Joan Barnes

San Francisco

The early ’70s found dancer Joan Barnes en route from New York to San Francisco in a Volkswagen camper with her then-husband and baby on the way. A young mom was far from the norm in a free-spirited San Francisco ensconced in the Summer of Love. Joan needed to connect with like-minded women. Enter Gymboree.

Joan launched Gymboree, initially Kindergym, at a Jewish community center to allow moms and dads to assemble while their toddlers played. The business ultimately went public and grew to a national brand that today boasts play centers in 32 countries and nearly 700 retail stores and 3 additional other brands.

Joan’s professional success, however, came at great personal cost. For 15 years, she exhibited a dogged determination not to fail that she now says bordered on insanity. Faced with a failing marriage and a serious eating disorder, in 1990 she left a sustainable business and retreated to a long-term treatment center, spending the next few years on a healing journey. She resisted returning to Marin County, the land of (seemingly) picture-perfect families and entrepreneurial zeal, until she felt strong enough. When she felt the call to return, she found yoga.

Joan attended her first class at YOGASTUDIO in 1995, which transformed her. She eventually bought the business, expanded the concept and increased locations. Although Joan had YOGASTUDO poised for further expansion with funding in place, she drew deeply on the lessons from the Gymboree experience: She Listened In, Lined Up and Carried Out!She declined to grow the business in favor of life balance and instead sold the business in 2008 to Yoga Works, a well-regarded national chain of yoga studios.

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  • Work
    • Gymboree
  • Education
    • Briarcliff College