PHOTO: Anne Mahlum. SUPPLIED
Anne Mahlum distinguished herself in her career by refusing to conform to the norm. As a 43-year-old entrepreneur with a distinctive appearance—marked by spiky blonde hair, tattoos, and a well-defined six-pack—she founded the boutique fitness chain Solidcore in 2013. After expanding its presence nationwide, she successfully sold the business to a private equity firm in April.
Mahlum attributes her achievement, totaling $88.4 million from the sale of Solidcore equity through acquisitions and investment deals, to her commitment to individuality. She believes in amplifying the uniqueness of things rather than blending in, rejecting the conventional advice of hiding in the herd.
The genesis of Mahlum’s mindset can be traced back to her challenging childhood, marked by her parents’ divorce at age 16 due to her father’s gambling losses. Seeking control over her life, she turned to running and became intensely focused on self-empowerment as a means of escaping vulnerability and fear.
Despite her resounding success, Mahlum’s unconventional approach has brought about both triumphs and challenges. Solidcore faced setbacks, such as the closure of its first location in Washington D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood due to noise complaints. Mahlum navigated legal battles with a former business partner over machine licensing and an ex-boyfriend who claimed ownership of Solidcore. However, both disputes were ultimately resolved through mediation.
In 2020, during the widespread challenges faced by gyms, Mahlum made tough decisions, including laying off several employees crucial to Solidcore’s early success. A BuzzFeed News report later accused her of fostering a toxic and abusive workplace, leading to an employee petition for her resignation. In response, Mahlum urged her company’s board to conduct an independent investigation into Solidcore’s culture. While she continued as CEO until April 2021 and served as executive chairwoman until her recent departure, the experience prompted her to reassess her leadership style. Though she maintains a “tough, demanding” approach, she now emphasizes the importance of balancing ambition with empathy and setting boundaries for the well-being of her team.