If you want to develop a world-class brand, the IHRSA connection can help Just ask Lindsay G. Merrithew and Jill Stevens Kinney
Consider, if you would, the case of Lindsay G. Merrithew, a talented individual who studied theatre at the renowned Juilliard School in New York City after receiving his undergraduate degree from Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Now, he’s best known for cofounding the Merrithew Corporation, in Toronto, the parent company of STOTT PILATES, along with his wife, Moira, a former professional dancer. Today, STOTT PILATES has two corporate training facilities and 50 licensed training centers in 19 countries, and more than 15,000 trained instructors in 67 countries. It also manufactures its own line of Pilates equipment, which is marketed worldwide. STOTT PILATES first joined IHRSA as a club member in the late 1980s and later switched to an associate membership.
Consider also, if you would, the case of Jill Stevens Kinney, a brilliant woman armed with an MBA, who’s best known as the cofounder of Club One, Inc., the San Francisco-based chain, along with her husband, John, who also holds an MBA. Today, Club One owns and operates 23 fitness facilities and manages an additional 72 fitness and wellness programs, under contract, in 10 states and Canada. Kinney is also known for her long and intimate association with IHRSA, which dates back to the early ’80s.
Merrithew and Kinney are very different people, occupying different parts of the North American fitness industry, but both have left an indelible mark on the business. Ironically, however, there are strong parallels in their careers. Both have created world-class brands. Both have done so via successful working relationships with their spouses. And both have relied heavily on IHRSA—its publications, research studies, conventions and trade shows, industry advocacy efforts, etc.—to help them achieve their goals.
Trending into business Twenty years ago, when the Merrithews opened their first Pilates studio in Toronto, the discipline was best known, and most utilized, by the dance community. At first, the husband/wife team didn’t think they could transform it into a significant commercial venture, but, by the late ’80s, they realized that they’d been wrong: Pilates, it had become clear, represented a major business opportunity. “We recognized that training, while lengthy and somewhat complicated, was important and there was a real need for it,” says Merrithew. “Equipment was also hard to get, so, initially, we designed our own reformer—one that was both aesthetically and ergonomically appealing, as well as adjustable to suit the individual user—and, then, an entire line. We established a manufacturing facility and began selling equipment around the world.”
The fitness industry, however, didn’t warm up to Pilates training immediately, Merrithew explains. “It requires very specific training. This was something of a barrier to Pilates’ growth for 10-15 years. But, over time, the fitness industry has evolved, and now understands the importance of high-quality Pilates education and equipment.”
Today, the worldwide enthusiasm for Pilates owes much to the Merrithew Corporation and STOTT PILATES, which, in turn, credit IHRSA for its ongoing help.
The Merrithews began by training instructors at their corporate headquarters, but, in 1999, embarked on a licensing program. Now, in addition to its own Licensed Training Centers and numerous hosting sites around the world, a number of club chains, such as Planet Fitness in Russia, host STOTT PILATES instructor teams to train their staff and, sometimes, the general public. The company also offers Full Solutions, a consulting service that helps fitness facilities create successful Pilates programs.