SoulCycle founder and WeWork partner Julie Rice spoke Tuesday at a Women’s Leadership Breakfast hosted by Berns Communications Group at specialty retailer Story in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The brief Q&A session had Story founder Rachel Shechtman, who became Macy Inc.’s brand experience officer after the retailer in May acquired Story, query Rice about founding SoulCycle and about some new leases that WeWork signed. Rice kept mum about plans for the leases, but did speak about WeMarket, the test concept at four locations focused on helping brands who are WeMarket members figure out how to build communities around their products.
Rice said brand owners need to understand that “you can’t put stuff on shelves and expect to create a bond” with customers. She also spoke about creating “Shark Tank” nights to mentor brands on how to grow. An example was a food company where product was made in the owner’s kitchen and how that wouldn’t work if the person really wanted the ability to scale production.
What did get the attendees attention was Rice’s disclosure that she is a “major claustrophobic,” noting that “I will not take elevators.” That led to another disclosure — and admiration from many attendees — of how she once walked up 71 flights of stairs to Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room in heels for a black-tie event. Building security required someone to accompany her, which required a rotation of 10 security guards every seven flights as an escort since not one of them was able to climb all 71 flights.
Also speaking was Lisa Gurwitch, chief executive officer of Delivering Good — 20 percent of proceeds from sales from the event are being donated to the apparel and children’s industries charity — and Amanda Zuckerman, ceo of dorm room decor firm Dormify, who gave a short introduction to her firm, which earlier this month received a $3.5 million Series A investment led by American Eagle Outfitters Inc.