Play It Forward

Play It Forward
From Gymboree to the Yoga Mat and Beyond
Published by Agate B2
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Co-authored by Joan Barnes

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, Joan Barnes founded a play center in a church basement with $3,000. Determined to enable women to achieve personal and entrepreneurial success, Barnes led Gymboree to become an innovative leader in a new industry: activity-based early childhood development. The company eventually became a global billion-dollar brand.

But this dramatic entrepreneurial memoir is also a cautionary tale and redemption story. When Gymboree’s IPO became a phenomenal success story, Barnes was nowhere near Wall Street. She had left the company because of an eating disorder that threatened to destroy her and everything she built.

Barnes overcame the disorder, charting a path that replaced demons with an enduring sense of worth and hope. She eventually resumed her business career on healthier terms with a line of yoga studios in an inspiring example of how women can triumph through reinvention.

Published to coincide with Gymboree’s 40th anniversary, Play It Forward offers readers a deeply honest perspective of the challenges of business building and seeking a work-life balance in tune with personal values.


"Forget leaning in, Joan has always jumped in. Always evolving and adventurous, Joan is one of the most inspiring women I know. Her life force, intelligence, and wit are as expansive as her asanas and as full-bodied as her laugh." —Patricia Ziegler, Founder of Banana Republic and Republic of Tea

"A franchisor who did it right is Joan Barnes, a vivacious mother of two and founder of Gymboree. She opened her first center in a San Francisco suburb. . . Gymboree was an instant hit." —Fortune

"Joan herself and learned some important life lessons along the way." —Ann Thompson, Today show

"Joan's story is a raw, rare, and illuminating touchstone for future generations of women to sort out how to achieve success on their own terms." —Elana Yonah Rosen, Chief Development Officer, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center

"Second Acts. OM is where the Heart is. After a breakdown, Joan Barnes—the founder of Gymboree—thought she'd never run another business. Then she discovered yoga, and made peace with her entrepreneurial spirit." —More

"A beacon for us all, Joan Barnes' indelible odyssey is a riveting read delivered with humility, refreshing vulnerability, uncommon transparency and compassion." —Susan Griffin-Black, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, EO Products
Paperback | 256 pages | $17.00US | 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches | 978-1572841901 | May 10, 2016