ABOUT THE GUEST
Amira Polack is the Founder & CEO at Struct Club, an app for fitness instructors who design motion to music – and their fans, starting with spin (indoor cycling) & treadmill running. Amira’s career has centered around technology, startups, and social impact and her opinion has been featured in TIME, Forbes, and the World Economic Forum Agenda. She earned her MBA at Harvard Business School and BA at Princeton.
In this episode we chat about both her entrepreneurial journey and fitness journey and how they came together through Struct Club. What’s also quite interesting is that we discuss how people have change their fitness routine because of the pandemic.
Find Struct Club on the App Store
Instagram, Facebook & Twitter: @structclub
Connect with Amira Polack at: Instagram: @amirapolack Twitter: @apolack
Karen Swyszcz 01:01
Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Bacon Bits ‘n’ Bytes Podcast and I’m super excited today. I have with me on the show Amira Polack. Amira is the Founder and CEO at Struct Club an app for fitness instructors who design motion to music and their fans starting with spin also known as indoor cycling and treadmill running. Amira’s career has centered around technology, startups and social impact and her opinion has been featured in Time, Forbes and the World Economic Forum agenda. She earned her MBA at Harvard Business School and BA at Princeton, and you can find Struct Club on the App Store. Welcome to the show, Amira.
Amira Polack 02:14
Hi, thanks for having me.
Karen Swyszcz 02:16
Oh, I’m so excited to chat with you today. Cause uh, just talking to a fellow fitness instructor, I felt like oh, I totally have to have her on my show.
Amira Polack 02:25
Definitely. I love teaching fitness. love doing fitness. Yeah. Those of us who are fitness fanatics out there, there’s definitely a common bond.
Karen Swyszcz 02:34
Awesome. So before we get started talking about fitness, I actually wanted to first dive into your entrepreneurial background, because I was doing some research about you. And I read that you launched your first venture, you know, and most of us were just running around recess, doing whatever you you launched your first venture back in the third grade. So could you talk a little bit more about that?
Amira Polack 02:56
Yeah, I will say I’ll condition first off by saying, you know, I wasn’t striking a C Corp or an LLC at that age, but those were just some of my first business activities, and I kind of fell into it by accident. The story there is in third grade. My hands are really small. I struggled with those big, you know, 90s Jansport backpacks. I don’t know if you ever had a Jansport backpack. But you know I carried things around in my backpack is a little too big for me. And I sort of struggled there. And so basically created a key chain. My mom and I went to Joanne’s or Michaels or one of those craft stores. We got a kit to make key chains. They were these chunky pink starfish things that we would put onto a key chain put on to the zipper and made it super easy to open my backpack. As soon as my friends and just classmates started seeing that they started asking, Can I have one? Like oh, yeah, sure, so long as we can cover the cost of the key chain and then you’ll be able to a little bit more to be able to reinvest in by. I mean, what we would call now like, you know, reinvesting in inventory. You think about a margin. That’s not really what I was thinking at all in the third grade, but it was just, my mom and me making key chains. We got asked about it. There was demand supply and demand random numbers, and that was Yeah, I guess we didn’t have a name for a business or a brand or anything like that. We weren’t marketing it or anything. I guess you would call that organic traction today, but that was my first venture.
Karen Swyszcz 04:24
Wow, that’s really cool. And I know I’m also researching a bit more about you that your mom. She is also entrepreneurial herself like she made jewelry.
Amira Polack 04:34
Yeah, my mom has made jewelry all my life. That’s her talent. Semi precious stones is her practice and a lot of actually today it’s been interesting, as I’ve been learning about the trend around healing crystals, when you go and say go on Amazon or something like that and you do a quick search for healing crystals. It’s actually a lot of the same material, semi precious stones, healing crystals, the amethyst, the quartz, the turquoise, whatever, you know, whatever you might call it healing crystals or semi precious precious stones. So we definitely had an entrepreneurial flair, product flair growing up in my household.
There Is No One True Path To Entrepreneurship
Karen Swyszcz 05:13
Yeah, that’s really interesting because I’m, I’m always like really curious about people who grew up in an entrepreneurial household because I’m just thinking like to myself, my parents, they were very non entrepreneurial. They had the steady job was 25-30 years. And I just thought it was interesting. Like, I never guess I would, you know, consider like doing my own thing, starting starting my own thing, I honestly thought I’d be pursuing the same path as my parents. And I always thought like people who are entrepreneurs like yourself. In order to be an entrepreneur, you had to be like a certain type of person. You had to, you know, like, have that background, and I’ve gone to business school, but it seems really interesting how people have stumbled upon entrepreneurship in many different ways. Like, there is no one true path to entrepreneurship.
Amira Polack 05:58
I would agree with you, I would say that people are, and we know this, people are creative. People like to create things. And for people to be able to access things that they want, maybe maybe purchase things, you know, you need, you need resources in exchange, as we set up our economy today. And so there are a lot of people, actually entrepreneurs that I’ve talked to that really more have fallen into entrepreneurship through solving a problem. So creativity, exchange, and problem solving. Those are a few prerequisites to an entrepreneurial path. But yeah, I don’t think that for those who are like, Oh, you have to be born with an entrepreneurial flair. I mean, there are definitely some personality traits that might predispose somebody to be interested in an entrepreneurial track, as opposed to not, I think, folks who and there’s like a blend of introverted versus extroverted folks, I think for those who are extroverted, who love interacting with people, it makes them a bit more predisposed to say a sales and or a marketing role in the entrepreneurial realm of things that you could do. And for those who might be more introverted, Product Management, or product creation, or engineering, those are a lot of correlations that I see with personalities of folks and what the types of roles within any ecosystem of entrepreneurship requires. And so, business entrepreneurship requires all of the dimensions of personality, diverse dimensions and varieties of personality that that we have innately as people. And there are a lot of problems to be solved in the world. And there are a lot of things that people need. And more and more, we absolutely need entrepreneurs and anybody who is excited to solve problems, to be creative, and to interact and exchange with folks to jump into the space.
Karen Swyszcz 07:52
And so I find it really interesting that you mentioned, you know, the different sides of entrepreneurship, like being introverted versus being extroverted. And I consider myself to be an introvert and I thought it was really interesting that you mentioned product management and like product creation, because I had actually recently just completed a program regarding product management. And I really enjoyed the the idea, like just going from that, you know, end to end, you know, like ideation to product launch. And it’s just like, oh, okay, well, then I guess then it makes sense. Maybe I’m better suited for that particular area versus the sales because I actually remember having jobs in retail and sales, and like hating like, I hated working at the cash. And at the front, I always like wanted to be in the fitting room or in the back of doing inventory.
Amira Polack 08:38
I hear you and you know, I mentioned one of the reasons I bring that up is because I’m an introvert as well. And I come from a family of introverts. A lot of us on the team at Struct Club are introverted as well. And so you really have to find for those who are interested in entrepreneurship, really channeling, rather aspects of your personal, channeling your strengths into the types of roles, types of activities that cater to your strengths that enable you to really see out your full potential. And there’s some actually fantastic salespeople as well. And I don’t want to generalize, of course, but salespeople who actually are introverts, but they do very well one on one, with people and in those one on one relationship context or one on one partnerships. Humans are social beings. We love that interaction. But some folks are better in groups and some folks are better one on one, lots of different preferences out there. So that brings me to one of my like, top recommendations for entrepreneurs or people seeking to get into entrepreneurship in general, which is Know thyself. Know your strengths, know your weaknesses, and actually, oftentimes, those strengths weaknesses are a double edged sword, they come together and just paving your role like paving your way in this life.
Whether or Not You Should Go the MBA Route
Karen Swyszcz 09:58
Yeah, I definitely prefer the 1:1, which I think makes sense as to like, why I like to do the podcast interviews. I’m curious to know, because I think a lot of people, before they decide to pursue entrepreneurship, they think to themselves, if they would need to, like pursue an MBA versus starting their own company, like, do you have any advice as to like, trying to figure out how to decide whether or not you should go the MBA route?
Amira Polack 10:26
I would say, I mean, different MBAs focus on different things. So depending on the program, I would, you know, really say, In HBS’ case, is very much a Leadership School. There are few programs out there, and you want to be like really selective about the type of program that focus specifically on the entrepreneurial element of business, entity set up, financing, all that’s required from day one, ground zero, putting together a product, pricing, selling the product. In fact, a lot of that is not covered in core curriculum in just broad MBAs in general. And so I guess the second thing I would also consider for folks who are thinking about their MBA, thinking about going into entrepreneurship, after you know, an MBA these days is really expensive, that may change in the future. Some programs are more affordable than others. But, you know, you really want to be sure that you have a solid reason for, for getting the MBA, and there are many, many reasons to get that MBA. But I would, I would really consider that before jumping into entrepreneurship. Because Yeah, those first, maybe a few months, and maybe it’s, you know, first initial couple of years, you’re going to have to be really scrappy. And you may you may be different depending on your business. There might be different financing pathways that may or may not enable you to have high payroll coming out of B school to be able to start paying back that debt. So lots of considerations there. I think usually when I chat with people, they’re very individual, one on one personal considerations when it comes to their life, their career, their finances, but those are just like the biggest checklist of things that I would start to consider in that capacity.
Karen Swyszcz 12:23
That’s really great advice. Yeah, I wanted to talk also what you got into while you’re doing your MBA, you became a cycling instructor. So I’m curious to know how you got in into that, like, were you always into fitness as a kid?
Amira Polack 12:40
Yeah, I think a lot of founders and entrepreneurs that I talked to, and folks deep into their career, a lot of the interests that they have today, stem in part from influences when they were a child or growing up. So for me in my LA household, in my Filipino American household, music, dance, were a big part of my life growing up and outdoor spirits and athletics. And so the way that those interests growing up manifested for me as an adult was a love for group fitness classes, particularly fitness classes that crafted the motion to music. And I became so excited and obsessed with these types of classes that I just took it up as a hobby. While I was in B school, I had the time I was on a career break. In fact, I was on winter break when I got my spin instructor certification, my first my first certification, and I just started teaching in the gym at school just started teaching classes in the basement studio at HBS.
Karen Swyszcz 13:49
That’s awesome. And I just want to circle back to talking about being an introvert because I don’t know maybe if you’ve experienced this before, as well, but a lot of people come up to me after my class and they’re very surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert, but I guess maybe some people don’t realize that again, with with introverts. We’re not very, like social with groups and small talk, but I find when there’s a purpose or if I know exactly what I have to say or fit in somewhat of a leadership role, I find myself gravitating towards that or I find being a group fitness instructor. It’s kind of like where I can be extroverted is like where my this other personality of mine just like, you know, shines and then after the class, I just go back to being like, okay, like, you know, go back to my shell and being introverted. So, do you do you feel the same way with regards to teaching group fitness classes?
Amira Polack 14:45
I think is a really interesting question, because I don’t believe that whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert that gives you any less care for helping people. It doesn’t make you any less cool. Capable of teaching people, it doesn’t make you any less capable of communicating with people, I think there are different ways that individuals channeled those skills and those tendencies of extraversion and introversion in those relationships that give them unique advantages. So say, for example, for us, those of us who are introverts, we’re really good listeners. And we’re really able to be perceptive. And so when you’re looking at a class of, say, a live class, 30 people are in there, you’re watching, and you’re catering the programming to them, and you’re helping them make corrections that help them get to their next level. So that’s just one example of Yeah, I think for sort of the stereotypes around introversion, it might be surprising for some that there’s so many of us that are fitness instructors. But I I’ll just say that, you know, different personality traits lend themselves to unique strengths as well. Especially if, you know, for those who have a love of helping other people to be healthy, who have a love of teaching, who have a love of helping people be their best, there are many ways to do it.
Karen Swyszcz 16:07
Yeah, that’s so true. So when you were obtaining your certification, what was the process like? Like, did you encounter any obstacles? Or did you just breeze through it?
Amira Polack 16:19
You know, the first one was, where do I get a certification? What is a certification? And what Yeah, just what kinds are there? And where do I even start? I was lucky at the time that my baby sister, I have two little sisters, the youngest one, she, I had somebody to ask. And I asked her, how did you get your certification? And how did you decide? And so she recommended that, why don’t you talk to the group ex manager, group exercise manager, basically, the instructor manager at the first place that you want to teach it, and ask them what certifications they accept. So that was a really smart recommendation, because it just defines your parameters. There are so many now especially not even thinking about back in what I think 2016 when I started my first certification process, the number of certifications for instructors has even grown since then. So defining and then actually, you know, fun, fun fact that a lot of us know as instructors, but maybe not all of your listeners would know is that not all studios now require external certifications. And some of them have developed their own in house certifications. So I think it’s really smart. If you’re, if you’re wondering, where do I get started? How do I get certified? What is the education that I need? What are the certifications that I need to ask? Just ask the places that you think you might like to teach what it is that they require? And what it is that they accept?
Karen Swyszcz 17:50
Mm hmm. That’s true. So I’d like to talk about your company, which, you know, makes sense considering that we were talking about a group fitness instructing so could you tell the audience how you got it started?
Finding A Solution To A Problem – Struct Club
Amira Polack 18:04
Definitely. And you described it so perfectly what it is that we do, oh, which I appreciate. So Struct Club, community of fitness instructors, we apply, we provide and apply a platform for these instructors to design motion to music, and we started with spin. And we started with treadmill classes, as well, we have a few HIIT classes and sculpt classes in there. And there are actually all types of instructors who if you’re the type of fitness instructor who likes to design, design class to music. We’ve seen all kinds of classes that have been designed in the Struct Club App ranging from Zumba, Cardio Dance, Barre to Aerial Yoga. So very, very interesting. And just getting started to your question on getting started on the business, I actually started to find a problem, right, even during my certification process, and after my certification process, where we were in class learning a lot about how to manage equipment and physiological elements to exercise and teaching tactics. But we weren’t really getting prepared for that 45 minute class, 30 minute class, 60 minute class, the actual design of that experience, moment by moment. And in fact, there’s a ton that goes into it. I found that my first couple of classes that I taught, I was spending like 10 hours preparing for class, because it’s kind of like and people are shocked by that Whoa, like how you spend 10 hours preparing for a 30 minute to 45 minute presentation? You’re preparing the workout, you’re preparing the playlist, especially if it’s a motion to music type of class. You’re preparing all the things that you’re going to say and possibly all kinds of different operations that you need to execute all on your own, when you’re in class. There’s a moment that you need to turn on the fan. There’s a moment you need to turn up the fan. There’s a moment that maybe you need to queue the lights and turn them from blue to green if your studio has light colors. There might be a moment where you need to lock the door, because after the first five minutes of class. So there’s like all these actual things that behind the scenes, folks may not realize that singular instructor is generally coordinating all by themselves.
And so I felt like I needed one place to listen through my playlist that I had picked one time, mark it up with key cues, and then have all those cues play back to me in class of what to do when that was happening for how long what was coming up next, to enable me to anticipate the next move. And so that’s how Struct Club really got started. I got to a point where I could no longer really just simply afford with my time to spend 10 to 20 hours per week voluntarily preparing for every single class. And I had people who could be coming back to these classes, I couldn’t just use the same playlist. And with every new playlist, every new song comes different, you know, kind of different cues at different times, depending on what the music kind of commands and inspires, if you want to put together you know, kind of that well crafted, boutique style experience in a dance like experience. So that’s really the problem set that we started out with Struct Club.
Karen Swyszcz 21:33
Yeah, that’s a really interesting problem to solve. Because like, as you were explaining all the logistics and the planning for a group fitness class, I was like nodding my head. And I guess like with my particular classes, the Les Mills, there is like the choreography and playlists available. But however, I can definitely relate to like having to learn the moves. And then like what cues to say and you know, like, at certain points to you need to also add in that motivation. And I remember from my training, I’m learning how to use like your different voices, right. So like when there’s, say for example, during the warmup, you’re not gonna start yelling at them. But you know, when it comes to a high intensity track, you want to pick up your voice or there’s that build when you hear like the music starting to build and like people get ready. It’s like, okay, like, you know, it’s coming, it’s coming in, then boom, explosion, and yeah, I just, I didn’t realize that it’s one of those things, too. I think when going into instructing, I didn’t realize how much prep was involved. I thought, like, Okay, this is great. I’m really into fitness, I want to, you know, help motivate others. And yes, speaking to my members after class, that often they’d say, Oh, you you make it look so easy. And, you know, like, Oh, you probably can like, prepare in no time. Like, no, I actually spend a lot of time listening. And yeah, like doing the moves, figuring out what, what I have to say. And then also, when you mentioned switching up the playlist, too, cuz I remember I have members who are diehard, they would come week after week after week, I’m like, oh, shoot, I had to, I should like change the song and like, mix it up. So yeah, it’s definitely relatable. And I think it’s awesome. And then just tying it back to the solving problems. A lot of the times when people start companies or start those side projects and end products, it’s often a pain point, they experienced themselves personally. But it turns out that, you know, a significant amount of other people definitely feel the same way. So yeah, I think what you’re doing is really innovative and truly amazing. So another question of mine is, when you first started that company, if you don’t mind sharing, what kind of obstacles did you run into?
The Many Obstacles An Entrepreneur Will Run Into
Amira Polack 23:37
What obstacles don’t you run into as an entrepreneur? This is just name everything. Everything was a challenge. I mean, I mean, just even some of the first setup questions were and this is just going to sound so boring, actually, like when I mentioned some of these things in press interviews, I find that they cut them out because people find them so boring, but you kind of need to know this as an entrepreneur, like what bank? Are you going to be banking? With? What credit card are you going to be using? Like? How do you analyze you just like even analyzing the different benefits and costs there? What entity? Are you trying to set up based on the potential future transactions that you want to be able to be executing as a business? And who do you want to bring on I mean, like hiring and people management and leadership, these are the biggest challenges of entrepreneurship and running a company. How do I develop software? How do I design software? For me, I love the product stuff and I love the problem solving. Conversations with customers, potential customers, I love learning about their lives. I love learning about their insights and their opinions. I think it’s, you know, just learning about meeting people individually even though I’m an introvert, but one on one It’s just one of the things that I’m most fascinated about in life and connecting with folks, and problem solving, and working with them collaboratively. So those are some of the more fun bright spots for me. I think for some entrepreneurs, they might consider that among the hardest things like, man, how do I develop an app? And luckily, now, there are all kinds of tools from actually first before you design anything software wise. For those interested in software, I would start with paper. You can always like erase, you know, erase the pencil mark, right. But it’s a lot more costly when you have to encode something different about the UI. Every challenge under the sun, I would say. Money, money, and money management is another thing as well. Surmounting funding and funding obstacles. So I don’t know, where do where do I begin with all of the entrepreneurial challenges? Those are things I’m sure that folks listening to this podcast are reading about every single day?
Karen Swyszcz 26:00
Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much for sharing, especially the nitty gritty, and what things might people consider to be mundane? And definitely, like, it makes sense. Like, you need to know those things like what type of credit card like how you want to structure your business? And I think yeah, sometimes people, you know, they overlook those those things. So thank you so much for sharing it. And I promise I won’t cut that out.
Amira Polack 26:24
No, it’s just the sheer volume. And none of it’s rocket science, right. One of the things I’ve talked about really entrepreneurs is they’re like, well, the beauty of the earliest stages, in some ways for some of those activities, is that they’re not rocket science. People have been there done that before you there’s somebody to ask if you know, an entrepreneur, or if you’re able to connect with one. And oftentimes, it merely takes reaching out and they’re down to chat with you. It’s kind of amazing. It’s incredible community. They are more than happy to show you the path or connect you with somebody who is closer to what the new process may be, say if they started something 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, the process has been updated, connect you to somebody who has a more updated perspective. But that’s one problem, just the sheer volume of the things that you need to do with the 24 hours in the day that you have. So establishing focus and establishing priorities in the right order. If there is a quote, right order being the next, you know, big challenge, like wow, how do I manage my time correctly? You know, and how do you know when it’s managed correctly, and when those priorities are in the right order? And when you’re doing something efficiently and effectively. And like the third, I think is really just a lot more. And maybe this is the biggest challenge are the mental and the emotional challenges that come with being an entrepreneur. There’s nobody there to really validate you or hold your hand or tell you’re doing a good job. There’s nobody who’s there to give you an A plus on your test, right? There’s no, there aren’t a lot of benchmarks, where you can say, hey, like I totally did this new, innovative thing, right. And that’s just the nature of the job. And so I think just doing what you can to prevent yourself from burning out or going overboard with the workload, the managing the inevitable self doubt that might peek its head around the corner. Imposter syndrome is a very common commonality amongst entrepreneurs, just managing those mental and emotional barriers as well.
Karen Swyszcz 28:41
So with respect to you trying to avoid burnout. I’m sure you do a lot of working out. So in addition to teaching spin classes, what other types of workouts do you enjoy?
Amira Polack 28:53
Oh, man, so many I love yeah, of course I love spinning. I love shadow boxing, fitness boxing. That’s that when you talk about different voices, that’s more of like my aggressive fighter side. Spin is more of my inner dancer. And I love yoga. So there’s a mindfulness component, of course, to a lot of formats of yoga. And by the way, it’s just such a diverse modality. There’s so many ways to do yoga, but also elements of mobility, flexibility, balance and strength that you get from different practices in yoga that I absolutely love. Whenever I can do, I don’t go to dance classes, just by myself generally, but you know, if I ever get to go with one of my sisters or something, or even my mom, sometimes I just really enjoyed that. I love the group dynamic. So many fun formats. There’s so many fun formats of fitness, but I would say those are my top ones.
Karen Swyszcz 29:55
I’m not gonna lie. I’m not really much of a dancer. My mom, she’s more of the dancer like she loves Zumba, but I just think it’s really interesting thinking of my own fitness journey. I actually started doing spin classes at the local YMCA. But I’m not a spin instructor, I teach more HIIT type classes and group weightlifting. However, though, because of the pandemic, I actually got into road cycling. And I’ve been doing it quite often so much that like I’m going once a week or doing really long rides on the weekend. And I like tracking it in the Strava app. So now I’m beginning to wonder once in my area, when gyms start to reopen, and we started to teach again, like ha, should I consider getting my spin certification?
How COVID Has Changed Peoples’ Workout Routines
Amira Polack 30:40
That’s so interesting, and I think COVID too,, that’s a really good point, has changed or added a lot of new hobbies and behaviors to people’s routines, just different dimensions of our routines, as we’ve been forced to cope with quarantine for an extended period of time. And so I’ve known a lot of people who were not big say, into running to pick up running just around their neighborhood simply to get out of the house simply to take a break and to get some sunshine. So yeah, just like so many possibilities of ways to move your body and be active and find something that ideally you enjoy, and that you look forward to doing really.
Karen Swyszcz 31:26
For sure. And since the start of the pandemic, have you noticed, like an increase in the usage of the Struct Club app?
Amira Polack 31:32
We’ve seen just a consistent increase in usage, pre pandemic, during pandemic and even now as things are starting to reopen. Yeah, and usage in different ways. So one of the things that we did during COVID was enable a portion of our app is called Explore. When you open and jump into the app, it says Explore, on the top of the page. It enables you to explore various instructors’ workouts that they’ve published, for anybody to be able to use at home. So that’s actually a new addition to our product since COVID. And with that, it’s not just increased usage in the platform, but it’s new ways to interact with the platform, and new types of engagement. And I think that’s been just really interesting to observe folks’ behaviors and think about how we can support them. As you know, they’ve been adapting their lifestyles during this time. And it’s interesting to think about as well, what’s going to happen next, I think, you know, everybody who all of the listeners to the podcast are going to have their own thoughts about what it is that they might be doing next in their fitness now that things are starting to at least trend towards reopening.
Karen Swyszcz 32:50
Yeah. And actually, speaking of like the trends with things starting to reopen, I’m also curious to know, like your thoughts about the increase in like online classes, and then people have realized, like, there’s a convenience of working from home, and there’s the convenience of like working out from home. So do you think that’ll still end up being popular?
Amira Polack 33:11
Absolutely. I think that one of the things that we’ve seen during COVID. Actually, I know one of the things we’ve seen during COVID. Because it’s repres. I mean, all we have to do is look at the numbers and look at the sales is that folks have been invested in a lot of at home equipment, just all kinds of things. They can use stuff they can use to work out with at home, and diversified set of activities that they’re doing to stay active and creative ways to stay active as well. And so I think what that will do, this is just my thought going into moving forward as folks are getting vaccinated and studios are reopening those gym classes and the gyms are reopening is that, you know, folks who want to be active are going to find ways to be active to do just doing what they want, when they want it, the way they want it. And so sometimes it’s going to be about convenience, sometimes it’s going to be about fun, sometimes it’s really going to be an outlet to be social. Sometimes it’s going to be an outlet to blow off steam. So they’re just going to be because we’ve like diversified our activity sets and diversified the spaces that we can do fitness, as a result of COVID. I think people are going to start to get more creative about all the various ways they could be active and fit that to their mood or how they’re feeling that day or the time of day that’s going to be appropriate for them to be active at that point. You know, somebody who might be a 5:30pm spinner might be also a 9 am yogi, right? So different times of day, right but you might just be in a different mood for different activities at those different times of day. You might be in the mood to do something at home. You might be in the mood to do something with friends, to do something outdoors, or to do something back to the gym.
Karen Swyszcz 35:11
Yeah, I used to be that person doing the workouts in the evening, and then weekends. And yes, since the pandemic, I’ve found that I prefer doing my workouts in the morning and then circling back to cycling, I am not a morning person, but I will sometimes set my alarm on the weekend for a 6am or 7am ride, which I don’t think I would have ever done had not the pandemic started. And it’s interesting when you were chatting about how people were investing in equipment for their home gym, and I remember the beginning of the pandemic. So I actually didn’t have any gym equipment, just because I always use the gym like, it just seems so convenient to like, go, I’ll just go get out of the house, go to the gym, all the equipment’s there, I don’t need anything. So once the pandemic started, everything started shutting down, I was like, Okay, I’m gonna go online, but I think I went a little bit too, too late, because everything was on back order for several weeks. And for me, just trying to get something as simple as resistance band, it took, like over a month to get it on Amazon. So yeah, just going back to having be creative. And you may laugh because I was using things such as, um, you know, like, big, big jugs of laundry detergent, or like cast iron skillets. And they’re pretty heavy, they have some weights, so you’re not just walking around the house with lifting them? So, yeah, you definitely find ways to be resourceful. Um, because, you know, it’s not only just for your physical health, but for your like mental and emotional well being. But yeah, so I have a few dumbbell sets of dumbbells now. So I don’t have to worry about lifting so many, everyday household objects.
Amira Polack 36:55
Absolutely. And you know what, I’m actually not surprised. I have heard of so many things that people have been using to just lift through the pandemic bricks, rice bags, jugs of water, like you said. I literally know somebody who bought a mold that looked like emulated a 25 pound weight, and they bought cement. They’re like, Look, cement is super cheap. And they made weights out of cement. So I’ve just seen so many things. It’s towels that people use, just to create some kind of resistance between their arms there. I mean, exactly like you said, many ways to be creative with your household items.
Karen Swyszcz 37:38
Yeah, that’s awesome. So I wanted to circle back to Struct Club. And if you could talk about your experience of being in one of the accelerators powered by TechStars, what was that, like?
Amira Polack 37:50
Wow, that was like tech stars. And the lift labs, Comcast, NBC Universal Program, which was powered by tech stars, was like a modern day MBA for startup tech entrepreneurs on steroids. It was an incredibly intensive three month program. It was really exciting. We got to meet with dozens and dozens of industry experts, who just had so many different disciplines and backgrounds, ranging from software, data, big data, AI to media experience, and just like deep into their careers as well. So we just had the privilege of being able to talk to so many people. And when you’re a startup, it can just be really hard. No matter where you went to school, even or how hard you’ve worked in the past, or how established you might be in your career, it can be really hard to gain that initial credibility, because you’re starting a new company. It’s a new idea, it’s a new product, you may or may not be monetizing yet. And just establishing some kind of credibility can be, you know, one of those uphill battles for folks, potential clients, potential partners, to take you seriously. And so I noticed that the program with Comcast, NBC Universal and Tech Stars was definitely helpful in that regard to signal to people, oh, hey, they’re these big companies, these big brands that are behind Struct Club, maybe they’re a little bit more legit than I might have thought. And I don’t think it materially changed from, you know, the day before the program to the first day of the program, fundamentally, who we were or what it is that we were offering, we’re weren’t launching, like anything new the day before versus the day after. But it definitely helped us to accelerate, you know, they’re called accelerators in that regard.
Karen Swyszcz 39:49
And then with respect to funding, what has that experience been, like?
The Various Avenues of Funding For Entrepreneurs
Amira Polack 39:53
It’s been really interesting, um, and I think they’re, you know, they’re different approaches that vary. Entrepreneurs will want to have depending on their business, their industry, their product, how they want to grow, their monetization strategy that they should take around funding. It sounds like just such a simple term. It’s like money, right? Like, how do you how do you finance your business? There’s debt. There’s equity funding. There are ways to fund through grants. So among our very first sources of funding, were actually grants from school as I was getting started on product. And that’s one reason that for anytime I speak to students, in entrepreneurial programs, or who are thinking about starting a company, I absolutely encourage them to leverage the resources that they have at their school and at their university. And even if you are no longer in school, a lot of schools will have alumni programs around entrepreneurship. maybe they’ll have pitch competitions, where literally, if you if you’re lucky to win, and to really focus on it, you might be able to win free money. So that’s kind of the rarest form of funding. Increasingly, there are sources of grant funding for women, for black, Indigenous, LatinX, Asian, and all kinds of entrepreneurs from various organizations that focus on supporting historically underrepresented and underestimated entrepreneurs that have opened up. And then there’s, you know, literally, you’ve got these stories of entrepreneurs that are super epic, of, not everybody will go this path, but like maxing out their credit cards, you know, they do debt funding, or they take out, you know, they take out a loan from a bank. And so that’s another avenue.
And then of course, there’s the avenue of bringing on investors, and there are many within that realm, many different types of investors, where, you know, you end up sharing ownership with these folks who are who are providing some of that initial financing or growth capital for your company. And so I think, for me, one of my big takeaways has just been learning a lot more about this space. And there’s been actually over the past few years a ton of innovation around it. Crowd equity funding, and crowdfunding is a relatively new realm. I do believe it’s still very much early days compared to where it will be in the future. There are new regulations around crowd funding and crowd raising as well. And now there are more special purpose vehicles for entrepreneurs, as well to like bring in different types, just like diversifying who they can bring in into ownership in their company, and make startups a more accessible asset class for people in general to invest in. So it’s been pretty exclusive, historically, who can who it is that can invest in startups. But now, that’s been changing a lot within recent years. So I think it’s an exciting space. I’m excited to continue to keep tabs on it. We’ve dabbled in a lot of different avenues of financing. There’s like an extent, you know, there’s some extent to which I can discuss some of those things. And there’s some that I can’t, but always happy to chat with entrepreneurs individually about what it is that they may be considering for their own business based on their goals and where they want to grow their budget and the milestones that they’re looking to get to.
Karen Swyszcz 43:30
And what advice would you have for, let’s say, female entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own tech startups?
Advice For Female Founders of Tech Startups
Amira Polack 43:37
Yeah. So do you mean unique recommendations for I’m assuming these are unique recommendations were women, as opposed to general advice that I would give entrepreneurs? Because there are unique challenges that women face with different stakeholders given bias and given systemic bias? Gotcha. Makes total sense. I mean, the first thing I would just call out is that and this is something that we all know, but I think it’s something that we forget to acknowledge in an entrepreneur’s own day to day self talk, which is that, yes, there are a lot of systemic challenges. These are historical. They’re things that you might take blame for yourself. It’s not to say that you should really, you know, just kind of give in to a victim mentality where like, Oh, I’m the victim of everything. Nothing is my fault. No, like, definitely take ownership for things. But you can’t always blame yourself, which entrepreneurs can tend to do they take like so much ownership and responsibility that anything negative that might happen, any no that they might get, you know, they might tend to blame on themselves. The reality is, and you might have seen this transcriptional study of pitch conversations with venture capitalists that at TechCrunch disrupt this is like one of the most famous studies of this. But they found and this is of no surprise to many women, that women would get more risk oriented downside oriented preventative questions, as opposed to the guys who got more opportunity oriented, more promotion questions. So it’s just, you know, there’s this embedded bias in these interactions that you might have, that just might be more negative. Working on building resilience and making sure that you are kind to yourself when the world is not. It’s really important to back to that topic we were discussing on avoiding burnout. And you need to preserve your confidence. You need to preserve, you know, just the fact that you already know that you’re the best expert in the world on this particular topic. You might need to prepare to do extra outreach, you might need to prepare to be more diligent around the conversations around business planning. But guess what, all of this results in. And these are other numbers on the upside, that women owned and run and led companies generate more revenue faster, more profit, faster, have more exit value, probabilistically, they just perform better.
So I would just say the silver lining of all of these challenges that you’re going to face, it’s going to feel like it’s going to suck, take them with a grain of salt, when you can be kind to yourself, preserve your own self care. And well being to the extent that you can. Get more sleep than your peers, it’ll actually I know, this is like, whoa, whoa, totally different topic. But sleep fitness. This is another like that, like rapidly emerging space that showing like, you know, how do we perform better? How do we be superhuman? How do we live longer? How do we do more in less time? How do we do more faster and be more effective? Sleep is one of those fundamental levers, in addition to fitness, in addition to nutrition, take care of yourself, well, and you know what, on average, you’re just going to perform better than the guys, because of all of these, all of this resilience, that you’ll have to build all of these additional skills that you’ll have to build to just be superhuman. So those are just some of the things that I would advise and say, step into your power. Be confident in yourself, you know, your capabilities, you know, what you know, and your knowledge more than anybody else in the world does. You have your lived experience, be confident in that. Nobody else has that. And channel, those unique powers. Those are real and significant assets that the world needs and the entrepreneurial space, and economy absolutely needs. So those are absolutely things to be confident in.
Karen Swyszcz 47:51
That’s really awesome. Thank you so much for sharing, and thanks for the very important reminder how important sleep is. And my final question for you is looking back on your entrepreneurial journey thus far, was there anything that surprised you in particular?
Amira Polack 48:05
I’m learning things every day, I’d have to say there are so there’s so many surprises that have come up, I think for us, in the group fitness realm. We just like didn’t know that COVID was happening, I would say that was like a giant surprise, that in some ways, at the beginning was very much a blessing in disguise. It’s forced us to learn a lot, adapt a lot. And I would say yep, just many entrepreneurs and business owners will share that surprise. And all of us at home to be like, wow, our lives were dramatically changed in ways that we never, ever could have anticipated. With this pandemic I think that as a business owner, as an entrepreneur that has its own implications, challenges and surprises in business. That’s one piece of it. I would say that with the pandemic. And we’re all of the things that have gone on in 2020 and extended into 2021. What a lot of us entrepreneurs and business leaders have been called upon to do as far as leaders. The expectations around what we stand for when it comes to diversity, equity inclusion. Belonging is another topic that folks will often bring up in relation to all of these categories and standing for a certain set of values and speaking to that. And even in some ways, you know, people wanting to look to you for answers and in some kind of expectation that you have all the answers has been really surprising to me as I mean, there are aspects where it’s like, yeah, you get it like these are people who are leading businesses, like if they don’t stand for something like what do you know, why are they leaving people but the extent to which those questions, the volume, the sheer volume of questions and events that I know that I’ve been asked to answer to. And gladly. So I love talking about and discussing these topics. And but it’s come in like such a surprising volume over the past year in conjunction with the pandemic. So I think that’s been interesting. And it’s been fun. It’s been fun having these conversations, and I’m hopeful of a future where now with this resurgence of awareness and energy around these topics, there’s more that we can do quickly to rectify things that have remained systemic challenges for way, way, way too long. So I try to take you know, as much as I can an opportunistic and high energy approach to these topics, because I think that’s what will require for us to get these things done together.
Karen Swyszcz 50:57
For sure, agree. 100%. And before I forget, where can people find you online, if they want to get in touch or if they want to follow Struct Club?
Amira Polack 51:07
Yeah, absolutely. You can hit us directly on any of our social media channels at Struct Club. So S-T-R-U-C-T C-L-U-B, you can hit me directly on my Instagram. I’m at amirapolack A-M-I-R-A P-O-L-A-C-K, I respond to DMs. I’m also on LinkedIn. Any of your any of your social media channels, Twitter or Facebook and what have you. You can email me directly as well at Amira A-M-I-R-A at Struct Club S-T-R-U-C-T C-L-U-B.com
Karen Swyszcz 51:43
Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story and experience. I really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you for having me. Thanks, everyone for tuning in. And stay tuned for more episodes. Ciao for now.