Rachel Pereya is Owner of Mastermind Business Services
Rachel Pereyra is a wife, mother, business owner, queer human, underscoring each: a rebel with a cause. In 2020, she founded Mastermind Business Services, an operations consulting and execution support agency for small businesses and nonprofits run by women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ persons. “I have always bucked norms. I am someone who doesn’t like to be fit into a box and have spent a lot of my life fighting an internalized fight with the patriarchy that I’m trying to take externally.”
Rachel has been a fighter since birth, quite literally. Within the first three hours of her life, she underwent surgery to repair a diaphragmatic hernia: there were holes in Rachel’s diaphragm and in her right lung, which allowed her stomach acid and intestines to occupy the apertures. Newborn Rachel could only breathe through her left lung, and barely so. She is the youngest
person, as documented in a medical journal, to survive this procedure without complications. Her doctors anticipated Rachel would remain hospitalized for an indeterminant number of months, but she was discharged after ninety days. But this recovery was not without complications – remnants of the surgery linger in the long scar that runs along the right side of Rachel’s body and in her ongoing gastrointestinal issues. And perhaps most lasting, so traumatic, were the initial moments of Rachel’s life; they are codified as her first memory.
The happier memories that persist for Rachel are the endless days she and her younger brother spent in the care of their maternal grandparents, as their parents worked long hours. When Rachel was five, her mother’s job at IBM transferred her from South Florida to the Texas office, uprooting the young family. Her grandparents followed without hesitation, settling not far away in Missouri, where they had lived previously. For Rachel, her grandparents were a critical part of her upbringing, and their spiritual teachings informed her present resolve to dismantle the patriarchy. “They’re very religious, and I am not, but I think a lot of those qualities that they valued in the religion, they taught to me about, you know, kindness and respect and just being a good person and doing good things for people because that’s the right thing to do.”
With their move to Texas, Rachel’s father left the workforce and became a stay-at-home parent and the primary caregiver, a less typical role for a man in the 90s. Her father had a healthy disdain for authority and was never one for traditional employment anyway, instead working for himself in construction and carpentry. Rachel’s mother, on the other hand, was extremely career-oriented and as a result, frequently away on business trips. Rachel’s parents were comfortable and supportive of one another in their arrangement, and the reversal of stereotypical gender roles seeped into Rachel’s perception of relationships, her future marriage, and her sense of self. “I had that feeling like there’s a level of discontent that I felt as a housewife like I loved it and hated it simultaneously.”
Rachel was beyond driven as a child. At the age of ten, she wrote out a list of what she hoped to accomplish by age thirty. “Oh man, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be president. absolutely convinced…My plan was to go to college, a dual major in political science and psychology – that would look well rounded.” Naturally, the next phase would consist of both law and medical school — as future President, she felt it was essential to understand government
and the human psyche. On her way to the White House, she would progress from an attorney to a judge, then Supreme Court Justice, and finally end her career as President. And, of course, in her spare time, she’d moonlight as a singer/actor/dancer à la Beyoncé or J.Lo. Children and marriage were not in contention for her busy future.
Rachel credits her motivation, in part, to her parents. “If I came up with a hundred on the test, but I missed the extra credit point, we didn’t put the test on the fridge because Rachel could have gotten a hundred and two, but she only got a hundred.” That was typical of the competitive home environment she grew up in: focused, ambitious, and never settling, however ruthlessly so. And with her mother’s demonstration of what it took to be a working woman and her father’s anti-authority streak, Rachel learned from an early age to challenge the systems that prevented the success of the most marginalized.
As a child, Rachel learned to create inclusive spaces for classmates and had a knack for making friends with her talkative and outgoing personality. But Rachel’s sociable effect drastically shifted in the middle of her eighth-grade year when her parents abruptly moved their family to a remote ranch in central Texas. Her dad had dreamt of being a cowboy, and her mom could now work remotely, so for her parents, this disruption to their children’s lives was justified. Rachel transferred to a new school, which was less than half the size of her old one, and where she was met with an icy reception. “It ruined my life. Literally dumped gasoline on my life… It was very hard to leave a group of friends I’d had since I was five to start over, and I’m thirteen. Awkward, like full of acne and insecurities.”
High school was just as rough. Rachel recognized the racial divide in her town and distanced herself from her bigoted peers. Several false rumors spread about her, further pushing Rachel to the social perimeter. One rumor, in particular, held a lasting, traumatizing effect, which resulted in ongoing slut shaming and sexual harassment by her peers. It also led to her relationship with her now ex-husband.
Rachel spent countless times crying on the bus ride home after each day of torment by her classmates. Her ex-husband and friend at the time tried to comfort her and understand what had happened.
“When he got me to tell him, he found the guy, and he kicked his ass…so he made it stop…this is why we started dating. I mean, it meant a lot to me at the time. It was kind of a very 2000s teen movie moment.”
As the rumors faded, the second half of high school was shaping up to be better than the first for Rachel. She spent two years completing twenty-four college credits and earning a hefty merit scholarship to her top pick college, Texas Lutheran University.
Then, several months before her high school graduation in 2008, Rachel became pregnant. This news was ill-received by her parents, who pushed her out of the home. With seemingly nowhere to turn, she married her boyfriend, a decision which felt to be her only option for survival at the time. She trekked on to graduation and all throughout her pregnancy, worked full-time at a grocery store to support herself. The stress of her circumstances took a toll on her body, though, and she was forced to stop working and remain on the bed-rest for the month remaining before her due date because she had gone into early labor.
Rachel didn’t return to the workforce until 2011, by which time her daughter was three, and she now had a second daughter turning one. She started out as a part-time seasonal staff member at Toys “R” Us and in a few months, was promoted as a full-time front-end department supervisor. “I loved Toys “R” Us, but they worked us into the ground. So, during the height of the season…I would work till 4:00 AM and go to sleep for a few hours and turn around and come back at eight and do it over again.”
In 2012, Rachel stepped down to a part-time role at the toy store to take a second job at the footwear and apparel outlet Reebok, where she could work fewer hours and for higher pay. That same year saw the formal dissolution of her marriage, which had been unstable from the start, given the grounds it was built on. Rachel was now living alone as a single parent for the first time and in need of a job that allowed her to pay the bills and be present for her children.
After four months of balancing shifts between Reebok and Toys “R” US, Rachel transitioned her career out of retail and into finance. She narrowed her focus to the realm of title lending, as hiring managers specifically look for candidates with retail expertise. Here, Rachel worked her way up at a financial company, from assistant manager to running her own branch and opening a new one. Under Rachel’s leadership, she and her team achieved record profits, up 168% from the previous year. Rachel spent two years at the branch she opened, but the commute was four hours round-trip, so in 2015, she jumped at the chance to transfer to a location closer to home.
Rachel worked her magic in overhauling that office as well but knew her time there was dwindling. “The company environment was toxic. The fact that I was treating my team like humans were seen as a weakness on my annual review.” When Rachel received a promotion, her direct supervisor called to relay he was against her advancement explicitly. The decision-making power was in the hands of his boss, however, a man who valued Rachel’s work, but this revelation still stung deeply. “I knew I was good at my job, but they had just affected me so much mentally, and I was struggling with my physical health – I had to leave.”
Rachel next landed at a private wealth management firm as a receptionist. She needed a break from the weight of running her own team and worrying about profit margins. A pay cut came along with accepting this new position, but for Rachel, it was worth it. And as an unfortunate reflection of her previous company, the salary drop was less drastic than expected, given the difference in the seniority of her roles. Within a few months at the firm, Rachel leveraged her background and served as an HR assistant, provided bookkeeping and event planning, and ran the social media pages.
But Rachel’s tenure here was also waning. The rebel in her could not ignore her discomfort with the nature of her work. In her career in subprime lending, many of Rachel’s clients were living out of their cars and surviving paycheck to paycheck. At the private wealth management firm, clients consisted of the uber-wealthy. “I’ve seen the juxtaposition of the worlds, and it just became impossible to ignore the power dynamic that kept people of color and women and lower-income people, who start at a lower income, where they’re at. And I just hated it. And then the way the industry I was working for responded to the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic, it was just so toxic.”
Rachel was strategically planning her exit. She waited until she closed on her first home in September of 2020 – she knew all too well that standard employment would be heavily favored over her freelance work regarding her prospects for loan approval. Once Rachel closed on her home, she put in her two weeks’ notice and immediately dyed her hair bright blue.
Her company, Mastermind Business Services, was built in June 2020, and she was now able to step into it full-time. “I took a leap of faith, and I stepped out and trusted my own ability to make ends meet.” And so far, Rachel’s instincts and belief in herself have led to great success by measures of both profit and impact. “My mission statement is simple and multilayered. I want to change the world through operations, and what that means to me is providing work experience for women and people of color.”
As the Founder and Chief Strategist, Rachel independently built Mastermind from the ground up. She didn’t need much to launch, simply starting by investing in a new laptop and a handful of Upwork credits which is an online platform for freelance talents to advertise their work and connect with prospective businesses. From there, she financed her endeavor with credit cards and reinvested revenue directly back into the company.
MBS operates entirely remotely and has grown to employ nine contractors from across the globe, all of whom are women. Rachel prioritizes paying a fair market wage for the US, regardless of individuals’ locations, as she is determined to live by the beliefs that her company is founded on.
As part of her services, Rachel offers advisory retainers for company leaders, where she essentially acts as an on-call strategist. Rachel sets weekly meetings to provide hands-on support with strategic planning, team building, business processes, and a thought partner for her clients.
“I’ve seen, because of my background, the disparities and the dynamics that are built to limit your access to resources and knowledge that it would take to grow your business…And so I want to bring that to small businesses…The foundation of your business processes. However, it’s not about having written SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures); it’s about understanding the way your business runs, the way you want it to run, and the way it needs to run.” Once the foundational processes are established, the focus then expands to building and editing the tech around that vision and to ingraining a people-centered culture.
As for Rachel’s vision of her own business, she would like MBS to garner more clients, which would financially support her ultimate goal of providing full-time employment for women, trans, and nonbinary people, as well as starting a non-profit to provide support to Central Texas teen moms. And while MBS is still young, it is fueling the essence of what is right, and just that has long since aerated Rachel’s very being. “They’re going to doubt you, and it may not look like what you dreamt it would look like, but you will prove them all wrong, and you will create an impact. You will leave your mark on your community and your space.”