Darrah Brustein is an author and two-time founder with a payment processing company, Equitable Payments, spanning 38 states. She also runs a networking events company called Network Under 40 serving 30,000+ people. She contributes to Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Thrive Global on networking, entrepreneurship and creating a life of your own design, and has been featured in over 300 press outlets including Time, CNN, Inc, Huffington Post, Fox, and Mashable, all built on the back of her network.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I was inspired to start my first company in 2009 after being laid off three times in three years. I thought I was doing everything right, having gone to a top 20 university, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and then secured a job in the fashion industry, which was a dream. Until it wasn’t and I was let go, three months after buying a house due to filing a restraining order against my landlord at age 23.
When the next two layoffs hit, I realized that there was no more security in working for someone else than there was in working for myself and then it no longer felt like risk. Working for someone else had proven to be a risk. Since childhood, I knew I wanted to own a company (the word entrepreneur was new to me), but I didn’t know what the business would be. Thanks to my twin brother for bringing the idea of our now payment processing company to me, all the stars aligned to get started.
Tell us about your business.
I suppose I have 2.5 companies. My eldest is Equitable Payments, a merchant services brokerage that spans 38 states. We help privately owned businesses to find the best fit for their credit card processing needs. It’s a REALLY shady industry, and we wanted to innovate both by doing something as simple as being honest and reliable, as well as by bringing the brokerage model into this space. My second company is Network Under 40 which creates environments in mid-sized US cities for young professionals to make friends and business connections.
A few years after college, a friend asked where she could go to meet interesting peers because everywhere she went was full of people her parent’s age with whom she couldn’t easily relate, were singles scenes, or were super “salesy”. As someone who loves to connect people, I started this to solve her problem. We now operate in 7 cities and serve over 30,000 people. Lastly, the ‘half’ business is a book series I wrote called Finance Whiz Kids which teaches the basics of financial literacy to elementary-aged kids through fun illustrated stories. In the back of each book is an appendix for the adult in their life to help integrate the lessons into their homes with ease.
- Phi Beta Kappa (Emory University)
- 40 Under 40 Winner (Atlanta)
- Atlanta Jewish Times 40 Under 40 Award Winner
- Invited to Attend The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos
- Metro Atlanta Chamber Ambassador of the Year 2010
- Forbes shared how I “Built a lifestyle and company by connecting people“
- CocoEco dubbed me a “Young Powerhouse CEO“
- The Huffington Post called me a “Noteworthy Millennial“
- Breakout deemed me “A true renaissance woman“
- Hypepotemus called me “Unstoppable“
- Atlanta honored me as “40 Under 40“
- Founder of the #GiveItForward Movement
- Contributor to Forbes on Networking Done Right
Where is your business based?
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I first partnered with my twin brother who has skills that compliment mine. He handled all the operational set up (setting up the partnership agreements, incorporating, bank accounts, etc), and I started building relationships and partnerships to sell our service as well as joined organizations where I could develop these and add value first.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Relationships. More than anything else, developing a robust network of people whom I actually enjoy and respect has been the most fruitful (and enjoyable) method.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
My biggest challenge could be looked at in a couple of ways. On the one hand, I’ve been my own biggest challenge as I doubted myself too often. On the other, the biggest external challenge was when a partner of ours at the time basically took hostage of our entire book of business. It’s complicated to explain, but in one moment, we lost everything and had to start again.
How did you overcome these challenges?
The challenge of my own self doubt is a constant work in progress. As I hit new milestones, new doubts creep up so I have certain habits in place like meditation, gratitude practices, reflection, mentors and a coach who helps me continue to push against my comfort zone. As for the losing everything in an instant, that was deeply painful. After all the hard work, to start over, as well as to have relationships impacted, was devastating. All I could do was decide to keep going and then take one step and a time until the clouds parted.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Many of the self care practices I’d mentioned previously are how I’ve gotten through tough times. Having a strong support system of friends and peers who have been there and understand also helps. I also had to come to recognize that I am not my business. And then, in turn, had to discover who I am when not defined in this way.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
For Equitable Payments, we are different because we are brokerage and a can shop a marketplace for our clients without costing them anything. Additionally, in an industry that is infamous for being dishonest, we are transparent and showcase that promise by offering no contracts on our agreements.
For Network Under 40, we are different because of the culture we create. We intersect friendship and business and believe that you are more than what you do. People can be themselves at our events and actually have a good time.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Discover why you’re doing what you’re doing. Don’t compare yourself to others, but instead, define success for yourself. Words like ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ will catch up with you. It doesn’t have to be that way. Take care of yourself and your relationships, because you need those and in the end, they’ll be more important anyway. Be intentional about sorting out what your goals and values are, and design your company to fit within those, not the other way around.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Some tools I love are for relationship management are:
Google Apps and Evernote are helpful too!
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
My favorite book of all time, and one of the few I re-read, is The Four Agreements. It has nothing and everything to do with business.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m learning about funnel marketing.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goal is to let things unfold as they should. I want to teach and consult more, and perhaps even join a company’s board.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @darrahb, @networkunder40
Facebook group www.facebook.com/networkunder40, www.facebook.com/groups/GiveItForward
Website www.DarrahBrustein.com, www.EquitablePayments.com, www.FinanceWhizKids.com, www.GiveItForward.co
Hashtags #NU40 #GiveItForward