How to Turn a Personal Pain Into a Powerhouse Business

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One of the purest seeds of innovation is personal need. Click to tweet

You want something. A solution, a product, a service or experience, but it simply doesn’t exist. Or it exists, but it doesn’t do what you want it to do.

So, what do you do?

The average bear grins and bears it. The creative maker makes what’s missing. But, the entrepreneur does one other thing that holds the potential to change not only her life, but the world. She wonders whether other people have the same need, and asks what might happen if she solved the problem not just for her, but for all others in need.

That’s exactly the spot Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler were in. Two busy moms, who’d moved to NYC from L.A. and Boulder. Both kept looking for the perfect fitness experience, especially indoor cycling. And both kept striking out.

They went to lunch one day and started writing a list of what they wanted. Included were things like a more soulful experience, indoor cycling, candle light, phenomenal music, rock star instruction, sweaty, powerful workouts and super efficiency. That list quickly became a roadmap and by the end of lunch, they intuitively knew what they’d stumbled upon was a need that extended far beyond them.

So, they set out to create a new experience. With that, SoulCycle was born. First, to solve their own need. And then to bring it to the world.

In the 5 years since, their idea has grown from the back of a napkin to a next-generation national fitness brand with more than 10 locations and dozens more in the works.

In this week’s Good Life Project, I sit down with Julie and Elizabeth at one of their beautiful signature locations in Tribeca, NY to talk about their incredible journey. We go deep into how they went from raw, personal need to national brand. We explore how they leveraged their prior work experience in Hollywood casting and Boulder real-estate and how their original vision has grown into something neither expected.

We also talk about what it’s like to grow a business, while still wanting to be present in the lives of those you love, your family and friends. And we talk about where they’re going from here and what it means to each of them to live a good life. And so much more.

Click here now to watch this powerhouse episode now>>>

And, in the comments below, answer this –

Do you have an unfulfilled personal need that might expose a broader need, one that might even be big enough to build a business around? If so, how might you test your idea?

With gratitude,


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7 responses

7 responses to “How to Turn a Personal Pain Into a Powerhouse Business”

  1. My as of yet unfulfilled need is to be able to touch the lives of victims of domestic violence – and even the offenders – and show them that, no matter what, there is beauty within them that can heal. As a survivor, I understand how someone can be broken down so completely as to feel they have no worth in the world. When I started creating I learned that there was something within me that was beautiful, strong, and valuable that I could share with the world – I learned how to define myself on my terms and not my abuser’s.

    My dream is to have a store with an area where I can work with survivors…to be able to go to shelters and teach the women and children there how to reach inside themselves for the beauty…and to use creative arts as a means to reach the abusers as well. Being able to reach within and change/reshape the future is fundamental to realizing dreams and is the only way I know to turn tragedy into triumph.

    • That’s amazing Marguerite, and truly inspiring. What are you doing as a first step in making that a reality. A lot of people “talk” about what they want to do, but you actually seem like you’re going to do something. How far out are you from making this a reality?

  2. Marcelle says:

    Gosh, that’s inspiring! Makes me wish I lived in America… I mean, it makes me actually feel like exercising; an entirely new sensation for me, it has to be said.
    Interesting question. I definitely have an unfulfilled need to connect with people and to connect people. I need to explore this, thanks for the prompt.
    Again, thank you for these brilliant interviews. They are impossible to watch without feeling inspired. One of these days, I wanna create something so fantastic that you call me up for an interview… hope you won’t be stopping these interviews any time soon though, lol.

  3. Meecho says:

    First off, I just noticed the phrasing of your question:

    “If so, how might you test your idea?”

    I just read this article on the Harvard Business Review. That’s exactly the phrasing Google, Facebook, and IDEO use to jumpstart the process of innovation. Good work!

    I have a personal need, which is researching the specific steps required to travel to other countries long-term, i.e. visas, vaccinations, etc. Would be nice to have it all laid out for me in one location!

  4. Hey Jonathan:

    Great piece. I hadn’t heard of Soul Cycle before so it was interesting to watch the interview.

    As an attorney yourself, you may relate to this “unfulfilled personal need”. I am an attorney, and as you know lawyers have a monopoly on practicing law. Part of that monopoly creates an obligation to give back as a lawyer. In spite of that duty, I find that there is a huge chasm between the unmet need for affordable and reasonable legal services and the fulfillment. There are so, so many people who end up going without good affordable legal advice (and end up making mistakes which cost them dearly) or who try using a sorry substitute, such as relying on non-lawyer friends’ advice or relying on self-help websites that don’t answer their questions.

    This is a huge problem up and down the spectrum, from a single Mom struggling with a custody battle to a large company. In my practice, I see it the most in the eyes of a small business owner trying to build their business without breaking the bank.

    I don’t know that I have a solution for this systemic problem. I think self-help legal document websites CAN help fill some of the need, but it’s not a perfect solution. Licensing more lawyers could bring down costs, but risks diluting the profession.

    Decreasing the cost of a legal education could help, because more lawyers could devote themselves to more noble endeavors rather than to finding the highest paid job they can get. But there are few things that are going down in price these days, and I doubt law school tuition will go down anytime soon.

    I have tested this idea in a sense through my blog. I try to provide what I find is down to earth practical and pragmatic legal & business advice for the small business owner – the exact market who isn’t getting the advice they seek. I can’t say I have turned my blog into a full-fledged business, although I have gotten good feedback from those who find value in it.

  5. Thank you for doing the Good Life Project Jonathan. It’s a series that I think will truly inspire people to take action on those ideas that they’ve written down on napkins and never did anything with. Anything is possible, and this series is perfect for showing people that they can actually do it!

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