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How ClassPass Builds Its Mission Into Its Culture

CEO Payal Kadakia shares how she’s managed the fitness startup’s explosive growth–while staying sane and focused along the way.

How ClassPass Builds Its Mission Into Its Culture
ClassPass founder and CEO Payal Kadakia. [Photo: Samantha Casolari]

In the space of two years, Payal Kadakia, CEO and founder of ClassPass, has built the app- and web-based service into a fitness-industry juggernaut that, for $99 a month, helps adrenaline seekers mix up their routines–and studios fill up spots that would have otherwise gone unused. By the end of this year, it will be in every major U.S. market and 10,000 locations; so far, users have booked more than 2 million classes through the service. We asked Kadakia, who also founded and operates Sa Dance, an Indian dance company, how she’s managed her company’s explosive growth–and how she stays focused and inspired. Here’s what she said:

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Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

Movement inspires a lot in me. I love music. Sometimes it’s even going for a run; it definitely inspires creativity.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I check my phone. I go for a run. And I drink green tea every morning.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

We all wear workout clothes to work every day–and there’s a lot of candy around.

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How have you handled your company’s rapid growth?

You make sure to set True Norths for your company. You can’t be involved in every decision and every meeting; you have to make sure the mission is very built into the culture, the product, and how you communicate. We have operating principles–growth, efficiency, and positivity–that people get the first day they’re there. I do hiring lunches with every person so they understand the full story of ClassPass.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account, and why?

I love motivational things, so on Twitter, the entrepreneurial ones: Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra. On Instagram, I look at my [design director], Rashi Birla. She’s one of the most creative people I know, and inspires a lot of creativity in me. We still perform together in Sa Dance, and have very good chemistry. I love looking at my friends’ accounts, too. It’s my way of being involved when I’m very busy.

How do you keep track of everything you have to do?

I am anal about my Gmail calendar. It’s my life. I put everything in there–my to-do list, or even if I want to do things. If I have to make lists, I make them as a composed message on my Gmail because I know that’s always with me. I also have an office assistant who changed my life. My day gets very busy really quickly, but I also try to block in space for creative thinking, which I’m trying to learn to get out of the office for. I sometimes even go to a class in the middle of the day to get my brain thinking.

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How many classes do you attend a week?

I work out once a day. When I’m in a massive dance show mode, I’ll probably be active for about 20 hours each week. I crave movement, so I go to a handful of classes every week.

What’s your favorite?

I have so many favorites. I love PatriciaFit. She’s kind of my personal trainer; she has a barre class in New York City.

Click here for more insight from Fast Company’s 2015 Most Creative People in Business.

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About the author

Erin Schulte is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Fast Company, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Harper's Bazaar, and Entrepreneur, among other publications. You can find her on Twitter @erin719nyc.

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