A Neighborhood Place
Mina Marsow is enthusiastic about positively impacting her community. By taking the Best for NYC Challenge, she has joined the movement of companies competing to be not only best in New York City, but best for New York City. This is her story.
“I feel like it almost came to me more than I chose to do it,” says Mina Marsow, Best for NYC Participant and founder and owner of Prospect Gymnastics, the developmental gymnastics gym for children 0–14 years old. A Brooklyn native, Mina is, unmistakably, an entrepreneur — perceptive, determined, and energetic. “I don’t feel like it’s work,” she remarks. What does Mina do when she finds herself up at night unable to sleep? Why, she thinks of new ideas for the gym! What does she do on her days off? She peruses gymnastic catalogues, of course.
Some time before Prospect Gymnastics became a reality, Mina found herself unemployed. She spent a long while completing job applications, camped out in coffee shops scouring the internet for open positions. At that point, she did not have a plan, but in the back of her mind was a commitment to filling a need in her community. She emphasizes, “I really wanted to have the opportunity to do something that made a positive impact.” When her neighbors voiced a wish for an affordable gymnastics studio, she listened — and took action.
“I really wanted to have the opportunity to do something that made a positive impact.”
Seemingly all in one breath, she recounts, “I got laid off in October and I got six weeks severance pay, and spent those six weeks wallowing in self pity, and [when the severance pay was up]…my business was open by the end of February. And I was like ‘Good, people want it? Good.’ I sold my car. I bought basic, basic equipment, started putting up fliers.”
Just as Mina begins to really dive into her story, we are interrupted by three quick knocks on the window of our meeting room. A young girl and her mother peer through the window, the girl gushing with glee, waving her hand at Mina. Mina knocks back, playfully sticks her tongue out at the girl, and turns to me laughing. “Yeah, I can’t sit here without some kids coming by,” she adds.
As the girl and her mother walk off, the subject of our conversation shifts from the past to the future, which Mina is considering more and more as Prospect Gymnastics comes of age. To Mina, being not only one of the best in NYC but one of the best for NYC in the long term means staying true to her commitments to social impact: to support her community through charitable giving, to provide her employees fair compensation and training, and to consider affordability.
With respect to compensation, she asserts, “I really believe that if more businesses would pay their employees a fair share of their profits, if people got paid in terms of the productivity they create instead of the least amount of money [businesses] could get away with, we wouldn’t have the economic problems we do.” Mina not only pays her workers above the local minimum wage but also offers them access to skills-based training to advance their core responsibilities as well as training on cross-job functions.
In terms of balancing growth with accessibility, she explains, “I am trying to open two new classes: one for special needs kids and one like a community gymnastics class that would be less structured, but I’m trying to figure out how to do it. ‘Cause there are kids in this neighborhood that can’t afford this kind of thing.” Trying to figure it out means pricing some classes at a break-even point. Not to mention, Prospect Gymnastics regularly opens its doors to everyone, from the Halloween party to the Spring party, the open houses to ‘Open Play’. But, Mina needs to stay in business, after all, and has grand aspirations.
“You want to hear my ultimate goal, my dream, my vision?,” she asks. “Lay it on me,” I reply. “So my next step is to build a big gym because I kind of designed this as a gym for babies but the community really needs a gym for all aged kids,” she explains. She makes a motion in the air, and I can tell she sees the sign already, one reading: “Prospect Gymnastics”.
I said goodbye to Mina, but not really; I had an email from her before I made it back to my office. She wanted to know more about the free tools and services that businesses get access to as participants in Best for NYC. During our interview, she acknowledged, “I think I can learn from other businesses. There are a lot of things I’m that not doing right now that I probably don’t even know that I’m not doing.” If that recognition doesn’t speak to her dedication to making change for the betterment of her community, I’m not sure what does.
Elizabeth Fernandes is a B Corps Fellow working to grow the Best for NYC campaign at Business Outreach Center. She is also an avid soccer player and traveler, and loves to explore, bus pass and book in hand wherever she goes.