Rachel Felous `04 has always been destined to become an entrepreneur, but her path has not been linear, and that is quite alright.
"I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandpa was one, my dad was one," says Felous. "I grew up learning about creating things and seeing how to build something from the ground up."
Felous owns Simply Zero in downtown Cincinnati, a store dedicated to providing consumers with zero waste, sustainable product options, education, and connection. Her love for the environment started when she was young.
"I've always felt a connection to science and love for the environment. I think when you go to a school like Country Day, where the campus is so big, and there's all this beautiful outdoor space, it's hard not to come out of there without a heart for the environment.”
After graduating from Country Day, she attended the University of Southern California and majored in business. She started working in sustainability in 2008.
"I didn't intend to own a store. I started Simply Zero as an Instagram account in 2017 as a challenge to myself to live waste free and, educate others, and share waste-free resources online."
At the time, she was also helping her father launch a start-up company, learning essential skills like meeting with investors and building pitch decks. Meanwhile, her Instagram fame was growing.
"I had about five jobs at the time. I was helping my dad, I was nannying, dog walking, running social media for various companies, just hustling, and saying yes to anything, not really knowing where it would lead me.”
Fast forward to May 2018, and Simply Zero gained thousands of followers almost overnight. She even had an interview with National Geographic about her Instagram account. At that moment, she said she realized there was more at stake than just running a social media account. So, Rachel started small with a pop-up educational series at local businesses and farmer's market booths.
"At our first pop-up event in 2019, there was a line out the door. I was like, 'oh, people in Cincinnati are ready for this store. People here want to become more sustainable’.”
She set out to launch her brick-and-mortar storefront in 2020 but not without lots of ups and downs.
"It was hard starting a retail-type business in 2020, but I've always had this desire to keep pushing and to create the best and be the best and strive for excellence. That was taught to me at an early age from my family and in the classroom at Country Day.”
It is because of that desire that Simply Zero is bustling today with tons of products to choose from, a refillery station, and an educational blog.
"I remember after graduating college, going from job to job and seeing some of my Country Day classmates have such a linear path and feeling behind. But now, looking back, my experiences all make sense for where I am now. I had to do things my own way. There's no clear path to success."