We recently had the privilege of meeting Rachel Street, the dynamite President of Hestia Construction, LLC who is also a Licensed Realtor and Team Leader of The Street Group at Space & Company.
Rachel is not only a trail blazer as a woman star on the Philadelphia scene of construction, real estate, design, and development, she also stars on the TV show Philly Street Flippin’ on HGTV and the DIY Network.
Rachel was gracious enough to spend some time sharing her background with us so that we could learn more about her journey and the talented contributions she makes to the city of Philadelphia. The interview yielded inspiring insights about how her life unfolded, what it’s like to be a woman in a male dominated field, advice for entrepreneurs, and the deeper meaning behind “Hestia.”
You have a rich and extensive background—How did your path in life lead you to a focus in construction and design?
I never imagined working in construction- I actually studied to be an opera singer! I lived in Italy for a few years while I was singing, but it was very hard to make a living. I eventually moved back to the States and began working in the family real estate business (that my father started) in commercial loan underwriting. That led to getting my real estate license and studying to be an appraiser, and my ultimate goal was to buy houses to rent out. Since I couldn’t afford renovated houses, I was buying ones that needed some updating, and since I’ve always loved design, I would try out different ideas. As a kid, I was somewhat of a tomboy and enjoyed building things with my father (who was a carpenter when he was younger), so I already knew how to use many of the tools, and would do as much of the cosmetic work that I could by myself. My parents also renovated their own home, which was a historic property, and paid a lot of attention to both the history of the home and the quality of the work, so I guess part of it was also in my blood! Then, my father passed away quite suddenly and I found myself in charge of a commercial mortgage company and without a salary or plan for the future. I ended up selling a property that I had designed and surprisingly made a good profit. I saw that people got really excited about seeing interesting designs at an attainable price- and a business idea was born! I transferred my real estate license to Space & Company (where I have since started a team- The Street Group) and started my own construction company, Hestia Construction, LLC.
What is it like as a woman in this industry? What are some challenges you’ve faced?
It can be challenging to be a woman in construction, and there are definitely days that I enjoy it more than others. There have been many times that I have dealt with people who did not take me seriously at first, thought it was hilarious that I was in construction, or tried to take advantage of me. When I started, I was embarrassed to be seen in my construction clothes on the street, but that has worn off over time. Some of my older neighbors used to make fun of me when I would come back all dirty- but now they ask me for construction advice! But I have found that being a woman also has its advantages; Other women often feel more comfortable dealing with a woman contractor, and because of this, many of my clients have been other women. As I’ve grown, it’s been important to me to try to help along as many other women-owned businesses as possible, and I have the privilege of working with many women in the trades (although we give the men a chance sometimes too! 😉 ) and for a woman-owned real estate firm.
What has been one of your most successful or proud accomplishments to date?
I would say my most proud accomplishment to date is simply taking the leap of faith in starting my own business, instead of choosing the security of moving into another office job. In every business there are good and not-so-good days, but I am happy and grateful for the ability to create my own destiny each and every day.
Philadelphia is your focus—what about Philly inspires you or draws you to invest your time and talent here?
Philly is one of the cheapest major cities on the east coast, and even though there is a lot more competition for properties recently, there are still great deals to be had. I love this city so much because it has a vibe that I haven’t found anywhere else- it’s gritty, it’s refined, it’s artistic, it’s musical, it’s multi-cultural, it has so much history and also is on the forefront in many ways. With all the growth that’s going on, it’s an exciting time to be here.
Does the name Hestia have significance for you?
Hestia was the Greek goddess of the hearth, architecture, family, and the home. As a woman-owned business that creates unique spaces for families to enjoy, I figured it was a fitting name 🙂
Did you have mentors or professional advocates along the way and if so what was the best advice or support they offered to you?
My father was a huge mentor for me, and a true example of a self-made man. Growing up without a lot of money, he convinced a businessman to give him a job making photocopies at a mortgage brokerage- and eventually worked his way up to being the president of the company. If he didn’t know something, he would study it and make himself an expert. He could do everything well- from navigating the most complex real estate deals and talking to you about philosophy and art, to repairing the tractor and building a piece of furniture. The biggest lesson that I learned from him, aside from the ability to be flexible and learn, is summed up in the words of his favorite quote from the great Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
What would you say to entrepreneurs looking to get started or struggling to get their momentum?
The biggest piece of advice that I could give is to build your team. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but you have to know where to turn for help and advice. Connect with trustworthy tradespeople that you can rely on to be honest and do a good job- build a brand that you can be proud of and don’t cut corners. The other piece of advice would be to just put in the time and tap into that hunger- skills can be taught but motivation/drive cannot.
“Nothing will be handed to you in any business, and those late nights and early mornings are what will push you ahead.”
Well said Rachel! Hats off to you and all the blood, sweat, and tears that have gotten you to where you are today! We are proud to know you and share the field with such a talented professional.