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Industry pays tribute to Julia Sutton and reflects on her legacy

Tributes pour in for 'a legend in the wellness industry' after fatal hit-and-run accident
Julia Sutton, founder of exhale Spa, impacted 'thousands' across the world
She is remembered as a pillar of strength and tenacity, and for her warmth, supportive nature and infectious smile
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Julia Sutton, co-founder of exhale Spa, was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident in New Jersey in January while jogging. Many in the industry have been left in shock and mourning at the sudden news, especially as the 56-year-old founder of the spa and fitness brand passed away while doing something as life-affirming as running.

On exhale’s Instagram account, the company shared the news, saying:

“Our hearts are broken, and we're deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Julia Sutton, our founder, innovator, leader and mentor.

"Not many individuals can say they’ve had a profound impact on thousands of lives around the world, but Julia was unlike any other visionary and will always remain a legend in the wellness industry.

"The exhale family will forever be grateful for Julia’s vision, passion and love for this brand. The heart and dedication Julia put into her work life matched the vibrancy, love and joy she brought to this world outside of the office. She was often our reminder to live life to the fullest and take care of ourselves.”

Spa Business spoke with a few of those thousands of lives whom Sutton impacted, reaching out to industry leaders about her legacy.

Annbeth Eschbach, exhale co-founder and Kindbody CEO

“The exhale community has lost a leader, an angel and the central source of connection and community.

"The wellbeing industry has lost a force; a quiet revolutionary. Julia was a pioneer, an innovator and a connector.

"Ted Sutton, Samantha, Hannah and Bridgett have lost a wife, a mother, a source of inspiration and the daily love and support of Julia.

"I have lost the best partner I have ever worked with in two companies over more than 30 years.

"Julia taught me many things:• How to do an effective Irish Goodbye.

• How to keep my to-do or follow-up lists – to make sure that Julia stopped giving me lists.• How ‘balance’ is uniquely personal; you can be ‘happy’ working non-stop and building a family if you have lists, meditate and exercise!

• How lifting people up authentically is good for both culture and performance.• How you build respect from all levels of an organisation by leading, executing and doing what no one would ever expect you to do: work the front desk, fold laundry, unpack boxes and more.

"I know with confidence that Julia is disrupting heaven. She's creating a better reality filled with happiness, meditation, healing and connection. She is the CEO of the angels, and we'll be able to experience a better heaven when we join her. Onward and upward.”

Mia Kyricos, president and chief love officer (CEO), Kyricos & Associates

“Julia was, hands-down, the best operator I knew in the spa and wellness space. Over 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to work with Julia and Annbeth at the very first flagship exhale Mind Body Spa in New York City. During that time, Julia taught me everything I knew about the intricacies and nuances of spa operations; lessons I still remember today.

"We became lifelong friends and supported each other through our respective careers in the wellness space. I not only admired her professionally, but also as a mother, wife and friend. She was a pillar of strength and tenacity and a constant reminder of how to both work and play hard.

"Her priorities were always in the right place. She was one of the first people in my life who championed the idea that self-care was not selfish, but a requirement to live your best life and show up for the people you love and lead.

"She was my first boss in the industry, and I became one of her last, but titles never mattered to us. Only friendship, and showing up for each other when it mattered most. She and her wonderful husband, Ted, did just that with a visit to Maine at the end of 2023; a visit that I will always cherish. At the time, she was living her best life with the man and family that she deeply and fiercely loved, and for whom she was enormously grateful. And that’s how I will always remember her.”

Susie Ellis, chair, Global Wellness Institute and Global Wellness Summit“Julia’s impact on the industry was immense. I will never forget receiving the invitation to the opening of exhale in New York so many years ago…it was a clever (and memorable) paper sandal that said to me ‘this is something different, creative and very appealing.’

"Over the years, I watched exhale go from strength to strength. And in 2015, when I moved from New York to Miami, I decided to purchase a residence at the Epic Hotel largely because it contained an exhale Spa.

"Julia introduced a new way to look at fitness and spa that has had a profound impact on the industry, even today. I admired Julia greatly and know that those close to her spoke as highly of her warmth and character as the work that she did.”

Michael Bruggeman, CEO of One Well World, Organic Male OM4 and haia

“Julia was always one of those people who whenever she saw you, her eyes would light up, and that big infectious smile and her outstretched arms beckoned, ‘come here you!’

"Whenever we met, that same positivity could pierce a soul. Julia was the type of person you could ask for anything, and her follow-through was instantaneous. Sometimes as resource partners, our emails gradually float down the inboxes of the spa leaders with whom we work. Not with Julia. You could always expect a response the very same day.

"I always felt like we were true partners and shared a deep interest in each other's success. Julia was a wellness leader like no other. I will miss Julia always and her beautiful face and expression are emblazoned into my memory.”

Jessica Wadley, VP of business development, Oakworks“Oakworks and I personally had the privilege of working with Julia since the inception of exhale. She was a pioneer of integrating spa with fitness, and the most authentic embodiment of wellness.

"As a manufacturer, our job is to service our customers, yet Julia always found a way to weave in concern for our wellbeing and cheer us on. I can hear her now telling me ‘you can do it’ with that glorious electric smile. I always admired her as a high achiever and as inspiration for prioritising fitness, nutrition and self-care.”

Anna Moine, founder, ALM Consult

“The gift of networking was a common trait that Julia and I shared, and we loved and lived to make connections happen in our wellness community.

"Creating a supportive, encouraging environment for young entrepreneurs and established professionals drove our passion and desire to help others succeed.

"This past December, I introduced Julia to an entrepreneur, Jessica Morelli of Palermo Body, who was completing a round of raising money to support her launch in the spa distribution channel. Julia was intent on helping her and immediately introduced her to other key players and they agreed to continue their conversation.

"When Jessica heard the news, she immediately reached out and shared this: ‘Julia was kind, supportive and energetic. I felt like I could accomplish anything after speaking with her'.”

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Julia Sutton, co-founder of exhale Spa, was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident in New Jersey in January while jogging. Many in the industry have been left in shock and mourning at the sudden news, especially as the 56-year-old founder of the spa and fitness brand passed away while doing something as life-affirming as running.

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