Anjali Southward | Founder, GROUPIE

"Partnering with other businesses (fitness studios) and cross-promoting to their community has been an invaluable strategy for us. We’re getting a lot of traction by tapping into existing networks."

How do you start your day? I have a 6-month old so my day starts pretty early. I’m teaching myself not to look at my phone right away and to enjoy the quiet of the morning while feeding my daughter. The day gets crazy enough very quickly.

Who inspires you? I’m motivated on a weekly basis by my fitness friends — and even those who are working out around me at the gym with a commitment to better health, strength, and flexibility. That’s truly inspirational and real to me. We’re in this together.

What would you tell yourself as a teenager? Appreciate the body you have and stop being so critical.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

Keep it simple.

What do you need to get you through each day? 

A shower!

What are you reading? 

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem.

Briefly describe your business and inspiration for it.

Groupie is an app we’ve created that makes it simple to share and discover fitness classes. Our users can post workouts, enabling their friends to join them, or they can discover new classes via their network’s recommendations. Studios benefit by filling seats and building loyalty.

My co-founder Caroline and I were always trying to meet up to workout together or get recommendations for good workout classes in our area. We got tired of texting/emailing/calling all the time and really had an “I wish there was an app for this!” moment. We started planning Groupie the next day.

How has your passion fueled your business?

Fitness and healthy living has been a priority for me ever since I was a teenager when being active and athletic helped me with my body image. As an adult, I’m a more sane person when I have a physically active life — which can be challenging when trying to balance family and work. Because time is precious, Groupie makes it easier to find this balance while getting the benefits of motivating classes and workouts.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

As a former athlete, I know that the only true way to achieve positive results is to do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. The same applies in life, and being an entrepreneur certainly does that. I believe in our mission to help simplify and socialize fitness — there are very few companies right now providing a streamlined solution like we do.

What was the tipping point for realizing you had a good business?

User feedback when we were testing the concept pre-development. Our potential users told us that the app would remove barriers to getting to a gym and would solve some of their frustrations in ways that would actually get them to work out more and have more fun doing it. Knowing we had the potential to motivate people toward healthier lifestyles solidified things for us.  From that point, we focused on creating the product that would meet our users’ needs.

What has been the key to your success?

Two things. The first is having a great partner. My business partner, Caroline Geiger, pulled both of our weight with the business in the months after I had my first child. The second is acting before I could defeat myself. Whether cold-calling a studio to set up a meeting or taking a business meeting with my 2 month-old, I realized that as an entrepreneur, it is up to me to decide what is, and isn’t, possible.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your start-up career?

Everything always costs more than you think!

What challenges did you face in the early days of being the Founder of your own business?

Time and energy. It takes a lot to get a business off the ground, and we launched Groupie one week before I had my first child. Trying to figure out a newborn while keeping the business moving was stressful.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your business to date and how have you moved past it?

The biggest mistake has been underestimating the amount of energy it takes to get a business off the ground. There’s so much you don’t anticipate when your building and growing a company, but the key is to schedule consistent time to keep processes moving. A (scheduled) bit of effort locked in everyday goes a long way over weeks and months.

What would you have done differently?

I would have pushed for the launch to happen months before having my baby as opposed to the week before!

What is the biggest challenge you have had in your business to date and how did you pull through it?

We have a lot of projects running in parallel covering various areas of our business, some behind the scenes and others that are public-facing. It’s challenging to manage everything and hit our deadlines with such a lean startup team, but we expanded and brought on a dedicated marketing strategist who has helped us to make progress and keep hitting our deadlines.

When self-doubt hits, what do you do?

Go to yoga. It helps to take a step back, breathe, and “exercise” the demons (pun intended!).

What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur?

My biggest fear is that we’ll run out of resources before this idea has a chance to be nurtured enough to help more fitness fans and become an even bigger success.

What aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur do you love and/or dislike?

I love the ability to affect direct, tangible change – there’s something supremely satisfying about making decisions and then seeing them come into practice almost instantaneously.

I dislike the expenses!

Which books, articles, blogs have helped to shape your business and/or leadership style?

In terms of books, The Lean Startup, Lean In, Executive Presence have all contained great nuggets of wisdom. In terms of blogs and sites, The Sweat Life, Fit Bottomed Girls, Refinery29.

Are there any go-to resources that you have found useful to run your business (service, web site, etc.)?

We use Google Alerts for “NYC Fitness” and other key phrases to discover, learn and share about what’s happening in the community. Social media has also been our main marketing platform – Instagram @groupiefit, Facebook @groupiefit have been particularly useful. Mailchimp has been a great tool as well to help with our newsletter and mailing list.

How did your experiences in the corporate world prepare you for entrepreneurship, or not?

The business discipline I’ve learned from working in start-ups, as well as at big companies, has been crucial. My most recent corporate job has been in negotiating deals for a digital product. Knowing how to structure a contract, form partnerships, and understanding the importance of product design has been key to building Groupie, both as an app and as a business.

What do you think the most important attribute a female entrepreneur/ business owner can possess?

Positivity. As a woman, you’ll likely face double the obstacles your male counterparts do — at least right now. A great attitude is the best weapon against naysayers.

What do you do outside the office to help you stay creative/productive? 

Nothing shocks the brain better than trying new workouts! You have to listen, you have to feel, you have to observe, and then ultimately, you have to push yourself. It’s the best training for the rest of your day.

What would you say to another woman who asked you if they should take the leap and start their own business?

I believe in educated risks. If you’ve done your research and truly believe in your product, go for it. Act before you have a chance to say “no” in your head.