Community Interview with Lena Rakijian, Founder of VERVE Studios
By Kailee Coleman | December 12, 2018
About Verve Studios…
Verve Studios is an indoor cycling studio and community space created to allow people to sweat, and move, and connect, together. We’ll have indoor cycling classes and offer social wellness events and workshops geared toward holistic health, fitness, and wellness — basically all the tools we need to live a joyful, balanced, happy, healthy lifestyle.
What we typically see of fitness on social media, is large commitments and big overhauls and transformations (like, “Spend six months here and this is what you’ll look like“)! But Verve’s approach is different. Lena believes that if we just focus on doing one thing everyday that’s good for you, whether it’s taking a class at Verve, or grabbing coffee with a friend, or going to BLOC and getting some work done, it’s these small micro actions that make a difference. Take the stairs, go for a 10 minute walk when you’re feeling stressed instead of diving deeper into your work — something! And the cycling classes are a tool for this bigger picture.
What’s your role and how did the name come about?
I am the owner and founder of Verve Studios.
Verve itself means vigor, spirit, and enthusiasm, which I feel like are three things that really define or characterize what I love about cycling. It’s the physical aspect of it and the challenge, it’s the energy behind it and just the joy and excitement I get from being in class.
I also really love the song, The Bittersweet Symphony, by The Verve. My friend and I used to listen to it when we were young and that word, Verve, has always stuck with me.
What can people expect from the classes at Verve?
We’ll have a 38 bike studio and state-of-the-art sound and lighting. It will be kind of like a concert feel and the classes will be rhythm-based, so we’ll have rhythm-based choreography and high intensity intervals with some upper body weight training so that you get a variety of different things.
Rhythm-based is fun because you’re catching the beat and it’s all with the music. It just flows and the room moves together. The interval portion is really challenging; you lose your breath and then the upper body weight training gives you a nice little breather for 5 minutes. You’re using your upper body, so you’re getting a full body workout in that 45 minute timeframe.
Did you always see yourself doing something like this?
It’s funny because when I was in college I took a business writing course and had to come up with a business plan. My idea was to open a boutique style, mixed-use, wellness center. I pitched the idea to my group and they shut it down immediately. But this was back in 2006 and people weren’t really doing this sort of thing, it was of a big box gym era.
So even though my group shut me down, I always had it in the back of my mind that it was something I wanted to do. I knew it was something that could be really great, and I wanted to create a place where people could gather and gain a lot in multiple facets of health.
I finished my graduate studies and got a masters in nutrition, initially working as a registered dietician. I did this for about four years and was also working as a fitness instructor in Boston at the same time. So really, I’ve been in the fitness and nutrition space for a long time.
I moved home to Carlsbad last summer and felt like the time was right — as if it was my time to start this business. So here we are.
What was your first or most memorable job?
My first job was at Legoland. I worked in the parking ticket booth in the heat of the summer. It’s pretty funny because they didn’t have the right size outfit for me, so the whole summer I wore extra large pants and shirt.
My best memories though, are in teaching and coaching people in cycling. There are certain classes you will never forget and people you will never forget training.
Do you have anything exciting coming up in the future? What else should we know about your business?
First off, we are super excited about our opening, which will be sometime in January of 2019! Our facility is coming together really nicely too — we’ll have cycling shoe rentals, and we’ll have showers onsite.
Another cool element that I am really trying to focus on is bringing in local San Diego makers. From designing the lobby, to the products we are offering in the showers, to products we might sell — I want it all to be from local artisans. I love supporting local people as much as I can and I think it’s such a fun story and cool way to meet people in the health space.
We are also going to be a non single-use plastic studio, so we are not selling any plastic water bottles. So we’re trying to be very cognizant of our environmental impact as well.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business owner?
I would say: be really clear on your values. Know what they are for yourself, and for your business, and get them really clear. Write them down over and over, brainstorm the hell out of it, and always go back to them.
Through the life of the business, they could change, but always check in and reset those values if you need to. It’s so important to do because it totally keeps you aligned in what you’re doing. It’s easy to get distracted by external voices or competition, shiny objects, or your own fears. Fear based thinking can really get in your way of staying true to the values you want to uphold in your life, and in your business.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I love to workout myself. I like to do yoga and walk on the beach. I just love being with my friends and family. I also love food, going to different places and trying new food.
The next few questions are a series of rapid fire, don’t-think-too-much, one-word responses to see how people think on their feet. They usually provide some pretty interesting insight!
How would you describe yourself in one word?
Charismatic. I’ve got charisma and I’m not afraid of being seen for who I am.
What are you afraid of?
Squirrels. They terrify me and they’re everywhere here!
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I love a good mediterranean platter.
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I have it! It’s what I’m doing now!