“Always Begin With The Customer In Mind”
About Today’s Guest
Brynn Putnam is the founder and CEO of MIRROR, a fitness technology company poised to revolutionize the way people work out by bringing the boutique studio experience in-home. For more than a decade, Brynn has been well-regarded as a pioneer of the fitness industry. She started her career as a professional ballet dancer for the New York City Ballet, spending years training to peak performance while also working in some of New York City’s top gyms and boutique fitness studios. In 2010, Brynn took her learnings from elite trainers and physiologists across the nation and founded Refine Method, the acclaimed fitness studio dubbed “Best New Workout” by New York magazine. Now, Brynn is applying her deep expertise in fitness, both as an entrepreneur with a proven track record and an accomplished athlete, to transform the fitness industry again. Brynn graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in Russian Literature and Culture and is based in New York City.
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We begin the show by finding out how Brynn got her start in fitness. She started dancing at the age of three and that turned into a professional career at the New York City Ballet when she was a teenager. So as she always loved to move it was a natural evolution to become involved with gyms and fitness studios.
I asked Brynn what had worked from the dance world as she transitioned into fitness and as there anything that held her back a little. She shares that having a really good eye for form was a skill that really served her as a teacher later in life. Being able to look at someone’s movement or their body and to be able to see ways that they could, optimize what they were doing. She goes on to share that I maybe the negative from the world of dance was perfectionism and its unrelenting standards that don’t translate well into the world of fitness.
Brynn’s move into a fulltime career in fitness came from a personal need, which was when she retired from the world of dance, she couldn’t find a fitness class that felt good on her body. So she spent a year traveling the country and meeting with the top experts that she could find, and who were willing to talk to her.
And all her interactions with coaches, trainers and physiologists translated into what is now called Refine method and is the curriculum in her studios throughout NYC.
Brynn took her lifelong passion for learning and her curiosity to build something and create something original that also translated really well into building a business. At the beginning, Brynn shares that creating and developing her fitness method was a very lonely, lonely pursuit but slowly and surely as she expanded her brand she also expanded her team.
Brynn shares that her main philosophy is to always start with the customer in mind and that the customer was usually herself, to begin with. She knew very early on that in order to build a real business with limited resources that she didn’t want to build a business that was centered on her as a teacher. It was always going to be built on the method and the brand.
We talk about what it really took to create a business before anyone knew of her. Fitness was her life and her identity, and when she opened Refine, Brynn was very limited in terms of her financial resources. She had $15,000 of her personal savings, and so the only room that she could rent, was a room in a church that every Saturday she had to give back to the church for Sunday services. And every Sunday she would take back the space and turn it back into a gym. But because of this, she ended up building a piece of original fitness equipment that was wall-mounted and became the centerpiece of the Refine method.
Brynn’s next venture was Mirror, but this time around she stopped to think through the difference between a great idea or a great product and a great business. She didn’t want to build a bootstrapped business again and so she had to spend some time thinking what the market was for this business, show much things had to cost and how much she would charge for the business to grow at the rate that it needed to, to be successful. She then went out and raised money from investors, which would be able to support not just the product and the vision, but also the kind of business that she wanted to be a part of.
Brynn became obsessed with the idea of getting the Mirror to be as close to an inch in-depth as possible. She knew she didn’t want it to look like technology if it was going into people’s homes. Eventually, she managed to create the Mirror to be as thin as possible and ultimately got it down to 1.4 inches, which was a personal victory for her.
Brynn understands that for many women the relationship with the mirror can be complicated and her fitness philosophy is to treat your body like it belongs to someone you love. To her, the Mirror is a wonderful tool for practicing that philosophy. And I agree that when we can say “I love you” and own the “I” – that is where the magic happens.