During a global crisis, when many businesses have shuttered or suffered, Rachel Brenke has had the best year of her professional life.
That’s not to say she hasn’t faced obstacles, as anyone else enduring remote learning with five school-aged children can attest to. Brenke is many things — a fast-talking, cancer-surviving business coach, licensed attorney, podcast host, and competitive triathlete who hit seven figures in 2020.
She said years of experience as an entrepreneur and military family member have prepared her to be successful during tough times.
“I just love that years ago, I had it in my mind that my vision of a real business was virtual, flexible, on my time schedule, so I did the things to get there,” Brenke said. “This was years and years of hard work that I got to see the dividends this year.”
Brenke, 36, grew up as an Air Force kid and always knew she wasn’t meant for a traditional 9-to-5 job. That was only reinforced when she married a soldier.
After all, military spouses tend to live by “semper gumby” — always flexible, she said.
“Automatically, right off the bat, he was deploying and we had a kid, and my family needed me around a bit more. It inspired me, but it also forced me at the same time to really kick it into high gear to figure out what I needed to do to be successful,” Brenke said.
Then, while her husband was gone and she was taking care of their first baby by herself, doctors found a malignant tumor in her throat, and Brenke was diagnosed with cancer at age 20.
“The biggest thing of that was realizing you’re not immortal … but if I get through this, I want to live life on my terms,” she said. “I’ve never been a mainstream-type person, and the cancer really pushed me, as well as the military lifestyle, to embrace that. I have an unconventional attitude that is so great for entrepreneurship.”
After surgery and treatment, Brenke has been in remission for 15 years and now runs four brands across two legal entities: Rachel Brenke, FitLegally, TheLawTog, and Eden Law. And though she’s reluctant to brag about her successes at a time when so many people are hurting, Brenke is most proud of being able to provide the people who work for her with no interruptions to their incomes or careers. She said she’s even been able to offer hiring bonuses and pay raises for employees, most of whom are moms.
Part of her goal is to be a resource for other entrepreneurs, especially military spouses — something she felt was lacking when she started out. She still remembers being peppered with confusing questions at a Family Readiness Group meeting.
In addition to her business coaching services, she has a highly-rated podcast called “The Business Bites,” consisting of short episodes packed with expert advice.
Though Brenke’s husband is now medically retired from the Army, she’s still involved in the military community and has seen many military spouse entrepreneurs excel during this time as well, as if the pandemic has been their “cancer moment,” she said.
“This has hit them very difficult, but they’re looking at it going, OK, now’s my time to do what I want — if it’s a career change, if it’s to become an entrepreneur — and I’m encouraged by that,” she said.
What’s veteran spouse and mother-of-five Rachel Brenke’s best advice for achieving success across multiple businesses while still prioritizing self-care and family time
“Set an intention for what the most important things are to you,” she said. Put those first. “Then whatever you get to, you get to.”