Female Founders: Lynda Lippin Of Lynda Lippin Pilates On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Play the Long Game — If you want your business to withstand the test of time, and you want to continue to helping your clients by providing consistent goods and/or services, you must focus on the long game.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynda Lippin.
For over 30 years, Lynda Lippin’s clients (including Donna Karan, Laurie Anderson, and Joe Walsh) have trusted her to help them get stronger and function better, with less pain. Lynda is the Founder & CEO of Lynda Lippin Pilates, LLC, where she helps women over 50 with osteoporosis increase their bone density, and eliminate chronic pain through her online Strong Bones program and online private sessions. She also serves Pilates Teachers through the Pilates Teacher Mastermind®, a one-year business accelerator and continuing education program.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’ve always loved to teach. In high school, I taught a peer-led drug and alcohol education curriculum designed by 4H, and in college I was the student government VP of Finance. I started classroom teaching as a graduate student in Philosophy, and really discovered my love of helping people discover who they are and what they believe through the discussion of various texts and ideas that shaped our society and culture.
Interestingly enough, graduate school was when I started teaching Pilates and exercise, almost as an escape from academia. As I learned more about the human body and started to watch my Pilates clients feel and function better, I was drawn to do more of that work, until it became my full time business in the mid-90s.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I first started teaching Pilates in NYC, I came fresh from several years in Turks and Caicos, and several of the clients I saw there decided to continue with me here. That seemed great at the beginning, but working with A-list clients has very distinct challenges, including lots of last-minute scheduling changes. After a while, I actually came to prefer my non-celebrity clients, mostly due to more mutual respect.
Early one Sunday morning, when I would normally have been sleeping, I was on the subway heading up to a client’s home. I was on the pre-approved list, so the doorman let me right up — to an empty apartment.
I wandered the vast, full-floor unit until a staff member finally appeared. “Oh, she didn’t call you? She decided to fly to the Hamptons last night.”
And that’s when I stopped focusing on the A-list, and started to be in a bit more control of my schedule.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first Pilates studios were on the Main Line of Philadelphia, and many of my clients were retired corporate executives and founders. These retirees were mostly golfers, and ranged in age from early 60s to late 80s.
One particular colorful 86 year old gentlemen, a Jewish WWII veteran, came in for his private session one day, and in the middle of a particularly difficult exercise, in a crowded studio, he started screaming, “They’re killing Jews everywhere! Look, even here on the Main Line we have Jews [yes, I’m Jewish] trying to kill other Jews! Help!”
After the initial shock and silence, the entire studio started to laugh hysterically. Luckily, everyone there had a great sense of humor.
However, that could have gone south very quickly. I learned in that moment to be careful about who was scheduled in the studio at the same time, to avoid anyone being horrified.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people (it really does take a village)! The first Pilates teacher I worked beside in a studio was a woman named Karen Carlson, who is still teaching in Philadelphia. Karen taught me so much about anatomy, Pilates, dance, business, and how to work with clients in a meaningful, heart-centered way.
Karen once told me, “Remember that you are your clients’ cheerleader. Stop saying No and pointing out what’s wrong all the time. Cheer your clients on and applaud their efforts!” This is probably the single best piece of teaching advice I’ve ever received, and I still use it every day.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Women are still barely represented in the board rooms, executive suites, and governments of the world, so it shouldn’t be surprising that only about 20% of funded companies have female founders. Women still have disproportionate responsibility for taking care of family, and generally make less money than their male counterparts.
We’re still seeing inequalities in education (especially in STEM), which leads to an unequal playing field, as well as a continuing societal bias against women, and especially women of color, as leaders.
All of this can feel very overwhelming to a woman thinking about starting a business.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I’m seeing a shift away from gender stereotypes, and acceptance of more fluidity in gender, which I do think will slowly lead to more fluidity in gender expectations and greater societal change. As individuals, all we can do is keep exposing our children, and anyone else who will listen, to education and free expression of ideas while teaching them how to critically reason.
As a society, we need to remember that we are strong because we are varied. We should celebrate our commonalities and our differences, and learn to collaborate and work together with people who are good at the things we struggle with.
Frankly, I’m a fan of local, state, and federal protections of difference, access to education, and greater collaboration, because without that, we typically just listen to the same voices, and stay in the same place.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Now that I’m in several women’s expert networking and coaching groups, I can see how differently women approach and run their businesses.
First, women are generally more interested in collaboration and helping everyone rise. As founders, we understand that our company will only rise as a result of the work everyone puts in, and all that work should be recognized and applauded.
Second, women donate more of our money to charity than men (like 60% more), and spend more in our local communities. When we have more, everyone around us gets more.
Third, women tend to have a focus on sustainability and legacy. We make sure that our businesses take care of us, our family, our staff and their families, and our community for the long haul, and after we are gone.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth about being a founder is that since you founded your business, you are the best person to do everything in your business.
I found out the hard way that, while I’m very talented at teaching Pilates and helping Pilates Teachers, I’m not so great at web design, or accounting, or social media. Part of my self-discovery as a founder is what I do best, or what’s in my zone of genius, and what I need help in.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
While there is some truth to the idea that anyone can be a founder, there are definite personality traits that will make certain people more successful and happy in that role.
A founder needs to be creative, organized, and in love with what she does. Because there will be times, when you’re involved in hiring staff, picking out your desk, and dealing with back end customer service and tech issues, when you will question why you did this.
As a Founder you must accept that mistakes are inevitable. You will make many of them, many times, and as you learn from your mistakes and heal your scrapes, you will become more resilient.
Most of all, founders need to be resilient — strong, yet flexible; creative, yet organized; and think big picture growth, as well as day to day operations. It’s a lot, and not everyone is suited to the role.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?”
- Play the Long Game — If you want your business to withstand the test of time, and you want to continue to helping your clients by providing consistent goods and/or services, you must focus on the long game.
Make staffing, coaching, and financial decisions that will benefit you and your company for many years to come, instead of focusing solely on immediate wants and needs.
- Your Products & Services Won’t Sell Themselves — You can be the best at what you do, and offer the greatest products and services, but if nobody knows you, they won’t sell. Sales and cash flow are what makes a business.
As a woman founder, you need to be out there all the time. Social media posts, live videos, media appearances, and podcast hosting and guesting all have to happen on a regular schedule. People need to know, like, and trust you before they buy from you!
- You Need Coaching — I didn’t know how much I needed coaching until I hired my first coach. Last year, I was lucky enough to work with Kelly Roach and learn everything about the business backend, including sales and marketing.
Then, as my business grew, I came up against mindset blocks. Lots of imposter syndrome showed up, with me questioning whether I really could deliver on my promises and whether I deserved to make a lot of money as I scale my business. So, this year I’m working with Kelly Ruta, a mindset coach.
- Collaboration is Crucial — Even as a solopreneur, you can’t do it on your own. Even without a pandemic, things come up on the daily that can throw you off. I am a member of several high-level women’s business networking groups, and just being able to complain, or ask questions in a safe space with other experts who have answers and hugs, is huge! I also am able to find other high-level service providers who complement what I do, and help provide education and service to my audience while also inviting me to do the same for theirs.
- Self-care is Non-negotiable — I learned the hard way that self-care is seriously non-negotiable. After moving into high gear in 2020, running conversion events monthly for both consumer and business audiences, I was exhausted and got very sick. Now I focus more on good nutrition and hydration, and I take time every day for meditation and exercise. Starting next week, I will be taking two days off every week, and am scheduling in regular vacation time out of NYC.
In my business, I’m looking at different launch and conversion event structures moving forward, so I can sell without the crash and burn. I’m also focused on building a solid support team, so I don’t have to do it all.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’m lucky to be in an “elder statesman” position in the Pilates world, which means that lots of teachers listen to what I have to say. I decided a few years ago that I could make the biggest impact through helping other Pilates Teachers, many of who started leaving the industry during COVID.
I help Pilates Teachers through conducting free trainings and livestreams for other Pilates communities and groups, through my own completely free communities and trainings, and through my paid coaching and continuing education programs. In these ways, I feel like I also positively impact more clients and communities around the world. As one of my clients recently said, “You are saving Pilates, one Pilates Teacher at a time!”
Also, as I make more money, I’m hiring more and donating more, thus spreading a lot of the love!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
While I am very aware that much of the world (and much of the US) is struggling for basics like food, water, and shelter, I truly see that one of our biggest issues in the world is a lack of critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking allows us to discern truth from falsity, and good ideas from bad ones. Critical thinking allows us to ignore the loud and shiny objects in front of us, and focus on the quieter, and often more valuable, things in the background.
We owe it to our society to teach people critical thinking. It is a skill, and it can be taught. Without it, you get people believing that it rained because they forgot their umbrellas, and that all truths are equally obvious or suspect.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
My number one is still, and may always be, Michelle Obama. She is brilliant, strong, and articulate. Watching her navigating the haters and the racists with such grace and ease is truly inspiring.
Her latest pivot, from First Lady to media producer and world changer, has been very interesting to watch. I’m fascinated by how she discerned among all the offers, and what her strategy is now in using her celebrity to promote social and economic equality.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.