Julia Robinson ’02 Receives Young Alumni Achievement Award

The Rivers community welcomed Julia (Williamson) Robinson ’02 back to campus on Monday morning to honor her with the 2017 Young Alumni Achievement Award. Robinson recalled the various opportunities Rivers gave her to try new things and challenge herself, and credits those experiences for giving her the confidence she needed to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Robinson is the owner of Modern Barre, a fitness studio that practices a full-body, low-impact workout program built from the foundations of ballet, pilates, yoga, and meditation. She opened her first studio in Chestnut Hill in August of 2013 and has since expanded the business to include two additional locations in West Acton and Brighton.
Along the road from Rivers to Modern Barre, Robinson picked up skills in brand development and sales to add to her passion for dance and fitness. Her professional resume includes established businesses like Bank of America, start-up companies like Oribe and Living Proof, and a two-year stint as a member of the New England Patriots’ cheerleading squad.
“My Rivers experience created the foundation for my path and gave me the confidence to explore new opportunities, to persevere through challenges, and to always stay engaged,” Robinson said in her speech. “As I look back I mentally connect the serendipitous puzzle pieces that brought me to where I am today.Every lesson, every decision, every action has meaning. Doors always open when you least expect it, and when one closes another one opens.  When you’re focused, working hard, and determined to hit your goal there will be a door for you.”
Robinson related one story from her time selling products for Oribe where she felt doors closing all around her as she walked up and down Newbury Street peddling hair care products. With the July heat and disappointment wearing on her, Robinson stopped at a Starbucks to buy a water and ran into a former colleague whose best friend owned a salon around the corner. Her determination to push through the disappointment led to a sale and opened doors that she never would have know were there.
The grind of sales work only intensified Robinson’s passion for exercise and saw it as an opportunity to decompress and meditate. A collegiate cross country and lacrosse player at Hamilton College, Robinson’s workout of choice had always been running, but a friend from her time with the Patriots introduced her to barre and changed the course of her career.
“Wanting to combine my knowledge of business development, passion for dance and athletics, and need for creativity, my mission quickly turned to building a business and a community that would inspire others, encourage the development of physical and mental strength, and provide an escape from the everyday pace of life,” Robinson said. “I spent a full year researching, teaching classes, and developing a brand identity for my company.  Finally, in August 2013 I took a leap of faith, left my job with a modest savings, and opened Modern Barre. I decided I wanted to put my energy into my own company, giving myself limitless potential to create and offer a service I was truly passionate about.”
Robinson now simultaneously wears all of the hats she had worn at different times throughout her career. In addition to teaching classes, she develops new programs for her instructors, manages company finances, markets the business, speaks to clients, and oversees 13 employees across three locations. She has traded a traditional 9-to-5 job for the non-stop life of a small business owner – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“At the end of the day, knowing that I’ve put everything into a business that I have grown from scratch, and seeing the community of clients that benefit physically and mentally from the studios makes it all worth it.”
Rivers’ Young Alumni Achievement Award was established by the Alumni Council in 2014 to recognize a recent graduate who models the spirit and values of The Rivers School, is a living example of Excellence with Humanity through professional, academic, and/or volunteer roles, and has demonstrated leadership, excellence in his/her chosen career, and an interest in and commitment to serving others.