SOTU Raises Profile of Bootstrapping Female Entrepreneur
Founder and CEO Andra Rush has assembled and grown an auto-parts-manufacturing and shipping firm whose success captured the attention of the President of the United States.
February 2 2014 by Dale Buss
Mid-Market Company of the Week: Rush Group
When the cameras of the national media lingered on Andra Rush at President Obama’s State of the Union Address this week, the attention represented the culmination of the Native American entrepreneur’s remarkable story of success in building her industrial Rush Group from nothing to a nearly $900-million enterprise with a strong and ever-growing presence in auto-parts-manufacturing and shipping in the Detroit area.
The 49-year-old Rush bootstrapped the founding of Rush Trucking in 1984, at the age of 27, by maxing out credit cards and borrowing $5,000 from her parents to buy a van and two used pickups which she then began using to ferry small packages from the airport for General Motors and Ford. Quickly, she built Rush Trucking into a huge player in auto-parts transportation, and by last year had built it into a $120-million-plus enterprise that hires many Native Americans from reservations in Michigan.
But that wasn’t even what got the president’s attention. What did: Two years ago, Rush Group founded a joint venture, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, with French auto-parts supplier Faurecia, taking over a nearly $700-million book of interior-parts business from Ford. Now the company employs more than 700 people, and Rush has focused on hiring unemployed and underemployed Detroit residents.
“She dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or a better job,” Obama said about Rush in his 2014 State of the Union. “She was flooded with new workers.”
After the address, Rush said that she’ll continue push for favorable federal treatment of the kinds of people she’s hiring.
“I’m trying to learn and navigate how we access grants and tax credits so that I can continue to invest in our businesses and people,” Rush told Crain’s Detroit Business.
Yet, as Rush told Chief Executive in 2012, she’s dedicated to capitalist solutions. “We all feel frustration, and when you do, it’s easy to feel discontent” about America’s financial distress and economic stagnation. “But at the end of the day, the [U.S. system of free-market capitalism] has proved to be more reliable and more successful than anything else in the world.”
Rush Group / CEO: Andra Rush
Size: About 1,200 employees in two main companies, Rush Trucking and Detroit Manufacturing Systems, totaling nearly $900 million in annual revenues.
Location: Wayne, Mich.
Goal: These days, Rush is focused on creating “long-term, sustainable jobs … in underserved areas,” as highlighted in Obama’s speech. “I look for the win, win, win. You can call it a dream; I call it an opportunity.”
Fact: For many years, Andra Rush put up with doubts that she had been responsible for building Rush Trucking. “People imagined that the business was run by my dad or my boyfriend,” she told Reader’s Digest. “I had to say, ‘No, the business is me!’”
Unique: Rush Group is the largest U.S. company owned by a Native American.