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Jennifer Maanavi didn’t set out to pioneer the boutique fitness industry, but as the co-founder and CEO of barre studio and global fitness brand Physique 57, she did just that. The idea for Physique 57 was born out of her love for dance and her drive to help others lead healthier lives.
In 2006, Maanavi was working in financial services and had earned her M.B.A. when she recognized a need in the fitness industry. She noticed that there weren’t many popular modalities that were effective and challenging, yet at the same time graceful, fun, feminine and safe for preventing injuries. She knew that with her business expertise and deep passion for fitness, she could be the one to create something new and fill that void.
Maanavi teamed up with Tanya Becker, who she met through The Lotte Berk Method, a dance-inspired fitness technique and studio on the Upper East Side.
“I had been doing the method for years and Tanya was the lead instructor,” Maanavi says. “With my business background and Tanya’s teaching skills, it was the perfect partnership.”
When The Lotte Berk Method closed in 2005, the two of them took it as an opportunity to update the method and make it their own. They modernized the programming to make it more strength and cardio-based and then recruited a whole new group of instructors to teach their method. They opened their first studio on the eighth floor of an art gallery building in the heart of midtown Manhattan on 57th Street. The classes were also 57 minutes, which inspired the name Physique 57.
At the time — before the boom of the boutique fitness industry — Physique 57 was the first studio to offer only group classes with just one modality, barre. They were also one of the first studios to operate with a pay-by-class model. In a landscape filled with big-box gyms, this was revolutionary.
Their one-of-a-kind method, boutique offerings and genuine passion for their clients and instructors struck a chord with consumers and clients poured in.
“With a mix of good luck and a good idea, our waitlists had waitlists,” Maanavi says.
Through the years, the business took some wild turns as Physique 57 adapted to the ever-changing landscape of the fitness industry. Maanavi led her team, many of whom have been with the company since its inception, to consistently generate ideas, innovate, seek opportunities and scale the business globally.
“Given the competitive nature of the fitness industry and its rapid growth, my team and I needed to have a vision for where we could shine in the global landscape,” Maanavi says.
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