Investment bankers specialize in all sorts of things. Energy. Telcoms. Automative. Media. Workouts.
We’re only half kidding about the last one. Meet Aarti Kapoor, an investment banker in New York City, whose concentration is utterly unique. The Moelis & Company banker has focused her attention on the wellness sector, with the understanding that boutique fitness and juicing are rapidly expanding industries—and she’d be the first.
There hasn’t been an investment banker who’s taken stock of the wellness scene in quite this way. And, talking to Kapoor, you quickly see she’s made it her business to know all the hot workouts and every juice brand in the cooler. “Moelis is very much ahead of the curve in covering this industry,” acknowledges Kapoor.
Since bankers typically pay attention to industries where huge transactions take place, Kapoor’s specialty is a testament to how much boutique fitness and its accompanying lifestyle are maturing. In just three years she’s seen certain companies that started simply as one-hour workouts establish themselves as brands that extend to the whole way you think about your life.
“These successful companies have morphed from ‘types of workouts’ into ‘ways of life'” says Kapoor. And she suspects there will many more players joining them.
The road from banker to wellness savant
How did Kapoor land her position as the wellness maven of Wall Street? The Harvard-educated banker, who starts her days at 6:00 a.m. classes at Barry’s Bootcamp or Flywheel Sports, noticed her own fitness behavior changing three years ago.
Kapoor used to think of a boutique fitness class as an occasional splurge, “then it became part of my routine,” she explains. “The classes were more rigorous, the instruction was better…. I quit my gym membership and started to empty my pockets to take the classes. And I noticed it was the same with friends and colleagues. It wasn’t just a ‘me phenomenon,’ it was a cultural phenomenon.”
Professionally, Kapoor also started to see more of these brands in transaction scenarios—whether they were being invested in or part of a strategic partnership, such as Equinox’s rumored $50 million alignment with SoulCycle. She felt bullish on wellness and that the healthy lifestyle sector wasn’t just a retail trend, but a huge opportunity with financial heft.
The heads of Moelis were supportive of Kapoor’s eagerness to focus on fitness and wellness. (One of the firm’s managing partners was a boutique fitness devotee, which helped.) Plus it’s hard to argue with the stats confirming that fitness is a $45 billion industry in the U.S. and wellness is a $2 trillion business globally.
“I am lucky to work in an innovative culture,” says Kapoor, who’s now professionally obligated to stay up-to-date on emerging fitness trends. For example, on a recent work trip to Los Angeles, she found herself “researching” three workouts a day at the top studios.
Why boutique fitness is going to be huge
So we sat down with the banker who gave us the lowdown on why, from her professional vantage point, boutique fitness will continue to prosper.
1. Society has adopted a very different cultural approach to fitness in the last several years. While previously women aspired to become as thin as possible, today they look to become as strong as possible—this is a large contributor to the boutique fitness model becoming so successful.
2. Boutique fitness offers higher quality and more challenging classes that push clients more than they would ever normally push themselves. Moreover, the instructors are higher quality and offer personalized attention tailored to clients’ specific needs.
3. Boutique fitness offers an increased sense of accountability—either to one’s bank account or the friend s/he might be meeting at the studio for class.
4. Women are a particularly important part of the equation. Women’s discretionary income continues to increase—and at a steeper rate than their male counterparts. And women are known to disproportionately spend on the anti-aging, beauty, fitness, health, and wellness categories—all of which directly tie into the boutique fitness world. —Alexia Brue