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."
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.