Founder Stories: Rachelle Starr
Access Ventures wants to celebrate the journey of the individuals behind our investments and partnerships. Founder Stories are a series of conversations with entrepreneurs, partners and founders in our portfolio. We will explore the motivation, inspiration, and innovation that drives the spirit of entrepreneurship in the workplace, as well as provide insight to balance our regular workdays.
In this fifth installment of our Founder Stories series, we talked with Rachelle Starr, Founder of Scarlet’s Bakery. Scarlet’s Bakery is a enterprising nonprofit in Louisville’s Shelby Park neighborhood that serves delicious baked goods to both retail and catering clients. We recently spoke with Rachelle about entrepreneurship, impact and the obstacles she has run into along the way. Here is what she had to say.
Why does Scarlet’s Bakery exist?
Scarlet’s Bakery exists to create beautiful and delicious treats while employing and empowering women that need a fair chance.
What are you hoping to accomplish or what kind of impact are you hoping to create through Scarlet’s Bakery?
My hope is that women that have been exploited or trafficked have a safe and secure place of employment that they are able to receive the care and skills they need to have lasting changes in their lives. If we can accomplish this alongside providing our customers with delicious treats then we have hopefully made a huge impact.
How does Scarlet’s Bakery help empower women?
Instead of giving a woman in need just a hand out we desire to teach each women how to build their lives by gaining the skills and tools that she needs to rebuild her life which empowers them to regain their self esteem and dignity.
Do you feel profit and impact can coexist?
Absolutely. The more profit we make the more we can have a bigger impact on our mission.
Describe your path to what you are doing now?
I had a dream to open a bakery over a decade ago and then I founded the organization Scarlet Hope which exists to share the hope and love of Christ with women in the adult entertainment industry. The path that we have taken to get to the point of opening a bakery that employs women out of exploitation has been a long and trying path. We have learned from our mistakes, experiences, and every open door that we have been given.
How does Scarlet’s Bakery help build a more inclusive economy?
Scarlet’s Bakeries approach is to hire and train women that would otherwise not be given an opportunity for employment due to their backgrounds or social issues that may exist within the population we serve. We give each woman that we hire opportunities for growth within our business and provide additional resources to her and her family to help make her more sustainable for her future.
How would you define entrepreneurship?
I think it’s the ability to take a risk on creating a better life for others. Entrepreneurship can be the catalyst for creating value for others, value that is not just financial. Social value, spiritual value, and of course the opportunity for financial growth as well.
Is there a story you’d like to share about the kind of impact Scarlet’s Bakery creates either in you, your staff, customers, or in the world?
Scarlet’s Bakery has had a tremendous impact in my personal life. Even though I feel like I have the tendency to shoot first and aim after, Scarlet’s Bakery has forced me to at least look for where the target is first. Even though I’m still growing in this area, I know that in order to be successful the bakery needs both types of people: conservative and risk takers. Kaleigh is another fantastic success story. She started out as a counter associate and was promoted multiple times all the way into the top manager position. These promotions allowed her to continue her education and she now has a radiology degree and works at University of Louisville Hospital.
What’s been the hardest thing about starting an enterprising nonprofit?
The hardest part of being an enterprising nonprofit is the balance of profit and impact. We know we must make a profit in order to continue to have an impact. However we want to display our mission publicly, yet still have a great product that people would buy without the mission. Balancing both of these is difficult at times.
What advice would you give to someone starting their entrepreneurial journey?
Don’t be afraid of risk. Hustle hard day and night. Nothing comes easy. There is no such thing as passive income. Sometimes you fail, big deal. Form relationships, as those relationships will define your future. Money isn’t everything. Energy is a limited resource. Don’t chase fads. Don’t compromise your morals or vision. Trust Jesus.
Don’t be afraid of risk. Nothing comes easy.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Mostly just putting out fires that are in my face. On a great day, I’ve woken up early, organized my emails early, worked on Scarlet’s Bakery in the morning. The afternoon could be working in the bakery with the women that are part of the mission. The part I love most about Scarlet’s Bakery is the fact that I get to work one-on-one with the women in the ministry. Whether it’s an employee or a women in the program. I love seeing the personal impact that Scarlet’s Bakery is making on their lives.
What obstacles and barriers did you have to overcome in order to get Scarlet’s Bakery off the ground?
I’d say getting enough people aligned with the vision and moving in the same direction. Starting was honestly the easiest part. It’s been managing and growing that’s been way more difficult. Finding someone that is invested in the mission and isn’t a clock-in-clock-out employee is very rare. Most people seem to want to just coast by and don’t have the entrepreneurial attitude.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken as an entrepreneur/founder?
Starting Scarlet’s Bakery. Having my personal name on everything has been very hard as it’s left no room for failure. (Even though that’s not true, sometimes it feels like there’s not room for failure). I think that creating something from nothing is inherently risky, and adding to that trying to care and help those in our community that need help and care is a risk. But I feel that this is exactly what I have been called to in my life.
Do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something bigger than yourself?
I feel a responsibility to do something that would be a voice for the voiceless and to extend grace and love to those that are greatly in need. I’ve always been a person that wants to stand up for others and when I realized I could be part of the change in the world that made me even more passionate about contributing to a much bigger picture than myself.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
HR. Finding and hiring someone that is invested in the mission as much as I am. PR. Balancing the mission with the product. Often times the product does seem to be the mission. Also balancing the demands of entrepreneurship with my personal life.
What do you think makes the Scarlet’s Bakery team — and how you all work together — unique?
We all care about empowering women and training and caring for them. So it’s less about job performance for the women and more centered around holistic change and personal growth. Being united in a common mission is what brings us together.
What advice would you give to someone new joining your team?
To buckle up buttercup.
What personal rules do you abide by?
Jesus at the center. Don’t give up, God is in control. Love others like they’ve never been loved before. Protect those that need protected. Defend the defenseless. Forget the haters. Rest when it’s time to rest, and when it’s not time to rest, hustle like there is no tomorrow.
Love others like they’ve never been loved before.
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
I want Scarlet’s Bakery to empower and help thousands of women leave the sex industry. My legacy would be breaking the generation of bondage that these women and their kids have been under. Through the grace of God to still be doing this for decades in the future with a loving family beside me.
What’s next for Scarlet’s Bakery? What excites you about the future of the business?
There is too much to even write. Second location? Food truck? Turning Scarlet’s Bakery into a franchise that goes national and then international. Paying off our debt. Having dozens of women in and graduating our program.