The New York-based dance cardio workout is switching to a certification model to be more nimble during the pandemic.
I was surprised when I first started seeing New York-based boutique workout 305 Fitness popping up in Philly. It’s a brand that’s been rising in recognition in Manhattan ever since the sweat-inducing dance class was created by Miami native Sadie Kurzban in 2012. Celebs like Miley Cyrus and Hailey Baldwin are fans, and NBA star Kevin Durant and Tiësto are investors. So, if they were opening an outpost here — during a pandemic — I thought I’d have heard about it by now.
Modeled after the nightclub scene of South Beach, the 305 Fitness cardio workout has been expanding for years. Prior to the pandemic, Kurzban had opened popular studios in DC and Boston, and created successful pop-ups in Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. In February of 2020, she opened a 5,700 square-foot, two-level studio in Union Square — only to have to shut it all down in March due to COVID-19.
Unable to financially support reopening studios at the low capacity required for safety, 305 laid off a majority of their staff — a move that large-scale fitness empires like CorePower, Solidcore and many others have been forced to make. But, rather than shutter the brand altogether and file for bankruptcy, as Flywheel has done, 305 is trying a different approach.
“We’re focusing on certifying and empowering individuals in hopes that they can monetize their fitness credentials during this time,” founder Kurzban told Forbes.
The new 305 Fitness digital certification program, launched amid the pandemic, costs $190 for a weeklong training course. The offering is a steal compared with basic yoga teacher trainings, which are often priced upwards of $2,000 just for a training that typically does not include certification. (Those trainings do, granted, stretch over 200 hours of time, while the 305 certification is a much smaller time commitment.) 305 also offers scholarships for those who qualify. After the certification course, instructors pay a monthly fee of $39 to receive continued trainings, mentorship, choreography, custom DJ mixes, and placement on the 305 Fitness website.
The certification model allows instructors — including those certified before the pandemic — to set their own prices for classes. There is little-to-no overhead for teaching classes like this, so instructors or studios should (theoretically) be able to monetize their classes to meet their needs. In the greater Philadelphia area, class prices range based on the location and the instructor — some are based on studio pricing, some are donation-based outdoor classes, some are online and cost as little as $10. And while this may not be a replacement for the in-studio work many 305 instructors relied on before the pandemic, it does present an opportunity to help them pivot to a more entrepreneurial approach in the meantime.
“Philadelphia is a great example of the success of this model,” says Candace Taylor, 305’s Manager of Instructor Success, “They’re all independently running their own businesses. Some people are just doing it as a side hustle along with their nine-to-five, some people are full-time fitness professionals that have plugged in 305 as another fitness offering to their clients. They determine their pricing model and their schedules.”
Taylor, based in New York City, oversees the certified community and helps ensure that there are high-quality classes from 305 Fitness certified instructors all over the the world. She’s currently overseeing trainees in Kuwait, Illinois, and Hawaii — and Philly.
“We wanted to bring this to the masses,” Taylor says, “We looked at Crossfit and this explosive growth of fitness professionals working in communities. We looked at Zumba and how fun dance cardio spread like wildfire for them. The certification method felt like empowering individuals to be leaders, giving them a format that’s fun, and giving them the music that is so exciting, curated by our DJs. We coach them to be their own entrepreneurs.”
And, with the new certification program, instructors in the greater Philadelphia area are multiplying. Vanessa Constantinidis, a Delco-based 305 Fitness certified instructor, teaches 305 online for her own audience, at ELLE FIT Dance Studio in King of Prussia every Thursday at 6:30 p.m., and outdoors at Cira Green in University City.
“It definitely depends on the person and their hustle. You have to get your clientele and market yourself,” says Constantinidis, who practices her choreography throughout the week, “but I think once you find people who love it as much as you do, and find people who want to make the investment because it makes them happy, then you’re set.”
Boutique fitness studio Vibe Vault Fit in Exton also offers several 305 Fitness classes per week — they have live classes, on-demand, and in-studio with social distancing and safety precautions. (They currently offer 305 Fitness every Monday at 7:15 p.m., Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and Friday at 5:15 at p.m., and every first Friday of the month, they offer a free class for newbies who want to check it out.) In addition, 305 Fitness corporate continues to offer both online and pop-up outdoor classes in New York, DC, and Boston, albeit on a much smaller level than previous to COVID-19.
“One of 305’s main goals has always been to democratize fitness,” explains Taylor, “We’re very aware that the NYC pricing of $35 a class is not going to make sure that 305 gets into every household. And that’s a goal of ours: making fun, sexy, fabulous, sweaty fitness something that everyone gets to experience.”
Only time will tell if the Crossfit and Zumba instructor-certification model can save 305, but, so far this approach seems to be an intelligent — if not ideal — way to sustain both the company and the instructors through a tempestuous time for the fitness industry.
To find certified instructors in Pennsylvania — and try a class for yourself — head to the 305 Fitness Instructor directory and select Pennsylvania from the dropdown menu.