Note from Robert Kibbe:
For those of you who are regular readers, this article was written by Melanie Rushforth of Rushforth Wheels, now a regular monthly contributor. She and her husband Jason are the owners and proprietor of Rushforth Wheels and Rushforth Designs.
This week’s post is an introduction from Melanie and the business she and Jason operate. Look for more great stuff here from her in the future!
So, how did YOU end up in the auto industry?
This is usually one of the top five questions I hear at shows. It often follows “Do you work here?” or (and I haven’t been able to make too much sense of this one) “Are you guys brother and sister?” As far as the do-you-work-here question goes, if you’re asking someone standing in a 10×10 booth at a show of any kind, chances are, yes. Yes, that person works *there*. It’s a reasonable question, certainly. Scan the industry as a whole, and you’ll see mostly men. How does a younger woman with a background in just about anything but cars end up in the world of hot rods? Well, start by marrying a hot rod designer. Not mine, he’s taken.
When Jason and I met, he was just designing cars. I was working in the non-profit sector. Jason had worked for himself for more than a decade, and I’ve always worked for someone else since I was 13. I never considered working for myself. I mean, where would my health insurance come from?! What about my vacation time? And for crying out loud…my 401K?!! Jason must be out of his mind.
As we learned more about one another, we discovered we both coveted little bits of the other person’s world. As Jason put it one day when we were out with a friend who works as an engineer for our city water department, “Dude, you sell stuff people NEED. Water! People don’t need my stuff.” Meanwhile, the engineer had a bit of envy of the guy dressed in jeans at the end of the day who got to draw cool cars all day long.
Pay scales aside, how fortunate are we in America to be able to choose our own path? What luck to be able to enjoy drawing and design, and make a career out of it. The wheels were born out of Jason’s eye for style and design, coupled with a lack of that wheel that would just make the car perfect available on the market. It was 2007 and the economy was tanking; why not start a new wheel company, right?! Brilliant!
By nature, I am a go-getter and a goal-setter. I’ve always worked well in settings where I am the only one doing my job, I have flexibility and control, and I know everything I need to know (or know where to find this information) in order to be successful. And I’ll also admit this…I kind of like being in charge. But only because I’m good at it. Ask around. When Jason and I made the collective decision to jump into to the wheel business, we initially had the help and guidance of some folks in the industry already that knew the wheel business. As time passed, Jason and I knew that brand recognition (especially positive brand recognition) was absolutely essential to our success. Our brand is Rushforth Wheels. Our name is Rushforth. If we were going to be successful, we needed to do everything in our power to make it so.
We are still building the plane while it’s in the air. We learn something new about the business everyday. We also learn something new about working together everyday. We each have strengths that the other doesn’t. I don’t know the technical stuff about cars, but I can carry on a conversation with even the most challenging individual. Jason works alone most days, so the overwhelming setting of a show, and the set hours, and the need to be ‘on’ all day was a new experience for him. Together, we had what the other one needed.
When you see a Rushforth Wheels booth at a show on the circuit, are those people in the booth? That’s us. The Rushforths. We are grateful to be a part of an industry we love, and even more grateful to be able to do what we love together. There are times when that 10×10 booth gets a little small, and the challenges that we have tossed our way have been unique, but we’re so lucky and really grateful to know the people we know because of a collective love of the industry.