Building a Franchise in the Boutique Fitness Industry with Helaine Knapp, Founder and CEO of CityRow

Building one business at a time is hard enough, but building two different businesses at the same time is crazy.
Helaine Knapp, Small Business Edge’s most recent podcast guest for season two, did exactly that.
While working at a high-growth startup in New York City, Helaine, an enthusiast of spin and other boutique workouts, injured her back. As a result, she was looking for the next thing in fitness that would give her the results she wanted while keeping her body safe. This led her to found CityRow, a trendy boutique fitness workout focused around low-impact rowing. CityRow began franchising in 2018 to bring studios to cities across the country.
Listen to Helaine’s episode of Small Business Edge by clicking the video below, or go straight to iTunes, direct download, or Stitcher.
“There wasn’t a workout out that was giving people results while taking care of people’s bodies. I saw an opportunity to create something better, something smarter.”
What you’ll learn in this episode:
  • How Helaine went from the world of startups to the world of boutique fitness franchising …and how they overlapped
  • Why rowing is a great workout for those who want results from a low-impact workout
  • How to work in an (intense) day job and start your own business on the side and Helaine’s advice to those who want to do this
Show notes:
Helaine Knapp joins Small Business Edge for the second episode of season 2.
Helaine is the founder and CEO of CityRow, a boutique fitness studio that combines row intervals on sexy, water machines with dynamic sculpting exercises. CityRow has been open since 2014 and has grown immensely ever since.
Helaine Knapp didn’t always know that she would be the founder of a successful startup in the boutique fitness industry. Before that, she worked in high fashion, advertising, publishing and eventually the tech startup industry, and she always spent her evenings in the gym.
After getting a back injury at 25 years old, a friend suggested rowing for an amazing workout that is low impact. Helaine wasn’t into it at all – but, Helaine saw an opportunity in the industry for a great low-impact workout, and despite her negative connotations about rowing, she couldn’t get away from it.
She found a sexy, trendy water rowing machine and paired it with weight training. She put up a website and with the help of a friend, did a pop up class to see if anyone was interested in the idea. From there, it completely took off.
Discussed in this episode:
  • How CityRow was developed and why it was so successful right off the get go
  • The challenges of working full-time and building a business on the side
  • The biggest lessons that Helaine has learned through founding CityRow
  • The consistent struggles as a founder of a small business in a competitive industry
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