“It’s OK For Things To Get a Little Scary” With Dionne Del Carlo, Co-Founder of StarCycle
“When we opened for business we were down to our last $900 — terrifying! We didn’t know how we were going to make our first payroll just around the corner. From day one we learned to push through our worst fears with no security. A little blind faith and trust in the business we created has constantly helped us navigate through the challenging times. We made that first payroll and have ever since!”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dionne Del Carlo, Co-Founder of StarCycle, a network of indoor cycling studios headquartered in Lake Oswego, Oregon. StarCycle was founded in 2013 with a single studio location and has been propelled to national growth by a die-hard following and fiercely supportive community. StarCycle is driven by the belief of empowering their riders through movement and by disconnecting from technology for 45-minutes — literally leaving the studio as a better version of themselves. StarCycle currently has studios across Oregon, Washington, and Colorado with new locations opening soon in Santa Barbara, CA, Seattle, WA and Portland OR.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Movement has always been a part of my life — I grew up dancing — anything and everything. Ballet, tap, jazz, modern, I couldn’t get enough. I even joined a small ballet company in high school, but unfortunately injuries and several surgeries ended my ambitions for dance. After high school I attended college and eventually got my MBA while pursuing a successful career in marketing. After taking time off to start a family, I began to question how I would juggle both my young family and a career where I often traveled. I quickly realized, with the support of my husband, that I wanted to focus on coming back to what I always loved — movement. StarCycle was really born out of seeing an opportunity for a high cardio, low impact exercise class that didn’t exist — and paramount as creating a space that fostered a deeper connection between the mind and the body. I have to be honest with you, despite spending over a decade now in the fitness industry, group fitness classes can still be intimidating to me. So I knew that in creating StarCycle, it had to be a place for everyone — every body type, every level of fitness. It has to be fun, and something that fuels the rest of my day which in turn is contagious to our clients. That’s why I created StarCycle. And then something amazing happened. Once I followed my passions and created something I truly believe in, that’s when other people like me wanted to bring StarCycle to their own communities, which is when we began franchising the studio business.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your StarCycle?
Once right before a packed class was about to start, there was a big storm that caused a power outage. Clients were already on their bikes ready to go. No lights, no fans, no A/C, no MUSIC. We offered to give free class cards for a return visit but every single client opted to stay and ride to a very quiet iphone. Shockingly clients still talk about this class — a make it work moment, an unforgettable 45 minutes. A great reminder that StarCycle isn’t just about the music or lights — strip it all away it’s ultimately about a great class and our amazing community.
What makes StarCycle stand out? Can you share a story?
We once had a client who always rode in the back row because she felt like she wasn’t as visible to the rest of the room. She was very shy and uncomfortable after some not so great fitness experiences, but the warmth of the StarCycle community and the addictive nature of the class kept her coming back. After several months, she pushed herself to the front row with pride and never looked back. She went on to be an amazing instructor and now owns her own successful StarCycle studio and continues to inspire a new community of riders. I love helping people transform themselves mentally and physically to be the best they can be which in turn gets passed on to others further spreading the Star Love.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have always wanted to own my own business but fear seemed to get in way. As my children got a little older and started preschool, I volunteered in the office of our local Montessori school to help the owner grow her business. She was a few years older than me and had always wanted her own business, but like me was held back by her own fears. When she finally took the leap, she started small but quickly realized she started something special. What started in her home quickly expanded to a much larger facility. After many hours talking and sharing my ideas with her and by simply seeing her decision-making abilities, sheer determination and ever growing success, I began to think why can’t I? The reasons for not starting my business all the sudden seemed much less important than the reasons for taking the chance.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I am so thrilled about the growth that’s happening right now with our StarCycle franchised studio locations. When I opened my first studio in 2013 it was because I knew that my community needed it. Seeing other studio owners take that same passion and open a StarCycle in their local community has been a dream come true. 2018 has been a huge year for the StarCycle team. We’re on track to nearly double the number of studio locations we have!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I grew up in a small town where from a young age I experienced the tragic deaths of several close friends. It wasn’t easy but over the years I have really learned to appreciate where I am and the time I’ve been given. I truly take class and life one beat at a time. One beat of the music one beat of my heart. I question every day how I am going to make the most of every beat. I bring that question to StarCycle clients and challenge them to CHOOSE to make each beat their best. We try our best in the moment and then the next day we do it again. We are a supportive team and our clients are like family. I know we will all face tough times at some point in our lives so it’s invaluable to have a community where we lift each other up when times are tough and inspire all to face challenges head on.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The Sound of Gravel written by a client Ruth Wariner. Her autobiography about surviving a heartbreaking childhood blew me away. Once at dinner together, I asked her how she was always so positive and happy given her childhood. She quickly answered with: “I practice every day.” I was struck with the simplicity of her response, her commitment and daily fight to choose happiness, and by the power each one of us has to overcome adversity to live the life we want.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It’s OK for things to get a little scary. When we opened for business we were down to our last $900 — terrifying! We didn’t know how we were going to make our first payroll just around the corner. From day one we learned to push through our worst fears with no security. A little blind faith and trust in the business we created has constantly helped us navigate through the challenging times. We made that first payroll and have ever since!
- You can’t say yes to everyone. Many people have reached out over the years wanting to partner on events, in-studio promotions, charity rides, etc. Initially we said yes to any opportunity but over time realized it wasn’t always the best fit for our brand. Now we only collaborate when it is a resounding yes and there is synergy between the brands.
- Owning your own business is like having another baby. In the beginning I was inundated with early morning phone calls and late night texts. I had the constant sense it was always finals week. I tend to want to do everything myself but have had to learn to delegate and empower my staff to grow and reach their potential. It’s also important to hire people who have different skill sets, knowledge and talent. One person cannot do it all.
- Never fear change — face it head on! Change can sometimes be hard and even scary. But just like in our personal lives, change forces us to constantly take stock of who we are and what we represent. In every instance, change and adversity has made StarCycle an even stronger business. A quote I love and often repeat is “Strong people rarely have an easy past.”
- The impact you make might not be what you set out to do — I set out to open a fitness studio, but fairly early on I noticed something magical happening. After class, kids leaving our childcare space would ask their parents to take them into the studio room. They were curious about the bikes and what their parents were doing the last 45 minutes. I realized that I wasn’t just helping to shape the people around me, but also the future generation who were able to see their parents value their health and the importance of staying active. Sometimes you get so caught up in the minuta of your job, those small things can be missed — but when I take a step back I’m able to see the full impact of what my business is doing for my community and other communities around the country. Showing that example of a healthy lifestyle to children is one of the things I’m most proud of.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Definitely Michelle Obama. A strong woman who never gives up, puts family first, glows with positivity, understands the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle and inspires young and old to be their best.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!