All it took was an unfruitful search for a workout class for Payal Kadakia to revolutionize and turn the fitness industry on its head. As founder of the wildly popular ClassPass, Kadakia invented a method for users to try out different workout classes by booking classes online for a monthly fee. We talked to the entrepreneur about her goals and accomplishments.
Q. What first gave you the idea to start ClassPass?
When I had the idea for ClassPass, I was at a point where I felt like I wanted more from my career. I had just returned from a trip to San Francisco where I spent time with a number of entrepreneurs. Seeing them devoting their energy to building and creating something was very inspiring to me, and I knew that I had enough drive and creativity to be successful at anything I put my mind to. Something sparked during that trip, and I was determined to become an entrepreneur, giving myself two weeks to come up with an idea.
Two days later, I was back in New York looking to take a ballet class after work. After hours of searching on the internet only to be left discouraged, I realized that there was a pain point in finding classes. I wanted to develop a way to eliminate the friction that often times gets in the way of people doing the things they love, and immediately recognized that by solving this problem I’d be making a positive impact in the world.
Q. What challenges did you first encounter as you set out on this venture?
One of the biggest challenges we ran into was achieving product/market fit, which means both our customers and partners love the product. Originally the goal was to aggregate classes to be like the Open Table for classes. But while I had made it easy to search and find classes, I hadn’t motivated anyone to actually go to class, and so I wasn’t fulfilling my mission. It took a number of product iterations for us to finally get it right, and while this entire journey has certainly been challenging, I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way.
Q. Is there anything you would have changed in the process as you look back now?
The journey is where all the learning is – your biggest mistakes ultimately become your strongest data points. So no, there’s nothing I would have changed. I’ve been working on this company for almost 8 years, and we had to get it wrong before we got it right, but for me, I was always determined to succeed, and I think as an entrepreneur you have to think that way – you can’t be scared of failure.
Q. What are the things that drive you every day in this world of entrepreneurship?
Continuing to inspire action and impact the ways that people live, and ultimately spend the hours of their life. I started this company by wanting people to have in their lives what dance has always been to me, and I’m energized to keep creating ways to motivate people to live their fullest life.
Q. Did you ever envision how quickly and broadly the company would grow?
Being an entrepreneur is a marathon, not a sprint. Even though the company has grown quickly since we branded it as ClassPass, it was a long journey to become the company we are today.
There was a point, after pivoting the business multiple times and overcoming tons of obstacles, when I was standing in my own elevator and a few girls walked in and started talking about ClassPass and how excited they were about it. It was a very surreal and overall humbling experience that reminded me of the impact we were having on people’s lives
Q. What would you say defines the ClassPass member?
A ClassPass member is excited about what life has to offer. They live an active lifestyle and are up for challenges, variety, and discovering new experiences. Like a kid in a candy store, they want to take a bite out of everything!
I always like to switch things up and do a variety of classes, especially when I’m traveling. However as a dancer, I tend to gravitate towards barre classes. It keeps me toned and strong while also allowing me to keep moving!
Q. What’s your go-to healthy snack?
I keep a KIND bar on me for those moments when I need to refuel and baby carrots are my go-to snack when I’m craving something to crunch on. I’m loving Kashi bars as well (the Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt Chia bars are my favorite!) But I’ll admit, I have a bit of a sweet tooth and I’m known for munching on Gummy Bears or Sour Patch Kids!