Play It Forward is a poignant tale told with fearless truth and transparency that details the remarkable journey of Joan Barnes, founder and former CEO of Gymboree, and how she learned to align her inner life with outward success. By evoking the differences between “being in business” and “being your business” and honoring your core self in the process, it seeks to inspire those who desire an entrepreneurial run, want to reinvent themselves or “build their own table.”
Forty years ago, Joan founded a play center in a church basement with $3,000 in Northern California. Determined to enable women to achieve personal and entrepreneurial success, Barnes grew Gymboree into a trailblazing leader, forging an innovative franchise program for women to operate a business while raising a family, which she later merged with company-owned retail stores that grew Gymboree into an iconic global billion dollar household brand.
Her path, however, wasn’t all rainbows and fairytales; her journey is a cautionary tale. When Gymboree had an historic IPO, Joan was nowhere near Wall Street, as she had earlier stepped down as CEO to battle a debilitating eating disorder that threatened to destroy her and everything she built.
She overcame her demons, charting a new path with an enduring sense of worth and hope. She resumed her entrepreneurial calling on healthier terms with a group of innovative yoga studios, which she eventually sold to national chain Yoga Works, an inspiring example of how midcareer women can triumph through reinvention.
For any entrepreneur or creator who dreams of creating “the next big thing,” is amid the challenging, chaotic middle part of building, or thinking about building “something,” Play It Forward provides a honest perspective of the challenges of building a business and seeking work-life balance in tune with personal values.
The authors hope that Play It Forward resonates on many levels, business and personal, shines the spotlight on the importance of self-awareness and self-honesty, and generates much needed attention on the myths of a balanced life and to “have-it-all” to help more women blossom, at any age!