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Meet The Team

ELIZA GAYNOR MINDEN, HEAD OF DESIGN

Eliza MTT

Eliza designed and developed the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe. The impetus to create a better pointe shoe came from her own extensive experience in ballet and her frustration with conventional pointe shoes. With her husband, John Minden, a former advertising executive, she formed Gaynor Minden, Inc. to produce and market her invention.

Eliza studied Cecchetti and Royal Academy of Dancing techniques at studios in her hometown of Southport, Connecticut and received further ballet training at Jacob’s Pillow and in New York. She grew up in a ballet-loving family with a dance studio in their home. Her mother was an R.A.D. ballet teacher who would go on to found the Connecticut Dance School; her sister graduated from the School of American Ballet and danced professionally.

After earning a B.A. degree from Yale University, Eliza worked in the management of dance companies and saw their ongoing money problems exacerbated by shoes that last only one performance—the typical life span of the traditionally made pointe shoe. Non-profit dance companies, always struggling financially, are further impoverished by the pointe shoe’s lack of durability, as are dancers themselves.

As a longtime skier, sailor, and windsurfer Eliza had witnessed the introduction of new materials into athletic equipment and apparel, and had personally experienced the tremendous benefits of that modernization. It seemed natural that pointe shoes could be similarly improved by the use of advanced materials. Her knowledge of her family’s business, which designs and manufactures energy-efficient lighting, provided familiarity with the process of researching and developing a new product.

The revolutionary Gaynor Minden pointe shoe was introduced in April 1993, after nearly a decade of testing and research. Eliza holds two patents on its design and manufacture; she has four additional patents on other ballet-related inventions. She and her pointe shoe have been featured on The Today Show, CBS Evening News, National Public Radio, The Discovery Channel, the BBC, on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in the New Yorker, and in many other publications. She was named “Inventor of the Week” at M.I.T.

Eliza has lectured on ballet and ballet history throughout the United States and Europe and has written an acclaimed hardcover reference book for ballet students, The Ballet Companion, (Simon & Schuster in 2005).

Currently, as Head of Design, Eliza is still actively involved in product design and development. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

Send e-mail to Eliza Minden at [email protected]

John MTT

John Minden, co-founder of Gaynor Minden, Inc., is a native of Manhattan. He holds a degree in Economics from Yale University and has an extensive background in marketing and advertising.

After a stint on Wall Street during the early nineteen eighties, Minden spent six years at MGA, the sales promotion subsidiary of Scali, McCabe, Sloves. There he was a pioneer in the field of joint (co-op) promotions, supervising the development and implementation of national promotion programs for numerous major brands and winning the prestigious Robbie Award for Best Promotion of the Year.

He formed his own agency, J Minden Co., in 1989 where he specialized in the design and execution of programs aimed at benefiting environmental and other causes. He served on the Board of Directors for AdNet, an association of advertising professionals working in the public interest; his pro bono clients included The Council on Economic Priorities, The Natural Resources Defense Council and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

In 1993, with his wife, Eliza Gaynor Minden, he started the company that would produce and market the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe. There he directs operations and oversees the company’s rapidly expanding wholesale business. The computer system he designed for the company permits a relatively small staff to manage an inventory of nearly three thousand size and style combinations in a “just in time” fashion, enabling Gaynor Minden to provide extremely quick delivery to its customers. A 2nd degree black belt in karate, Minden supplements his martial arts training with kick boxing, weight lifting, and yoga. He lives in Manhattan with his family. 

Send an e-mail to John Minden at [email protected]

Join Our Team

Join Our Team!

We are always looking for intelligent ballet enthusiasts to join our team. If that’s you, let us know! Send a resume and cover letter to [email protected].
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Sophie Boardman
VP of Products

Sophie brings years of ballet experience to Gaynor Minden. She grew up in Limoges, France and has trained in ballet continually since age 4, including summer intensives in Biarritz with teachers from the Paris Opera Ballet. Sophie earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Business and graduated from INSEEC, Bordeaux Business School in France, with a Master’s Degree in Marketing. During her studies, Sophie completed internships for the Scottish Ballet in Glasgow and the Bordeaux Opera Ballet. After graduating, she joined Merlet as the Dance Manager and was in charge of sales, marketing and products for 6 years. Sophie joined the Gaynor Minden team in 2017 and is spreading her passion for ballet and Gaynor Minden all around the world! Sophie oversees all aspects of Products Development and is also involved in Sales and Marketing.
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Isis Cathala
International Sales Director

Isis grew up in the South of France where she trained in ballet from 8 to 18. She danced with the Jeune Ballet de Montpellier et de l’Hérault and participated to international competitions and summer intensives with teachers from Paris Opera Ballet. Isis earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Business, and graduated from INSEEC Business School Bordeaux (France) and SRH University Berlin (Germany) with a double Master’s degree in Operational Marketing and International Management. As part of her studies, Isis worked in Paris, London, San Francisco, New York, and Philadelphia. The day after defending her thesis, Isis applied at Gaynor Minden for her dream job: developing the international business of the best ballet shoe company. She now works for Gaynor Minden from her home in France.
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Belinda Cottrill
Purchasing & Inventory Director

Belinda joined Gaynor Minden in 2014 but she has been fitting pointe shoes and selling dancewear for over 15 years. Born in London, she began dance training at age 5 and has a BA (Honors) in Dance Performance from Middlesex University. Upon graduating she continued to dance and also worked at Freed of London followed by Bloch Europe, where she gained extensive experience in the dancewear industry. The rest, as they say, is history!
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Anna Crisci
U.S. Sales Director

Anna started dancing at the age of four and has trained in a variety of different styles such as ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, contemporary, and hip-hop. Anna graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication, Arts and Sciences. As college came to an end, Anna did not let her enthusiasm for dance fade. She continued to take classes, one of her favorites being the Radio City Rockette Summer Intensive at Point Park University. Anna has worked in the dance world since 2006 and absolutely loves it!

Anna is responsible for business development in the United States.
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Margot Galopin
Sales Associate

Margot is very excited to be working with Gaynor Minden in New York. She has vast experience in dance, having started ballet at age three. She trained predominantly at Connecticut Ballet Center with Brett Raphael, and at Ballet des Ameriques with Carole Alexis. She has also attended prestigious summer intensives, in France at the Paris Opera Ballet School and in New York City with American Ballet Theater and the Bolshoi Ballet. In addition to ballet, she has also trained in musical theater. Over the past few years Margot has choreographed for several musical productions. Upon graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College she moved to New York City and is very excited to now be working at Gaynor Minden’s flagship boutique as a customer care and fitting specialist.
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Ella Gregory
Fitting Specialist

Ella Gregory joined the Gaynor Minden team upon moving to New York. Trained in the Cecchetti method from a young age, she brings her dance expertise to both the stage and studio. After interning with multiple ballet costume shops, she developed a passion for sewing, design, and costuming. Ella now studies fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a focus in construction. Ella serves as a part-time fitter at Gaynor Minden’s New York City flagship boutique and offers sewing services to local dancers.
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Chelsea Hannah
Customer Service Associate

Chelsea grew up in metro-Detroit dancing from the age of three. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop. She started college as a dance major with focus in ballet, but found that her passion laid within the pointe shoe industry. While studying for her B.A. in business administration, Chelsea found her love for pointe shoes while working at her local dance shop. For 8.5 years, she managed the store, taught dance at various local studios, and danced with contemporary dance companies in Michigan. Chelsea now resides in North Carolina and provides customer service support to Gaynor Minden’s wholesale customers.
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Florrie Huang
Chief Representative in Greater China

Florrie started ballet at age 6 and was trained under Ms Pingping Wang, former principal dancer of the National Ballet of China until age 21, and has continued training in London and Shanghai in the RAD syllabus ever since. She received her RAD Advanced Certificate in 2015. Florrie studied finance at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, and fashion marketing at London College of Fashion. Additionally, while in London (2007-2012) she learned footwear design and manufacturing at the Prescott & Mackay School of Fashion and Accessory Design.
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Sarah Jannsen
Products Manager

Sarah grew up in the Boulder, CO area, where she trained at the Colorado Conservatory of Dance. She earned her BFA in Dance and BA in Business from Marymount Manhattan College, graduating with honors from the National Dance Education Organization. Upon graduating, she danced professionally with New York Dance Project and taught at Ballet Academy East. She still enjoys dancing and teaching in freelance and workshop opportunities.

  Sarah has been with Gaynor Minden since 2018, starting as a fitting specialist and building her passion for Pointe shoes. She now works in Products – focusing on shoe development, testing and fitting.

Robyn Jutsum
Communications Manager

Robyn grew up in Minneapolis, MN where she began her pre-professional training with Ballet Arts of Minnesota and later Minnesota Dance Theatre. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Butler University in 2016 with her BFA in Dance Performance and a minor in Journalism. Following graduation, Robyn moved to NYC to continue dancing as a freelance artist, performing in project-based works and as a member of Eglevsky Ballet. From 2017-2022, she was on staff at All Star Studios in Forest Hills, Queens. She previously worked for Rachel Neville Dance Photography in Client Relations and Marketing before joining the Gaynor Minden team in 2019 as a Fitting Specialist. During the pandemic, Robyn began her Certificate in Nonprofit Arts Management program through NYU, and she served as the Marketing Manager for The Ballet Spot, a hybrid adult ballet fitness studio. Robyn returned to Gaynor Minden in November 2021 where she was Marketing Assistant before becoming Communications Manager in Spring 2023.

Molly McDonald
VP of Operations

Molly is originally from Dayton, Ohio, where she began dancing at Dayton Ballet School at the age of three. Throughout high school, Molly danced with Gem City Ballet under the direction of Barbara Pontecorvo, and attended summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Molly graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in English and a minor in Dance, and moved to NYC to pursue her MA in Arts Administration at Columbia University. Molly has held internships with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Boston Ballet School, Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, The George Balanchine Trust, The New York Choreographic Institute at New York City Ballet, and The Joyce Theater. While completing her master’s degree, Molly worked as an Administrative Associate at John Jasperse Projects and as the Managing Director of Cornfield Dance. Upon graduation from Columbia, Molly served as a Christian missionary through the World Race, working in 11 countries throughout Eastern Europe, Southern Africa, and Southeast Asia. One month after returning to the United States, Molly joined Gaynor Minden’s amazing operations department!

Elisa Mestres
Customer Service Associate

Elisa is originally from Paris but was raised in the captivating south of France, where her ballet journey began. Following high school, she joined the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich to complete her ballet training. In 2012 she joined the Bavarian State Ballet as a professional Ballet Dancer where she performs all year long!

Beyond ballet, Elisa holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Language and Economics, alongside a Master’s in Economic Development. She find joys in hiking, surfing, boxing, and all outdoor activities.
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Melissa Mohan
IT Support

Originally from Missouri, Melissa went to college in North Carolina and earned her BA in Dance from Meredith College, and her MFA in Dance from UNC-Greensboro. In Greensboro, she performed with Gamble/Van Dyke Dance for a season before deciding to move to NYC. A lot has happened since that move in 1995! She met her now husband, started working for Gaynor Minden, taught modern dance, performed with Donna Goffredo & Dancers, became a mother to twin daughters, taught modern dance again and found her love of hiking.

Hanna Olvera
Products Associate

Hanna is from a small city in Finland. She began her ballet training at the age of 4 and has a BA in Dance and Art from Savonia University. Upon graduating she continued to dance and teach internationally, and has lived in Iceland, Germany and most currently in New York where she continues her dancing and teaching career. Hanna has an interest in anatomy and kinesiology, and wrote her thesis about dance injuries, studying the dancers of Finnish National Ballet. Since then she has educated herself with different holistic healing methods and earned a certificate in Thai Massage. Hanna was thrilled to join the Gaynor Minden team in 2015 and it’s innovative idea of a better pointe shoe. She works closely with the head of design and in the products department.
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Anna Pearson
Sales Manager

Anna grew up in Southeast Michigan, training pre-professionally at the Academy of Russian Classical Ballet and at summer intensives across the US. She graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance and spent 3 years in Salvador, Brazil dancing at a local studio and exploring beautiful South America. Anna started as a full-time fitter and wholesale assistant at the Gaynor Minden Boutique in New York City and now works as a Sales Manager with both the USA and International Sales Teams. Anna resides in NYC and is responsible for business development in the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest regions of the United States.
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Jessica Pelletier
Sales Director

Jessica grew up in Southern New Hampshire studying ballet under the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and American Academy of Ballet (AAB) syllabi. She earned a BFA in Dance and Arts Administration from George Mason University before moving to New York City and pursuing a performing career with several independent choreographers. While performing she found a passion for teaching and was certified as a National Dance Institute teacher, working with organizations bringing dance to underprivileged youth throughout the city and surrounding boroughs. She began working in dance retail in 2010 which led to a position concentrating on fitting education at the manufacturer level. She has remained committed and passionate about the education and science behind the “perfect” fitting pointe shoe—believing strongly that a great experience, at any level, inspires lifelong lovers of ballet.

Jessica is responsible for direct to consumer business development.
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Maria Phegan
Business Development Manager

Maria Phegan has had a 28 year international ballet career. She has performed with San Francisco Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Bayerisches Staatsballett (Bavarian State Ballet – Munich, Germany), Houston Ballet, New York City Opera, and the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. She has spent the last twelve years performing with the Metropolitan Opera while also supporting dancers as a union delegate, a member of the AGMA Met Negotiating Committee, and on the AGMA Board of Governors. Maria completed her 200-hour YTT at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in 2007, holds a certification in Prenatal Yoga from YogaWorks, and holds advanced certifications in children’s mindfulness, meditation, and yoga from Deep Play for Kids. Maria is currently a Staff Wellness Instructor with Exhale to Inhale, a non-profit supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. Maria holds a B.A. in Political Science, with a focus on International Relations, from the School of General Studies at Columbia University.
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Natalie Pitt
B2B Marketing & Experience Manager

Natalie, an “enlightened” blonde from Huntington Beach, CA, moved to New York City in 2017 to work with Gaynor Minden. A professional dancer for 10 years, Natalie performed all over the world with renowned companies and shows. She made her start as a ballerina with Festival Ballet Theater in Southern California and went on to perform with The Disneyland Resort, Celebrity Cruise Lines, and Donn Arden’s Jubilee! in Las Vegas, NV. Hoping to use her communications studies degree from California State University, Long Beach, Natalie worked with a number of clients on their digital marketing campaigns, honing her skills in graphic design, social media, and public relations in Los Angeles at Fox Studios, Hypomania Content, National Charity League, Inc., and Elite Resorts & Spas. Natalie is happy to be serving on the Gaynor Minden team specializing in Wholesale Marketing and Customer Experience Management.
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Libby Riddick
Fitting Specialist

Libby Riddick is a native of Jacksonville, FL. Growing up, she attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in high school. Libby attended SUNY at Purchase College in the School of the Arts Dance Conservatory BFA program. After graduating she interned with American Ballet Theatre in Special Events. She first joined Gaynor Minden the spring of 2018 before becoming a member of “An American in Paris” 2020 National Tour. Libby is a freelance dancer and was most recently a member of the 2022 “An American In Paris” and “South Pacific” National Tours before rejoining the Gaynor Minden team summer 2023.
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Jeanne Share
VP of Special Projects

Jeanne was born in Atlanta, and grew up in North Carolina. She trained in ballet from the age of 6 to 20, including summer intensives and zillions of Nutcrackers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French with a minor in Art History from Wake Forest University. She studied abroad in Europe before moving to France for two years to teach disobedient school children. While at Wake Forest, Jeanne worked at Carolina Dancewear (one of Gaynor Minden’s first customers!). Visiting an old friend at the Gaynor Minden office in early 2005 led to an international sales assistant position, and the rest is history. She is now Gaynor Minden’s Vice President of Special Projects, and lives in Amsterdam, spreading the GM love throughout Europe, Russia, and beyond.
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Lisa Ushino
Senior Brand Creative

Lisa was born and raised in Southern California and has danced professionally with Houston Ballet, Ballet Tucson, Festival Ballet Theatre, and Rochester City Ballet, in addition to various guesting opportunities. In 2015, after dancing professionally for 10 years, she moved to NYC. Lisa joined the Gaynor Minden family in 2016.
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Madeline van Haaften-Schick
VP of Art & Marketing

A New York City native, Madeline grew up immersed in dance. She took her first dance class at age three and trained in ballet at The School at Steps. In college, she developed an interest in dance history, with a focus in 20th century ballet. Madeline also has years of experience in graphic design and photography. Prior to joining Gaynor Minden, she worked in marketing in the music industry and art world. She is thrilled that she can bring her passions together in her current role as VP of Art and Marketing at Gaynor Minden.
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Nuria Varela Vilor
Logistics and Operations Manager

Dancing since age 5, Nuria pirouetted through life to graduate in ballet at the Jose Uruñuela Dance Conservatory in Vitoria, Spain by 19. Then ( plot twist!) she did a grand jeté into Mechanical Engineering, but always kept her dance shoes close by. She enjoys continuing her education, and also holds several Master’s degrees in Renewable Energies, International Trade and Business, and Education.

Nuria began teaching ballet at 19 and hasn’t stopped since, including other styles such as jazz, heels, contemporary. She also ventured into the world of aerobic gymnastics and represented Spain on the global stage. Her love for dance led her to become a part of her hometown’s basketball team dance ensemble, contributing as both a dancer and choreographer.

While twirling through different engineering roles, and living in various places like Gante, Shanghai, and NYC, it was in 2021 when Nuria found the perfect harmony at Gaynor Minden, a company where she is able to blend her engineering and dancer personas.
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