Making the first move in your career, love life, or when forging friendships can be intimidating. Luckily, there’s a highly-curated and safe platform that makes it easy to take fate into your own hands to land that dream job, relationship, and bff. Bumble is the revolutionary app that lets users connect with confidence, allowing busy women everywhere to use tools like Bumble Bizz to find interesting and motivated people to network with, hire, or even work for. For the month of January, we’ve partnered with Bumble on a 4-part series highlighting women who made the first move in their careers, and ended up as the main characters of major success stories.

This week, we’re chatting with Payal Kadakia, the Founder and Executive Chairman of ClassPass. As the creator of this category-revolutionizing fitness membership program, Payal has hit impressive milestones, such as raising over $250 million dollars in funding, and facilitating tens of millions of class reservations across the world. Talk about a trailblazer. Before starting ClassPass, Payal graduated from MIT, worked as a consultant at Bain & Company and served in Warner Music Group’s Digital Strategy and Business Development Group. She also has over twenty-five years of dance experience, which inspired her to launch her now household-name-status company. Below, Payal shares how she was inspired by her mother to make the first move in business, her advice for entrepreneurs who are just getting started, and how she was able to become so successful in an incredibly competitive space.

You credit your mother, a woman who #MadetheFirstMove and came to America as an immigrant from Western India to build a new life. How did her work ethic inspire you to become the entrepreneur you are today? Who are other women who also #MadetheFirstMove that you admire?

My parents immigrated to the US from India. They worked hard to create a good life for us here. My mom worked the night shift and stayed home with me and took care of our household during the day. It’s amazing how much she accomplished and on so little sleep! She is smart and strong and approaches every challenge as an opportunity for growth. She raised me to believe that women should reach for their dreams, even when those aspirations are big, ambitious and audacious. She was the first person to encourage me to quit my job to build ClassPass.

There are so many other women I admire across numerous fields — business, medicine, academia, literature, the non-profit sector, and government. There are so many in which women can and are positively impacting society. I think it’s imperative that we all dare to dream big; it’s the only way to approach the massive challenges — and opportunities — that confront our world today.

You’ve said that you believe the biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful people is execution. What advice can you give to someone who has an idea but doesn’t know how to get started?

Every major endeavor should begin with a clear vision, but that vision won’t do any good unless it’s followed by swift, effective execution. Successful people arm themselves with whatever tools they can — education or training, market knowledge, a good team — and then they take the plunge and get started. Honestly, my best advice is to just get started. Successful people don’t let a few failures derail them. The best way to learn is to do! So much of success involves persistence and the reframing of failure as opportunities to learn, improve and ultimately prevail.

Bumble was created to help women make the first move, whether it be to find a romantic relationship, meet new friends, or expand your professional network. Can you tell us about some of the relationships that helped you move forward through the inevitable struggles of starting a company?

There are so many people who have helped me along the way: my mentor and first investor Anjula Acharia; my high school friend Sanjiv Sanghavi who quit his job to join me in the creation of ClassPass; my parents who have encouraged me at every stage of my life; and my husband who is my best friend, coach, and most trusted confidante. There are many others as well. People need community; we can only survive and thrive with support from colleagues, friends, and loved ones.

Bumble Bizz is a tool that readers can use to take fate into their own hands to land their dream job, meet fellow women who are interested in expanding their own professional circles, or even hire talented individuals to join their businesses. When hiring, what attributes do you look for in a candidate? How can our readers stand out when putting themselves out there on a platform like Bumble Bizz?

In startups, attitude and outlook matter greatly. I think this is especially true in mission-oriented companies like ClassPass. We look for people who are absolutely passionate about helping people live life as fully as possible. We also look for people willing to take on a lot of responsibility — sometimes more than they ever thought possible — and run with it, knowing they’re surrounded by a supportive infrastructure of colleagues and mentors who will help them thrive. To stand out, readers should make sure their authentic personalities come through, and when reaching out to people for networking purposes, they shouldn’t just ask strangers for help; they should offer to provide help as well.

ClassPass pivoted a few times before becoming the innovative platform that it is today. When did you know you had to change the direction of the company? What tips do you have for our readers who feel like they need to pivot in their own lives?

I was willing to keep pivoting until we developed a product that really resonated with customers. I was mission-obsessed, not product-obsessed. Every pivot was painful, especially since so much hard work went into each product, and we were succeeding based on some metrics. Ultimately, though, I decided that the only thing that mattered was getting people to class. We just kept persevering until we found the right approach that led signups to take off.

The lesson is very similar in our personal lives. We all need a purpose, which is essentially a personal mission. If we’re not on a path towards achieving that purpose, it’s time to pivot.

We all need a purpose, which is essentially a personal mission. If we’re not on a path towards achieving that purpose, it’s time to pivot.

You’ve mentioned in the past that as a young child, dance impacted your life by teaching you to have vision, to work hard and to keep practicing. As an entrepreneur, how important do you feel it is to not only focus on the business side of things, but the creative as well?

It’s critical for people to hold onto their passions. Passion inspires creativity and ignites a love of life that permeates everything we do — not just professionally, but personally as well. Dance has been my lifelong passion. I’ve been dancing since the age of 3, and it’s an integral part of my life. Dancing was also my inspiration for ClassPass. I created ClassPass after realizing how hard it was to find after work dance and fitness classes. I created the company to make it easier for people to stay connected to their passions. To this day, dance continues to play a major role in my life. It unleashes my creativity, which then inspires me to come up with new ways to serve our customers. Holding onto my passion has been critical to both my business success and personal fulfillment.

ClassPass is a leader in the fitness world, and has launched several new verticals such as video workouts and “ClassPass Getaways.” How do you inspire your team to constantly look ahead at new opportunities? 

Our mission is to connect people with soul nurturing experiences. That mission guides everything we do, from new product offerings like ClassPass Live on-demand video workouts to wellness offerings like massages and other spa services. Any new offerings will always be true to our mission to help every life be fully lived.


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