There are no shortage of boutique indoor cycling studios in Manhattan, but venture past 96th Street and those same workout options drop drastically. It’s a problem two Washington Heights-based Latinas decided they wanted to tackle, providing an affordable, customer-friendly fitness experience Uptown.
Owned by Annie Flores-Nunez and Christina Villanueva, Push Pedal NYC opened its doors on July 1, 2017 and a year later has empowered the community to have fun while focusing on health and wellness. The duo admits a large part of their role as owners involves educating curious residents on what cycling is and encouraging them to give it a try, but that’s a challenge they enjoy diving into daily.
“We’re educating them on what this space is because they have no idea,” says Villanueva, who carves out time to show the studio and how the bikes work to prospective riders. “Many people come in here from the community and they ask, what is this? I’ve never even heard of it [cycling].”
While some may allow the learning curve to justify why there hasn’t been a studio positioned in the community, Flores-Nunez feels it’s even more of a reason for its place in the neighborhood. “We want you to have a beautiful space that really cares about your health.” She adds: “We’re proving that you can put merengue on a bike. You can put bachata on a bike, you can put reggaeton on a bike. You can choose any type of music.”
Upon walking into the studio, you’ll be met with a friendly staff, checking in cycling patrons and newbies; handing out water bottles and cycling shoes, for those that request them. It’s an experience quite similar to what you’d expect at any other premier studio but at Push Pedal you’ll likely meet one of the the boss babes in charge or a family member because their business is a family-friendly venture.
Flores-Nunez, mother to a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, and Villanueva, mom to a 6-year-old and 14-month-old (who was born a few days shy of the studio’s soft launch just in time for mamá to be there), are full-time mothers, business owners and employees but built Push Pedal with all of this in mind. After becoming mothers, they knew they wouldn’t be able to commit to a 45-minute cycling class plus a 2-hour commute to and from Washington Heights. The concept for Push Pedal was born.
Once they had the idea, they both gathered their extended families together to share their vision and ask for support. Their families were in, but the next steps were some of the hardest they’d face. The business women spent hours researching how to get their idea off the ground and went through countless business plan revisions, ensured their credit scores were good, as well as met and pitched to numerous lenders. They even tried traditional banks, however, it didn’t pan out. Finally, they were approved for a loan but before they could sign it fell through.
“That was so disappointing,” shares Villanueva. “I cried my eyes out. It was almost like in that moment my dream was shattered.” That feeling didn’t last long. “We picked ourselves right up.”
They later met a fellow Latina, who heard their pitch and assisted the women in getting approved for a loan. They also had the backing of the Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center (SBDC) throughout the business-building process.
“There’s going to be a lot of rejection,” says Flores-Nunez on entrepreneurship. “You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. It’s going to be hard but everything happens for a reason and, as time passes, you’ll see why those things happened. You can’t put yourself down for it.”
The Boriqua-Guanaca duo credit each other and their friendship for getting them this far. They agree that a business relationship and a friendship are completely different, and are still growing as co-owners and friends. Their strong communication skills, self-awareness, shared commitment to family and mutual respect have served as a foundation for them to build a successful business.
Push Pedal NYC is just getting started. They’re working closely with local organizations to provide employment opportunities for those in the community and will continue being a welcoming space for those looking for an economical yet quality fitness experience past 96th Street.
“We’re changing the game,” says Flores-Nunez on the lane Push Pedal has carved out. We couldn’t agree more.