Noel Descalzi knew she wanted to be successful by the time she was 30.
She just didn't quite know how — until Soul Cycle, a popular New York City-based indoor cycling workout class, pushed her to her limits.
“This was the way that I was going to go about it,” Descalzi said.
Inspired to start her own boutique fitness company, Descalzi fearlessly founded Work It Out Gym on Willow Avenue in Hoboken in 2010.
But her entrepreneurial endorphins would soon wear down.
“It got to be a lot for me to do alone,” Descalzi said. “My then-boyfriend (now husband) really encouraged me to start the business, but he also had a business of his own.
“When I came home at night and wanted to talk about things, he was there for me, but not like a business partner is there — I was 24 and looking for that support.”
Around the same time, Lisa Bruno was about to finish her degree in foods and nutrition after returning to school following a nine-year career in public relations.
That’s when Descalzi’s gym down the block from her apartment reminded her of how fond she used to be of teaching youth gymnastics. Bruno said she then “shot over a random email saying, ‘Hey, are you looking for gymnastics instructors? I live right down the street.’ ”
So Bruno and Descalzi began exchanging ideas.
“Eventually, I said I was going to leave my job (in PR) and come work with her,” Bruno said.
After four years of working together, Descalzi and Bruno not only grew Work It Out Gym to a seven-figure business — with revenue growing 30 percent year-over-year since opening — they also co-founded a second location on River Street.
Bruno attributes Work It Out’s success to finding the right partnership.
“I’m awake at 6 a.m. cranking things out, but my brain shuts down at some point,” Bruno said. “That’s when Noel’s brain totally kicks in. Essentially, we’re thinking about the business 24 hours a day.”
She also doesn’t believe she would have ever co-founded a business if it weren’t for Descalzi.
“Seeing what she was doing, I saw the potential in the business, and it was in my passion points of fitness and wellness,” Bruno said. “It just made sense to take this leap of faith with someone.”
Introducing the new generation of women in business or, more simply, just millennials helping millennials succeed in whatever it is they love to do.
Hoboken and Jersey City are hot spots for young business owners to start making their marks — and Work It Out Gym had the perfect business model to do so.
“My main goal was to make Work It Out an atmosphere that you could walk into where it had a really positive, friendly, non-intimidating vibe,” Descalzi said.
Running a women-oriented fitness studio, Descalzi strived to find the balance between offering the types of classes bigger gyms could provide (spin, Barre, high-intensity circuits, dance/core fusion, Pilates and more), specialized training (youth gymnastics), wellness and nutrition programs, child care and a welcoming environment.
Between the two studios in Hoboken, 27 employees run nearly 15 customized classes at each location every day.
“We like to think that we grow with the client,” Bruno said. “As trends shift, so do we. We have the ability to play with our schedules and design classes that are falling within industry trends.
“That just makes us more of a mainstay and an ultimately profitable business.”
For example, the River Street location offers Blended Ride, or a combination of 25 minutes of spin and 25 minutes of the most popular and challenging workouts offered in full at the Willow location.
“It’s a hybrid of what people have come to know from us,” Bruno said.
Having been one of the first boutique fitness studios in the Hoboken area, Work It Out has also inspired and partnered with likeminded, youthful businesses in town.
“It was great in the beginning, because everyone here was around the same age and interested in the same things, and they wanted us to be successful and grow,” Descalzi said. “And, as they were growing with us, they were getting inspired along the way.”
This has been both a blessing and a curse. While 85 percent of their staff used to be clients, Bruno and Descalzi also feel a bit responsible for the current saturation within the Hoboken fitness market.
“We’re young, female business owners, which can be inspiring to see,” Bruno said. “We’re relatable. Therefore, our clients believe they can do it, too.”
But being just another millennial business hasn’t hindered Work It Out’s success in the least.
“We prove ourselves in what we do and ultimately that just gives us more credibility,” Bruno said.
“There’s obvious strides that we’ve made that cannot be ignored,” Descalzi said.
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In its fifth year of business, Work It Out Gym wants to get real.
That’s where its new website and campaign comes in.
“‘This Is What She Looks Like’ uses the stories of real women to build the brand, inspire people and make them feel more connected to the business and community,” Noel Descalzi said.
“We’re the cooler version of what a women’s gym used to be.”
NJBIZ asked Niki Klaczany of Up & Out, Noel Descalzi and Lisa Bruno of Work it Out and Krista Zevoteck of Grandma Downtown what it takes to be a successful, millennial, woman business owner in New Jersey:
NJBIZ: What, in your opinion, do successful women always do well?
Niki Klaczany: Interdependence. When working together, I think women are more likely to say, ‘I’m the boss, but what do you think? How can we tackle this together? Because I can’t do this alone.’
Noel Descalzi: They are driven and motivated 90 percent of the time.
Krista Zevoteck: They support other women to be successful. I get emails all the time from people asking if I’m hiring because they see a promising startup and how fast it’s grown. One girl, the same age as me, even made me cry because I felt so proud of myself that someone was emailing me and asking me for career advice.
NJBIZ: What are some common mistakes that women tend to make?
Lisa Bruno: It’s very easy as a young business owner to think you know everything, but you have to listen. You can learn a lot from other people.
NK: I’ve been putting in the effort to learn how to turn off for a little while — to not worry or stress and learn how to trust the salon is not going to burn down. I have to say to myself, ‘Chill out, calm down, and go do some yoga. Yes, I’ve got work to do, but you need to make this happen.’
KZ: Thinking small and doubting their skills!
NJBIZ: How can women truly “have it all”?
NK: I haven’t put too much thought into my future because I’m super-focused on the salon. When I wake up from when I go to bed, I’m working on the salon. On the weekends, I’m working weddings. The rest of my schedule is based on what fires need to be put out. I will eventually figure out a way to find more time, and even though I do miss out on events, and I’m not able to see my friends or family as much, everyone I know understands. Everyone knows this is my priority at the moment. I wouldn’t feel good about not doing all that I could.
ND: We’re still in the process of figuring out where balance lies. We’re on all the time. We manage both studios, we have large staffs, brick and mortar locations are a lot to take care of — there’s really always something. But we’re in the process of learning our boundaries.
LB: I’m actually still trying to figure out the 26th hour of the day.
KZ: There was a certain part of this whole adventure when I became a hermit and it got to me. I have to make time for myself because you need it to keep sane.