Mirror Entrepreneur Sold Her Fitness Startup to Lululemon. Letting Go Meant Sticking Around.

Brynn Putnam, a former ballerina, knows something about pivoting. That skill was put to the test this year when the 37-year-old entrepreneur finally got a boss.

Ms. Putnam created the Mirror, an at-home fitness product that streams workout classes to a reflective glass propped against the wall. As the pandemic increased the demand for such gadgets, Ms. Putnam adjusted by deciding to sell Mirror to Lululemon Athletica Inc. for $500 million.

Ms. Putnam cashed in but didn’t check out: She remains chief executive of Mirror, reporting to Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald. Her new boss said his vision for Mirror is aligned with its creator’s. Mr. McDonald runs a clothing company, not an equipment manufacturer—he wants Ms. Putnam to take her ideas and run faster, harder and stronger.

“Certainly, Mirror is my baby, and it’s scary to release some of my hold,” Ms. Putnam told me earlier this month. Four months after the purchase, Lululemon has already begun making changes intended to make releasing her hold easier, such as putting more marketing might behind the products, and investing in future technology. Mirror’s 2020 revenue forecast has been increased to $150 million from $100 million since the sale, reflecting increased awareness and availability.

The marketplace is full of enterprises that sold to bigger companies with the goal of accelerating the founder’s vision rather than changing it. In 2017, Amazon.com Inc. bought Whole Foods Market Inc. A year later, a unit of Foxconn Technology Group acquired Belkin International Inc (maker of Linksys networking products, iPhone chargers and other devices). In 2019, Alphabet Inc.’s Google agreed to purchase Fitbit Inc.

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