Julie Dermer wasn’t planning on founding her own company, but when the coronavirus shutdown put her out of work as a SoulCycle instructor last year, the Long Island native launched an online workout regimen that has morphed into a fledgling fitness company she dubbed Pulse.
The online classes using makeshift weights as exercise equipment were first intended just to help people who take her classes stay active and get a much-needed endorphins boost during the mentally taxing time when COVID-19 upended countless lives on the East End and beyond. But Julie D, as her fans know her, soon found her following grew to the point she needed to incorporate her business — a rare example of a non-medical company born from the pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit and SoulCycle closed, I within seconds sprang into action,” says Dermer, an Upper West Side resident who’s been renting a home in East Hampton for the past year. “I felt like I needed to be there for my community. SoulCycle was a place we would run to whenever things went down in the world, good or bad. It was cathartic, it was a place to celebrate, and here we were all of a sudden being forced to stay home and not together.”
Just like office workers turned to Zoom, the very next day the fitness pro found the best way to pivot to provide her services to her fan base was virtually.
“I did a quick workout with them just using whatever I had at home, including wine bottles for weights, a kitchen towel … we laid down on yoga mats and did ab exercises” she recalls, noting the class still had the same type of music, energy, and coaching as usual. “To me it was a real eye opener that we were able to do this without a bike and without being side by side. After this class everybody just immediately messaged me, ‘We need to do this again.’”
And so they did, again and again. Over the new few months, the classes grew through word of mouth among her “Pulsers,” as she now calls them.
“It gave people a way from their homes a way to feel connected, not alone, to feel normalcy” she says. “While it is a physical workout with all the benefits of it, more than that this was really a community that we were able to still feel connected to in a scary time. This local type of following started to grow as I got asked to do some Insta lives for different brands. I did one for J.McLaughlin, Terez, Saks 5th Avenue.”
The local following grew into a national and global presence. She now has people “Pulsing” from Paris, London, and beyond. By August, she launched a membership program and filed paperwork to form a limited liability corporation.
“It completely blew my mind,” Dermer says. “I launched it and it’s now become a sustainable business that I think is going to continue on after things go back. We’re celebrating over a year now of Pulsing”
She credits her Pulsers with helping her make it happen.
“I always said at SoulCycle, ‘You can always find anyone you need in the room — a doctor, a lawyer,’” she says, recalling how professionals in her class brainstormed the name of the company, devised the logo, and made T-shirts. “I’ve always gone to the community for whatever I needed.”
She wasted no time returning the favor, raising thousands of dollars to help front-line workers combatting the virus.
Once restrictions began to ease, Dermer has hosted a few live workouts outdoors in places ranging from Central Park to Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack and some private classes in people’s backyards.
“It was just surreal taking a virtual workout and taking it to real life. Usually it’s the opposite,” she says. “It’s nice to see real people right in front of you.”
More live workouts locations are in the works, proving silver linings are possible in a difficult year. Dermer, who just celebrated her 50th birthday, welcomed the change it brought in her life.
“I felt a little creatively stuck,” she says. “This really stretched me. Every step of the way has been very organic without a real plan … it’s just been one day to the next.”
But no pain, no gain, as the saying in many gyms goes.
“I feel like this year has been so enlightening,” she says. “Of course, it’s been tough as hell, but I feel stronger on the bike, I feel stronger in Pulse, and the two together really work.”
For more information, visit pulsebyjulied.com