At the end of last year, my favorite badass trainer Dr. Laura Miranda
invited me to join her class that was being filmed for FORTË
. She thoroughly whooped my booty during her Metabolic Metldown, which you can watch here
. So intrigued by this concept of live streaming workouts (on demand) with some of the best boutique fitness studios and most talented trainers around, I had to seek out Founder, Lauren Foundos, to get the scoop. Lauren was right there with us sweating it out during the Metabolic Meltdown workout at Body Space Fitness
and today she's here with us talking about her motivation to start FORTË, her dreams and more!
AM: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your typical day?
LF: I grew up in Old Brookville on Long Island, NY. My earliest childhood memories all revolve around trying to keep up with my older brothers, so they would include me in whatever sport they were playing at the time. As a child I remember getting off the school bus, running into the house, practicing the piano for 45 minutes, and then I would run outside to the cul de sac to play street hockey with the boys in my neighborhood until nightfall. I also vividly remember playing 'Olympics,' instead of house like most girls. I would pretend that I was being called up to the podium (aka the kitchen island at my childhood home) to receive my gold medal, or dive for hours, or do gymnastics for hours and make my mother score me pretending she was a judge from various countries. The only way to the game 'Olympics' would end was if I scored a perfect 10; so eventually she would just give it to me, and I'd walk inside with a proud smile to go do my homework. Being active has always been a huge part of my life and instrumental in helping me to stay focused and grounded. I aspire to make others feel the same.
My parents are of Albanian heritage; my father immigrated to America, so he always instilled in his children the importance of education and a strong work ethic. He made us work hard for the things we wanted and expected nothing but the best from us which seemed frustrating at times, but I couldn't be more grateful for those lessons today. From a young age I learned to be resilient, determined, committed, confident, strong, and was told that I can achieve anything I wanted as long as I worked my absolute hardest.
Before launching FORTË, I spent a decade working on Wall Street. I spent the latter half of that decade working on a trading floor institutionally trading US Treasury Bonds. I was a two-time all-American field hockey player and went on to play Division I at the University of Maryland, the nation’s top ranked program. I grew up playing the piano and violin; I love to ski; I'm proud to be Albanian; I have two older brothers; my parents mean the world to me.
My typical day is absolutely, positively insane. I’ve pretty much resigned from sleeping. I spend my days meeting with investors, our partner studios, our coaches, signing distribution deals, checking out potential partnerships, and more. I spend my evenings doing my ‘desk job’ FORTË work, which entails anything from data analysis, to financial modeling, forecasting growth, to accounting, to content creation, and more. I expect to be ON all the way through 2019, and then hopefully I can pick sleeping back up again. :) Working out keeps me sane, so thankfully it’s also part of my job now which is no accident!
AM: It was so fun working out with you and coach Dr. Laura Miranda at Body Space while filming for
FORTË tell us more about your start up! And what inspired you to begin?
LF: Thanks! Dr. Laura Miranda is awesome. She’s smart and creates great workouts, but is also just so darn funny that I laugh so often I forget I’m working so hard!
Working out has been instrumental in helping me stay focused and grounded.
My earliest memories are all about playing sports, and being active. I would have spent every minute outside if my parents would have allowed me to, but fortunately they strongly advised me to focus on school for which I’m thankful for today. I wanted to be a professional hockey player like Pierre Turgeon from the NY Islanders as a child. I managed to play enough street hockey with my garage door to become a two-time all-American field hockey player, which goes to show what some determination can do for you.
During my time on Wall Street I had to be at work so early that working out in the morning became increasingly more difficult so I started taking my clients to work out with me prior to our evening events. That was the catalyst for the FORTË concept.
I was self-motivated and steered clear of studios; but once I began dabbling, I was immediately hooked by the energy and unspoken camaraderie within the room. As I began to build friendships within the fitness industry, I started to realize that what seemed so obvious wasn’t being done. Studios wanted to offer ‘streaming services,’ but it’s costly, and streaming is not their strength (it’s a whole different business). After rounding up a handful of excited studios and building an incredible team, the journey began.
AM: Prior to starting
FORTË, you worked in finance, was it hard to make the transition into technology? I know the fitness part was easy!
LF: I decided to build a technology company to empower boutique studios to reach far beyond the confines of their studio walls. The only problem was that I knew nothing about technology other than being a really savvy computer person among my peers on Wall Street.
I quickly began reading books, attending tech events, asking questions, and learning as much as I possibly could before I jumped in headfirst. I think the hardest thing for me at first was feeling absolutely crippled by the fact that I couldn’t code, didn’t really have friends that code (of course now that has changed), and felt like I couldn’t speak the language of engineers or of the startup community, so yes, there was a major learning curve. My only saving grace was that I am not afraid to fail, not afraid to admit the things that I do not know, and not afraid to ask for help, so I did all of those things and was off to the races.
AM: Do you have any tips on how to network to find startup partners?
LF: Networking is key in anything you do. I love people, so I literally talk to everyone. You never know who they are; and maybe they can’t be of use to you; but when you’re building a product for the people, listening to their thoughts and insights can be extremely valuable.
I am part of a women’s entrepreneur network, Dreamers and Doers
, and I attribute the majority of my success getting off the ground and finding my way to that incredibly tight-knit community of trailblazing women. I highly recommend applying to join the group if you are a founder, or are even just thinking about being one. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals will lead to other great opportunities.
AM: What kind of technology is used to stream the videos? Do the cameras live at each studio?
LF: I can’t tell you how we built this complex, fully-automated, scalable and beautiful streaming platform. That’s my secret sauce.
We have built hardware and software that we install in a studio so they can seamlessly stream live classes directly to our elite platform. We install 3-6 cameras per studio, depending on the size and shape of the room. The cameras are professionally hardwired into the room, and the audio and music integration is customized for each specific studio’s scenario and current setup.
In order for a studio to stream live, they just go online in our calendar, schedule a class for let's say next Monday at 6pm, and the cameras know to turn on and off during that time, and that's it. After a class is live, it then goes into our on-demand database for continued consumption.
Our ‘autobots’ stream live classes all day, every day from both coasts with no human operators; it’s like magic!
AM: How can a fitness professional become a coach on
FORTË? And how do athletes join the tribe?
LF: We welcome all fitness professionals to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
. We want to bring our users the absolute best in the business from all over the world. I believe that diverse, knowledgeable, fun and energetic coaches are the name of the game. Working out should be fun; you’ll still get stronger if you are smiling at the same time.
FORTË is offering early adopters a special subscription price of $99 for one year as the brand continues to release features and add new studios to the platform. There will be a thirty day complimentary access period for all new users to the platform prior to any billing going into effect, with a hassle-free cancellation policy. Following this exclusive offer, FORTË subscriptions will either run users $39 monthly or $288 for an annual subscription (equates to $24 monthly), a small price to pay for your health.
***If you use the code ‘FortesFinest’ at checkout you will get the annual subscription for $50 for the first year
AM: How can an athlete sign up to be a part of one of your next filming sessions?
LF: We definitely welcome more athletes. If you go to any of our partner studios websites and check their schedule, you can usually spot our classes because they will either say ‘LIVE’ next to the class or FORTË next to the class name.
FORTË also hosts our handpicked selection of coaches on the weekends at Body Space Fitness on Saturday’s starting at 3:15 pm and on Sunday’s starting at 5:15 pm. We also stream from other locations, but that schedule varies. If you’d like to be included on our local events mailing list please email us your information: email@example.com
If you can’t physically make it to class then feel free to logon: www.forte.fit
We’ve really tried to limit the excuses here if you can’t tell.
AM: Are there any particular types of workouts that are currently trending on
LF: Currently, yoga and barre are trending the most because we broadcast a higher percentage of those classes daily, but we are also seeing heavy traction in our HIIT and boxing (inspired workout) classes as well.
AM: I see that
FORTË currently streams classes from boutique studios in New York and Utah, do you have plans to go nationwide? (Or maybe worldwide?)
LF: We are going global, 100%! We currently do not have any partner studios outside the United States, but we are very actively researching top studios abroad in all fitness categories. We plan to do this within the next six months, because we are confident that great studios and coaches can come from anywhere in the world. It is our belief that diversity, an expansive geographic footprint, and seeing the most cutting-edge workouts from different cultures will be extremely powerful.
In the next 30 days you can expect to see us add two new fitness verticals hailing from two new and different cities!
AM: What are 5 of your dreams?
LF: My dream is to make people enjoy working out as much as I do, and for them to stop viewing it as a chore but instead a gift.
Other than that growing up I always dreamed of being a great athlete, and a businesswoman on Wall Street like my big brothers. I am proud to say that I accomplished both.
I wake up from my dreams now, and in those dreams I’m dreaming about working! Is that weird? It’s a good thing I love what I do.
AM: Favorite song to work out to?
LF: Work B*tch - Britney Spears
AM: Three things that are always in your gym bag?
LF: Water bottle, extra sports bra and socks.
AM: How would you describe your style in two words?
LF: Fit Couture
AM: One place in the world you would love to visit?
LF: Bora Bora
AM: Favorite yoga pose?
LF: Downward dog; I’m always tight!
AM: 3 of your favorite good vibe quotes.
LF: Start and end your day with a smile. Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up. Your vibe attracts your tribe.
AM: 1 food you could not live without?
AM: Top 3 health food spots in NYC
LF: Sweetgreen, Hu Kitchen and Blossom Du Jour.
AM: If you were deserted on an island, what one item would you want with you?
LF: My Mom!
AM: Favorite sinful treat food.
LF: I have tons of favorite sinful foods, nachos, pizza and Mexican to name a few. Desserts though, they don’t entice me as much.
AM: Favorite way to start the day.
LF: With a smile, and positive outlook.
AM: Top 3 things you do to keep a positive outlook.
LF: Workout, give every endeavor my absolute best effort, and focus on the things that I CAN control, and run again!