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Play it Forward: From Gymboree to the Yoga Mat & Beyond with Joan Barnes

Join Joan Barnes & Grace Kraaijvanger in a candid conversation about Joan’s new book and the struggle to stay true to your ideals when success comes knocking at your door.

Joan is starting her new book launch in her hometown of Mill Valley and is doing an interactive conversation with Grace as the launch of her new book tour.  Attendees will receive a copy of her new book before it is released in stores, and an opportunity to meet Joan, hear her perspective, and learn more about her journey to find herself while creating Gymboree and beyond.

She and Grace will have an open conversation on finding what inspires you and helps you stay true as a builder, creator, or entrepreneur. How do you stay aligned with the real you, no matter the challenges you face -- or no matter how much success comes your way?

Play It Forward 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.

Forty years ago, living in Mill Valley, Joan founded a play center in a church basement with $3,000. Determined to enable women to achieve personal and entrepreneurial success, Barnes grew Gymboree into a trailblazing leader, which became a global billion dollar brand and included an innovative franchise program that allowed women to operate a business while raising a family. She, too, was raising a family when it was hardly fashionable to combine both.

It wasn’t, however, all rainbows and fairytales; her journey is a cautionary tale and story of redemption. When Gymboree had an historical IPO, Barnes 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.

Barnes overcame her demons, charting a new path with an enduring sense of worth and hope. She resumed her business career on healthier terms with a line of yoga studios aptly called YogaStudios, which she eventually sold to Yoga Works, an inspiring example of how mid-career women can triumph through reinvention.

For any entrepreneur or creator who dreams of creating "the next big thing,” is in the challenging, chaotic middle part of building, or thinking about building “something,” her story provides a honest perspective of the challenges of building a business and seeking work-life balance in tune with personal values.


Joan Barnes founded and served as CEO of Gymboree, an international network of franchised play programs and company-owned retail stores. For more than a decade, Barnes was the principal owner of San Francisco-based YogaStudio, which helped to mainstream the “yoga lifestyle.” She also founded Begin from Within through the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of San Francisco, which features programs dedicated to people with food, weight, and body image issues.