Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Anne Mahlum, who is both the founder and former CEO of Back On My Feet, as well as the founder, former CEO and currently Executive Chairwomen of Solidcore.
Anne is a powerhouse which comes across in every second of our conversation. Her mentality around innovation is one I think we can all learn from: “when you’ve got something that you really want to do, that you believe in, you’re gonna get a lot of naysayers, you’re going to get a lot of people that don’t understand it. That’s where innovation comes from, that’s what it is. It’s not something that is obvious.” After six and a half years of leading and building Back On My Feet, Anne decided it was time to move on and in doing so, allow someone else to grow the organization vertically.
When she discovered the method of pilates that would become Solidcore, it was a no brainer that this would be the brand she would grow “horizontally”. She decided to go “all in” on the brand and focus on building the community in the surrounding their first studio in Washington DC. While this easily could’ve become a great idea that never saw the light of day due to the logistics surrounding the start of a new business, Anne offers this advice: “Don’t let yourself get caught up in all the work that’s ahead of you. Once you start going through the checklist, you will talk yourself out of it. There’s no entrepreneur out there that knows everything about the business they have started. Not one.” Solidcore scaled to 70 studios in six years.
In the first six months, Anne filled in where needed to continue to scale the business. When just starting out she led the 5AM, 6AM, 7AM classes because that’s what the business needed. With a focus on building of community, Anne knew that having consistency for the clients was essential to growing the brand. She wanted for people to “feel seen, to be rewarded and feel like you have a team of people rooting for you.”
But her success hasn’t been without criticisms. As we know this last year has been a tough one on all businesses but from my perspective especially on fitness companies as a whole. When the pandemic hit, Anne made the decision to lay off 98% of the organization so that they could be eligible for unemployment and provide for their families. This resulted in opinion from the media as well as a BuzzFeed article accusing Solidcore of having a culture of toxicity. Rather than sitting down and keeping her mouth shut, Anne chose to speak up.
There’s a lot to unpack here about the ways in which we villainize strong women in positions of power and wealth. As you’ll hear on the podcast Anne and I have a really open and transparent discussion about how problematic this can be. I’m so grateful for Anne being so honest here because I think we need to continue to elevate the voices of women and allow them to be proud of what they’ve created.
I’m also aware of the organizing and uprising of past employees at Solidcore who feel they were dealt unsuitable working conditions, I respect their right to do so and will never delete nor block a comment for that reason. There’s three sides to every story: the two sides and the truth, and this conversation is just a small part of the larger situation.
I personally have never worked for Solidcore, and I will always think it’s the hardest and best workout in world and am open to feedback and more information about how this all unfolds.