Sadie Kurzban was just 24-years-old when she started 305 Fitness. She was in college and had yet to secure a “real job.” It’s not the most conventional beginning for a business owner but that lack of experience is what gave her a ton of freedom. “I didn’t really know what rules I was breaking,” she recalled during BlogHer Biz. “Ultimately I see it as a superpower—to just be who I am.” Now, less than 10 years after bootstrapping her fitness empire in New York City, 305 Fitness has 7 locations across the U.S. and close to 1,000 certified instructors who have served over 100,000 clients. Numbers don’t lie and these numbers are good.
Kurzban’s entrepreneurial journey is undoubtedly a successful one, but not without a couple of failures. During BlogHer Biz, she recalled one of the more significant ones as a reminder that mistakes are inevitable and necessary for business owners.
“I was 24 when I decided I was gonna sign the first lease for commercial space in New York. I thought it was gonna be $200,000 to pay for a couple months of rent, build out the space,” she shared.
Kurzban did what she thought was best by hiring an architect and contractor, both of whom confirmed $200,000 would be sufficient for her goals. Confident that she could raise that amount between clients, friends, and family, she whipped out the paperwork. “I signed the lease because I had never done it before and I didn’t understand that it was a whole cat and mouse game,” she said, “so I was just excited a landlord would actually take me seriously.”
This is when Kurzban’s real estate investment went downhill. “What I discovered is that the construction was one real hell of a process and it was one that I was real in over my head on,” she said. After signing the lease, rent started “ticking” despite the fact that her space wasn’t operational (yet).
“I don’t really know what happened but at the end of the day, I looked at the first bid, rent was about to kick in and it was $2 million. I was like, wow, okay. I’m like 10 times over what I thought.” Unsurprisingly, Kurzban said it felt like the end of the world. “It felt like I’m going to jail. How am I going to come up with two million dollars? I don’t even know where to move. I start paying $20,000 per month which for a 24-year-old is like…that’s a lot of responsibility.”
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Plus, remember that she’s doing this sans experience and without much guidance. Long story short, it forced her to grow up fast and also gave her thick skin. She learned that there is always a way and that she can always get what she needs. In fact, she ended up raising more than the $200K she originally banked on.
“I went through a different architect. I made time happen on my terms. It was…an amazing feat and showed me how much money I could raise in a very short amount of time because I had no other option.” Without this fantastic fail, could 305 Fitness have continued to thrive through other challenges, including a pandemic? I guess we’ll never know.
“I learned this incredible, valuable gift which is talking to people and saying, ‘hey, I can’t pay you this right now but how about in six months?’ Right now in a time like COVID, skills like that have served me very, very well. I’m so glad that happened to me early. It really opened my eyes.”