If you think tidying up is life-changing magic, then you’re going to love Rachel Rosenthal. This organizing powerhouse began her professional organizing business, Rachel and Company, in 2007 and hasn’t looked back since. Recently, Rachel spoke to us about how she balances building a brand from the ground up and continuing to evolve her business with raising her identical twin girls.
What inspired your business idea?
Professional organizing wasn’t really a thing back when I started 11 years ago and I felt compelled to help people in some way. I had this type A personality and I wanted to figure out how to use that. I saw there was a need for people to find more order in their lives amongst the chaos going on. When I was in law school, I saw people drown in physical clutter and how that was contributing to all of their stress and anxiety. Physical clutter contributes to emotional clutter and I saw that there was a need and that I could help initially in that physical realm of things.
How did you know you were ready to go out on your own?
I don’t know if I ever felt secure with it full time, but I had a bunch more clients and I had to jump. I decided this can be a business, there seems to be a need, and I can do it easily and help people. My business ramped up pretty easily because I gave a lot of speeches at law firms because I knew that world, which made it an easier transition. Although I have since morphed and changed things – what I started out doing is not exactly what I’m still doing today. The basis of everything is there, but over the years I’ve changed and I’m evolving in terms of what we do and how my business looks.
What are your three greatest learnings from running your business?
The first one is that risk is necessary if you want to learn and grow. You have to take risks in your business otherwise your business is going to be static. The first risk I took was starting my business and still to this day my friends who are lawyers ask me, “How did you do it?” You just have to take risks.
I also think that teamwork is essential to any business that is operating successfully. I am a one-woman show, but I know that I need team members, whether they’re independent contractors or employees, because that is what’s making my business successful. Not having another person to talk to or to strategize with is not going to create a successful business.
The third one is staying curious. I’m always curious about what’s going on in my industry or different trends that are happening outside of my industry, or how the world is operating. For example, right now in social media – that wasn’t happening ten years ago the way it is now, so you have to always be open and curious to what’s going on outside your little bubble of your business.
Did you seek out contractors to help you?
I did hire a graphic designer because I knew that was one area I couldn’t even attempt to do on my own. However as a small business owner just starting out, I was doing everything and decided that was the way I had to go because I didn’t have the means or capital to outsource anything. So I continued to do everything on my own and as I grew over the years, I’ve been able to hire on. It’s been a better business decision for me, both legally for different tax reasons and not needing employees necessarily in that realm because I don’t have that much business for things like graphic design, website development, administrative support, executive assistance, and some of my organizing projects. I still continue to work with contractors in all of those areas.
When did you feel like you were generating enough revenue that you could hire more contractors?
When I felt like I had enough capital and business coming in that I had to outsource otherwise I was going to go underwater. It didn’t make sense for me to concentrate on things that I can’t do or things that I can do, but someone else can do better or quicker and I can take more time to do things like business development and work with my clients.
When did you feel ready to take on employees?
When I was saying “no” to clients a lot more than I was saying “yes.” I knew that in order to take on bigger, more exciting projects, I had to hire someone full time.
What has been most surprising about creating a successful business?
How much work it takes. As a business owner, it’s not like you go home at 5 pm and start at 9 am. It’s 24/7 if you allow it to be. I’m always working when I’m out, in that people come up to me or I go up to them, and I’m shy, but if I’m talking to someone, I ask about their profession and give them my card. It’s 24/7 and more work than I thought it would be initially.
How do you find some semblance of balance?
It has to be put into my schedule just like anything else is, like a doctor’s appointment. I need downtime and self-care, which means being vigilant about my weekends in terms of what I’m going to do, what I’m not going to do, and having my clients not text me. Putting boundaries around work makes a huge difference.
I always say that if you go down, the ship goes down, especially with children or a spouse or anything like that. You have to be able to take care of yourself. I was just sick last week and I was traveling, and it was rough, so I had to cancel a few things one day because I had to be the one functioning for everyone and my business.
When did you feel like you had “made it” in the industry?
I actually felt I made it when I gave birth to my identical twin girls and ended up with a front-page story of the Style section in the Washington Post. A writer had been following my business for the previous few months and decided I would be the perfect person to talk about organizing for multiples. The picture was the biggest picture I have seen to date on the cover – it extended below the fold!
How do you manage all of the components of your business?
It’s a juggle and I still don’t have it down because as a small business owner, you’re literally doing everything. I try to be efficient with my time. I make chunks of time in my schedule so I’m as productive as possible at different points in the day. I know my kids get home and I’m going to have to be done by a specific time and that might not be the best productive time, so I have to schedule other times before school or at night.
It’s also the what’s not working/what is working thing and having checks with yourself of how am I managing, how am I doing, am I managing this, am I not managing that? I regularly check in with myself to be sure I’m doing what I should be doing.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment, business-wise?
That is a really good question. I am not sure I have one. I am so grateful when clients tell me that it has been life changing working with us. I am proud of building a solid team and name for myself over the years where I am recognized not just locally but nationally for my work. And as a fun accomplishment, I love when I was in the front cover article of Real Simple – that was a special moment.
Rachel has created a thriving business all by tapping into her passion for helping people and identifying strengths within herself. For any entrepreneur, her story is exciting and aspirational. Her journey is unique and a testament to making her dream into a reality. By establishing a strong foundation and employing help when necessary, her business has and continues to flourish. We can’t wait to see what she does next!
Are you taking your freelance business full-time? Have a question for Rachel about how she turned her hobby into her career? Let us know how you’re setting yourself up for success in the comments section below.