Women Who Achieve: Julia Karol
Generations Collaborate for Powerful Performance
Julia Karol worked at Jumpstart, a national early education nonprofit, before joining Watermill Group, a Boston-based private investment firm, in 2009. And even though she had no traditional finance or accounting training before joining the firm, she went in with an open mind, a positive attitude and plenty of intellectual curiosity.
Today, Julia is the president and chief operating officer of Watermill, a family-owned company committed to identifying high-potential businesses and providing strategic direction and hands-on operational support to help them grow. She has also been consistently honored among the 25 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A by Mergers & Acquisitions magazine, and was named to the 2019 40 Under 40 by the Boston Business Journal.
“I joined Watermill Group in investor relations, an area that aligned with my experience. Working with our investors was in many ways similar to how I had built relationships with nonprofit donors and constituents at Jumpstart,” Julia shares. “Through my conversations with investors, I immediately started learning about the world of mergers and acquisitions. Understanding their perspectives and concerns helped me not only fulfill their needs, but also immerse myself in the industry.”
Mentorship has played an important role in Julia’s development as well. Her father, who started the company with his father in 1978 as the private equity industry was just taking root, has been a pivotal mentor, as have many senior members of the Watermill team.
“The senior team invests in the younger cadre by generously sharing their expertise to help us build our own. While we bring fresh perspectives that help the firm recognize trends, patterns and companies likely to influence the future, they have intuitive wisdom built on decades of experience. They warn us of pitfalls, identify and fill gaps in our understanding, and challenge our assumptions. It’s a powerful collaboration,” Julia says.
WMX: Private Equity Opportunities for Women-Led Businesses
Julia’s vision for Watermill Group is to continue evolving while remaining true to the foundational values and culture that have upheld the business for more than 40 years. Notable is her 2020 launch of WMX, an initiative to improve access to capital and resources for women-led businesses.
“The statistics are irrefutable: Diverse management teams achieve greater returns and success than their peers. Yet only a small amount of late-stage private capital goes to female founders and gender-diverse teams,” says Julia. “Instead of waiting and hoping things would change in the private equity space, I thought, ‘We’re small, nimble, flexible and creative — we can do this!’ WMX is our commitment to accelerating change by investing in great teams led by women with a vision to build enduring businesses.”
Watermill Group’s ongoing success depends on this creative spirit among not only their own team members, but also their business partners. PNC, for example, consistently offers ideas to support the investment firm’s growth. “We have relied on PNC for thoughtful and creative solutions for nearly two decades. It’s great working with a team that is as solutions-oriented as we are,” Julia says. “PNC has been a tremendously strong partner for us.”
- Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, Mergers & Acquistions, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021
- Women of Influence Award, ACG (Association for Corporate Growth) Boston, 2019
- 40 Under 40, Boston Business Journal, 2019
- Emerging Leader, M&A Advisor, 2017
- Partner (2016-present), Board Member (2018-present), Social Venture Partners Boston
- Member, ACG Boston, 2013-present
- Member, YPO, 2017-present
- Past Mentor, Endeavor
- Member, Budget and Administration Committee, Combined Jewish Philanthropies
- Founder and Past Board Chair, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network
This article was originally published on 9/14/21 by ©2021 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.