It’s a huge stretch from Woodstock to heading up an exercise products and
education company and acting on national stage and television, but Lindsay Merrithew has
found himself making that leap.
The president and CEO of STOTT PILATES, Merrithew, along with his wife, Moira Merrithew,
have followed the twists and turns of their lives to the top of a fast-growing company and
Mr. Merrithew was born in Woodstock, and then moved with his family to other communities
in the province as his father, who worked on hydroelectric products, was transferred from
job to job.
In 1978, after completing high school in Rothesay, he went to Dalhousie University
where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. “I always seemed to have an
interest in business, “ he said. “I wanted to go to New York and work for
a large corporation.”
But while at Dal, he discovered the theatre and soon found himself acting in local
When he completed his degree he decided to pursue acting formally. “I thought
if I was going to do this, I should go somewhere and get trained,” he said.
That thinking led him to the two-year conservatory program at the prestigious Juilliard
School of Performing Arts in New York City.
While studying at Juilliard he met Moira Stott, an English dancer living in New York.
The two hit it off and quickly became lifelong partners.
After Mr. Merrithew completed his studies in New York, he acted in the theatre. But
Ms. Merrithew broke her foot and was no longer able to dance. She was following a
little-known exercise program developed by Joseph Pilates to help rehabilitate her
foot. She soon received a “dancer transition” grant to begin teaching the
exercise form, launching the early days of STOTT PILATES.
When the couple moved to Toronto, where Mr. Merrithew pursued work in theatre, television
and film, they discovered that they couldn’t find the proper equipment to use during
the exercises. “We tried hard to find the equipment, but Pilates just wasn’t
that well-known at the time,” said Mr. Merrithew.
The couple decided to make the equipment they needed. They met with a carpenter and
offered design ideas and began using their own wooden equipment.
Then, when Pilates began to gain better recognition in the early 1990s, the Merrithews
knew they were facing a great business opportunity. “We decided to modernize the
equipment somewhat, dust it off a bit, to make it more user-friendly,”
Mr. Merrithew said.
The couple began manufacturing professional-quality pilates equipment in 1993, established
an education division of the company in 1995, and in 1997 launched their video line.
“The business just went from the grassroots on up,” he said. “We took
it from a studio business, to a design and manufacturing business, and then we started
producing Pilates instructional videos.”
The business now operates 30 training centers in North America and has more than 50
exercise videos on the market. It also manufactures equipment for use in the exercises,
ranging from floor mats to spine supporters, to the Cadillac trapeze table. “The
business has grown tremendously,” said Mr. Merrithew.
And he’s still considering other ways the company can expand, such as branching
off into a focus on sport-specific Pilates. He said professional golfers and tennis players
have touted the benefit of Pilates on their game, and he’s seen results in his own
golfing from practicing Pilates.
His work has gained international attention. He’s a member Ontario’s
prestigious Innovators Alliance for elite entrepreneurs, and is a four-time recipient of
Profit Magazine’s Top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies and was a 2002 nominee for Ernst
and Young’s prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award. He’s also regularly
consulted by the fitness trade and business media.
And while his focus is on his company at the moment, he said he hasn’t ruled
acting out of his future. “I still act a little bit,” he said. “I
have a love for the theatre and the classics. I’m sure I’ll find myself on
the stage again.”