As a business passionate about healthy fitness lifestyles, we immediately gravitated toward Grit Cycle, a boutique indoor cycling studio in the greater Orange County area. Naturally, when we met the compassionate and driven team behind the brand, we had to shine a light on an individual who creates the energy that is contributing to its on-going growth. This month our Thought Leader Spotlight is a female entrepreneur who leads with a community and people mindset. Since 1987 (at age 18) she has owned and operated businesses, and is accredited as a certified personal trainer, certified fitness trainer, and certified Pilates instructor. Her history of contagious enthusiasm and GRIT, has inspired and paved the way for others to be the success they are today. It’s our privilege and pleasure to introduce our November Thought Leader Spotlight: Cassie Piasecki
Having launched your first small business at 18 years old, Vacation Sportswear, your entrepreneurial spirit was evident at a young age. Do you consider yourself a natural-born leader, or have leadership skills evolved over time and through experience? Maybe it’s a combination of both?
I am 100% a natural born entrepreneur and leader. They are two, very different things. Many entrepreneurs never hire a team because they have a hard time leading people to carry out their vision. As for being a leader, I continue to evolve every day. I’m a very different leader today than I was even five years ago. I think the older I have become, I’ve been able to be a better delegator which opens me up to being a better leader. It’s hard to lead a team when you are trying to do too much. I think one of the biggest things that help you to be a leader is to lead by example. How can I expect a staff member to give 100% if I’m only giving 75%? One other thing that I have gotten better at as a leader is to stop talking and start listening. Often, people just want someone to listen. They don’t need me to tell them what to do; they just need me to hear them out. As a pleaser and problem solver, this is hard for me because I like to jump in and explain the situation and/or try and solve the problem.
Your work experience has a variety of job titles, but they’re all centered on health and wellness. What are some of the aspects of this space or industry that you find appealing?
I am uber-passionate about health and wellness. The reason comes down to one thing…I want people to be happy. Physical fitness and optimal health are the keys. It doesn’t matter how much money you have if you are too unhealthy to enjoy it truly. It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s cutest kids if you are too stressed out to spend quality time with them.
As a founder or co-founder of several businesses, did you have a mentor or anyone you looked to for guidance throughout these ventures? What were some of the biggest lessons learned while launching these businesses?
While I have never had a traditional “mentor,” I have some key people in my life that I turn to when I need guidance. More importantly, I have always aligned myself with a group of female entrepreneurs. I found out early on that you need to hang with people who have like-minded goals. I’m also a social media addict, so when I discovered Gary Vaynerchuk, it flipped on a switch in my life. I guess you could say that he’s been my mentor from afar for about ten years. I’ve met him a couple of times, but in September, I got to go to the Vaynermedia offices in NYC and attend a small group, all day deep dive with Gary and key members of his team. This was a gift from GritCycle for hitting some goals. I learned so much about business and myself during that day. It was amazing!
The biggest lesson that I have learned while launching businesses is that you’ve got to be certain about the amount of risk you are willing to take and that the important people in your life are comfortable with you taking that risk. For example, you might think that opening the hottest fitness franchise two hours from your home is going to be a slam dunk. Your husband, on the other hand, doesn’t want you driving two hours back and forth every day because you are missing important things with the kids. Another great example is that you have the opportunity to invest in a new startup but you would have to withdraw money from your 401K to buy in. You are totally cool with it because you’ve done your research and you know you will recoup your investment in no time. Your wife worries that you might lose the money. Both of these examples cause major stress on these important relationships. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
The GritCycle LinkedIn bio states, “We pride ourselves on employing talented, philanthropic and like-minded individuals who truly inspire our community both in the Saddle Room and out.” Why is making a positive impact on the community so important to GritCycle as a brand?
This is simple. We are so grateful for our clients. They spend a lot of time and money with us. It is important for us to acknowledge this by giving back to the local communities that surround each studio. We want to be able to touch as many parts of their day as possible regardless of whether they are in our studios or not. In addition, we team up with our clients to do good in the community. Each year, GritCycle holds a fundraiser called the “Gritty Up.” Our staff and clients come together to raise money for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (Marisa Wayne, one of the owners of GritCycle, is John Wayne’s daughter) by participating in a three-hour indoor cycling ride. We also host a big party and silent auction the night before the ride. In the five years that we have been open, GritCycle, it’s staff, instructors, and clients have raised just over $1.2 million for the foundation. That money changes lives. It is surreal to even type that number. I’m so proud of what this community has done together. #ItsAWeThing
With new locations recently opening in Long Beach and Anaheim Hills, what are some of the ways GritCycle balances its growth and expansion with maintaining consistent customer experiences?
Everything is traced back to our roots in Costa Mesa. Our systems and processes were born there. The style of our classes was born there. The brand was born there. We have worked hard over the last year to bring on key people who understand our brand and help us expand while maintaining the experience that we created in 2013. That being said, each location has its own flavor, and it’s important that we stay flexible with our vision to honor that.
Looking forward to 2019 and beyond, are there any GritCycle initiatives or events that have you particularly excited?
The Gritty Up in 2019 is going to be ridiculously amazing. Since we opened two studios after the 2018 event, our vision and expectations are bigger than ever. We’ve got some exciting changes that will happen to accommodate all of the people that want to participate. Stay tuned! I think a key focus for next year will be streamlining our operations. Doubling in size in a matter of months has come with some growing pains. There are things that we still need to be better at on the back side of our business. We have outgrown some of our systems! Of course, we are ALWAYS looking for the next fantastic location. We would love to open a GritCycle in a different state so growing our brand on a national level will continue to be important for us.
Do you have any advice for someone pursuing a leadership position?
My advice is that before you can lead someone else, you have to take care of yourself. My morning routine is non-negotiable. If I skip it, I’m not going to be the best version of myself. What is it? I knew you’d ask! Wake up before everyone else. Meditate, motivate and move my body.
What is your favorite quote?
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” Joseph Pilates