Rachel Beisel has always been fascinated with how things are made, and she knows from experience that life itself is often what you make it.
The 35-year-old entrepreneur and senior vice president for CableLabs — a nonprofit research and development company that serves the cable industry — is a self-made woman whose path to success began when she was just 15 years old.
Growing up in a disadvantaged household in Tennessee, Beisel worked three jobs and was living on her own before she was old enough to legally drive a car.
“All I really know how to do is go, go, go,” Beisel said. “And I think that [my past] is probably why.”
After graduating high school, Beisel attended Middle Tennessee State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, but her first job after college was at a Nashville public relations firm that represents country music artists.
From there, she transitioned to a boutique advertising agency before deciding to branch out, founding her own company.
But when the Great Recession hit, causing some of her bigger advertising clients to fold, Beisel, too, saw her company go under.
“That was really tough,” she said. “I ended up living in my car for a little bit, and had to sell everything.”
Beisel got back on her feet and eventually found herself in the Centennial State after taking a job with the Colorado Mountain Club, a nonprofit outdoor education and advocacy organization.
A cycling enthusiast, she served on the board of directors for the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado, and in 2010, co-founded the Colorado Women’s Cycling Project, helping grow the group to more than 100 members.
“We started with just me and two other women, begging at least one other woman to join us,” Beisel said. “And then we grew to one of the most prestigious and well known women’s teams in the world — well, certainly the U.S., but I’d like to think the world.”
So far, Beisel has founded or co-founded four companies, two of which she continues to manage alongside her professional obligations.
Yet she still finds time to learn Spanish and do tarot card readings. She’s even getting an education in the world of wine — she completed an introductory sommelier course last year.
Beisel talked with the Business Journal about the tech industry and the keys to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
What are some of the challenges in tech?
I think tech can be, like other industries, very male-dominated. I love my male allies, and I have male mentors who have helped me get to where I am today, so I’m very thankful for that, but I also think that we could all do better about getting people who don’t look like us in [tech]. There are certain people who maybe have not been afforded the same opportunities as you. And if you can look past that, you can teach anyone the skills. They just have to have the drive.
Talk about the importance of female mentorship.
Women’s experiences are oftentimes completely different, especially women and people of color. That is an experience that is going to be very different from somebody else’s coming from a place of privilege, in my opinion.
Everyone’s experiences are unique to them. But when you can see another woman who’s gone through that, it helps. You’ve got to have role models. If you can’t see it, how can you believe it?
How do you balance it all?
I’m the worst person to ask about balance. But I think it helps knowing when to [part with] things. Like the cycle team — I loved it and I wanted to stay a part of it, but at the time … I really was getting serious about paying off my student loans. So I had to give up the cycling team, and I stopped racing for a period that turned into a much longer period, but started using my bike for commuting purposes to save every cent and dollar. So I paid off my student loans — about $70,000 in nine months — and that about killed me. But it taught me a lot about balance.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am proud of where I came from and how far I’ve come. I’ve already surpassed everything I thought I would have ever amounted to. I surpassed my goals when I graduated high school. I was the only one to graduate high school in my immediate family. I surpassed my goals when I graduated college. I surpassed my goals when I got a job. Back when I was living in my car, I felt like, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be.’
How do you think you were able to overcome that?
My grandmother was a huge influence in my life. I feel very lucky just to have had someone to say, ‘I love you, and you’re going to do great things.’ That was huge. And there are people who don’t even have that, which is why I always say, ‘Give people chances. Show them love. Show them compassion. They will probably surpass your expectations.’
I think maybe that’s why I always want to keep doing things — because I feel like it could all go away tomorrow. I’m very lucky that I escaped, but that is also, I think, what drives me.