Amira Polack is the founder and CEO of Struct Club
Ever spend hours finding the perfect song to get motivated to work out? Looking for the right beat drop you know will make the sprint more tolerable?
Struct Club is a platform that elevates how fitness pros create music-inspired experiences, from solo workouts to fitness classes. Their debut product is a mobile platform (available on the app store) that allows fitness instructors to choreograph, run, and scale their class routines. Basically, Struct Club allows anyone to schedule a workout playlist using songs’ tempo and beat drops for the best high-level performance workout.
Wondering about the name? Struct Club originated from the main function it provides: bringing structure to how fitness and health club instructors lead their workouts.
The visionary behind Struct Club.
Amira started Struct Club in 2019, while she was still in business school. As she shares, she spent the summer between the first and second year of business school (when most people strive for important and prestigious internships) doing market research, interviewing fellow fitness instructors, talking to prospective customers, and trying to learn from them and their pain points.
I first met Amira on Instagram when we bonded about the lack of VC funding that goes to women founders and once I became acquainted with her entrepreneurial journey, I immediately became mesmerized by her vision, determination, and everything she is building with Struct Club.
In an interview with Voyage LA, Amira said:
My story can be bookended by these two quotes: “Now, go and kick some ass.” – Clarie Polack “Don’t forget to have fun!” – Joshua Polack
And from my short conversation with Amira, I can attest that these are accurate. Amira is fiercely determined but always brings her mission back to how much she enjoys fitness classes. She is so knowledgeable about the startup world, and her confidence is definitely contagious.
How did the idea for Struct Club come about?
I was having a conversation with another founder the other day, and I think both of us subscribe to this idea that for founders who have a strong conviction about what they’re doing, a lot of the aspects of the journey that really ties back to their childhood. There’s something that ties back to their childhood that inspired them to do what they’re doing. And I think you’ve seen that for me because I encourage women entrepreneurs to tap into something deep... there are a lot of ways to start a company, a lot of reasons, nice financial reasons to start a company and enterprises. But entrepreneurship is hard. As you’ve seen and talked about it’s even harder if you are a woman and if you don’t come from the prevalent white male background. So making sure that you enjoy it on a daily basis to the extent that there is some deep connection, a deep compelling connection in your fiber is really helpful. For me, growing up in a household, being from LA and a Filipino-American family, I grew up finding a lot of music, and dancing, or even just moving around (sometimes it was just jumping around), just being athletic. Growing up in a household that valued a lot of that really was a precursor to my excitement about group fitness style classes/music-driven fitness classes as an adult. The types of boutique classes that were more like nightclubs in disguise, as opposed to one just focused on getting ‘ripped’ or the type of aesthetic that is promoted on fitness magazines... that was never really the aspect about fitness that drove me to the industry. I really enjoy music-driven fitness classes, and that propelled me to get my own fitness instructor certification. When I started to teach, the really surprising thing —even when preparing my very first class— the vast majority of my time was spent doing playlist organization and management. And it wasn't like ‘oh I don't know what songs to do,’ — actually a lot of instructors are using the same songs, usually similar to what it is the clients are listening to, and you can predict those based on what’s trending. But the harder piece is really aligning what’s going on in the workout... utilizing the music to inspire what is going on in the workout and remembering what that is when you’re leading the class. So that’s when that came about, when I saw that I could only teach 1 or 2 classes a week because so much time is required to prepare if you really want to put together a decent class… and if you’re new, you don’t have ten years of experience under your belt. So there was a point when I realized I really needed to streamline this process, I really couldn't afford to be spending 20 hours a week preparing for 2 exercise classes where I get paid $30 / hour (which isn’t a bad instructor rate) but I JUST couldn't spend twenty unpaid hours doing music memorization and manual mapping of the music and figuring out ‘well if we are going to sprint during the chorus, how many choruses are there and how many seconds are people spending there, how long do they get to recover in between? That is something people in the class will be asking you. And you can’t be doing random things, you need to help them allocate their energy, be safe, be high performing. And at the time, with thirty people in the class, you need to let them know what to expect, baseline. That’s how it got to enough of a pain point for me where I wanted to create a tool to solve this. I just wanted one place to listen to my music and mark it up once all in one place, and be able to have that playback to me in real-time in class (just having to look for it in one place).
Amira, the founder, and CEO of Struct Club.
What were some of the first steps you took to make it happen?
At the time, when I started, I was in grad school. I really wasn't going at it with the mission of building a big, venture-backable company. I wasn’t even coming at it thinking ‘oh I have a really cool product idea, let’s build this great product and then find a problem for it to plug into’ which is another way of building a company. I wasn’t even thinking of building a company at first. I was just thinking that this was a problem that needed to be solved. At the time I was a student and I didn't have any resources. I wasn’t thinking about contracting out or building an app. But my partner is an IOS developer and my sister happens to be a graphic designer (she specifically focuses on UX and UI design). So I had an idea that I sketched out with my partner, we worked on the first cut of some kind of a solution. We thought about the simplest need: being able to list my playlist metadata, ie. song title, song artist, song length, and just be able to tag that information in a list, with high-level tags of what was going on in the songs, and that was our first cut. Then it got more specific and I added a lot more: if I tagged a song ‘two sprints’ I’d add when those started (I found that in class I needed some kind of indicator of when those sprints are), I needed a lot more granularity there… I did a lot of things simultaneously, and one was interviewing fellow instructors, trying to learn from them and their pain points. Sometimes when you’re starting something out of a personal problem you question yourself whether it’s only a problem for you, so you want to talk to other ‘would-be’ prospective customers. When you’re just starting out, it’s so important to talk to other people you think could use your solution. So you want to learn how wide of a problem this is. I spent my summer between the first and second year of business school, when most people do important internships, I spent the summer doing market research.
Get fit to music! Check out their website here.
What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome?
I think that the biggest one, as a founder (and I see this happening to pretty much any founder that I talk to) you have these moments where you ask yourself Am I doing enough? Am I working on something important enough for everybody else, or is this just a me-problem /solution? There are people out there that will constantly try to gaslight you in some ways saying ‘Oh you’re crazy, this isn’t really a problem’ or ‘actually it’s a problem just because you're making it an issue, it's not a real issue…’ Those aren't customers. Although I actually prefer people to be honest with what it is that they think, there are all kinds of people who will think all kinds of different things and sometimes if you have any kind of grain of introspection you will have to think: ‘is there credence to what it is that they’re saying’ and you will get a seed of self-doubt. There's always that cycle, even on a daily basis, you've got your highs, your lows and you just have to work through that. It’s a really deep personal development journey and sometimes it’s hard. You’re sitting with yourself, maybe you’re not the entrepreneur that starts with 20 employees right out of the gate. Maybe it’s much smaller than that, maybe it's just you, or maybe a group of 2-4 co-founders. When you start out you're in your head a lot of the time. You’re running around. Balancing, juggling a lot of things to validate the next thing you are going to be building. So I think the psychological challenge can be very hard.
Less than 3% of VC funding goes to female founders, how was your experience pitching/seeking investment? And how was your experience with Techstars?
It’s been really disappointing to see the stats around this. It was even more disappointing to see the headlines this past week that said that women solopreneurs received a billion dollars less in funding. So the first thing is, for anybody out there who has ever had the inclination to say to a woman or a minority entrepreneur ‘oh this is a hot topic right now, therefore there is so much more going for you’ just look at the numbers. Get woke on what is actually happening, you might be surprised, although you might not be surprised at all.