Phoenix’s Rachel Van Nortwick is the CEO of Vinylly, a unique dating app based on music compatibility. “Music was and is everything to me,” she says. Learn about Rachel Van Nortwick…
Hometown: Gaithersburg, MD
First job: My first real job was as a lifeguard. I did this for a few years in high school and summer in college. I loved it. It’s the most laidback job you can imagine except for the saving lives part…sun, twirling a whistle. I got somewhat into the pool chemistry aspect of it and found I could earn a little more with an operator’s license. I became buddies with some of the families, and they asked if I could teach their kids to swim. I taught lessons during my breaks and that ended up paying more than the lifeguarding.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in AZ: Seeing live music. (It’ll be back, you guys!) I also enjoy playing sand volleyball, taking road trips, searching for and eating the best hot wings in Arizona and record shopping.
Person who has impacted your life the most and why: I think it’s a thing more than a person: music, 100 percent. I started listening to my parents’ records when I was a kid, and then grew a massive cassette tape collection (thanks Columbia House!), snuck out of the house at 15 to see the Dead and then moshed in the pit to Ministry with my older brother a few years later. I have always loved a diverse range of music and learning about the bands and singers, their influences and other musicians they connected with (because all music is connected). I played Simon and Garfunkel, Rage Against the Machine and Cypress Hill loudly in my bedroom, and it made everything better.
Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes and why: I think it’s still yet to come. I am excited about building Vinylly but it’s just the beginning of its journey and my journey. Connecting people authentically through music is big and bigger than me honestly, and I am going to work hard to nurture it. To use a music analogy, it’s sort of like the beginning of the song, and I am looking forward to the big beat that is going to drop.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: I have dealt with anxiety my whole life. You can be a really confident person and still have anxiety. I think there’s a misconception about that sometimes. I work on it and as I have gotten older, have removed things in my life which contribute to the anxiety. It’s never going to go away but it’s about managing it and also, not beating yourself up about it, because that can fuel it. We all have something we are dealing with, and those who judge you, I have found just aren’t there yet in dealing with their own vulnerabilities.
Someone who inspires you and why: My mom. She passed a couple of years ago and may be the person who I want to be most like but never can be. She survived the Holocaust as child, moved to the US at age 12 speaking no English and became a professor among many other accomplishments. You would have no idea what she had been through. She had the spirit of someone who never had a challenge or a worry; she was light and bright and a little mischievous.
Favorite quote: “Music is a world within itself with a language we all understand.” –Stevie Wonder
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Self-doubt can be a killer but it can be overcome by taking one step and then another and then before you know it, there’s no turning back and now you have a “thing that you are working on.” It’s really empowering to have a “thing.” Find people who get pumped when you talk to them about your idea. They’ll keep you going. Really, there’s no secret to starting something, except for the starting.
What you think makes someone fabulous: People who are living examples of awesome but don’t preach it. The heads-down kind of people so delirious in their passion for something that it’s infectious, and they don’t worry about acceptance from others. I like the combination of humble and crazy focus—to me, that’s fabulous.