Birmingham, Alabama is a city known for its southern charm, mouth-watering barbecue, and large green spaces. But what the Magic City didn’t have was a spot for spin classes. In 2017, Tiffany Martin changed all that when she founded Ignite Cycle, Birmingham’s first-ever indoor cycling studio.
Tiffany originally hails from Bellevue, Washington, a tech and retail hub right outside of Seattle. Growing up, her outlook on women’s rights was simple. “You can do anything. Anything,” she says. Tiffany’s drive brought her to California, where she earned a Psychology degree from USC; then New Orleans, where she began her career managing the operations for a startup charter school.
Prior to opening Ignite, Tiffany worked in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and rhythm-based class instructor in Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Boston. Across all cities, the Hall of Femme honoree heard “many of the same things” about what kept people from carving out time for themselves to work out. “Feeling intimidated at a studio or gym was very often at the top of the list, and convenience followed at a close second,” says Tiffany.
In 2017, Tiffany relocated to Birmingham with her husband and two kids. She quickly noticed that there was no cycling studio, and immediately felt the void. “After learning more about the Birmingham market, it became clear that others in the community were just as desperate for a boutique cycle studio as I was,” Tiffany says. It was in that moment that the wheels of destiny began to turn.
With a fire in her heart and a vision in her mind, Tiffany embarked on a quest to bring a convenient, compassionate cycling experience to her new city. Armed with unwavering determination and the belief that Birmingham deserved a taste of pedal-powered paradise, she set forth on her entrepreneurial journey. That year, Ignite was officially sparked.
Since its grand opening, Ignite Cycle has become a mecca for those seeking to sweat, inspire, and push their limits in the most exhilarating way possible. “It’s about walking in the door and immediately knowing you are a part of something special,” Tiffany says. “Ignite gives you a consistently challenging, high energy, uplifting workout that will leave you sweaty, sore, and smiling.”
Tiffany's infectious energy and commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive space (not to mention her carefully curated playlists) have made Ignite Cycle more than just a cycling studio. She has created a community of riders on a powerful journey together.
Here, the Hall of Femme honoree opens up about women’s empowerment and shares advice for anyone starting a brick-and-mortar business.
Tell us something about Alabama that would surprise people who haven’t been there.
One of the first things I was struck by after moving to Alabama was just how connected it is. At first it seemed like everybody knew everybody - which was really daunting at first. As I became more ingrained in the community, it became quickly evident that people’s connections are built on a foundation of care and a desire for the best for the community.
This was immensely helpful in getting Ignite off the ground. I could have a casual conversation with an acquaintance who knew someone who could help me expedite the startup process or run into another mom at Target whose banker happened to specialize in small business startups, and of course she’d put me in touch.
The hyper-connectedness has been instrumental in Ignite’s growth. The majority of our business comes from word of mouth. This community’s enthusiasm for supporting one another, including local businesses, is a gift a lot of places don’t have the luxury of experiencing.
Ignite is an enormously successful spin studio. What advice do you have for someone who is starting a business that requires brick-and-mortar space?
Know your non-negotiables. Be flexible with the rest.
Our lives can get so busy, and it’s too easy to prioritize—intentionally or not—all the things on our to-do lists that have nothing to do with taking care of ourselves. We wanted to change that.
For us, Ignite needed to 1) be in a spot on your way to or from work, or within your own neighborhood; 2) have plenty of convenient parking; and 3) have showers. We walked away from a lot of places that had two of our three non-negotiables, and occasionally, that made me nervous. Would we ever find a space?
Finding our flagship location made it worth the wait. By staying focused on our priorities, we opened a space that lowered the barriers between a rider’s to-do list and the bike. We fit into their day.
What is it about spinning that gets you excited and motivated?
*Holds back from quoting Elle Woods*
What we’re able to do in The Bike Room at Ignite goes beyond riding bikes in a dark room to loud music. Our goal is to help our Riders tap into the truest and best parts of themselves then connect them within this community of people who are doing the same.
The stakes are low in The Bike Room…I mean…it’s a spin class, but that doesn’t diminish the potential for our Riders to learn what they’re really made of. In fact, I believe it facilitates that. If the stakes are low, who cares if you miss the mark? And if you do, what can you learn from it?
The moments I can see a Rider dig a little deeper and go a little harder and watch the moment when they feel how powerful they really are is my inspiration for doing this.
When you were a young girl, what were the narratives you were exposed to about women and women's rights?
I grew up with the idea that the women’s rights movement was and is about choice. Want to run for office? Do it. Start a business? Go for it. Be a stay at home mom? On it. Work odd jobs and travel the world? Let’s do it. Women’s rights—at their core—are not about what women have to do, but what we choose to do. That’s not to say that hard work and setbacks weren’t a part of the narrative - they absolutely were. But I feel as though an optimism about what is possible was so central to my upbringing.
Tell us about a health and wellness expert who inspires you.
There are so many women in the industry and who are industry-adjacent that have influenced and inspired me along the way. One of them is Angela Manuel-Davis, former SoulCycle instructor, Co-Founder of AARMY, Nike Athlete, mom, motivational coach, and all around shining ray of light.
Angela leads from the heart and uses her God-given gifts to motivate others to show up for themselves. Her entry into fitness came through hardships I can relate to, and she turned her pain and struggle into so many beautiful creations.
What's a ritual in your life that you swear by?
Slow down. When I started Ignite, I ran in overdrive for years. I gave 100% of what I had 100% of the time. And that worked really well…until it didn’t. Just over a year ago, I had an experience that taught me it was unwise to continue at the pace I’d sustained for so long. I no longer had the capacity to give 100% to my business, 100% to my family, and 100% to the rest of my life.
One of the ways I’ve taken agency in that change is making the choice to slow down regularly. When it comes to managing the many balls I have in the air, rather than attempting to keep them all aloft and in motion, I choose which I put down and when. That means that sometimes I miss work events or take a few extra days to complete a project; it also means I occasionally stay up late working or miss my kids’ games.
In all of that, I’ve chosen to adjust my expectations for myself and give myself grace in the process. I’ve learned that, through this practice, I am a better business owner and boss, partner and parent, friend and confidante.
What's your favorite way to celebrate a win (big or small)?
I just love being with my people to celebrate. Let’s throw a party and just have fun. It doesn’t matter the win - personal or professional - there is something sacred in gathering to celebrate our wins.
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
I grew up outside of Seattle, and my soul resonates with something in that part of the country. The landscape is so lush, the people so warm, and - while the weather sucks 80% of the year - there’s nothing better than a Pacific Northwest summer.
We don’t make it back to Seattle often, but my mom has a place in central Oregon that we visit a couple times a year, and it is heavenly. The pace in the community is so slow, and it’s easy to fall into the magic of the place - the deer live side-by-side the homes; the simple rhythm of tennis in the mornings, the pool in the afternoons, and stargazing in the hottub in the evenings; putt putt golf and ice cream fill the summer days, while ice skating and hot chocolate define the winters.
You can follow Tiffany on Instagram.