If you asked Sarah DeGray ’06 when she was a student what’d she be doing with her political science degree nearly 10 years after graduating, the last thing she would have said is running her own business. But today, she is the founder and CEO of her own rapidly growing start-up, REV Indoor Cycling, which is the biggest indoor cycling studio in Burlington, Vt.
“I actually took my first indoor cycling class while I was studying abroad in Maastricht, Netherlands, and I just fell in love with it,” says DeGray. “But I was set on going to grad school for political science at that time, so I just kept it as a hobby for a while. When I moved back to Burlington after grad school, I was super passionate about this form of exercise, and I saw an opportunity for someone to do a cycling studio and to do it really well.”
Before opening Rev Indoor Cycling Studio in November 2012, DeGray worked as a legal assistant and paralegal at Langrock, Sperry & Wool, LLP, and then went on to earn her master’s degree in political science from the New School for Social Research in 2010. She then returned to Vermont, and while working as a paralegal in the Federal Public Defender Office, District of Vermont, she spent a year creating a business plan for Rev, and eventually gathered enough funds to open the studio.
“I just had to get really creative with funding and how to start something small scale,” DeGray says. In order to get the Rev up and running, she says she used every connection she had, from the HWS alumni network to her professors and the “interdisciplinary” friends she made as a student at the Colleges. The other key to getting the business up-and-running, she says, was just never giving up.
“You can’t get discouraged, because opportunities are limitless and endless if you can be creative,” she says. “I wanted to start my business so badly that I wasn’t going to let the banks saying ‘no’ stop me.”
It didn’t take long for the business to take off. By June 2014, DeGray had to expand the studio and move to a larger location. And although she never took a business course at the Colleges, she attributes much of her quick success to her time spent at HWS, which allowed her to pursue all of her varied passions and interests.
“I always speak very highly and fondly of HWS, and I’m so appreciative of the diverse approach to education and the liberal arts model in particular,” says DeGray. “From the time I entered undergrad on, I always felt supported to do as much as I could.”
At Rev, she takes a unique approach to designing and choreographing her spinning classes around different musical themes, which she says stems from her lifelong love of music, as well as the Honors Project she completed on hip-hop and her participation in Chorale and Cantori while at HWS. From 90s hip-hop classes to a class featuring only music from the Middle East, DeGray says she hopes her classes introduce her clients to music they would not normally listen to, and also exposes them to different cultures and creates cultural exchange.
“I use my workplace as an extension of my academic interests in music,” explains DeGray, who studied violence in the Middle East as part of her graduate work. “There might be more going on for me than some of my clients might realize, but it’s allowed me to continue all of my passions and interests.”
In addition to running the studio, DeGray gives lectures to business groups and various entrepreneurial organizations. She remains committed to staying connected with the Colleges, having returned in 2010 to give a talk on her graduate studies regarding violence in the Middle East. She also tries to stay in touch with professors and her classmates, and to give back as much as possible.
“HWS had such a huge impact on me, and continues to do so,” DeGray says. “I just think that the model of education really helped give me a good base of knowledge and skills. Everything that I learned through my experiences in undergraduate and graduate studies have contributed to my success as an entrepreneur. I absolutely credit the Colleges’ approach to my success.”