Dancing with the Startups: Classtivity CEO Payal Kadakia
By Payal Kadakia (Co-Founder & CEO, Classtivity)
I’ve always been a “dancetrepreneur” and it was this passion for dance and entrepreneurship that led me to take the biggest leap of my life — founding Classtivity.
Dance has been a major presence during all phases of my life. Beginning at age three, I followed my heart to the stage, taking lessons and competing in Indian Dance competitions around the nation. As a student at MIT, my commitment to dance merged with my entrepreneurial spirit as I started an Indian Fusion Dance Troupe. Flash forward to life in New York City, where I founded the nationally-acclaimed Sa Dance Company in 2009 and am now the CEO and co-founder of Classtivity.
About a year ago, while wrapping up at my desk at Warner Music Group in Manhattan, I decided to look for a ballet class to take in the city that evening. An hour of searching, checking schedules, mapping, scrolling, and clicking, certainly didn’t take me away from my desk. I ended up not even going to a class, simply out of frustration.
In that moment, I realized the gap that existed: Why isn’t finding a class as easy as booking a reservation on OpenTable, or finding shoes on Zappos? This was the “Aha!” moment; the inception of Classtivity, a comprehensive, easy to navigate directory and reservation portal for all kinds of recreational and fitness classes, including dance, yoga, golf, foreign language, cooking and so many more.
I knew my idea was strong and was convinced that if I needed Classtivity to seamlessly find and book classes, others would too. I couldn’t even imagine how difficult it must be for a parent to find a quality gymnastics or karate class for their son or daughter that also fits into their own schedule.
But before taking action, I needed to do some research; I studied other Online2Offline models (OpenTable, SeamlessWeb, Spafinder) and scoured tech blogs, financial reports, articles, and websites. I saw the massive market opportunity that existed not only for consumers but also class-providers and teachers. Speaking with other entrepreneurs, mentors, and several vendors in the space, I knew I was sitting on something big and my excitement to create Classtivity grew rapidly.
What does a budding entrepreneur do with great ideas? My wheels were relentlessly spinning on strategy and implementation but I knew it was first critical to build a network of the smartest people I knew. My childhood friend Sanjiv Sanghavi (who I like to call “the man with a million friends”) shares my entrepreneurial spark, and he was captivated by the idea.
A month of speaking about Classtivity in depth and running through business plans led us to co found the company. We then brought on a former MTV colleague of mine as our CTO, Paul Lewis (who started off as one of those “child tech entrepreneurs”). We have since built a driven and talented team of 10+ and are thrilled to be working out of our office located in the heart of the city, Times Square!
I live by Oprah Winfrey’s quote of “Surround yourself with people who only lift you higher.” By tapping our business and social networks, we created an outstanding advisory board including several inspiring and successful women. Their backgrounds come from managing successful start-ups and large dance institutions to building a brand that now closely works with Lady Gaga and other music icons. Along with a strong team of advisors and investors, I feel blessed to be supported by an amazing group of family, friends, and mentors. I know they are along with me on this amazing journey.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve benefited from the advice of mentors, advisors and even some friends. To top it all off, I’ve already learned a lot from my own experiences and challenge you to live by these Seven Tips for Success:
- Surround yourself with the right people… from your team, to advisors, to friends. Do not underestimate the importance of creating an atmosphere of positivity for yourself and your team.
- Work with people you trust. Even more importantly, trust YOU. This builds confidence in yourself and investors.
- Set boundaries. Find time for yourself and your personal life. I still find the time to take classes even while building Classtivity, you can too.
- Never be afraid to talk to or call anyone — especially if you have a great idea that will help them.
- Learn as much as you can each day. Even if it is learning to code, or analyzing your Facebook ads… whatever it is, I bet you’d find a class for it on Classtivity :)
- Focus, Focus, Focus… There are a million things you can do each day, but there is only one of you so use your time wisely.
- Always find time to help and guide others. Inspiration goes a long way so don’t let it stop at you!
Classtivity will be making its debut this fall. We’re putting the finishing touches on and continuing to add more and more classes every day!
I welcome all of you to sign up for our beta invite and find a new class to take! Visit us at Classtivity.
Why? Because finding a class shouldn’t be harder than taking one.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Payal Kadakia is the Co-Founder and CEO of Classtivity, a NYC-based venture whose mission is to simplify the way people find classes and activities in their local area. A creative force with more than 25 years of dance experience, Payal also founded The Sa Dance Company, a contemporary Indian dance company in New York City. Payal resides in New York City and has a degree from MIT in Operations Research and Economics.