At the inaugural event of Vermont’s Female Founders Speaker Series, Sarah DeGray ’06 discussed her founding of the Burlington, Vt., indoor cycling studio, Rev, and the challenges and rewards of unexpected entrepreneurship.
Sponsored by the non-profit Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies and Hotel Vermont, the series features female entrepreneurs from around the state on what it takes to start a company from the ground up.
“The series is aimed at celebrating entrepreneurship in Vermont from a women’s perspective, which I think is particularly inspiring,” says DeGray. “The reality is that a woman CEO may experience different challenges and obstacles to her entrepreneurship goals than her male counterparts. The female journey in the arena of business is a story worth being told.”
DeGray, who was part of the first duo of speakers to share the story of their businesses, explored the theme of perseverance, recounting the story of Rev’s rapid growth despite challenges from multimillion-dollar competitors, a failed business partnership and illegal eviction.
“As you grow and become stronger, you will face many obstacles to your success, but you keep pressing on,” she says, noting the influence of her “incredible educational experience” at HWS, and the lessons from faculty like Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn, who helped her “to forge my own path.”
DeGray found her passion for health, wellness and indoor cycling after taking her first class while studying abroad in Maastricht, Netherlands, as an HWS student. After graduating with a degree in political science, she earned her master’s degree from the New School for Social Research, where she focused on violence in the Middle East, and later worked as a paralegal in the Federal Public Defender Office for the District of Vermont.
While she initially planned to return to graduate school for a Ph.D., DeGray, “decided that I needed to leave academia and regroup. I had a deep attraction to spinning and fitness and felt in my heart that I needed to figure out how to pursue these passions.”
In November 2012, DeGray opened Rev, which as she explained to the Female Founders audience, “was difficult in the beginning because many people thought I was making a mistake to start a business without any previous experience, but I believed in my vision.”
Throughout the challenges of establishing her own successful business, the hard work “has been incredibly fulfilling,” she says, “I’m proud of the community I have built from the ground up.”