If you haven't heard Anna Kaiser's name before, you'll soon become familiar with her growing fitness program, AKT, or the Anna Kaiser Technique. A revamped combination of dance, Pilates and interval training, Kaiser takes the boutique fitness craze and offers a revolution.
“When the boutique boom happened, I started working in boutique fitness and realized that the same thing was happening to me that was happening to many other consumers," says Kaiser. “You get really involved in one modality, and then you burn out and try a different modality. And all these boutique studios were focused around a single modality. I thought, why is no one bridging the gap between single modality boutique fitness and the comprehensive gym model?"
The $30 billion fitness and health industry has been growing around 4 percent annually for the last 10 years. The boutique fitness sector – which consists of familiar luxury gyms and group class settings such as Equinox and SoulCycle – has been gaining momentum, with membership growing by 70 percent between 2012 and 2015, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
This year, AKT became a part of Xponential Fitness, an equity-backed holding company that acquires boutique fitness brands and hit $148 million in revenue last year. Kaiser is set to franchise her brand with Xponential, and is projected to open at least 300 studios around the country.
Before her fitness breakthrough, Kaiser was a professional dancer. Her passion for fitness stemmed from her love of dance, which she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in. Kaiser says that as a dancer, she had to prioritize staying fit both aesthetically and physically in order to perform. So she was always looking for a solution, whether it was yoga, Pilates or lifting weights at the gym. Kaiser highly prioritized her fitness journey while she was touring and performing, trying to learn as much as she could about exercise and the body.
If you're searching for someone who is knowledgeable about fitness, Kaiser is your person. She has done it all – taught exercise classes, managed fitness studios, received certifications in Pilates, yoga and barre and studied sports medicine long before she founded her own business.
“I was trying to figure out what I loved best, and what I believed to be the most efficient and effective way to work out," says Kaiser. “I started to figure out what that looked like with private clients. I did a beta class program in Connecticut for a year to test the market."
In addition to the beta program, Kaiser tested her work outs with private celebrity clients including Shakira and Kelly Ripa – who coined the name AKT. Kaiser says that her celebrity clients added valuable credibility to AKT.“They were encouraging me to open the studio and start the business. It helped get the word out and helped legitimize what I was doing," says Kaiser. “[Celebrities] have access to pretty much every technique, and anyone they could want to train with.
So why are they choosing AKT? It provided some intrigue to what I was doing."
After moving from Connecticut to Tribeca to test the New York market, Kaiser met with a client who wanted to become an investor.
“She said, 'let's do it, let's open the first studio,'" Kaiser recalls. “It was really a culmination of the last 15 years of my life, in dance and choreography, creative inspiration as well as the education I had in fitness and working not only for fitness companies, but as a manager of other studios and sales. I knew what to do to be successful."
By 2015, Kaiser had opened three New York studios. Her class model became an interval dance class, and she eventually created her signature series of four classes; tone, circuit, band and dance; in order to incorporate every level of a workout. AKT even offers classes for those who aren't choreographically inclined, says Kaiser.
Each workout is specifically designed by Kaiser, and they're the exact workouts she's using with her celebrity clients. And every three weeks, she spins it on its head.
“Once you get used to that content, I switch it up. You really are getting the programing of a personal trainer, but the community and excitement of a group class," Kaiser explains. “That is the heartbeat of what we're doing."
The community aspect of AKT is what excites Kaiser the most about her business. When presented with expansion, she says that franchising wasn't an option she had initially thought about. The great thing about franchising, she says, is that owners will bring in their own communities to her brand.
“It's a much more organic way to grow, and the way I feel AKT has grown," says Kaiser. “This is the continuation of that story. I'm so over the moon excited to share this with everyone. It's a dream come true."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.