When Andra Rush started her trucking company, all she had was a beat-up van, a pair of used pickup trucks, and the naive certainty of a 23-year-old. She figured it would take her about four years to make her fortune. Then she could use her newfound millions to accomplish her true goal: tackling poverty on Native American reservations across North America. "I thought I could retire by the time I was 27," says Rush, a member of the Mohawk Indian tribe of Ontario, Canada. "At that age, you don't know what you don't know."
Rush was raised 30 miles outside Detroit, not far from her paternal grand-parents and their Ontario reservation. When the teenage Rush visited the reservation for the first time, she was struck by the poverty and lack of hope. "I really wanted to make a difference," she says.
She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1982 and took a nursing job. But she was dismayed by the low pay, and within a year she was pursuing an MBA. That summer, she interned at an airfreight company, where the speed of package pickups and deliveries drove profits. "I thought I could do that better," Rush says.
She maxed out her credit cards and borrowed $5,000 from her parents to buy a van and two used pickups. She wooed clients, accepted every delivery job that came her way, and worked nursing shifts on weekends. Rush also kept a single-minded focus on meeting deadlines—no matter what. In the wake of 9/11, when increased security stalled traffic for hours on Detroit's largest bridge, she hired barges to get her trucks across the Detroit River.
By 2001, many of Rush's 1,000 employees were Native Americans, working alongside people of every background. But she felt she hadn't done enough. So she joined forces with a Canadian parts maker to design and assemble auto components, such as the dashboard instrument panels that go into Chrysler minivans. She located the plants near reservations, creating opportunities where they were needed most. By 2009, her auto parts business was generating $370 million in revenue.
~ Margaret Heffernan
"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."
~ David Frost