How the Founder of Fitness Craze LEKFit Built a Business From Her Backyard
In the Women Entrepreneur series My First Moves, we talk to founders about that pivotal moment when they decided to turn their business idea into a reality -- and the first steps they took to make it happen.
You might not know Lauren Kleban, but you definitely know her clients. Celebrities including Emmy Rossum and Busy Phillips have become fans and genuine brand advocates of LEKFit, the dance-inspired fitness method Kleban, a trained professional dancer, developed to satisfy her own workout cravings. What started as a side hustle following the birth of her first child has blossomed into a fitness craze, attracting women from Hollywood and well beyond. Here’s how Kleban did it.
1. Solve your own problem.
The early part of Kleban’s career was as a professional dancer, but after she became a mom, life on the road as part of a tour was no longer a stable option. “I started teaching dance at studios in Los Angeles, and I always found myself doing multiple workouts,” Kleban says. “I’d teach a class, then go to Runyon Canyon for a run. I never felt like I was getting enough, but I also didn’t have time, as a mom, to spend two hours working out every day.” So she set out to create a fitness program that would serve all her needs -- in under an hour. She wanted to fuse the benefits she got from both ballet or yoga and running, in one contained class. “That’s where the rebounder came in,” Kleban says of the mini trampoline her workouts utilize. Once she found a formula she liked, she’d test it out on her fitness clients.
2. Find a home base -- anywhere you can.
As her program developed, Kleban realized that there was a larger desire for these kinds of workouts than she had even anticipated, and she and her husband agreed to give it a go and invest in the program as more than just a side hustle. “We moved to a new house in Hollywood and intentionally bought a property with a yard that could accommodate a trampoline,” she says. “We built out a space for classes without really knowing what was going to happen.” The classes started maxing out -- fast. “The studio is in our garage and the guestroom is the dressing room, waiting area, and shower,” Kleban says. We’ve already had to revamp the space a few times.”
3. Ignore the naysayers.
Given the high demand of her classes -- which accommodate a small number of clients, about nine per class -- Kleban was eager to find ways to reach more people. “My husband has a tech background and suggested putting the content online,” Kleban says. But plenty of people advised her against it. “People in the health space, other entrepreneurs, was like, ‘Don’t put it online, that’s a horrible idea!’ But we did it anyway -- and it was immediately crazy and has grown ever since. And we’ve done zero paid advertising.” Streaming the classes helped reach women far outside of L.A., and thanks to some celebrity clientele that regularly post videos from Kleban’s in-person classes to social media -- Busy Phillips is a well-known devotee -- fervor for LEKFit rapidly grew beyond the Hollywood Hills.
Putting workout classes online, however, is easier said than done, and perfecting the model took a lot of trial and error. “At first it was just me facing the camera, and we quickly realized that people don’t want that,” Kleban says. “We also did short pieces of content, thinking people would want to piece their own workouts together. But they didn’t want that either.” Kleban and her husband brought in a proper production manager, lit the studio and started filming 50-minute classes from beginning to end, capturing the participants in addition to Kleban and her growing roster of instructors.
5. Expand your operation when the time (and location) is right.
“At this point, there are people walking through my backyard that I don’t know,” Kleban says about her homegrown business. Now the mother of two, she’s ready to move the operation outside of her home and is preparing to open the company’s first flagship location in Los Angeles -- and spent a long time hunting for the perfect spot. “Parking in L.A. is a very big deal, and it’s very difficult, and there are different laws in different areas,” she says, laughing. “We’ve been in deals and found out there was no parking, and we’ve found spaces that appear to have parking, but the actual lot was sold 25 years ago. So we had to keep going until we found what made sense for us and our clients.”
6. Never stop evolving.
Kleban changes the content of her classes every week. “The concept stays the same, but the content is fresh,” she says. “I test [each new class] on my Saturday classes, to make sure that people are happy and that the workout feels good. We shoot it, upload it and it’s ready for viewers on Wednesday morning.” And the cycle never stops.