We are all works in progress; even the successful women you see owning it on Instagram faced stumbling blocks along the way and continue to work hard to stay at the top of their game. In this series, we’re sitting down with the people that inspire us to find out: How’d they do it? And what is success really like? This is “Getting There.”
Brynn Putnam is a former New York City Ballet dancer who created a high-tech fitness mirror that’s become increasingly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, when at-home workouts are more popular than ever. Putnam describes Mirror as a “nearly invisible interactive home gym” that lets people access live workouts and one-on-one personal training from the comfort of their homes. It’s pricey — $1,495 — but popular, especially among celebrities who aren’t afraid of the high price tag.
This summer, Lululemon Athletica acquired Mirror for $500 million, and starting this month, people will be able to find the Mirrors in select Lululemon stores.
Putnam, who created the Mirror when she was pregnant and looking for a way to get in a quality workout without leaving home, spoke to TMRW about her journey to entrepreneurship, and why she thinks it’s more important than ever to prioritize fitness and self-care.
TMRW: Talk to me about coming up with the idea for Mirror, and some of the challenges you faced in getting it off the ground.
Brynn Putnam: Mirror was born from personal need. I was newly pregnant, experiencing really severe morning sickness. Having to travel to a studio and work out with younger, healthier folks in a class environment just wasn’t making sense for me anymore.
I raised my first round of venture funding for the business while nine months pregnant. I had a lot of entrepreneurs, peers and investors tell me that not only was I a solo, nontechnical female founder, but I was very pregnant and it was going to be a challenging situation to raise money. It was certainly frustrating at times. But I felt confident that I was building the right business in the right market at the right time, and that I was the right person to do it.
I signed the documents for my first round of financing from the hospital the day my son was born. So in many ways, my son, George, has grown up with the business.
How often do you use your own Mirror?
I went from being a professional athlete who worked out all day, every day, to a business owner and mom of a 4-year-old, so fitness for me is much more about self-care. It’s about making the choice to take the time to prioritize myself over all the other competing needs in my life. So I work out much less intensely and for shorter amounts of time. But even if it’s a 15-minute meditation or a 30-minute stretch session, it’s time that I am really dedicated to disconnecting.
You’ve often said you want Mirror to be the third screen in people’s homes. What do you mean by that?
I think your phone will always be the perfect device for short, informational exchanges, and your TV makes sense for passive entertainment. But there’s a new form of content, which is the immersive, interactive experience where you’re doing instead of watching. And for these specific experiences, a dedicated device makes sense.
And this will eventually go beyond fitness?
Absolutely. We’re only a 2-year-old business. We’ve moved from fitness to the broader wellness (space) with the launch of meditation. When I think about the near future, you could turn to your Mirror to socialize with friends, for educational content about things like nutrition, or for rehab or physical therapy. Anything where the act of engaging in an experience will make you better makes sense on the Mirror.
Since the sale to Lululemon, do you feel like you’ve made it?
I’ve worked with Lululemon since the very start of my fitness career. We weren’t for sale. We weren’t looking to be acquired. It was really a decision built out of a strong, long relationship.
I wake up each day with the same singular focus and passion that I’ve always had, which is: I believe that fitness is the foundation of a good life, and self-confidence is crucial for happiness and success. So it’s really just a new set of challenges as the business reaches a new level. But it definitely is not a story that feels like it’s at its end. It feels like it’s a story very much as its beginning.
What does success mean to you?
To me, success is doing well by doing good. It’s uniting what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, what will make an impact on the world.
What is your best piece of advice for young female entrepreneurs?
Say “no” more often. When you say no to something, you’re making time and space for something else that is better aligned with your goals and your purpose. Feel confident and trust in yourself that you have the right to say no. Make those choices for yourself.
Where do you see Mirror in 10 years?
I think Mirror will be part of your daily ritual. I think you will wake up and do a workout with a friend in a different city, then you will check back in at lunch to browse for that pair of pants you need for an upcoming business trip. Then you’ll sign back on later in the evening with your family to do a group meditation class before you go to bed and chat with your mom. I think it’s just going to be an important part of the place that you call home.
In the midst of a pandemic, how important is self-care and fitness?
I think when people hear the phrase self-care, they think about being selfish or indulgent. But I think when you’re in a period of high stress, like the period we’re in right now, making the choice to value yourself and value your health is so important. It’s important for all of us to be kind to ourselves and our bodies.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.