Amanda Freeman never set out to be a fitness impresario; she simply followed her passion for wellness, and the road (with plenty of twists and turns) kept unfolding in front of her.
She worked in market research (trend consulting around Generations X and Y) and then attended Harvard Business School.
On a whim in 2007, however, she started Vital Juice, a daily email about health and wellness (or, as she called it then, “Daily Candy without the cavities.”)
Around the same time, she became a fan of boutique fitness – but found something lacking.
“I wanted Pilates results but a different experience,” she explains, adding that Pilates then was very 1-on-1, expensive and exclusive, not intense, not sweaty, and wasn’t exactly known for fun music and a good time, unlike Soul Cycle, which Amanda admired.
Then she had her first A-ha moment: she took a class at Sebastian Lagree’s Pilates studio in LA and found her Pilates home.
However, no one was doing it (that way) in New York City so in 2011, Amanda decided to do it herself and open a Pilates exercise studio, all the while thinking it was going to be a part-time job.
She was very wrong, and very quickly sold Vital Juice to Tasting Table and opened the first SLT studio in Midtown Manhattan. From there, she used the revenue from that first location to grow to 2…and then on to 11 studios.
At location 12, Amanda sold a minority stake in SLT to North Castle, which helped the company grow to 26 studios. Covid-19 has since accounted for the closure of three (Bloomfield Hills, Scarsdale, and Plainview).
In 2015, Amanda started becoming aware that clients didn’t stay for the 2-3 minute stretch at the end of class, and became frustrated.
“Stretching isn’t optional!” she exclaims. “It’s a key part of class.”
This observation led to a revelation: people loved to be stretched (for example, by their trainer after a private session) but stretching oneself seems like a waste of time to them.
The seed for Stretch*d was planted.
Again, she saw that there was no stretching studio or anything like it (especially something that was easily accessible for the average person) in New York, so Amanda did what she does best: found a partner, Vanessa Chu, and a space, signing a lease in 2017 and opened the first Stretch*d studio in NYC’s Flatiron district in 2018 (followed by a second location in Rye Brook, NY).
The question remains: why stretching?
Given that opening more corporate locations, as well as the potential for franchising Stretch*d, is, like most things, on hold during COVID-19, Amanda and her team are now focusing on Stretch*d Academy, a teacher training vehicle for any wellness professional – massage therapists, personal trainers, physical therapists, and anyone else that does body work. Cost is $199 for the Level 1 Main Course.
For this part of their business, Amanda and Vanessa partnered with Jeff Brannigan and Jeremy Mayer from the premiere Wharton academy, who provided the expertise and credentials to be able to train teachers in the Stretch*d method.
Not only is it another example of Amanda’s personal ability to pivot and diversify during a challenging time, Stretch’d Academy serves a dual purpose, offering that same option to wellness professionals as well.
While a lot of the educational components of the training can happen online, the actual certification needs to take place in person – however, the first certification was scheduled for April and subsequently cancelled/rescheduled for when it’s safe to hold it. In its place, the team launched the initial programming online with The 15 Essentials Course, where they teach how to perform the 15 most essential stretch*s on a client.
If someone doesn’t need or want to get fully certified in the Stretch*d method, he/she/they can take one-off courses and engage in other components of continuing/education.