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FITNESS INFLUENCER: Payal Kadakia, Founder of ClassPass

May is National Fitness Month. Join CollegeFashionista as we celebrate fashion and fitness all month long using the hashtag #CFsweats.

About six months ago, I started to get bored of my workout routine. I was in a “fitness rut” if you will and needed inspiration to get off my couch and get excited to sweat. I have always been a person who likes to try new things and explore—whether it be restaurants, cities or (probably most notably) with fashion. So, I thought, why shouldn’t I have the same approach to working out?

That’s when I discovered ClassPass. If you have ever talked to me for more than three minutes, I am sure ClassPass has come up—that’s how obsessed I am with it. Basically it gives you access to all the best fitness studios around the world with your single monthly membership. Feel like spinning one morning in NYC then hitting a ballet class that evening in Chicago? (Done it.) Or always wanted to try a bootcamp or bikram yoga? (Check and check.) Through ClassPass, I have become hooked on new activities I would have never tried before (hello boxing) and, more importantly, my fitness rut is long gone.

We caught up with the visionary behind ClassPass (and someone I owe a personal “thank you” to), Payal Kadakia, to chat a bit about her experience as a dancer/entrepreneur and how those things lead to two successful companies and so much more!

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CollegeFashionista: Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Payal Kadakia: I went to school at MIT and studied Operations Research and Economics.

CF: How old were you when you discovered your love for dancing?

PK: My parents will be the first to tell you that I fell in love with dance at a very young age! I began training in classical and folk styles of Indian dance at just 3 years old and have been a “dancetrepreneur” ever since!

CF: You worked in digital strategy and then in consulting, how did you continue to fuel your creative spirit?

PK: I love music! I’ve always been inspired by movement, and dance is such a huge part of who I am. So much so that it’s often helped me out in my professional life too. Whenever I feel the need to think outside the box, stretch my creative muscles or just clear my head—the creativity of movement and choreography helps me to work through any problem!

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CF: What inspired you to start ClassPass?

PK: Ultimately the idea for ClassPass came from the challenges I faced, trying to find time to exercise in my life. I was always looking for classes, but it was a very frustrating experience and I wanted to remove that barrier. I was inspired to create ClassPass because of my passion for dance but I also wanted to find a way to help make the world a more active and happy place. It’s about encouraging others to live the best versions of their lives by making it easier for them to find this mind-body connection and it’s amazing that we’ve been able to help so many people make healthier choices!

CF: How did you balance building a start-up and working full-time? 

PK: Change is inevitable (and something that I welcome!), but being flexible and learning to adapt quickly has helped me in many ways—especially during the time that I was becoming an entrepreneur. It hasn’t always been easy trying to juggle both my professional and creative endeavors but if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that life (and your career!) is a marathon and not a sprint!

CF: What’s one or a few of the most fun/interesting workout classes you have tried with ClassPass?

PK: I try to work out at least once a day, and love going to a handful of classes each week. One of my favorites here in NYC is TTL at Patricia Fit—an awesome barre workout that always leaves me feeling strong and toned! I’m also looking forward to taking my first boxing class very soon—a new challenge for me but it’s all about discovery!

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CF: Besides ClassPass, you founded and are the artist director of the dance company you launched, Sa Dance Company. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this venture?

PK: I’ve always been committed to performing, but as I endeavored further into my career, it became harder and harder to actually make it to dance. I realized then that I didn’t want to be or do just one thing. Pursuing dance is something that has always brought me extreme happiness and following that passion, I decided to launch my own company. To this day, it’s one of the greatest joys in my life and I’m proud to say that Sa Dance Company still performs every month!

CF: What is the greatest lesson you have learned since founding two companies?

PK: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from being an entrepreneur is to embrace change and the unknown! When one door slams shut, another one is wide open so be brave enough to walk (or dance) through it. Taking a risk is never easy, but you’d be surprised what the right amount of passion and determination can accomplish—that’s exactly how ClassPass started!

Photo credits:

Purple top and red top head shots: Alisha Siegel

Dance photo: Andrew Eccles