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Woodstock native harnessed public’s interest in
Pilates exercise program
By Tracy Carr, Telegraph-Journal as published in New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, 2003

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 exercise program.

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 productions.

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.”