SWERVE is the world’s first team-inspired indoor cycling studio. As society has become more digitally connected, people are increasingly craving human connection and real-life experiences. At the same time, people (especially millennials) are leading more wellness-focused lives – so they created a space where people can build relationships (professional or personal) while becoming healthier and happier, all at once. Unlike most boutique fitness studios in NYC, SWERVE has large, dedicated community spaces (with smoothie bars) in its facilities, encouraging people to hang around and connect with others after the workout. Currently, the company has three studios in NYC, one in Montauk, and others in the works.
A Versed Business Leader
Eric is Co-founder and CEO of SWERVE Fitness. He drives the company’s vision forward by managing the company’s finances, investor relationships, corporate sales, strategic partnerships, and (his personal favorite) building community among the riders. If anyone wants to meet him, he/she can catch him on a bike most days or find him moderating the company’s quarterly Speaker Series events.
Eric has a degree in Psychology and Economics from Harvard and experience as a Division I Lacrosse player under his belt. Before opening SWERVE, he held a position at Investment Bank HSBC.
Delivering Robust Relationships with Clients
Before starting SWERVE in 2013, all 3 Co-Founders were working in banking. Eric says, “We began inviting our clients to fitness classes rather than the typical steak dinner, and we were blown away by how much more receptive our clients were – they wanted to work out anyway, so were happy to knock out a meeting at the same time, even if it was with a junior guy like me. Most of the time, we never even spoke about work. We saw initial success with this and wondered: what if we created a consumer brand and experience that specifically catered to corporate clients since other boutique gyms were missing the mark on corporate?”
Since opening, SWERVE has become the go-to for team building and client entertainment in NYC and has disrupted the idea that the best connections are made over the most expensive dinners. The company’s team-based workout taps into the psychology behind working harder for others & celebrating the wins throughout. Its corporate offering is an efficient, health-focused, science-backed way to bring people together.
One of Eric’s favorite ways that SWERVE has been described is by Pamela Thomas-Graham:
“It’s the most egalitarian way that we’ve seen yet for all women and all men to work out together… There aren’t many other ways to work out together with people of vastly differing fitness levels. Eliminating barriers between people and fostering human connection is really hard – this is a step forward in that noble goal.”
Shaping the Success Through Lessons Learned
Playing team sports growing up and through college was hands-down the best preparation Eric had for their success journey. His experiences as an athlete taught him courage, grit, resilience, and the will to grow – being a teammate taught him accountability, trust, and communication. Coincidentally (or not), the same components behind a successful team – the camaraderie, connection, and willingness to give it your all to achieve a common goal – are what make up the core values of SWERVE.
Offering Practical Exposure to Establish Meaningful Connections
SWERVE’s proprietary in-class technology has gamified the experience, which achieves two critical things: first, it breaks down barriers and creates meaningful connections among the riders in the room. Second, the individual performance metrics allow riders to track their progress over time, which leads to concrete results. By delivering results + building connection, the SWERVE technology creates a loyal community who come back day after day for an experience that goes beyond the workout.
Feedback that Drives Innovation
While SWERVE is certainly proud of the partnerships it has with corporations (ranging from H&M, JPMorgan, LinkedIn, PWC, W Hotel, etc.), the biggest driver of its innovation is rider feedback. The company is constantly listening to its top riders informally at the studio and more formally in focus groups, as well as surveying the riders it hasn’t retained. Before investing in tech updates, SWERVE always beta test a minimum viable product with its riders and team to understand if it achieves the company’s goals. The more the company has focused on its riders’ feedback, the more it has realized that the best opportunities for innovation are right under its nose. One prime example would be its corporate challenges. With all the corporations taking classes, many started requesting cross-corporate competitions, so SWERVE kicked off monthly corporate challenges where companies enter teams of 6 riders and compete against one another (think: WeWork vs. BarkBox vs. Hulu). These challenges provide unique ways to network, enhance the internal camaraderie, and sprinkle in some friendly competition.
Navigating Challenges Strategically
Early on, Eric lacked vulnerability and did not ask for help when he needed it. As a young leader, it’s easy to feel like you must know all the answers. But as he opened up to investors and other entrepreneurs about SWERVE, he has been reminded again and again that the power of the team is so much greater than the individual – the support of the entrepreneurial community has been incredible and has no doubt expedited Eric’s growth as a leader. His advice to others is “Know your weaknesses, then surround yourself with others who fill in the gaps. Also, in fast-growing businesses, opportunities will continue to pop up. Early on we wasted so much time exploring things that did not fit our overarching vision. Don’t do that. For every decision made, whether it be a strategic business decision or how you structure your day – all of this should be put through the filter “does this fit our vision and is this our main goal?!”
The Way Forward
On the future of the health and fitness industry, Eric said, wellness has become a dominant lifestyle value that dictates consumer behavior and is changing the markets. The global wellness market is valued at $4.2 trillion and growing nearly twice as fast as the global economy – and millennials are leading the charge.
There’s more information about how to be healthier, more science behind the benefits, but most importantly, more human connection being sought after (not only for networking or teambuilding but for the mental health benefits).
Eric points in the coming years, you will see a consolidation of the ‘winners’ in the boutique fitness category. You’ll also see more strategic partnerships with big brands seeking ways to fight the retail apocalypse, to drive more traffic, or to position themselves as a wellness company (think: retailers, hospitality groups, real estate companies, co-working concepts, malls, insurance companies, etc). Why? Because fitness is proving to be the ultimate way to build community and to appeal to millennials & generation Z (those seeking real-life, healthier experiences).
Advice to Business Leaders
Eric’s advice to emerging leaders is that success comes in many forms, and it’s a myth that you must sacrifice your health & relationships to find financial success. Think about your ‘controllables’ and control them, so when the ‘non-controllables’ come up, you’re better prepared to deal with them. “My personal ‘controllables’ include my fitness routine, nutrition, sleep, personal budgeting, meditation, and setting aside quality time with my loved ones (and my dog). In business, I think about the important KPIs, financial budgeting/reporting, and making time for my people. No matter the industry, your people matter most and happiness hits the bottom line,” he added.