By Kerry Mack
Soon after graduating from Brown University, Sadie Kurzban, a Miami native and fitness enthusiast, moved to Manhattan and brought a little South Beach with her. In 2012, she opened a Miami-nightclub-themed fitness studio called 305 Fitness. The studio, named after Miami’s area code, features cardio dance classes accompanied by a live disc jockey.
New York City thrives on fitness crazes. And 305 Fitness quickly found its niche in the 212 area. With its colorful studio lighting and blaring upbeat music, 305 Fitness fosters a club-like atmosphere. The studio’s mantra is “Make Sweat Sexy.”
The studio’s first location was on West 19th Street, with only weekday classes. A second studio, on West 14th Street, is open only on weekends. Both studios are temporary and Kurzban hopes to find one permanent location. Patrons—mostly young professional women, but also a few men—pay $24 per 55-minute session. There are also $18 packages for students.
Emily Greiff, 24, was encouraged to attend 305 Fitness by her roommate who became a fan of Kurzban’s dance classes in college. Greiff was reluctant at first, admitting, “I am not the most confident dancer and don’t think of myself of ‘sexy,’ but I am so glad she did.” Kurzban’s encouragement has even improved Greiff’s actual nightclub experience. She explained: “I have become much more confident in how I move my body… I never thought I’d actually be able to booty pop.”
A Miami native, Kurzban calls herself a Jewban—she is of Jewish and Cuban descent—and said she had always grappled with living in a body-conscious city. Petite and slim, Kurzban, 24, said she felt the pressure to fit in since her early teens. “I became obsessed with working out,” she said. “I would go to the gym every day and it was just to burn calories. It was a really isolating, miserable experience. I didn’t feel good about myself. I didn’t feel empowered.”
“I was a calorie counter like so many young women are,” added Kurzban, saying she no longer counts calories and encourages her customers not to be too hard on themselves. She told a class before Thanksgiving to enjoy the holiday with friends and family; worry about any weight gain later.
At 16, Kurzban took her first aerobic dance class. Suddenly, exercise, instead of being a punishment, became an outlet.
At Brown, she instructed aerobic dance classes. During one spring break, she invited a friend to join her in Miami. There, on the dance floor at a club one night, her friend suggested that Kurzban could create a business based on her love of both dancing and exercise.
Kurzban and her friend took business classes at Brown, an institution traditionally known for the liberal arts, and they entered the concept of 305 Fitness into the Brown Entrepreneurship Program, a student-run, competitive initiative for aspiring entrepreneurs. Their business plan won first prize and was awarded $75,000 after a 10-minute pitch to a group of judges comprised of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and business professors.
The competition marked the beginning of a year of intense pressure as Kurzban set out to launch her business. The final business pitches for the competition are “evaluated on a number of criteria including: strength of the team, understanding of the market, viability and uniqueness of the value proposition, extent of customer development research conducted, and strength of the team,” said Joshua Ezickson, former president of the Brown Entrepreneurship Program.
The fact that her partner in the entrepreneurship competition did not want to continue 305 Fitness as a postgraduate career only increased the pressure on Kurzban. The thought of starting a new business, moving to New York City, competing for the $75,000 award and completing her graduation requirements at a top university nearly overwhelmed the then 22–year-old. “My senior year, before I started this, I was racked with anxiety; I was so scared,” Kurzban said. “I’ve never had such a hard year.”
“When you start a business, there’s always going to be people, not so much naysayers, but people that ask a lot of questions,” said Kurzban, who added that she sometimes found herself doubting her plan. But, she said, “I just knew I was going to move to New York and start this.”
For Kurzban, it takes some inspiration to instruct a 6:30 a.m., nightclub-themed class. “I’m not a morning person at all,” Kurzban admitted. “But I love to teach. I love to help people realize that they can do something they didn’t think they could do.”
Depending on the day of the week, classes are available from as early as 6:30 a.m. to as late as 8:30 p.m. with one of six instructors, including Kurzban. The weekly schedule appears on the 305 Fitness website.
As for the future of 305 Fitness, Kurzban has big plans. “Studios all across the country, all across the world, in big cities all over the place,” she enthused. “Amazing instructors, DJ’s everywhere, people wearing ‘Make Sweat Sexy’ shirts in cities all over America.”