Sadie Kurzban likes to warm up her fitness dance class with a pep talk.
“We’re in it together,” she tells 30 women gathered in a 1,500-square-foot studio. “There’s nothing to worry about. You’re in good hands.”
A burst of neon lights flashes throughout the room. “Boom-boom” music blasts from the speakers. A live DJ plays electronic dance music (EDM) tracks that accompany a series of jumps, waving arms and sidesteps.
The 5:30 p.m. Monday cardio legs class at 305 Fitness has begun.
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Kurzban, 27, is the founder of 305 Fitness, a brand of boutique gyms inspired by Miami’s music and party scene. Since 2014, she has opened two 6,000-square-foot studios in New York City (one in Midtown and another in the West Village) and offers classes in Washington, D.C., and Boston.
After growing up in a Jewish-Cuban family in Key Biscayne, Kurzban, valedictorian at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, class of 2008, wanted to bring a “Miami ethos” to Northeasterners.
“I find something so special about the Miami culture that’s really playful, joyous, carefree, willing to be a little bit silly and make fun of itself,” she says at her Midtown office.
The New York City workout studio emanates “silly” and “carefree.” Hot pink neon lights read “Girls Girls Girls” and “What’s the password?” Downstairs, a selfie station with a backdrop of yellow and orange flowers complements studios named after Miami hotspots like “Collins Ave.” and “Brickell.”
“We focused on the emblematic parts of Miami,” she says. “So that’s South Beach and Art Deco.”
Kurzban, the daughter of Miami immigration lawyers Ira Kurzban and Magda Montiel Davis, got the idea for 305 Fitness in college. A longtime Zumba instructor, she launched the distinctive exercise classes during her first year at her alma mater, Brown University.
“There’d be 200 to 300 kids in the room,” Kurzban recalls. “People were lining up around the block.”
In 2012, Kurzban visited Miami for spring break. During a night out on South Beach, a friend suggested she take that ambience and make it into a workout class.
“I’m going to become a fitness instructor? That’s so crazy!” Kurzban says about the conversation she had that night.
That idea eventually became the independent start-up BodyRox, the prototype for 305 Fitness.
In her senior year, Kurzban entered and won $25,000 in an on-campus business plan competition. The funds helped her move to New York and begin building the 305 brand. Initially, she taught classes wherever she could rent studio spaces. Once her client base increased, Kurzban was ready to open her first studio in the West Village.
In addition to the money from Brown, Kurzban says that she financed the project in its early months through friends, family and clients.
“We’re self-funded, meaning that the profits from our current studios help fund the next studio,” she says.
The second studio in Midtown, near the Empire State Building, opened in early 2016.
For 24-year-old Talia Vilaplana, who grew up taking dance classes, Fitness 305 felt like home. Her first workout, however, wasn’t easy.
“I literally thought I was going to throw up during it. It was my first time dancing in a long time,” Vilaplana says. “I knew right away that I wanted to come back all the time afterward.”
Clients like Vilaplana return to 305 for the culture, which is often as important as the workouts. She says 305 Fitness encourages a competition-free zone and a focus on individual success.
“It’s to come and feel good about yourself,” Vilaplana says. “When you go to other classes, you hear, ‘Oh, burn off that cake you ate last night.’ It’s none of that here.”