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Sculpting a Business Sloan Evans ’99 and Rhett McCraw ’07 credit their liberal arts education with helping them build a strong foundation for their careers.

Sloan Evans ’99 (left) and Rhett McCraw ’07 talk about their business, Pure Barre, to Professor Marc Junkunc’s Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship class.

With over 460 studios across the United States and Canada, Pure Barre is the largest and most established barre franchise on the continent, and investors Sloan Evans ’99 and Rhett McCraw ’07 credit their liberal arts education for helping them get it there.

Evans and McCraw were back on campus in late January to offer career advice to current students during a panel discussion at Stackhouse Theater, and to talk to Professor Marc Junkunc’s Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship class.

“There are challenges and milestones and crossroads at every decision, and in your career, you’re going to come across those,” Evans said. “I think W&L prepares you for those kinds of things.”

For Evans and McCraw, Pure Barre, a workout concept that uses ballet-inspired movements to burn fat and sculpt lean muscles, was one of those crossroads.

McCraw works for WJ Partners in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His firm invested in Pure Barre in October 2012. At the time, Pure Barre operated 96 studios and had only three employees.

In December, Pure Barre appointed Evans as CEO after his successful career as CFO at Johnson Development Associates, Inc. Together, WJ Partners and Evans grew Pure Barre into a dominant franchise, opening 100 studios in 2015 and 83 more in 2016.

During the career panel, Evans credited his W&L experience for teaching him to navigate real world challenges. The CEO of Pure Barre said his team had to navigate challenges to which they did not have the answers.

“You’re never going to have 100 percent of the information. You’re going to have to make informed decisions,” Evans said.

He attributed his success to W&L’s liberal arts environment. Evans said he came into the Williams School eager to learn and build a strong foundation for his career. Throughout his four years, he was exposed to challenges that pushed him out of his comfort zone and taught him to think analytically and creatively.

McCraw, an engineering major at W&L, mirrored Evans’ sentiments. Although he did not spend much time in the Williams School, McCraw said his W&L experience developed his critical thinking and problem-solving skills. After graduating, McCraw returned to school to earn his M.B.A. and began a career in finance. He now holds the position of vice president at WJ Partners.

Evans and McCraw advised students to demonstrate their work ethic and ability to excel in any position, no matter how small or unimportant the position might seem.

“Whatever you do, do your absolute best at that specific job, and then other things will come from that,” McCraw said. “Other people will notice.”

Evans added that opportunities find those who work hard. When he began his career, he said, he felt that he was setting himself on a path for life, but he learned that hard work rewarded him with surprising opportunities.

Evans and McCraw concluded the career panel by expressing their confidence in W&L candidates to succeed.

“The intellectual diversity you have in a liberal arts environment makes you a very well-rounded and broad candidate,” McCraw said. “In the long run you’re going to be a better executive, a better leader.”