“Yes, you can” is Michelle August’s favourite affirmation. When I sign up for a sweaty spin session at the new downtown Toronto location of Spinco (129 Spadina Avenue)—the company she founded in 2014, when she was just 22—she calls it out as her signature pep talk to the super-stoked, sold-out crowd, in between instructions to move in sync to the music. As a mini disco ball makes the dark room sparkle, I attempt my awkward imitation of the choreo, while mesmerized by the riders doing their presses, dips and tap-backs with such dancer-like agility, they could be teaching the workout themselves.
Clearly, August has cultivated a serious fan following—and she’s done it fast. She started Spinco as one studio in her hometown of Kelowna, B.C., and within just a few years, she has grown it to seven locations—and counting. Coming soon: a Summerhill studio (1220 Yonge Street) will open within weeks, and an Oakville space (229 Lakeshore Road East) later in the spring. So, how did the high achiever (August’s idea of a vacation includes a trek to Everest Base Camp) accomplish so much so quickly? For starters, by practicing what she preaches: keeping a can-do attitude. Here, our one-on-one with the fit founder.
What was your relationship with fitness growing up?
“I’ve always been an athlete and excelled in team sports. I started water and snow skiing at age 3, and played soccer throughout my childhood, followed by basketball in high school and university. I’ve always loved being in a team setting, and I feel my active upbringing allowed me to excel in other parts of my life.”
Have you always wanted to create your own dream job?
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs who have all started their own companies. When I decided to go out on my own and start Spinco, I was working at one of my dad’s car dealerships at the time. Even though I didn’t have the passion for it, I always thought I’d end up taking over the family business. My life path and goals changed drastically when I realized the opportunities that existed within the fitness industry. The idea of combining my love and knowledge for fitness to create a lifestyle brand was incredibly exciting.”
How did you know how to launch a company?
“I learned a lot along the way. I utilized my resources and used my family for support. I can honestly say I’ve learned more sitting around my dinner table than I did in all of my years at school. Having the ability to speak freely with people you trust is extremely important in turning an idea or dream into a reality.”
On Instagram, you once wrote, “This stage has taught me that vulnerability is an asset.” What makes you feel vulnerable, and how do you make that work for you?
“Vulnerability has held all of us back at one point in life. We let the ‘what if’ factor get the best of us and it holds us back from our dreams. At Spinco, we teach all our instructors and riders to allow themselves to be vulnerable, to break down their walls, to turn the dial up a little more, and to push a little bit longer. By breaking down your walls, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to grow. This specific post was referring to just that. Getting up on that stage and inspiring a room full of riders is a big challenge. There isn’t anywhere I feel more vulnerable than I do when I am up there.”
What was it like moving from Kelowna to Toronto?
“It was hard leaving my family and friends, but I was so excited to carry out my dream of becoming Canada’s largest spin studio. Bringing Spinco to Toronto was always a big goal of mine. I knew a city this size would offer a lot more opportunity than Kelowna. If we opened in the right location, I knew that Spinco would be a success. We will always be situated in a city’s core. Taking Spinco’s lifestyle branding and core values into consideration, we are easy to fall in love with. Every one of our staff will treat you with the upmost respect, as they are all caring in nature. We understand fitness can be intimidating for many, so we do our best to eliminate that fear, by creating a space that feels like home.”
Do you think it’s harder for young/millennial women to be taken seriously when starting up a business?
“I think it’s more about the person starting the business than age or gender. Having the confidence, knowledge and passion to take your ideas to the next level will bring you success, and I am proud to say I have always been treated with respect in my working relationships.”
How do you deal with self-doubt and cultivate a sense of fearlessness?
“Letting your emotions get the best of you in business can be detrimental. Of course, we all experience self-doubt. Having the ability to understand why you are feeling a certain way rather than giving into your emotions will allow you to overcome these obstacles.”
What advice do you have for aspiring businesswomen?
“Listen to your heart. All the what ifs and uncertainties will be worth it one day.”
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