Step into the extraordinary life of Joan Barnes, the founder of Gymboree, as she shares  her journey from a young woman seeking community into a powerhouse businesswoman. Gymboree started as a mommy and me play center in Marin County, California that Joan led to a successful franchise business and chain of international children’s clothing stores. At the time of Gymboree’s blockbuster IPO in 1993, the company had annual revenue of $86.3M. In 2010, Bain Capital acquired the company for $1.8 billion!  In this truthful conversation, Joan shares her  unorthodox approach to business, motherhood, domestic life, her struggles with bulimia, and the personal sacrifices she made when putting her work first. 

Joan’s insights on the complexities of balancing professional ambition with personal happiness are as relevant today as they were during her time with Gymboree. This episode and Joan’s book, Pay it Forward,  will be fascinating for entrepreneurs who like to hear behind the scenes stories about companies that made it to  the exhilarating  day of a successful IPO.  Joan shares the challenges of accepting VC funding and balancing a family life with a growing franchise This is not the story about having it all, partially because Joan knew she didn’t want it all, and also because a complete focus on her business, resulted in sacrificing her marriage and spiraling deeper into bulimia.

Today, Joan has found peace with her family, friends and knowing that  she made bold choices and stayed true to herself. So, sit down or take this podcast for a walk as we have a real conversation with a woman who despite the odds, always knew she was meant to be a trailblazer. 


Notable Quotes from Joan Barnes:

“Professional friendships are not the same when you don’t have that job anymore.”

“I’m a cheerleader, not a caretaker.”

“We all know what to do. It sometimes takes us a while to, you know, uncover it all.”

“I wouldn’t do anything differently because you kind of are who you are.”


Topics Discussed:

  • (00:00) Joan’s early life and her path to entrepreneurship

  •  (09:29) The societal pressures and personal challenges of motherhood

  •  (13:40) The inception and global success of Gymboree

  •  (25:20) Joan’s battle with bulimia and her road to recovery

  •  (44:00) Life after Gymboree: Embracing spirituality and letting go

  •  (49:33) The importance of listening to your heart and making conscious choices

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