We had the good fortune of connecting with RACHEL SVOBODA and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi RACHEL, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
“The biggest risk in life is not risking.” – Sara Blakely, Spanx Imagine if you want to bake a cake from scratch and there is no recipe and you’ve never made a cake before. But you’ve seen other people do it, so you know it can be done. You fantasize about the end result of this delicious, mouth-watering cake you’re going to create that’s baked to perfection – fluffy, sweet, and symmetrical. You do your best to gather quality ingredients, measure, mix, bake, and watch the timer. Hoping for the best and knowing that if this cake flops, you have a back-up plan to order one from the local bakery. Now imagine that you want to build a company from scratch and there are no instructions and you’ve never started a company before. However, similarly you’ve seen other people do it, so you know it can be done. You fantasize about the end result of making money, gaining notoriety, and being successful. But where do you start? What are the ingredients? And there is no safety net or back-up plan that can be ordered from the local bakery to save the day if you flop. How do you justify taking a risk with your life? Career? Paycheck? Savings? Mental Health? Time? Entrepreneurs do this everyday and most will tell you it’s worth it. Here is why… ENTREPRENEURS CREATE SOMETHING THEY BELIEVE IN. I believe risks can be measured, like the ingredients in a cake. A few years ago, I wasn’t happy with the advertising agency options out there so I took the calculated risk to start my own business. Leaving behind the security of a steady paycheck and health insurance because I believed in my vision to create a new type of virtual advertising and public relations company. This was incredibly difficult because I’m a single mother of two children. There is no husband to swoop in and financially “sponsor” my life and the lives of my children if I flop. My first reaction was total and complete panic. I worked all day and would barely allow myself bathroom breaks or meal breaks. Then I would stay up almost all night too. It was an unsustainable pace and I was operating from a place of fear for three months. Then I had the quintessential “crisis of confidence” moment where I was offered a Partner/VP position at an established ad agency and jumped at the opportunity for security. Oddly eager to walk away from my dream that seemed too scary to continue. Ironically, I was warned by a mentor that within six-months I would regret this choice and be back on my own. Well..my mentor was right and it was a disaster! I wasn’t working around the clock, but I was working for someone else to fulfill their dreams instead of my own. It was the one thing I couldn’t sacrifice. That was the moment I knew for sure…I was an entrepreneur and would never take a “day job” again. So I went back out on my own with much more confidence and conviction. I paced myself. Took deep breaths and found a steady pace that I could sustain. The clients started to sign longer and larger retainers. I hired the right team. I joined the right networking and community organizations. I was 100% committed. Years later, I’m happy to report that the risk was worth the reward to create a company that myself and others believe in. In addition, I’m now a multipreneur with two more companies; Lynxx Spirits and Tailor Made Face Mask plus a fourth company in the works. I’ve figured out my ingredients and recipe to build a company and it’s my great joy to help others do the same. As Warren Buffett said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
“It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” – Warren Buffett Imagine if you’re driving to a new shopping mall that you’ve never been to before and you make a wrong turn. As the GPS re-routes you, maybe it takes an extra 10-minutes to arrive. This was a small mistake with a small repercussion. And since you’re a trained driver with many years of practice you know how to calmly steer yourself back onto the proper route. Well, now image that you’ve married the wrong man who is abusing you. What do you do? How do you course correct? And the repercussions are life changing, scary, expensive, and possibly life threatening. Nobody is born knowing how to deal with domestic violence. Dealing with abusers is a learned skill. It takes a tremendous amount of bravery, help from experts, and resources to guide you through this journey. My first-hand knowledge and experience as a Domestic Violence survivor was a mistake I only needed to learn once. Through this experience I gave myself permission to screw up and reframe failure as an opportunity to build resilience. I wasn’t a failure because I chose the wrong man. I was a leader because I had the courage and commitment to leave. I’ve learned how to stimulate change, no matter the risk. Now I apply that life lesson and skill of stimulating change to my company. Are we offering the right services? Do we have the right clients? Do we have the right staff? As Simon Sinek says, “Leaders learn the right way to make mistakes” and I accept the idea that leaders don’t always have all the answers. But if we live with intention instead of compliance then we can always course correct in order to create the environment we need to survive and thrive – basically re-routing our GPS along the journey. Since we don’t always know the answers, it’s a blessing to learn from others. In order to continue learning and sharing with others, I started “The Brunch Club” video podcast. The overall purpose is to give women a platform to champion their journey and tell stories about business, services, platforms and tools that empower women. The Brunch Club is where we raise a glass to all of the amazing diversely-faceted women through personal stories of inspiration and encouragement with careers, family, parenting, equality, mentorship and advice.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I recently read “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek and love thinking about friendship as an infinite relationship. With that in mind, to answer this hypothetical question, I believe it’s less important where I take my best friend to eat, what we drink or where we hang out. It’s more important how we feel when we’re together because we’ll remember the feelings more than we’ll remember the activities. I’ve had the same best friend since I was eight years old. We played soccer together. Went to college together and spent years seeing and speaking each day. For the past ten years we have lived three miles apart and see each other once or twice a year – but she is still my best friend, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because we have all five of the essential practices Simon Sinek outlines in his book. Now, he primarily applies these to business and leadership examples, but I believe they apply to friendship too: just cause, trust, worthy adversary, existential flexibility, and courage. Lifelong friendship is an emotional investment in the infinite relationship. This hypothetical weekend has a finite beginning and end, but the infinite relationship continues. My perfect relaxing weekend itinerary would include: exercise, beach or pool, happy hour cocktails, shopping, and going to see a movie! A couple of my favorite landmark places in Orange County are Lido Marina Village, Gulfstream in Newport Beach, and The Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. Of course, shopping at Fashion Island or South Coast Plaza are places I regularly frequent too. Just remember…it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’ve got great company!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
You can’t be what you can’t see: it is true for all of us — we rely on stories, examples, leaders or, in the purest, most basic form, images that inform us about who we are and what our potential is, and without these, we are left unaware and unable to be that which we cannot see. When I was younger and looked for examples of “what to be when I grew up” there weren’t a large majority of female options in my first-hand experience. I personally knew adult women who had chosen traditional options of teacher, home-mom, nurse, real-estate agent, and one lady with a corporate career. Subconsciously, I thought those were my primary options. I had studied great historical women in school and seen other options in the media, but I had absolutely zero idea how to pursue unknown paths or where to get more options. Keep in mind, the women from my mother and grandmother’s generations didn’t have the same opportunities and role models we have today. I went to UC Davis knowing 100% that I didn’t want to be a teacher, home-mom, nurse, or real-estate agent. I wanted to have some type of corporate career, but no idea how to make that happen. After college I still didn’t know what I wanted so I accepted an offer to law school. I didn’t know any lawyers and figured it was worth a try. After a year, I knew this was a mistake because my heart wasn’t in it and I felt isolated from my peers who all seemed to love this and I couldn’t understand why. Around that time…purely by coincidence, I visited Fraser Communications, an advertising agency in Los Angeles, and immediately fell in love. You know that magical “love at first sight” people use to describe finding “the one” (if you believe in that stuff), well that’s how I felt when I walked into an advertising agency. Everyone there was passionate, creative, and had contagious charismatic energy! From this starting point I met a bunch of women who were able to teach, mentor, inspire, lead, share, guide, and inspire me to forge ahead. I vigorously and relentlessly worked in this corporate industry for fifteen years before starting my own company. I started Sunday Brunch Agency because I wasn’t satisfied with the ad agency options out there and wanted to give a choice to women who wanted to be both mothers and executives. Now, my mission has expanded to include building more companies, services and tools that empower women. I’m determined to show my daughter that women can do it all! Starting Lynxx Spirits is my latest expression of making this happen because it’s the first-ever bourbon made by women, for women. If we can help a new wave of female entrepreneurs carve their own paths, I know that we will see many more walk in the same confident direction – leaving behind permanent pathways for future generations to walk. I dedicate this SHOUTOUT to all the women in my network and local community who are determined to find their purpose, create something they believe in and support others in their journey to do the same. “You can’t be what you can’t see.” These words have taken on a real meaning in my own life, and inevitably, I’m more compelled to see these words manifest in the lives of others around me as a result. One of my favorite feminist quotes is, “Behind every successful woman is a tribe of women who have her back.”
Frank Salles. Abbey Pickett.