SoulCycle CEO Focuses on Growth as IPO Plan in ‘Holding Pattern’

  • Melanie Whelan made comments in Q&A hosted by IVY members club
  • Says the brand is a ‘tribe,’ differentiating it from peers

Melanie Whelan, the chief executive officer of fitness chain SoulCycle Inc., is focused on growing the company’s footprint in its core markets, as plans for an initial public offering remain on pause.

“We’re in a holding pattern on the IPO,” Whelan said, citing volatility in the market over the past 10 months. The New York-based company filed to go public in July.

Melanie Whelan.

Melanie Whelan.

Photographer: D Dipasupil/Getty Images for IVY

The CEO spoke Wednesday at a forum hosted by members-only cultural society IVY at the SVA Theatre in New York.

In its most recent offering prospectus filed in December, SoulCycle said revenue grew to $99 million in the nine months ended Sept. 30, from about $66 million during the same time the year before.

“We are focused now on our core growth, we are expanding in the markets we’re in and we’re opening in five new markets,” Whelan said, highlighting new studios opening in Texas and Philadelphia in the coming weeks.

Workout Culture

SoulCycle, which offers members a workout in a darkened environment set to dance music, has expanded rapidly since selling a majority stake to fitness chain Equinox Holdings Inc. in 2011, growing to more than 50 studios from six in the U.S. Whelan credited the location growth spurt, in part, to the real estate purchasing skills of its parent.

Managing the rate of the company’s growth while retaining its culture was one of the biggest challenges as CEO, said Whelan, who was promoted from chief operating officer in June 2015. She said she wasn’t as concerned about competition from other cycling groups such as FlyWheel Sports Inc. and Peloton Interactive Inc.

“At its heart SoulCycle has created a workout that doesn’t feel like work -- it’s social, it’s joyful and it gives people a way to connect,” said Whelan. “Flywheel does something very different to what we do, they are about technology, data and competition.”

Acknowledging that Peloton has “a great technology platorm,” she said, “ultimately there is potential for us to get into that business longer term.”

Retail and international expansions are also planned, though the company is “not ready yet” to go overseas, Whelan said. She added that SoulCycle will apply lessons Equinox has learned from its expansion into Canada and the U.K.

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