Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Rachel Lietzke Finds a Gap in the Aviation Market, Turns it Into Gold
“As a child, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, from selling magazines door to door in middle school to selling airplane parts on the internet in high school. I was constantly yearning for more—more adventure, more goals, more kicking ass. But at 18, when most people my age were preparing for college after graduation, I was dealing with a sudden faulty heart valve diagnosis. Doctors thought that I wouldn’t need a valve repair till I was in my 40s, but they were proved wrong. Within a year, I went from a fit ballerina of 14 years and crazy dirt bike rider to a sedentary 5’8” human being that got winded walking up the stairs. At 19, I had open heart surgery while my peers were learning about algebra and biology.
I tried to not allow my health issues to hold me back, but emotionally, it was trying. I finished my associate’s degree just in time for another heart surgery, which ended with complications and three pulmonary embolisms in my lung. After my health issues subsided, I got married, decided to go to school for air traffic control, had a child, and obtained my pilot’s license. (Go big or go home!)
Not for lack of trying, I couldn’t seem to get hired as an air traffic controller. I was at a point in my life where I felt like I hit rock bottom. Why was I dealt such a bad hand? I felt that I put forth so much effort into something and was crushed to not have the opportunity to be amazing at it. As if learning to be a wife and a mother wasn’t hard enough, I felt empty in the search for my career. I felt like a failure, not just to myself, but to my family. With $20 in my bank account, I convinced my father to allow me to sell some of his airplane parts for a commission, just like I did back in high school. I started cleaning airplane parts and taking photos in the front yard, my son strapped on my back. That is how Fast Aviation was born.
Life was great! I brought my husband on to join Fast and together, we were killing it. Our eBay store had over 5,000 airplane parts on it, we had five employees, and I’d just put down a downpayment on a home, when I received an email that said our account was shut down. Just like that, after two years of building a business, we were shut down. I immediately went into brainstorming mode. This was ludicrous; I couldn’t be the only person that this had happened to. And of course, this is when I came across Sophia’s story.
I decided that now was the time to start my lifelong dream of having my own site for the aviation community where they could buy and sell airplane parts. Hangar Swap was built in two weeks and today, almost two years since it’s launch, we have over $2 million in parts, 2,000 customers, almost 250 sellers, and over 10,000 visitors a month.
My most recent #girlbossmoment, however, was after I launched my own YouTube channel. I never realized the impact I had on the industry ‘til people started calling and wanting to come meet me. They were so excited to be buying and selling their parts on Hangar Swap. Other women (and men!) reached out and told me how I inspired them to make the first step towards their dreams. I wanted to focus on a female audience for my channel, but it came to my attention that we all need inspiration; sometimes we get lost or have no idea why things keep happening to us. In the end, it becomes clear why things happen the way they do. You just gotta roll (aileron rolls are my favorite) with it and keep taking over the world."
Three pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
1. Be a unicorn. Every day, I wake up with the intention of taking over the world. (I’m not even kidding; I tell this to myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth.) Stop trying to be like everyone else. You’re amazing and the more you channel your talents, the more you will excel.
2. Educate yourself. It is true, knowledge is power. I listen to books, podcasts, and read articles almost every single day of the week. I am constantly trying to improve myself, think outside the box, and be one step ahead of the rest. If you want to start your own business, do the homework and research your industry. Talk to people that generally do the same thing you want to do. There is not one website in the world like Hangar Swap that caters to the aviation industry; I had to improvise on the way there and am always learning what works and what doesn’t. I read books about my competition and figured out how I wanted to make my business different.
3. Do not depend on anyone but yourself. You are the only person that matters. That old saying “If you want something done right, do it yourself” is something I adhere to, though it’s not necessarily the only road. With my employees, I give direction first and then depend on them to know what is expected. In the business world, do not expect anyone to give you anything. You must reach out and grab it. You might not grab it on the first or the fourth time, but if you keep working hard, you will get there. There are so many times I could have just given up, but I couldn’t let myself down. You have to hold yourself accountable.