Punk Rope shows how business success is like a New Year’s resolution to get in shape

14 Jan

In less than 10 years, Tim Haft and Shana Brady turned a fresh gym class into a nationwide community complete with DVDs and products.

In less than 10 years, Tim Haft and Shana Brady turned a fresh gym class into a national community complete with DVDs and products.

By Eleanor Whitney

Remember in grade school when you looked forward to recess so you could jump rope and run around with your friends?

As an adult, do you look forward to going to the gym in the same way?

diy-business-of-the-weekPunk Rope combines playground-style games with an intense workout and a kicking soundtrack. Created by New York City–based personal trainers Tim Haft and Shana Brady, Punk Rope has provided an alternative to judgmental gym classes since 2004.

Haft and Brady’s empire consists of more than a few buzz-worthy workout classes—they’ve nurtured a community of Punk Rope instructors and devotees nationwide and expanded their business to include workout DVDs and specialty jump ropes. When not jumping rope, Haft and Brady run a bootcamp-style class called Beastanetics.

I first took their class in 2011 and for me, it turned getting in shape from a chore to an actually fun activity. At their weekly class in a Brooklyn YMCA, lunges turned into Pete Townshend–like guitar moves. At the annual Punk Rope Games last June, I donned whiskers for my team “Henri the Depressed French Cat,” to show off my moves in a Williamsburg, Brooklyn playground.

Like a lot of people, I’m recommitting to my fitness goals for the new year and am also in the process of building my own DIY business, so now seemed like the perfect time to talk to Tim Haft about how to stick to resolutions and keep a business healthy.

Eleanor Whitney shows off her agility.

Eleanor Whitney shows off her agility.

Eleanor Whitney: Keeping to an exercise routine and building a business take a lot of “stick-with-it-ness.” What are the connections between your own personal fitness and building Punk Rope as a business?

Tim Haft: In both, you need structure, organization, consistency and discipline if you’re going to be successful. I believe that a lot of small businesses bite the dust for the same reason that a lot of folks fail at achieving fitness. They start off like a house on fire, but can’t sustain the pace.

And the reality is that, as with building fitness, running a business isn’t going to be all fun and games. Naturally you want the enjoyment factor to be as high as possible, but you also have to deal with the mundane details like accounting, managing inventory and maintaining an email list. These things need to become second nature in the same way that warming up and stretching need to become second nature. Once you’ve formed the “habit,” you’re good to go.

Punk Rope is a great workout because it turns working out into fun games and drills. How do you bring that element of play and levity into running your business?

Injecting levity into a workout and a business are both important. I started Punk Rope because I wanted a class with a welcoming environment—different from the usual, ultra-competitive NYC gym classes. I feel that exercise, like rock’n’roll, is something people can do to escape from their everyday stress and to lighten up a bit.

Similarly, we try not to take ourselves too seriously, and we try to be light and playful in our communications with customers. We inject levity every opportunity we get, from our website to naming our products (for example, one of our jump ropes is called Cobalt 60) to the headlines of our emails (such as “Punk Rope invades Boston”). This helps communicate our personalities and build the Punk Rope brand. It all shows the kind of environment students can expect when they come to class before they’re even in class.

Shana Brady keeps it fun even through the pain.

Shana Brady keeps it fun even through the pain.

How do you motivate yourself to keep going when you’ve hit a wall or a challenge in fitness or business?

With fitness it’s a bit easier because there’s so much latitude in terms of your approach. If I hit a wall with building strength, I might shift gears and focus on cardio or try to play a new sport or workout in a new setting. With business, there’s not always so much flexibility. However, I think one key to maintaining motivation is to never rest on your laurels. Constantly re-imagine, re-envision and reinvent what your business can be.

Also, with business challenges, it’s critical to get input from folks you trust and respect. If you form a DIY business collective with other businesses you admire, it has the potential to be extremely beneficial to all who participate.

Punkrope.com | @PunkRope | Facebook

Eleanor Whitney is a Brooklyn-based writer, rock musician, educator and arts administrator raised in Maine. She blogs at killerfemme.com and is the author of Grow: How to take your DIY project and passion to the next level and quit your job, which will be released in 2013 on Cantankerous Titles. 

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