Payal Kadakia, 36, is executive chairwoman of ClassPass, the popular app and monthly subscription service that she founded in 2011. ClassPass gives users the freedom to take a broad range of exercise classes, including yoga, cycling, Pilates, strength training, boxing and more. ClassPass users also have access to more than 22,000 fitness studios in more than 20 countries. ClassPass plans vary by region, but on average $29 will allow a user to book up to five classes a month, $49 will get up to 10 classes a month, and $79 will book up to 16 classes a month. Wellness programs have also been added, extending choices to include things such as meditation, cryotherapy, massage and acupuncture. ClassPass is headquartered in New York, but Kadakia lives with her husband in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles.
ClassPass was kicked off by Kadakia's search for a dance class, and dance began very early in her life in New Jersey.
"I began learning Indian classical and folk dance when I was 3," under an instructor named Usha Patel, Kadakia said. "She was a coach, a mentor, and someone who really told me 'this is how you take on life when you get challenged and you can't figure out a step.'" If I was on a team, she taught me how to work together. She taught me really unbelievable lessons about how to become my best self."
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is well known for churning out engineers, mathematicians and scientists. But Kadakia said her professors were also mentors who told her she should find her own path. She did exactly that. While continuing to grow and learn as a dancer, she obtained a degree in management science, with a concentration in operations research, in 2005.
"It is up to you to always listen," she said. "A mentor is not necessarily someone who's forcing you to go into a certain direction. They were guides for me. They give you a way to look to where you want to go because your life is unique. These mentors along the way will help shed some light on which direction you can go."
Kadakia got a job at the Boston-based management consulting firm Bain & Co. While there, she met people who created businesses such as cosmetics company Birchbox, glasses retailer Warby Parker and Harry's, seller of shaving equipment and men's personal care products. She worked at Bain until 2008, rising to the post of senior associate consultant.
Hayley Barna, one of Birchbox's co-founders, "was the first person I went to when I knew that ClassPass worked," Kadakia said. "She told me ClassPass reminded her exactly of what happened at Birchbox. She said, 'Here's what you need to do.' It was the same thing with Jeff Raider, who actually was on my first case at Bain and was one of the co-founders of Harry's" as well as Warby Parker.