You're listening to the Uncommon Life Podcast. Whether you're a startup or you've been in business for 10 years, this show is for you. Each week, you'll get mentored by business leaders who deliver valuable strategies, tactics and tips on how you can pursue your passion without compromise. We’ll show you how to achieve balance while sticking to your core values, so you can have an uncommon life.
Now, here's your host, Jimmy Fullerton.
Jimmy Fullerton: Welcome to the Uncommon Life Podcast, coming to you from the Chattahoochee Valley in Columbus, Georgia.
Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Rachel Schmidt. Now, she definitely fits the profile of an uncommon life and you'll hear that in the interview, but she has a real unique ability to be able to adapt and immerse yourself in a culture, and she turned that into a business, which is called Target Language. Rachel is also a facilitator with CO.STARTERS of Columbus, which is a nine-week course for would be entrepreneurs to help them to flesh out their ideas.
In Part 1 of this two-part interview, we talk about the wisdom of starting small and growing the business organically, do what you love, no matter what stage of life you're in, without borrowing a fortune. We also talk about overcoming the fear of starting and the importance of sustaining momentum.
I really enjoyed this interview and I'm sure that you will also, so sit back and enjoy.
Hello, Rachel. How are you doing today?
Rachel Schmidt: I’m doing great. How are you?
Jimmy: Good, good. So, you just got back from a big European trip, right?
Rachel: I did. European extravaganza.
Rachel: I think. I mean, anybody who gets to just up and leave their life for, like, 12 days and just disappear off on to the mountain…
Jimmy: You need at least 12 days.
Rachel: I mean, that’s what I did, you know? There was a moment on that trip where I was up on a hilltop hiking in the Cinque Terre, and I was by myself. Just no one was there. Just me and the earth. And I was just thinking, I'm probably in the one percent of the population.
Jimmy: That’s right.
Rachel: There's probably not a lot of people who have simultaneously the time, the money and the leg strength to get where I am at this moment, because it was quite a climb to get there. So, yeah, it's pretty awesome.
Jimmy: Yeah, 12 days. I mean, it takes at least, when I go vacation, it takes me at least, I don't know, two or three days just to decompress. I forget about stuff.
Jimmy: What else did you do besides that?
Rachel: I ended up going to Paris. That was accidental or incidental to my reservation. I was going to Italy and I was going to just stay in the Riviera for the whole time, so I was planning to go [03:00] on the beach and hiking, but on the way home I lucked out and got a 20-hour layover in Paris, so I had a whole day in Paris to myself.
Jimmy: What’s the best restaurant y’all ate at out there or did you go out to restaurants?
Rachel: Yeah, we did some. In the Cinque Terre, it's kind of all the same. It’s what you'd expect. It’s seafood and pasta.
Jimmy: Okay, pronounce that again now. What is that?
Rachel: Cinque Terre.
Rachel: Cinque Terre. So, the word cinque in Italian is five and terre means lands, and so this is a special place along the Riviera in Italy where there are five little villages along a ridge, so if you were down in South Georgia, it might be like the [unclear 03:41.8] Bluff over by Lake Eufaula or Lake Walter F. George.
Rachel: And that's why I love it there, because I tell my dad, it's the closest I've found to feeling like I'm at home, but being a world away, because there is water. There is hiking. It's very not rugged, but it's very outdoors. Everybody there is moving and walking, and being out in the air all day long.
Jimmy: That's important. Sounds amazing.
Jimmy: So, let's talk a little bit about your background. And what is your background?
Rachel: I went to University of Georgia and got a Romance Languages degree, came back home to raise family, have kids, all that, and got an MBA here at CSU. And, meanwhile, while all that was happening, I was kind of formulating business ideas. So, I started out as a missionary, straight out of high school, and then that kind of rolled into the foreign language study and led into my business.
Jimmy: A missionary.
Jimmy: Tell me a little bit about that.
Rachel: I grew up in the Methodist, United Methodist Church here in Columbus. St. Mark I went to.
Jimmy: Ah. My granddad was a Methodist preacher.
Rachel: Okay, cool. So, yes, I grew up like that and my parents had been Methodist. And, I don't know, I just was always really good at studying languages, regardless, from when I was age nine, and then I was super good at school. So, I thought I might be a missionary doctor at one point, but the med school thing just wasn't really in the cards.
And so, by the time I was 14, I had already gone on my first mission, went on my first airplane ever and actually took six total airplanes to get there and get back because we were in remote part of Venezuela back in those days. And then, after that, I signed on to do a pretty extensive mission right out of high school, and so, the day after I graduated, I got on a plane and headed to Yuma, Arizona, across the border in New Mexico and kind of started my career that way.
Jimmy: So, you kind of knew what you wanted early.
Jimmy: You were one of those people that frustrated me, knew what you wanted early on and you just kind of went after it.
Rachel: I did. I did, but only conceptually, right, because, clearly, I’m not a doctor.
Jimmy: That’s better than most.
Rachel: Right. I'm not a doctor today, but I am a linguist [06:00], and the language piece, I always knew I wanted, and getting invested in people's lives in a meaningful way, I always knew I wanted. So, that's where the mission work translates right into kind of the type of business that I run today.
Jimmy: That's a good segue into your current business, Target Language. Talk a little bit about what y'all do, who you service, who your ideal client is and what the overall concept is of your business.
Rachel: Right. So, in front of me right now, I have this flyer that's kind of our fall 2019 kickoff, and it says, “Do you see yourself here?” And so, what we're trying to evoke this fall is, Who is the person who would belong with us? We're trying to create culture and community, and so, at Target Language, on the face of it, we teach, interpret and translate in at least three languages.
But, recently, we rebranded so that we would be more open. The people would even come to us for things that we currently don't do, but that we could do. And so, we're always interested in being part of a community that is continuing to build itself. Right? The flyer evokes this imagery of people who have tan skin and people have black skin, and people who have white skin, and people who have curly hair, and people who are young and people who are old. We're trying to evoke this idea that if you see yourself with us, you belong with us.
And that could be because of foreign language learning. That could be because of a need to have a professional come-and-train-people-onsite for you. That could be because you want to be groovy and learn to Latin dance like we do, because we have things for personal and professional pursuits.
Jimmy: So, it's more than just about teaching a language. It's about creating a community, basically.
Rachel: Yeah, yeah.
Jimmy: If you had to tell somebody, like in an elevator pitch, really quickly, what your business is, what would you say?
Rachel: I mean, our tagline is “Speak. Immerse. Explore.” So, we're trying to take people from where they are and get them to be able to speak the language.
Jimmy: And immerse themselves in the culture.
Rachel: And immerse themselves in the culture.
Jimmy: Wow. How did you come up with the idea? How did you evolve into that idea of doing that?
Rachel: Oh, yeah, that took some time. My first business--
Jimmy: You’ve got two minutes.
Rachel: Okay, good. My first business was way, way, way back when I had my first daughter. I started Baby Belle’s Room, and, from that, we develop certain policies and procedures, and how we would talk to customers. Although that business seems far afield, has nothing to do with what we make money doing today, it has everything to do with how we built the business at the heart of it.
And so, from there, we rolled into creating a little consortium of other business owners that were likeminded with us. Again, the how. [09:00]
Rachel: Yeah, so, like--
Rachel: Yeah, other people who also likewise would be selling the types of things that we would be selling, because, back in those days, we were selling a lot of our wares, at vendor fairs, craft shows, things like that.
Jimmy: What did you sell with…?
Rachel: With Baby Belle’s Room, we painted one of the finishing touches for children's rooms. Remember, back in the day, everybody had their kid's name on the wall, spelled out in letters.
Rachel: That thing, right? We built little stools, little stuff like that, hand-painted stuff.
Jimmy: So, you helped during the nesting phase, when the mom was pregnant, getting ready to prepare the room.
Rachel: Right. And everything about the origin of our businesses has always been really authentic because it is authentic. I had a baby at that point, right? So, I'm sitting there going, What do I need for my room? And what am I not willing to pay somebody extra for? What can I do for myself? And then, turn around and see if I can provide that to somebody else.
So, that was back in the days of eBay and everybody was test marketing everything on eBay. Then, you build your standalone business and you build your standalone website. And so, like I said, even though that business has nothing to do with what we do today, it has everything to do with how we do it.
Jimmy: So, when you say how, you're talking about…? What aspects have you translated to Target Language?
Rachel: Our messaging. How we communicate with our clients has never changed. We always speak friendly, in a friendly tone with a professional polish, right? We always use a comma instead of a colon, because we don't want to come off too official with our clientele, because our clientele has always felt a little more familial than that.
Jimmy: Yeah, because you're trying to create a community, so that makes sense.
Rachel: Right. And we're talking to them about their kids and we're talking to them about their intimate desires, because, even now, when an adult comes to me and wants to learn Spanish at age 42, let's say, that's a pretty vulnerable moment because you're 42. You probably haven't been in college maybe ever, and even if you did, it’s been 20 years, and so, there's that moment of indecision of like, Can I do this?
And so, there's got to be a way to talk to that person in that space, in that moment of life where you're like, absolutely, we can do this, and not just because I'm your cheerleader, but because I actually have a system that's going to work. So, it's empathy, but it's also relying on the absolute truth that we know that our system has worked for a number of years.
Jimmy: What kind of people? I'm just curious about who are the people that you are attracting. Do you have a specific type of person? I know it's trying to appeal to a wide variety, but is there a certain type of customer or client that you typically have?
Rachel: Yeah, what we've realized over time, because we also work with other startup companies in town, and so over the years of training other people like us [12:00], would-be entrepreneurs, I had to really reflect on that deeply. I found over time that a lot of our clients are two-income families when they're putting kids in our program. We learned some things about that, and so we know who we're targeting there.
But then, for individual decision-makers like young men and young women who just want to learn it for themselves, we call those people dream-chasers. And so, we try to speak to them in a certain way that’s different from the way that we speak to the parents of young children, because, like I said, there's a certain vulnerability and there's a certain competitive advantage that we offer when you really talk to a dream-chaser a certain way.
For example, over the years, I didn't realize that the fact that I don't have a Mexican abuela in my life, doesn't mean that people don't want to talk to me.
Jimmy: What’s a Mexican abuela?
Rachel: It's a Mexican grandmother, right? I'm a white girl from South Georgia, as it turns out. I mean, you can't see me. This is audio only.
Jimmy: I see that white girl from South Georgia. I do.
Rachel: Right? And so, to some extent, I am exotic in the marketplace where I am. And, to some extent, I am an oddball, I'm an outlier, in the culture where I live.
Jimmy: You can just say hybrid.
Jimmy: Because you're like a hybrid of… You’ve got some local flavor, but, also, you seem like you could be elsewhere, like in Europe, I can certainly see.
Jimmy: You've been there and been comfortable.
Rachel: Oh, and now on this trip to Paris, it’s the first time in my life nobody spoke English to me.
Rachel: I was so proud.
Jimmy: Does your husband speak? How many languages does he speak?
Rachel: Oh, barely English, right? He’s from Texas. So, yeah, when he’s with me or when I have a student by my side, people just default to English, but when I was on my own in Paris—you're absolutely right. Somehow I have cultivated an air that I’m allowed to assimilate or be kind of a chameleon in a culture, and so, for that reason, I think the dream-chasers come to me and I didn’t realize that over the years that it was my difference that made me an advantage.
Hey, guys and gals! My apologies for interrupting, but I have something I want to share with you.
If you want to recession-proof your life and be able to thrive financially in any environment, then I have something for you. It's a blueprint I use for business and life. It's a combination of what I've learned from my mentors, and through my own blood, sweat and tears over the course of 20 years. It contains five key principles that will transform and elevate your life and business, if you apply them consistently. Believe me, if I had this blueprint 20 years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of time and money, but I'm sharing it with you now for free.
When you go to www.UncommonLifePodcast.com, you can get yours for free today.
Jimmy: So, dream-chaser—characterize a typical dream-chaser for me.
Rachel: Yeah, a [15:00] 30-, 40-something-year-old person who meant to do something in life and didn't get to it yet, and wakes up one day and decides, You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to learn Spanish, or even bigger than that, You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to move to Cuba three years from now, so I’d better go ahead and learn Spanish. And they call me. And it's fascinating, like I'm on their ride, or I'm going to go shoot some elk or whatever the wild game is in some South American country, right? And they want to learn Spanish, just to be legitimate, just to go and not be just a total insufferable blowhard who just doesn't know how to talk to anybody.
So, for whatever their reason or their motivation, they all of a sudden decide—and I call it groovy. When I wrote out the adjectives of my common customer, it’s like they're groovy. There's something about them that just makes them kinda in a different flow than the rest of the world.
Jimmy: Yeah, it seems like those types you're talking about kind of follow the beat of a different drum. They don't follow the herd. So, definitely like that.
Jimmy: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced since starting Target Language, if you had to pick one? I'm sure there were many, but what was the toughest challenge?
Rachel: I think the challenges have really been at the breakpoints, because starting Target Language was almost accidental. A friend of mine got asked by a homeschool group, “Will you teach Spanish to this group of kids? We already have 28 kids who need Spanish.” So, it was almost too easy to start the business for me because my friend said, “No, I can't do it. Ask Rachel.” Boom. Business was born. So, I didn't have to work at it.
The transitions have been the challenge, because now that you've got it, now that you've built a business or you've got some business flowing and you didn't even have to try that hard, when you realize there's a moment that you could grow or you could stay where you are, which really means you would shrink.
Jimmy: Take it to the next level.
Rachel: Right. Those are the moments that are really challenging. So, I didn't experience a lot of the startup costs and a lot of the startup anxieties, but, again, if you think about it, that I started Baby Belle’s Room years before that, it was a constant progress. Right? It was a constant evolution from starting first business to getting into the language business.
Jimmy: That definitely would appeal to a lot of people because, that way, you're kind of gradually easing into entrepreneurship.
Jimmy: And you don't have to just put everything you have up for mortgage.
Rachel: God, no. Please don’t do that.
Jimmy: You can just kind of … some people do that.
Jimmy: But I love the idea, today, the way we're set up, you can kind of do a side hustle and start things you progressively work towards, a point to where you can be independent. If you're passionate about it, you can pursue it.
Jimmy: So, I like that.
Rachel: Yeah, and it's not that somebody couldn't put it all on the line and go, but your average person who just gets up in the morning and decides they're going to start a business could probably start smaller. Could probably start with a test market, you could call it, right? Even if you're not going to [18:00] go all the way and buy the facility yet, could you do that from home first, right? Could everybody start from their proverbial basement or garage? And I believe the answer to that is yes, which is why I'm really pursuing, like, the goal of entrepreneurship growth here in this community.
Jimmy: Yeah. Speaking of that, you are a facilitator with CO.STARTERS in Columbus, Georgia. Tell me a little bit about what you do with CO stars, which is how we met.
Rachel: Right. CO.STARTERS is under Startup Columbus, which is, I think, just a division of the chamber at large in Columbus, Georgia, and it's been well-funded and well-supported by some really wonderful forward-thinking people who just believe in the future of Columbus, Georgia. And, that said, the people who believe in the future of Columbus, Georgia, are pretty much in two camps and I'm sure there's a gray area in the middle.
There’s kind of the white-tablecloth faction of Columbus, Georgia, who have had money, who have come into money, who have been wealthier and kind of controlled a lot of the, what, the donation funding in our community. And then, there's another faction that's kind of young and groovy and doing the best they can with what they’ve got to work with, right?
I'm sure there's lots of people in the middle, but what's so amazing about Columbus, Georgia, is that those people who have always had money and have kind of controlled that type of wealth have also always put it back into the community.
And you have to pause and think about that every once in a while because you wouldn't have to do that and you wouldn't have to stay. And, if you had all the money you needed to do what you wanted to do with your life, would you choose to invest in this community? Would you choose to invest in your community? So, say what you want about people being old money or nouveau riche. Anyone who's willing to invest in this community is a friend of mine.
That's why I'm really excited to work with Startup Columbus, because the money is culminated from a variety of those types of sources, and, also, we're asking that the entrepreneur, him or herself, contribute, I think it's $200, to come, start a course with us.
And the courses that we're offering right now are actually out of a curriculum we bought from something that was working out there in the world, around the country, and so, we had those folks come in from … and they came in from three different states and culminated a meeting for us, and we all met together downtown and we were trained on the curriculum, initially. Now, over time, we're able to take the ideas of not just Columbus, Georgia, and a few folks at the chamber, but these ideas that are working nationwide.
Jimmy: Elsewhere, yeah.
Rachel: Right. And all they're doing is fostering and pushing forward entrepreneurship in communities, and the way that we do it is at a third- to fifth-grade level, which is pretty cool, because that means you don't have to have an MBA to join our class [21:00]. The facilitators happened to have an MBA, so we have that kind of a prowess in the room, but we really make it approachable for every person who has a concept, a startup or a full-fledged business that they need to take, for whatever reason, to a next level.
Jimmy: What are some of the things you try to teach these young or would-be entrepreneurs? Basically, what I'm gathering is, there are people that have an idea and you help them flesh out their idea. What do y'all do exactly?
Rachel: Yeah, it's a nine-week course and it's going to take them kind of from soup to nuts through the process of starting up a business. Took me 10 years to get an MBA because I was busy giving birth to children and getting the household started, too, but this person is going to go through this course in nine weeks.
And so, it's obviously not going to be as deep as an MBA, but it's going to take you through identifying your customer. It's going to take you through setting a financial plan, really doing the day-to-day accounting, deciding where your breakeven points are. Making critical decisions at critical moments, so that you don't mortgage the farm, mortgage everything you own to start a $5,000-a-year enterprise, right?
Rachel: So that you really see it, and you force yourself to sit down and ask the tough questions and get the right answers. But, meanwhile, you have a community that you're building amongst the entrepreneurs in the room. Not only that, but now we're in our second cohort, and so, over the years, we hope to build a consortium, a collaborative effort, amongst the various cohorts that have come through us.
Jimmy: So, collaboration is a side benefit? Well, not a side benefit, but something that will naturally occur as you're building this community of entrepreneurs.
Jimmy: I'm all about collaboration. But what are some of the biggest challenges you see from some of these entrepreneurs? What's the biggest challenge that they're facing right now? What do they have the most trouble with? Is there a recurring theme you see?
Rachel: Yeah, it's overcoming the… It's not the fear of missing out. It's the fear of starting, because we all have starts that we drag our feet about, because while I started my business in my sleep, like falling off a log, right—that part was easy—there certainly have been decisions to make along the years where I still experienced that 800-pound gorilla, they call it. You don't want to pick up the phone. You don't want to make that call. You don't want to ask that next question, which you know has the benefit or risk of being the next best thing in your life, the next million dollars. Right? But I think that's the thing that we find that all entrepreneurs share. It’s the fear of starts.
Jimmy: Taking that step.
Jimmy: Yep, you’ve got to take that first step, and then just got to keep taking little steps. Eventually, if you keep doing that long enough, you'll come a long way. [24:00]
Rachel: And we believe that people like you guys, when you and Jessica came from Launch, and the guys from Nonic came, and we've really strategically positioned a lot of current, active business owners and entrepreneurs in the community to come to class.
We really believe that that helps a ton with that fear of starting, because what's been so great is that when people like you guys will come into the classroom, the kids, the students, the would-be entrepreneurs are like, Oh my god, they totally failed 10 times or they made these mistakes in order, and still here they stand, still here they are moving forward. And I think, that, you can't explain that enough to somebody. Right?
Jimmy: I cannot agree more. I mean, you have to start and then be willing to fail, and not get all crazy about failing.
Jimmy: You also can be a perfectionist. If you're a perfectionist, sometimes that will paralyze you. It will keep you from taking action. So, that's a big, big thing that I see as well, people just not taking that first step. It takes, definitely takes somebody that’s not averse to failing and understands that failing is just another way to learn quicker.
Jimmy: What would you say two of the most important skills entrepreneurs have? You can think about that for a minute. But, I mean, you've been working with entrepreneurs and you've seen some that have succeeded. You have. What would you say are some common traits they possess that you've seen? Besides, obviously, you've already identified a willingness to start, not…
Rachel: Right, and keep starting.
Jimmy: Keep your momentum going. When we were doing this, we looked at the whole project, the scope of everything that we had to do. It was a bit overwhelming, so we had to break it down into more manageable chunks. And there were times when things would happen. We had to slow our pace, but as long as we could keep some momentum, which I can do a whole thing on momentum.
Rachel: Gosh, yes.
Jimmy: But that's a huge part of it.
Rachel: That’s a huge deal.
Jimmy: If you lose your momentum, everything stalls. It affects you on a variety of different levels, but if you keep your momentum going, even if it's a little bit here and there, at least it does something for your mindset, as well as just keeping the process moving forward.
Rachel: Right, I would agree with that. We could take that as one of them, because when we start the startup cohort each time with the CO.STARTERS class, we always ask them, How many classes is it appropriate for someone to miss before they've really not invested enough in this community to be part of it? And we let them decide.
Invariably, the people who don't keep that word, who don't attend enough classes are the ones who are losing momentum in general. So, it's evident in everything you do. Momentum feeds every area of your life. It's like if I get out of bed in the morning and I make my bed when I get up out of it, I know I'm coming home to a clean canvas.
Jimmy: You must have heard that thing about the Navy SEAL who gave that [27:00] commencement speech? He talks about first make your bed? Did you hear that?
Rachel: Yeah. Never heard it, but I've just been a real believer. In the darker days of my life, in the times when I felt like I was sucking wind and losing momentum, I remember thinking to myself, if I can do one thing right, I can do this right. I can make this damn bed and I can go on with my day. And nobody can change; I make the bed where I lie in it. Even if I feel like things I've done are wrong or right around on my way, you make the bed, you lie in it.
Jimmy: I can control this, dadgummit -
Rachel: That’s right.
Jimmy: - like we say in the South.
Jimmy: I'm going to control this.
Rachel: That's right. That’s right.
Jimmy: I can still go to the gym. I can take 10 minutes to do something, so that's huge.
Rachel: The second one, I would say, probably has to do with networking. The skill that all people in entrepreneurships have to have is networking, right? They have to develop that ability to do themselves, be themselves, but get the heck out there.
So, that is the end of Part1 of my interview with Rachel Schmidt. If you enjoyed that, then please share this. And remember, you can get more content like this by going to my YouTube channel at UncommonLifePodcast.com.
Now, coming up in Part 2, we talk about Rachel's superpower, which is networking, or I like to call it relationship building, and she is one of the most vigilant and dedicated networkers I have ever met. And you'll want to listen to this, because you can take away some really good, practical strategies that you can apply to your business and really help you grow it.
We also talk about collaboration, some of the benefits there, how to make collaboration important to your team and give them a hyper-focus. We also talk about how to identify who to collaborate with, and then staying invested in the relationships you form during collaboration.
There's really a lot of good info here and you'll get a lot out of it. I promise you that. So, please check out Part 2.
Thanks again for listening, and I really do appreciate it. I will see you next time on the Uncommon Life Podcast.
This is ThePodcastFactory.com.