Chelsea Kocis is the founder of one of my favorite boutique fitness studios, SWERVE. SWERVE is the first team inspired spin class. Riders are divided into teams that compete throughout the class. The friendly competition is empowering and I end up getting an amazing workout (and a smoothie at their bar) every time. I spoke with Chelsea to find out more about SWERVE and her career.
SWERVE is such an innovative concept. How did you and your co-founders come up with the idea?
My co-founders and I were working in corporate jobs after college when we began taking clients to fitness classes as an alternative to the traditional restaurant or bar outing. It was a great way to bond with clients and we really enjoyed the camaraderie and accountability that came along with working out as a group. As former college athletes, we realized that this was exactly what was missing from group fitness and cycling in particular: team competition.
Once you had the concept formed, how did you create the technology that makes it work?
We spent a lot of time talking to fitness enthusiasts and future potential customers to figure out exactly what metrics people would be most interested in seeing both during and after each class. We also took a ton of classes ourselves to figure out exactly how we could use technology to motivate people in the best way while still keeping class fun and entertaining.
How did you come up with the name SWERVE, and what does it mean to you?
My brother actually came up with the name SWERVE but we liked it for so many reasons. There is a lot of energy and swagger in the name (it’s used in pop culture all the time now too). To us, SWERVE means to deviate from the norm or to change directions quickly, describing our story and our philosophy as a company. We also challenge our riders to deviate from the norm of their lives and to come together to work hard and break barriers (in both their workouts and their lives)!
SWERVE is all about team work, accountability, and motivating yourself and your team. What is the best thing about having co-founders?
I absolutely love working in a team environment because you have a built in support system. It’s great to have partners to bounce ideas off of every day. It also provides the accountability and feedback loop that I crave, to keep me performing at my best at all times.
What is your role as COO and co-founder?
As co-founder and COO of SWERVE I manage a bunch of different areas since we don’t have a large corporate team (yet). I oversee HR, marketing/sales and financial reporting /data analytics.
I’m sure no day is the same, but what does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day usually starts with a workout (often at SWERVE, of course)! I really prefer to work out in the morning because it sets a good tone for my day and helps keep me focused. The rest of the day can be totally different depending on what’s going on. Usually, I have a mix of meetings with our internal team, outside vendors and partners, or the most fun of all—with our accountants or lawyers. The rest of the day is spent tackling various projects (developing marketing campaigns, analyzing our financial metrics and data, working on partnerships, etc). At the end of the day I am either heading back over to the studio for various events we hold, or back home to finish up whatever needs to get done for the next day.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever got was to trust in myself and take risks. When I was debating about whether or not to leave my corporate job, I spent a lot of time thinking about every possible pro and con and tried to come up with a million different scenarios and outcomes. I met with one of my mentors during this time and he said to me, “Chelsea, in the worst case scenario where your new business completely flops, what will you do?” And when I actually started to think about that I realized that even in the worst possible scenario, I would have learned an incredible amount and would be able to apply that to the next opportunity. And that’s when I realized that the timing was absolutely right to take this kind of risk. I had to trust in myself and all of the education, work experience and knowledge I have accumulated (and would gain) and that even this new venture completely failed, I would be okay. That lesson may seem really simple, but it’s been really helpful in handling difficult decisions.
No matter how much time you spend trying to think of every possible outcome, sometimes you just have to trust yourself and your gut, knowing that if it doesn’t work out, you will find a way to pivot (or swerve!) in another direction to right your course.
What is your best advice for young professional women?
Don’t be afraid to ask. Whether you are asking for an assignment on a project, a raise, or a promotion you always have to ask. I learned early on in my career that if you don’t ask, you generally won’t receive. It’s rare to find a manager who is always ahead of the curve in advocating for you, so you need to speak up and advocate for yourself (of course, you must also present the “why” but that’s the easy part). This also applies to so many other situations in life and we may miss out on opportunities if we fail to ask the key questions. How will you know if you can get better pricing on a deal if you didn’t ask? How will you know what’s on someone’s mind if you didn’t ask? You may not always get the answer you want, but at least you can walk away from every situation feeling like no stone was unturned and you did your absolute best to get what you needed.
Thank you, Chelsea!
Images via Fashion Week Daily and Chelsea.