After observing the rise of chic New York City gyms offering yoga, spin or Pilates classes in spa-like settings, Daniel Glazer got the idea to open a boxing gym in the same fashion. In 2015, he bootstrapped Shadowbox with $1 million in savings, a majority going to the construction and design of a modern and airy boxing studio, minus the bloodied floors and graffitied walls. By Tanya Klich
For Shadowbox, foot traffic and traditional press served as a one-two punch for business, allowing Glazer to save on customer acquisition costs. “It was a mix of good location and good timing in the wellness space because a lot of badass women were looking to try new things and do more than dabble in boxing,” Glazer said.
He adds that not spending on social media ads helped him reach profitability within the first year. “There are some gyms who chase you around the internet with an ad in your face all the time, but we wanted our brand to be more aesthetic and less aggressive,” he said.
By 2017, Glazer raised another $1M from angel investors to open a second location in Dumbo (in Brooklyn). By end of year, both Shadowbox locations saw 90,000 unique visits. More than 65% of Shadowbox’s members are women. To make sure Shadowbox’s gym culture continues to cater to its key market, it continues to proactively hire females for both corporate and instructor positions, including World Championship Boxer and MMA fighter Heather “The Heat” Hardy as head coach. “This was an opportunity to say this isn’t about gender but something all can enjoy,” said Glazer.
The former trader struck while the boutique fitness market in the Flatiron District was hot. The same year, Overthrow also opened its doors in Manhattan, followed by Rumble in 2016—all offering spaces that focused less on bulking up heavyweights for future bouts and more on toning and strengthening everyday city-dwellers of all ages and genders.
While Shadowbox as a brand values clean aesthetics and simplicity, Overthrow has added a modern twist to the gritty ambiance inherent to traditional boxing gyms. Gyms like Rumble and Dogpound, meanwhile, have capitalized on becoming a stronghold for celebrities, models and Victoria’s Secret Angels.While competition heated up, Shadowbox managed to pull in $3 million in revenue in 2017 and plans to re-create the gym model across the country. In addition to opening another NYC location, Shadowbox is slated to expand to Chicago’s River North district, as well as to Los Angeles, Austin and Dallas. While Glazer declined to reveal how much he raised for this second growth phase, he expects to return to profitability by the end of 2021.
Shadowbox is able to build each new location on a budget because it spent more than a year studying the gym habits of these cities, helping Glazer determine where he should scale back on building extra lockers, lounges or shower spaces.
Says Glazer: “There’s a serious playbook for trendy fitness companies to focus on Los Angeles, Miami and New York City, where everyone is crazy about fitness, but that leaves a lot of unmet demand in dozens of cities across the country.”
Glazer discovered boxing as a wellness experience more than a decade ago, when he worked in finance as a derivatives trader. In 2008, he found himself stressed out from the recession while his wife was pregnant with their first child. “I needed a way to process everything and find a way to sleep better at night. I was having a hard time finding balance till I went to a boxing gym and let it all out. It was a ritual I depended on.”
But Glazer knew the traditional boxing gym couldn’t serve as a sanctuary for all. “It was a grimy, intimidating boys club where fighters would go,” he said. “That is what brought along this epiphany to create Shadowbox.” He adds, “Everything about the brand had to be relatable and approachable to a wider audience,” from the design of the space to its plain-font logo.
Shadowbox’s center ring boasts vintage vibes with refurbished wood and twine ropes. The rest of its studios, locker rooms and attached café are sunlit and ivory-white, giving members an inviting space to get acquainted with “the sweet science.” For now, Glazer wants to avoid franchising to uphold the brand’s aesthetics and quality of boxing instruction.
While Shadowbox expands beyond NYC, Glazer is still focused on ensuring original members in NYC are served, especially the women. In addition to its “After Dark” candlelit boxing classes, Shadowbox also hosts interactive and Instagram-worthy classes at William Vale, a trendy rooftop hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “The wait list all summer has been insane,” says Glazer.