When Andra Rush was 23 years-old, she maxed out her credit cards, borrowed $5,000 from her parents, and bought a van and two used pick-up trucks, to start her own delivery company. 25 years later, that company is worth $400 million. Tonight, she’s one of Michelle Obama’s special guests for the 2014 State of the Union. Here’s what you need to know about her:
1. Within Six Months, Her Company Was Running Deliveries for Ford
Rush grew her company on the strength of her diligence, accepting every delivery she was offered, even while working nursing shifts on the weekends.
From the beginning, Rush was committed to fostering a sense of community among her workers. She hired drivers who lived near suppliers, ones who “went to church and did Little League with them. So they all helped each other if extra loads or services were needed, we were right there.”
Rush maintained a religious commitment to keeping deadlines. After 9/11, when increased security began to slow delivery times, Rush hired barges to transport car parts across the Detroit River.
2. Her Mission Is to Improve the Lives of Native Americans
Andra Rush grew up 30 miles outside Detroit, only hours from the Ontario reservation where her paternal grandparents lived. After visiting the reservation as a child, and seeing the poverty and despair that colored so many of its inhabitants lives, Rush felt compelled to help her fellow Mohawks.
Rush recruited drivers for her delivery service from off of Native American reservations. But by 2001, she felt she wasn’t providing as many opportunities as she could. She teamed up with a Canadian auto-parts maker to design and manufacture auto components, in plants located near reservations. By 2009, those plants were generations $370 million in revenue.
3. She Believes Women Are Uniquely Good Managers
When asked by Reader’s Digest whether being a woman had been advantage in her industry, Rush replied:
Driving the truck is something guys do—it’s rough, but it isn’t something a woman can’t do. But running a trucking company is much more than picking up and delivering; it’s marketing and tracking and organization. Women are wired to multitask.
4. She Has Three Sons
Rush has three sons, Zack, 20, Cheyne, 18, and Chance, 13. She told RD that it was a challenge finding opportunties to spend quality time with them while managing a business:
As a business owner, you don’t have much time, but you do have a lot of flexibility. So if I’d been traveling, I’d go into the elementary school when I got home and say, “I’m going to read to the first graders.”
5. Obama Consulted Her About the Fiscal Cliff
Obama first met Rush when she was invited along with other small buisness owners, to consult with the President about the possible economic impacts of the country passing over the fiscal cliff, a series of automatic spending cuts and tax increases that were set to take effect at the end of 2012, and could only be averted by Congress reaching a bi-partisan deal. You can watch Andra Rush’s thoughts on the experience of meeting the President, and the threat of the Fiscal Cliff below: