Rachelle Hruska, Guest of A Guest, Woman Entrepreneur
I went to a Mothers Day breakfast the week of Mothers Day. A small event of about 15 women. Some of us knew each other and others did not. We sat around the table eating a delicious meal at Joseph Leonard of eggs, avocado toast or granola and yogurt and each of us told our story. Our name, what we did, and of course how our children were part of our life. After all, we are all mothers.
Rachelle sat at the head of the table and briefly told her story. She was a brand new Mom, had started a business and was in the process of taking over the business herself and buying out her partner. Trust me, it isn't the first time I have heard this story and how overwhelmingly painful it is on every level. She had that drive, ambition and fire in her belly that I see in entrepreneurs. Her business, Guest of a Guest has a tremendous data base of photos of events that have happened all over the world. They cover events, places and people. Soon after our breakfast she sent me an email and I was delighted to get together with her.
Rachelle grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is the middle sibling and her family still resides there.
Her father is a physical therapist and her Mom runs the business side of his practice. She went to a strict Catholic high school and after graduating did not go to far but off to Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska. Rachelle wanted to be pre-med major with a desire to be a child psychiatrist.
Life can turn on a dime. Her freshman year of college, Rachelle is driving back from Colorado with her boyfriend of many years and their car is hit by a semi-trailer truck. The truck driver was changing lanes and did not see them in his blind spot. Their car rolled over the median into the ditch upside down in the other lane. They both survived. She had broken her neck and hospitalized for a week. She was out of commission for six months. It is a miracle she lived to tell the tale.
Rachelle herself says she is not even sure she is the same person that she was before the accident. There was something about surviving that accident that pushed her to move out of her comfort zone. She went back to Creighton and finished college. She had to prove to herself that she could pick her self up and do it. Then something else happened, although minor, it changed everything for her. I got it. Sometimes it is an incident that is so simple that everything just clicks.
She was having people over for a party and asked her boyfriend to go out and get some cheese for the party. He came back with a brick of Kraft. She looked at the cheese and thought, I don't want to live like this for the rest of my life. I want more. She realized that she needed to live in the present, she didn't want to go to medical school and she wanted to move to NYC.
Rachelle graduated from Creighton and made the move to NYC. She just had to do it. Her family was not thrilled with her move. She didn't ask for any support or money. She came, slept on mattress on a floor while living out of a back pack with some friends trying to find a job. She was homesick and came home for Xmas but realized when she got there that she couldn't live in Nebraska anymore and returned to NYC. When she returned she landed a job at Baron Capital Group. It was a life changer.
For 2 1/2 years she basically was the assistant for the entire office. They were doing a deal with Berkshire Hathaway which was in Omaha and they knew she was from there so they asked her to come along on the G5. The whole company went out. On the flight she told Ron Baron about her uncle who owned a large farm in Nebraska working on ethanol. He was intrigued with her and after that trip she became his personal assistant.
She started taking classes and learning about the business. She was able to sit in meetings with Ron and the portfolio managers. There were also some super strong women there that were mentors to Rachelle. Ron had built this incredible company with powerful women. It was impressive. They told her she should go to business school.
After sitting in many of these meetings, transcribing them while listening and learning she decided this is not what I want to do. Here she was this girl from Nebraska sitting in on meetings where they were investing in brilliant entrepreneurs and she thought I knew what I want to do, I want to have my own company, I do not want to be the investors behind the company, I want to be the entrepreneur.
That was a big moment. While she was working, she had a blog called Guest of A Guest that she was writing. She had met someone early on in NYC and he was reading what she was doing and pushed her to make it into a real business. She was scared but there are those moments where you say I either do this now or I never will. She figured I can always go to business school and I can always come back to Barons but now is the time to jump. So she did.
That guy, Cameron Winklevoss, who gave her the advice also gave her some money to begin to build the business and he came in as a partner. I have seen it before and I am sure I will see it again. In my opinion, as the business grew their visions were not aligned. Truth is, to me, it was never his vision, it was always Rachelles. That is one of the tough things of bringing in a partner after you have created the concept vs creating the concept together.
Never pretty breaking up but Rachelle has always managed to move forward and she has here too. She now owns Guest of A Guest 100% and can really start to focus on taking her business to another level. Her journey has just begun and in many ways she is the mid-west girl from next door who goes to the big city to make all her dreams come true. So far she is doing a pretty good job.
Great story. Kraft cheese is definitely a deal-breaker!
I sent this to my boyfriend because he frequently talks about the virtues of Kraft singles, and it has been a sticking point for me for awhile now.
That kind of shock can really knock the stuffing out of someone. Rachelle seems to have positively used it as fuel to change her life. I’m glad that the business born of her vision is back under her direction.
Great story. Amazing how tragedy and struggle can birth entirely new, amazing and wonderful things. Very happy for her.
not everyone is able to take a tragedy and turn their life around. i give her huge credit for grabbing those reins.
They tend to destroy or define you, I guess.And I’m glad she chose to let it define her…
I have read Rachelle’s story before when I lived in NYC. I am always curious what drives people… hearing this part of her story is really interesting… and I know she’s a hard worker too! She had a vision and went with it. I do think it’s important to note that she also was smart enough to surround herself with bright, supportive people. It takes money and funding to make a business grow.. and if you connect with smart and well connected people- they will see the potential and help. As Malcolm Gladwell said in his book” Outliers” people who make it usually have had help… or luck… but mostly are smart enough to ask for help and support… Steve Jobs did. 🙂
Such a great story…the only part that is sort of skipped over is the ‘brand new mom’…I imagine that has played a very influential role in the recent journey as well.
there is no doubt it did.
Totally! It’s by far the most exciting project I’ve ever done.
The Near Death Experience is a common marketing ploy that people use to create their ‘story’. It invites you to picture them suffering and you feel soo glad that they made it out ok & on to a path of sucess. It makes you want to root for them, help them. What I find really sad about this is that this woman had planned to go into a field that actually helped & brought real value to others’ lives. But because of her accident she decided her life was best spent by taking pictures of parties. Sad.
who are you to pass judgement on the choices she made in her life