. Mental health is something that almost every human deals with at some point in their life — which is why the stigma needs to be lifted. Make mental health part of the conversation. Talk about it. Educate. And Normalize it within our culture.
- Human connection is key. We need more initiatives to get people connecting, talking, putting their phones down, and making an effort to connect and understand each other.
- Healthy eating is big! There is so much sugar in absolutely everything we eat, the processed foods are quick and affordable and widely available, and it can make it hard for the masses to eat clean and fuel their body with the nutrition they need. Let’s change that!
- Innovative exercise is everything. We all know how important it is to stay active and strengthen our bodies, but why does it have to be such a chore? Let’s make FUN workouts more widely available, and start it with our youngest generations. Physical education programs in public schools should make kids EXCITED to workout. (shhhh — we plan to help here! Generation POUND class, anyone?)
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think leadership is to lead by example. To get into the trenches, do as you preach, take risks, and really be open to evolving and learning as you go. I also think it’s about authenticity. I make a conscious effort every day to check in with myself, make sure the decisions I’m making on a daily and weekly basis are aligning with my core values and goals, and I am never afraid to hit the reset button and start over when I get bumped off of my intended path.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Do one thing, really well. People often feel the pressure to grow their companies at an unsustainable rate, create new products to one up the competitors, and drive themselves into the ground trying to stay in the race.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Good things take time. The large projects need time. Keep your eye on the goal and take tiny steps each day to get there.
- Rent an office you can grow into. Again, look to the future! We had to learn this lesson the hard way as we’ve grown, often times sharing desks or working around kitchen tables or sprawled out on couches. Think about the team you will need within your 5-year development plan or org chart, and make sure your space is the right one to meet that because moving offices every two years can become costly!
- Stay you. It’s important to stay in touch with your true authentic self and the spirit that inspired you to start. Remember to stay true to that person, whoever they may be — and not let anyone tell you to be someone or something you’re not.
- Remember, before everything else, that everything is as it should be! I meditate daily and am a big believer in remembering that everything happens for a reason, and in trusting that things will happen as they were meant to.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Aw, I’m not sure about that — but thank you.
There are so many good ones! A cool one that came across my desk recently was a ‘gratitude card.’ Someone gave it to me, and told me they were grateful for me, and then told me the story of the student that gave it to THEM, and it’s connected to an online library where you can track this big chain of gratitude and all the hands it’s passed across the globe! I think an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is something we can all try a little harder at. When you feel frustrated with someone or something, try looking around and checking in with yourself and finding something you feel immensely grateful for instead. It’s all about perspective. I’d also love to start some kind of a human connection movement, where you have to go out and have a raw and real, organic conversation with someone you don’t know every single day!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Finding yourself” is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.”
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Oh man, that is a really hard one. I would love to sit down with Esther Perel. I find her so fascinating and could listen to her talk for hours.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’d love to connect! Follow POUND across channels by searching for @poundfit and my personal page on IG @kirstenpotenza.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
It was great chatting with you!