Putting a New Spin on Her Career

Jessica Fracalossi, S'10, finds a fitness sweet spot and her inner entrepreneur.

In June 2010, Jessica Fracalossi had just earned a bachelor’s in biology and was considering medical school, when she got a temporary gig selling yoga apparel for a Boston startup. She had always been a fitness fanatic but had never sold anything. She liked the fast pace, challenge, and immediacy of the work.

“When you have an idea, you execute it, and often see the results right away,” she says.

Fracalossi, S’10, realized she wanted to start her own fitness business. The Boston market was saturated with yoga, so she set her sights on opening a boutique spin cycling studio, similar to the New York City-based chains SoulCycle and Flywheel Sports.

Even though she lacked formal business training, Fracalossi plowed ahead. She contacted Northeastern’s venture accelerator IDEA, found a mentor, and wrote a plan for the business, which she named The Handle Bar. She pitched her idea to family and friends, and “got a lot of ‘noes’” before finding one investor who helped bring four others on board. She then had to master the complexities of commercial real estate and spent a year finding just the right spot for her first studio, which is in South Boston.

A nonprofit arm of the business emphasizes the link between physical and mental health.

Her persistence was worth it. Fracalossi paid off the initial investment in 14 months. Now age 29, she employs 50 people at popular spinning studios in three high-profile locations around Boston. She’s also considering expanding to other cities.

Fracalossi even formed a nonprofit arm of the business, Handle with Care, that offers podcasts, events, and newsletters emphasizing the link between physical and mental health; it also battles the stigma associated with mental illness.

Handle Bar classes resemble dance on a bike—intense, upbeat routines set to music. Fracalossi wants her clients to focus less on losing weight or working out and more on having fun, staying fit, and being part of a spirited spinning community. “You’re here to dance and sweat and release,” she says.

“For a long time, entrepreneurship just seemed like a mountain—a tall task and so complicated,” she says. “My biggest takeaway is that no one item about running a business is too complicated to understand. There’s always an expert who can help—someone to call or a solution close at hand.”

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