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Bala Founders Discuss Wearable Wellness, Design-centric Products and Brand Expansion

Husband-and-wife duo Maximilian Kislevitz and Natalie Holloway are modernizing the fitness industry one piece of equipment at a time.

In 2020, the Bala bangles revolutionized the wearable wellness space, as consumers were looking for a convenient way to get fit during the pandemic. With design at the forefront, the brand has continued to excite consumers by launching luxurious, elevated workout equipment.

During WWD’s Wellness Forum last week, Bala founders and husband-and-wife duo Maximilian Kislevitz and Natalie Holloway sat down with senior beauty editor Kathryn Hopkins to discuss the future of the brand, and the key factors behind its explosive growth. 

Since its launch in 2018, the company has continued to expand and diversify its product offerings, with design and functional fitness being top priorities. The original Bala bangle was a stylish update to traditional ankle and wrist weights. For wearable wellness brands, style has proven to be a key factor consumers are looking for, demonstrated by other design-focused brands like Oura, Lululemon and Maude. 

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“From a design perspective, our criteria is twofold. We need to make meaningful, functional improvements to existing products, but then we also need to make it beautiful and simple,” Kislevitz said. “We’ve launched a dozen products since the bangles. We have a dozen more on the way and those range from Bala’s take on existing products to net new products,” he continued, noting Bala has been able to elevate the entire workout experience by reinventing what wellness looks like.  

Lockdowns due to COVID-19 were an important factor in the brand’s expedited success. Bala went from $2 million in sales in 2018 to $16 million in sales in 2020. “The pandemic was a bit of a revelation for us, both in terms of the incredible growth with the tailwind from folks trying to stay fit from home, but also in this idea that Bala could be the design entrant in this really utilitarian space,” Kislevitz said.

Following the pandemic, the ever-growing interest in wellness has enabled Bala to remain in the spotlight, fueled by a strategy that focuses on the experiential. The brand’s products are featured in an array of Bala-centric workout classes at Equinox and on its own website, and Bala can now be found at major retailers like Target. Plus, the bangles are consistently sported by celebs like Kim Kardashian, Hailey Bieber and Ashley Graham. 

With this success over the past four years, the brand has amassed more than $50 million in sales, Holloway said. Right now, global expansion is top of mind. The brand is set to launch in Japan, China, South Korea, Canada and the GCC by the end of this year. As Bala has gained traction, they have seen knockoff products pop up across markets, so international expansion is key to defend the brand and its unique design.

The brand is also exploring in-person experiences. A six-month-long New York City pop-up was a great way to test if retail stores and workout studios would be lucrative channels, with Holloway and Kislevitz learning branded studios with small retail sections are the right direction to head in. Similarly, Bala will continue to offer workout classes on its digital platform Balacize. 

Bala, which is backed by Mark Cuban and Maria Sharipova, recently kicked off a raise to partner with new investors to support its growth. “We’re trying to meet our soulmate that really believes in the Bala brand and can see the global vision that we see and that we’re building the next great fitness brand,” Holloway said.