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."
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.