Rachel Koretsky, 27, has been a serial entrepreneur since she started fundraising for Darfur for her bat mitzvah project in suburban Philadelphia. More recently, the American University business graduate turned her annoyance at having to wait to use the workout equipment at her gym into an app that informs student users how crowded the gym is so they can plan their visits. She calls the app upace, proof that creativity is 90 percent frustration and 10 percent perspiration.
How did that first big idea for your upace app come about?
I was thinking about it in college and working on an app for gym and rec center users. It started by looking around the campus and at myself to understand why people stopped using the recreation center, even though we knew the importance of wellness and self-care while in college. And it really was due to a lack of communication with the recreation center. Getting there and all the equipment was taken — it was a whiteboard signup system at the time — or you get there and class is canceled or the class was full. It just was an inefficient process where technology is the answer.
What happened next?
After I graduated, two professors sat me down and said, “You should really consider if this will be a viable business,” and gave me the recommendation to go out and try to talk to 10 people who will be the buyers of our product, meaning the recreation center directors. Right after that meeting, I emailed 100 people, just doing Google searches, and within about 24 hours I got a 50 percent response rate. I got really great, positive feedback that this was a need in the industry.
Where has the company gone since then?
Now we’ve evolved to working with Jewish community centers, YMCAs and Jewish federations — and really figuring out for each individual community how do we create a stronger, engaged community where your members, or your students, are going to be more engaged more often and for a longer period of time.
Where did you get your social awareness and drive?
My parents have always encouraged my sister and me, if we have an idea to follow it, to speak out, to not be afraid, to put our ideas out there and be OK with failure. As long as we pick ourselves back up, try something else, and go out for that next idea. They’ve been unbelievably supportive of all my entrepreneurial endeavors, from when I was younger, to having a business today.
What do you do for fun?
I am one of the organizers for DC Startup Week. I organize and plan a five-day event here in the city for about 6,000 entrepreneurs every year. So that’s one of the things that I do for fun on the side, and it’s really rewarding.
I am recently engaged, so that’s exciting. My fiancé and I have some hobbies that we do together, like playing tennis, going hiking, going on adventures. We love to travel. The one thing that I find really important, being an entrepreneur and working, is finding that balance of self-care. Finding that time to do the things that you love, to put away your phone and just take that day to have fun.
Susan Ingram is a reporter for the Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication of Washington Jewish Week.
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