As both a business entrepreneur and an enthusiastic leader in Austin’s fitness community, Rashanna Moss has found success by following her passion. Now she’s on a mission to inspire others to do the same by coaching women to love and relentlessly follow their inner muse.
A self-described “wild child” of the ’80s—an era when it was still common for kids to play outside and ride their bikes through the neighborhood—Rashanna Moss found her first calling at the age of 5: fitness.
“Once I got my hands on a tennis racket, it was over. It was the love of my life and that’s what I pursued,” Moss says, reflecting.
Moss, now 36, grew up in a Catholic, Creole family that split their time with one foot in Houston and the other rooted deeply in Louisiana. Intimate family gatherings, home-cooked meals from moms and grandmothers and church service on Sundays were tradition. Cousins were plenty and play was the rule, not the exception.
Both of Moss’ parents came from athletic backgrounds—her dad played basketball and her mom ran track—so it was just a fact of fate that Moss’ skill as an athlete became apparent at a very young age. Two years prior to setting foot on a tennis court, she learned to ski.
Her parents were a loving couple cut from the same cloth: both embodied detailed, type A personalities, her mom working as an architect and her dad as an offshore structural designer.
“I denied all of that. I didn’t want anything to do with design,” Moss says, stifling a laugh. “Even sitting down and doing something meticulous was so…it made me so anxious because I just needed to be up and moving all the time. I played volleyball, basketball, swam and did track as well, but tennis was my focus.”
Dedicating herself to the sport was an experience Moss attributes to helping her understand at a young age what it means to have a career.
“It was one of those experiences that gave me a lot of life lessons early on. I was able to understand competition. I was able to understand what winning meant, what losing meant, strategy, physical strength, mental strength,” she says. “I think it made me really resilient because you have to understand what losing is. You have to get back up and you’ve got to do it again and you’ve got to understand what type of work it takes to get where you’re trying to go. I think it translated, in terms of setting me up, to just keep working and just keep grinding and not get distracted from the challenges, understanding that nothing is permanent. Change is what’s constant.”
Moss’ mother, Renetta Moss, remembers her daughter was in middle school when she first confided she didn’t want to grow up to work a desk job.
“It was after a psychology class in summer camp at Rice University that she decided she wanted a job that allowed her to work outside if she wanted and interact with people all the time,” Renetta Moss says, adding that her daughter also declared, “A desk job would shamefully confine [her]creative talents and interaction with people.”
Moss was hooked on the feeling she took away from the studio. She signed up for teacher training and, just two months after her first class, was interviewing with Pure Barre’s management team to open a studio in Austin.
“I felt like I really believed in what the technique was, to the point that it made sense to explore it further [beyond]just teaching. I wanted a bigger piece of the pie,” Moss says.
She felt called to Austin. It was a fit, health-conscious city, Moss reasoned, and a Pure Barre studio would do well there.
“Going from corporate into entrepreneurship when you weren’t planning on it is a shift,” Moss says of her career change. “It takes a long time to shift from that, ‘Hey, I’m in this corporate world and sport and fitness. That’s where I’m going to stay. That’s where I’m going to stay.’ You just kind of keep turning in that same circle and then you literally got to break things. You got to break so many of your thoughts and beliefs to completely open up to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to go open my own business.’ ”
Moss was already commuting between Nashville and Austin when the 1,000-year Tennessee floods hit Nashville in May 2010, inundating Moss’ home with 5 feet of water and catalyzing her decision to make the move to Austin. ”
“Seventeen days later, I packed up what was left in a U-Haul and drove down to Austin,” Moss says.
The biggest obstacle she faced in starting a new business involved opening in a city in which she didn’t know anyone.
“I knew a few people here and there, but I was about to start a business where I literally didn’t have a community, a foundation whatsoever,” Moss says. “That was challenging. Thank God I chose a city where people are so accepting and so open.”
TRUST IN YOURSELF
In August 2010, just three months after her move and only eight months after receiving her teacher-training certificate, Moss opened Pure Barre’s first location in Austin. It was the first barre studio to appear in the city and the 20th studio opening for Pure Barre, which now has more than 400 studios spread throughout the U.S.
“Somehow we hit the nail on the head, and next thing you know, within two weeks, our classes were full. I think that Austin is a city where females really embrace one another,” Moss adds, theorizing the studio’s immediate success. “I think females support each other here and are also very proud of each other here. I think that the fact that the city alone is very local and community-based really allows entrepreneurs to thrive.”
Fast-forward seven years and Moss now owns two Pure Barre studios in the Austin area, in addition to one location in Houston, and is responsible for managing 40 instructors and staff members.
The popularity of the low-impact, high-rewards workout continues to follow an upward trend, and Moss’ client base grows an estimated 25 percent each year. In addition to studio-enrollment stats, another number that continues to grow is that of Moss’ competition.
“To still be standing here when there is as much competition as there is and to honestly not just be the first barre studio [in Austin], but to have started literally a category of fitness is just an awesome thing. We are blessed to be here.
“There was something different about barre,” Moss says, reminiscing on the days when she was starting to familiarize herself with the workout. “It was the first thing that really started to change my body in ways that I really wanted it to change. It felt like, especially when I started in 2010, that this thing was going to be big. And that’s exactly what it became.”
Moss’ close friend Ana Martinez Stapleton was one of the first students to step into the Pure Barre studio.
“As an early customer there, I not only loved the workout, but immediately noticed her presence in the studio,” Martinez Stapleton says of Moss. “She exuded warmth, strength and happiness in that space and it created a real community for us. Years later, we are still all practicing together there, sharing our stories and joys and tears before and after class. It is rare that you feel that kind of bond and energy in your day-to-day routines, but that’s what Rashanna creates.”
Renetta Moss says her daughter initially bought into Pure Barre because she was inspired by the technique, but that “she quickly realized the secondary reason: to inspire her clients and others.”
“She seems to possess a knowing that sharing her knowledge and experiences are gifts to those she touches,” Renetta Moss says. “She loves her [Pure Barre instructors] and has an emotional connection with them. She considers them family.”
BE CREATIVE, TRY NEW THINGS
True to Moss’ inability to sit still for long, she soon began to crave more. Something was tapping her on the shoulder.
“It was just like, ‘Hey, there’s something else, there’s something else, there’s something else,’ ” Moss says of the voice in her head.
Just about a year ago, Moss joined forces with her fellow Pure Barre instructor and business partner, Shannon Pike, to start her blog, Moderna Muse. It’s an inspirational hub focused on health and fashion, in addition to encouraging self-growth in women, coaching them to embrace their truest, most powerful sense of self. It’s the kind of website a woman visits to be reminded of her strength and the female support system surrounding her.
“I think what spawned [the site]is…when you own a business for a while and you create the type of community that we’ve created at Pure Barre, where things are safe and tight knit, you start to have conversations that are beyond the workout,” Moss says. “I mean really deep conversations of what these women are going through and feeling. I wanted to create another avenue to bring this stuff to life and to reach a bigger set of people than just the one-on-one conversations I was having. That’s how Moderna Muse was born.”
The goal, Moss says, is to become a household name for women, in terms of a resource of inspiration.
In Martinez Stapleton’s words, Moderna Muse is “just a natural extension and embodiment of [Rashanna’s] spirit, [a resource]for those seeking a daily meditation or bright spot in their day.”
Blog posts, all written by Moss or Pike, range from topics like “Challenge Your Excuses” to “The Urgency of Now” and “Five Languages of Self-Love.”
“Most people are afraid to peel back the layers to discover who they are, but not Rashanna,” Renetta Moss says. “She has discovered that is when you truly grow and heal. It’s the start of loving yourself and others more deeply. [Moderna Muse] is where she expresses her true thoughts, feelings and views from a place of love and, therefore, unapologetically.”
LIVE FOR TODAY
It’s been seven years since the first Pure Barre location opened in Austin, and the studios continue to garner awards and recognition from the local fitness community. Moss is fluent in the practice of being her own boss and staying focused on the big picture, even though, she admits, she feels pulled in a million different directions every minute of the day.
“You’re always being poked to do something else somewhere. It is really hard to focus and, even sometimes, to prioritize,” she says. “You have to understand that your to-do list is never going to be done and you have to be OK with that.”
No matter how busy her schedule gets though, Moss is intent on staying close with the community of friends she’s made since moving to Austin.
“On a personal level, she is an amazing friend. She is the friend who sends flowers, handwrites cards, sends the random ‘How are you?’ text at exactly the right time. She remembers what’s going on in your life and takes your kids to the jumpy house when you are sick. She is the friend who shows up when you need her to and sees the very best in you,” Martinez Stapleton says. “Her energy is always uplifting and positive. I have never walked away from Rashanna feeling bummed out or depleted. It is the opposite: I feel energized, excited and ready for the next challenge.”
A recent post on her Moderna Muse Instagram account professed the following caption: “Up and up and up. When you reach the top of one flight, it’s time to build another. Living your muse is magical that way. … The more you live it, the more you’ll want to keep climbing, and the more ready you’ll be to keep going.”
In living her muse, Moss says she’s ready to start focusing more on love and, one day, starting a family.
“My personal life is probably bigger on the goal setting than before,” she says. “Figuring out the relationship thing, the kids, all of that, that is hugely important to me. I am going to really work to kind of balance this career life with personal life. Then, from there, I think it is just figuring out how to continue following passions and diversifying and being open to whatever that is, creating it my way rather than a preconceived notion of how it should be. If I want to have 10 different businesses and be married and have kids, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
RASHANNA MOSS’ BEST ADVICE FOR ENTREPRENEURS:
Stay true to yourself.
“I think a lot of people fall into the games of social expectations, corporate expectations, the politics and now, social media. Social media can skew someone so far right or so far left from where they actually are, from who they actually are. It’s very dangerous. You are who you are for a reason. Your vision, your inner spirit that’s talking is talking for a reason. Even though it may hurt a little bit to stay true to that, it’s what’s going to lead you to your path and your purpose in life.”