#LikeaGirl Interview Series
Be Active #LikeaGirl: An Interview with Lauren Foundos
If you haven’t heard about FORTË yet, you are seriously missing out. What is FORTË? It’s like Netflix, but instead of sitting in bed steaming addicting shows and all your favorite movies, you can workout with the fitness videos provided by the service.
Lauren Foundos is the CEO of this incredible company. Playing as a Division I athlete in college gave her the inspiration to help others live an active lifestyle, and working on Wall Street gave her the skills to start her own company. Now, FORTË is helping many. Learn more about Lauren and her journey in our interview!
1. Hi, Lauren! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey! I am the Founder and CEO of FORTË, official since May 2015. It’s exciting to be building a company that fuels the core of my existence. My earliest childhood memories all revolve around trying to keep up with my older brothers so that they would include me in whatever sport they were playing at the time. As a child I remember getting off the school bus, running into the house, practicing the piano for 45 minutes, and then I would run outside to the cul de sac to play street hockey with the boys in my neighborhood until nightfall. I also vividly remember playing “Olympics” instead of house like most girls. I would pretend that I was being called up to the podium (aka the kitchen island at my childhood home) to receive my gold medal, or dive for hours, or do gymnastics for hours and make my mother score me as if she was a judge from various countries. The only way the game ‘Olympics’ would end was if I scored a perfect 10. Eventually, my mother would just give it to me, and I’d walk inside with a proud smile to go do my homework. Being active has always been a huge part of my life and instrumental in helping me to stay focused and grounded. I aspire to make others feel the same.
My parents are both of Albanian heritage; my father immigrated to America with nothing. He always instilled in his children the importance of education and a strong work ethic. He made us work hard for the things we wanted and expected nothing but the best from us which seemed frustrating at times, but I couldn’t be more grateful for those lessons today. From a young age I learned to be resilient, determined, committed, confident, strong, and was told that I can achieve anything I wanted so long I worked my absolute hardest to achieve it.
Before launching FORTË, I spent a decade working on Wall Street. I spent the latter half of that decade working on a trading floor institutionally trading US Treasury Bonds at Whitaker Securities. Prior to that, I worked at Deutsche Bank in Synthetic Equities and Cloudview Capital Management, a global-macro hedge fund, on their trading desk. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2006, with a BA in communications and concentration in business. I was a two-time all-American field hockey player and went on to play Division I at the University of Maryland where her team appeared in the Final Four in 2004 and won national titles in 2005 & 2006. I grew up playing the piano and violin; I love to ski; I’m proud to be an Albanian-American; I have two older brothers; my parents mean the world to me.
2. What has it been like to transition from a Division I athlete to a trader on Wall Street to being the CEO of a business?
The constant throughout all the different phases of my life was, and still is, the intensity with which I work. If I’m going to do something, I go all in, or why do it at all.
Being an athlete my entire life has given me many skills for which I am grateful. It taught me that to be the best, you have to work harder than everyone that surrounds you and step out on that turf everyday and practice like the national title is on the line. It taught me that being great wasn’t something you choose to do on certain days, but a way of life. It taught me to pick myself back up again after a rough practice or game, start fresh the next day, and learn from my mistakes. It taught me how to be the best teammate I could be for those around me; and despite our differences, we were put together to win championships. Hats off to the toughest, most incredible coach I know, Missy Meharg from the University of Maryland.'If I’m going to do something, I go all in.' -Lauren FoundosClick To Tweet
Working on Wall Street was always exciting and incredibly intense. I was always drawn to the fast-paced jobs in sales and trading. They didn’t keep people around to fill chairs in these roles, and there was no sugarcoating whether you were performing or not. It was always ‘Lauren and the boys,’ much like most of my childhood, so that never really phased me. There were always people that doubted my ability to ‘sit with the guys in the pit;’ but rather than get upset, I would put my head down, work hard, and let the proof lie in the numbers. Pretty quickly I earned their respect. I’m grateful that I got to work in an environment like this because it taught me to have thick skin, stay focused, and put my head down and let my success speak for itself.
Being a founder is probably the hardest thing I’ve done to date. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My seat on the trading desk and my field hockey team would exist with or without me, but FORTË would not. I set out to create this company; and the more people I got involved as partners, investors, or employees, the more people’s lives and money I became responsible for. It has been the most exciting and challenging 2.5 years of my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The fact that we are now making people’s lives better is the biggest reward of all.
3. What inspired you to start FORTË?
Being active has been a daily ritual for me and instrumental in helping me to stay focused and grounded.
I spent my entire life working out, but the catalyst for the FORTË vision developed when I started taking my Wall Street clients to work out with me before our dinners. It was primarily for selfish reasons. It was getting progressively more difficult to wake up so early to make it on time to the trading desk in the mornings that I decided to make it part of the evening’s work activities. I always steered clear of boutique (group) fitness, and that I didn’t need it because I was self-disciplined and already knew what to do from all of my years as a competitive athlete. Well, boy was I wrong; it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m in the best shape of my life, and my workout regime is incredibly varied now which is much better for your body.
As I began to fall hard for studios, my vision for FORTË became extremely vivid. I knew that I had to figure out a way to enable these incredible pioneers in the boutique fitness industry to reach beyond the confines of their studio walls and empower them to share their magic with the world.
We partner with top boutique studios and enable them to do what they are great at which is to build incredible fitness content and communities. At the same time, we do what we’re great at which is to build, innovate, and create new technologies while continuing to make this very large world a connected, inspiring, and fit place.
4. What has FORTË’s impact been on women since you founded the platform?
It’s thoughtful messages like these that I get daily that truly keep me motivated, “Wow – I feel like I just won the lottery.” “And again a huge shout out to Lauren for having the best workout site out there.” “Let me know if I can help promote the brand in any way, I’m a huge fan of what you’re doing! “ “I’m actually inquiring for the studio I work out in to BEG them to join you.“ “You changed my life. I’ve never been more confident or felt stronger.”
5. What is the biggest benefit to using FORTË over more traditional fitness videos?
FORTË brings you a wide variety of live streamed and on-demand classes from leading boutique fitness studios and coaches worldwide that shape the bodies of Hollywood’s A-Listers. The content is relevant, the studios are real, the people in them are real, and the footage is raw, unedited and real life.
Traditional fitness videos are choreographed routines and one dimensional. We are creating a fully immersive and interactive experience. When you reserve a spot for a future upcoming live class, our coaches are going to know that you are working out with us remotely. You become a part of that class.
You will no longer be restricted by geographical location, family demands, time, or miss your favorite class when traveling. FORTË brings the magic of these tightly-knit, ever-growing, strong boutique communities right to the palm of your hand (TV, iPad or laptop) by leveraging technology.
There will be something for everyone. This will be a platform by the people for the people. We’ll be taking requests for custom content that you want our coaches to create. We want to build features that YOU specifically ask for; we want to add studios that YOU specifically recommend. We only ask that you commit to motivating and inspiring one another because we’re all in this together.'Living a healthy lifestyle is an everyday thing.' -Lauren FoundosClick To Tweet
6. What is your best tip for living a healthy lifestyle?
Living a healthy lifestyle is an everyday thing. I work out every day in some way, shape or form. It’s keeping the routine, even if that means practicing yoga, taking the stairs or just spending fifteen minutes stretching. Our bodies were made to move, that is a fact. The intensity with which you exercise is up to you, but moving your body really shouldn’t be. Make sure you move daily; make the time.
7. Do you have any advice for other women who are interested in starting their own business?
Just get started! Trust your instincts; stay true to yourself. Always believe in yourself; because if you don’t, then why should others. It all starts with you, and never forget that you are capable of anything you set your mind to.
Surround yourself with great, like-minded individuals. For me, I found these people in a women’s only group called Dreamers & Doers, which I highly recommend. Don’t do this alone; being an entrepreneur can be tough, and there are people that understand and also can potentially help. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this incredible and supportive crew of ladies.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Always remember that you are capable of anything. Don’t look at things that don’t go exactly the way you planned as failures. Learn, pick up where you landed, focus on moving forward, and always stay positive. Attitude is everything.
Thank you, Lauren!