Philly Fit Foodies Interview: Katie Graham, Co-Owner
When Katie emailed us to tell us about the grand opening of RIDE and invite us for a class, we excitedly browsed the schedule, replied with when we could come, and anxiously awaited confirmation. Before even seeing RIDE in person, we knew it was going to be awesome.
Last week, we got to meet Katie in person and check out RIDE. We took the Rhythm RIDE class and it was amazing! As previous spin haters and current Flywheel loyalists, we thought Rhythm RIDE was a great mix of challenging and fun—an hour-long ride, dancing on the bikes, and two arms tracks! Make sure to check out RIDE and all of the fantastic classes they have to offer. We were fortunate to have met an inspiring go-getter like Katie and we’re excited to watch RIDE flourish!
Philly Fit Foodies: How did you get into fitness?
Katie Graham: I danced competitively growing up, 20 hours per week. I stopped dancing when I went to college at South Carolina University because I was so beat up from dancing in high school.
I actually lost a bunch of weight my freshman year of college because I was so stressed and really homesick. After freshmen year, once I started having fun and going out, I started gaining weight again. I had to “learn the gym”. But I would go as more of a walk around and be social thing. So during college I gained like 20+ pounds.
I got into spin—the “crazy fitness”—three years ago. I was going through a really tough time, and my manager dragged me to a rhythmic spin class, which basically saved my life. It totally turned my life around. Accidentally. Spin takes your mind off of everything—you start to remember your strength.
In college, I had everything going for me. I was president of my sorority, pledge head of my business fraternity, double major, etc. After college, I moved back home. Hayden (then boyfriend, now fiancé) was at Boulder in Colorado. I felt like I didn’t really have friends here. It was like I went from going 100 miles a minute to having the rug ripped out from my feet. Putting a long distance relationship on top of that made it extra stressful. I’m so glad my manager dragged me to that class.
When I first started going to spin classes, I was so bad! I sat there for half of every song. I tell people that when they’re like, “Katie! I just don’t know how you do it!” I’m like, “I used to be dying in the back. You just gotta stick with it.”
PFF: What made you decide to take the plunge and open your own studio?
KG: I always thought I’d do something in business. I started to ask myself, what would make me happy? In the back of my mind, I always thought, maybe I’ll own a dance studio or something some day. I also have a very entrepreneurial spirit and I’m very outgoing.
I was taking classes at TORQUE in Collegeville while working in King of Prussia. It eventually became too difficult to drive an hour to work out while also commuting far for work, so I was looking for something closer to home. At the time, my sisters were going to the previous RIDE studio location because they saw how much spin had changed my life. The owner Bret told them he wanted to meet me, so I came in and took a class. He offered me a coaching job on the spot. They didn’t do any rhythmic spin classes at RIDE then, and I said, “I’m not going to do what you do. I’m going to ride to my EDM music.” Bret told me I could do whatever I wanted, and shortly after I started teaching at RIDE, he started whispering to my mom about expanding.
Long story short, I fell into the right opportunity at the right time. I had the knowledge to expand, considering my business background, and I had the time Bret didn’t really have since he also owns a restaurant. The space four doors down from the previous RIDE location was available. I took the plunge and thought, what’s the worst that could happen? Making the actual decision was the hardest part of the whole thing. I didn’t really know Bret that well—I just trusted what I knew about him, which is crazy. I honestly just decided that life’s too short to not do what you want to do. I slept on it. A lot of times. And finally, I just went with my gut. I started teaching at the old location in August, and by October, we had signed a lease.
There are people who talk about things and people who do things. I do things. So we decided to do it. Construction started in January, and everything came together quickly.
PFF: What has the process of opening and co-owning your own studio been like?
KG: Stressful but exciting. It’s important to take the emotion out of things and sleep on them. It’s also always best to overstate your expectations when you’re working with a partner. Being the main operators, we’re both still learning.
PFF: What made you choose to combine spin, barre and TRX?
KG: I was doing the three together at TORQUE, and it totally changed my body. I already liked doing barre from my years as a dancer, so TRX was the perfect thing to add. It got me toning those larger muscle groups, since barre works the smaller muscle groups.
PFF: Your Instagram profile says you have a corporate job in addition to being a studio owner. What is your full-time job? How do you find balance between that and co-owning a studio?
KG: I’m a Senior Analyst at Accenture, but I recently put in my notice at work. Balancing is really tricky and time blocking is essential. Contractors are calling you in the middle of the day when you’re sitting at your desk. It’s all day every day.
As far as balancing goes, there’s a certain amount you can balance, but it’s not really sustainable. You just have to prioritize. I found myself continuously asking, do I have to do this right now, or can it wait? Things would pop into my head in bed. It’s a matter of importance. I just want to be here making everyone happy, working on client retention, teaching, and keeping us relevant!
PFF: Is there anything you’re going to miss about the corporate world?
KG: I really like my team. I also like presenting results on strategic sourcing and using my brain in that sense. I like being challenged and sometimes worry that I won’t be as mentally pushed here. But, there’s a lot about owning and running a business that will push me, so I’m not sure I’ll notice a difference. We touch people’s lives here so much. The messages I get from people—that’s what makes it worth it for me.
PFF: What are you future goals/plans for RIDE?
KG: First, I’m just getting my current clients adjusted to the new format and then focusing on bringing in new clients. My main focus now is building a really strong and robust client base.
Then, I have some events in the works—things we can to do stay relevant and interesting. Studios’ biggest flaws are when they don’t keep it interesting. I want to make sure my staff is the best, my instructors are challenging people, my music is the best. I expect my staff to check their shit at the door. I don’t care what kind of day you had. Our clients have bad days too, and it’s our job to make them feel better.
I joke about, “In my next studio, I’ll have learned this lesson…” If I do well enough, I could totally see myself opening a second location. I wouldn’t franchise though. I think boutique studios are special because they all have a “vibe”. You can take the same walls, same playlists, same bikes, and put them in a different studio under different management, and it would be totally different. You just can’t duplicate that vibe.
PFF: Anything else you want people to know about you?
KG: I’m known for my music. It’s my “special sauce”, I think. I spend hours finding new music, looking for special remixes on Soundcloud—things that aren’t available on Spotify. I like everything—spinning to EDM, rap, country, etc. The other day in barre class I was like, “Let’s listen to Bob Marley and pretend it’s warm outside!”