Meet Brynn Putnam, the Harvard-educated former ballerina whose fitness screen Mirror has transformed the at-home workout industry
- Brynn Putnam, a former professional ballerina with a degree from Harvard University, is the founder of Mirror, an at-home fitness platform beloved by celebrities like Alicia Keys, Jennifer Aniston, and Reese Witherspoon.
- Putnam launched the company with no technical expertise, but she told Insider her inexperience was an asset. "If you look at successful founders, most of them come from non-traditional backgrounds," she said.
- Mirror was recently acquired by Lululemon for a reported $500 million.
- Putnam is one of Insider's Luminaries: 25 women pushing boundaries and accomplishing extraordinary feats.
As a professional ballerina, Brynn Putnam had no tech expertise. But she did have an idea.
Putnam, 37, is the founder and CEO of Mirror. A smart screen that looks like a normal wall-mounted full-length mirror when it's off, the interactive device offers both live and in-demand fitness classes, including barre, kettlebells, and kickboxing. It also features one-on-one personal training.
The New Yorker believes her lack of tech know-how was actually an advantage, because she was able to think about what the consumer really wants.
"If you look at successful founders, most of them come from non-traditional backgrounds," Putnam told Insider.
"And in my case, I think coming from a non-traditional background was very much an asset rather than an impediment."
Putnam is a professional ballerina with a Harvard degree
Putnam began dancing at the age of three, and was a professional ballerina for the New York City Ballet. While working as a dancer, Putnam also obtained a degree in Russian Literature and Culture from Harvard University.
To make ends meet after college, Putnam began teaching fitness classes in addition to dancing professionally. But soon she decided to take a step back from ballet and open her own New York City boutique fitness studio chain in 2010: The Refine Method. Putnam opened her own studio on what she describes as a "shoe-string budget," and couldn't initially afford mirrors.
When she updated the studios in 2015, she finally added mirrors, and the response from clients was overwhelming, she said. "Mirrors were such an integral part of my own fitness experience and I hadn't realized that all my clients were feeling the same way."
"It was an 'aha' moment that I should have had earlier."
Putnam's lack of tech know-how was a blessing
As a new mother in 2017, Putnam found herself struggling to find time to exercise. At-home workouts, she realized, were what she and others needed.
When Putnam came up with the idea for Mirror, she had no tech experience. But she wasn't deterred — in fact, she saw it as a positive. "It allowed me to really focus on what our member needed and wanted and would use, versus what I could build, because what I could build was very limited," she said.
With the right team around her, Putnam made it happen and, in 2018, Mirror was born.
The device is priced at $1,495, and membership is $39 a month for unlimited classes for up to six users. Personal training sessions can be purchased as an add-on for $40 a pop.
The 52-inch device is controlled by an app rather than a touchscreen, and the camera has a lens cap in case users have privacy concerns. Users can also sync their wearable tech to track metrics such as heart rate and calorie burn.
Mirror launched with 15 different kinds of workouts, but now has over 50, ranging from 5 to 60 minutes long.
High-profile endorsements have led to growth
Over Christmas in 2018, singer Alicia Keys posted a video of her reaction when her family surprised her with a Mirror. Needless to say, her elated screams and jumps of excitement were a better advert for Mirror than Putnam could have asked for.
Soon other celebrities were speaking out about using the screen, including Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Wilde, Karlie Kloss, and Ellen Degeneres.
"We've been really fortunate to have a lot of prominent folks and celebrities share their Mirror love, but fundamentally the business has grown because your average mom and dad have enjoyed the product and told five friends who told five friends," Putnam said.
In June 2020, upmarket activewear brand Lululemon announced it was acquiring the business for a reported $500 million. Mirror will soon be on sale in select Lululemon stores, and Putnam says the union of the brands will allow them to do "more faster," which is "really fun and exciting."
COVID-19 has led to a boost in Mirror sales and engagement
Like other at-home workout programs, Mirror's sales have increased amid the coronavirus pandemic, as many white-collar employees work from home and can no longer access gyms and boutique fitness classes.
The past six months have seen "exponential growth" for Mirror, Putnam said.
The company also had to adapt quickly — all 125 employees are working from home except trainers, who broadcast from a studio while following safety precautions.
"Access to health and wellness has become even more vital during COVID, with so many people losing access to their fitness studios," Putnam said.
"I believe really fundamentally that fitness is the foundation of a good life, and that having confidence in yourself is core to everything that you do at work, at home, and in your relationship."
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