“This place gave me the basis for life,” said Rachel Renock as she looked out over the Syracuse University campus. “It gave me the freedom to fail, pick up the pieces and then try to put them back together again. Actually – that’s what I do every single day now!”

Renock, a class of 2013 Syracuse University graduate, certainly does have the freedom to fail. Coincidentally, however, these failures have lead to ultimate success as a founding partner and CEO of Wethos, a freelancer-to-nonprofit matching start-up … all before her ten-year college reunion.

Renock studied communications design at Syracse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Taking a blend of classes, including many at the School of Information Studies, Renock was interested on getting the full college experience. “It was a crazy program,” she said, speaking on her background in communications design. “It taught me a ton about jumping into the deep end and then deciding to swim or sink. I guess you could say it gave me thick skin!”

Rachel Renock speaks with students during her HINDSights visit to the iSchool in February.

After graduation, Renock worked at an advertising company as an art director. The accounts she worked on included big names like Hershey’s, Covergirl, and KY, but during the height of the 2016 presidential election she was yearning for a new path of meaningful work. This frustration lead to the creation of Wethos.

Wethos is an online application that aims to do just that – connect people to more meaningful work. Renock quit her advertising job at 25 and joined with two other women to create this start-up. Wethos brings together nonprofits with willing freelance professionals in graphics, information technology and social media. It’s the first conscious application to do so. “We want to give every nonprofit the things they need and just don’t have,” said Renock. “The people solving the toughest problems deserve the best talent. They affect so many but have the least amount of resources.”

In October of 2016, the small Wethos crew launched a bare-bones beta website. By election day in November, the site was receiving massive amounts of traffic. The founders were correct in believing that their services were needed to impact the community. Protesters, activists, marchers, and all citizens who were involved in the political realm of November 2016 were designers and creatives heads by day wanting to make an impact with their skills. They just needed an application like Wethos to connect their passions. Amazingly, in the first six months after launch, the site assisted around 200 nonprofits in achieving their creative goals.

The next year, explained Renock, brought in exactly one million dollars in funding. These investments went towards the proper software to build the best web system Wethos could operate on. A new update and design of the website relaunched in January of 2018. “Within a month,” laughed Renock in disbelief, “we had 21 new nonprofits. It’s amazing.”

Renock is extremely humble about her business endeavors and successes, but is the first to be a positive proponent of the power of nonprofits. “There are around 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States,” she said. “They’re in a different world, but a core part of American business.” In her mind, her business is integral to getting many of these groups the support they need to succeed. “It’s incredible and important, and a totally humbling experience.

Renock is well-respected in the start-up business. She has paved her way with integrity, honesty about her beliefs regarding sexuality and harassment, and pure grit. A warrior for many women in technology to look up to, Renock has been featured in the New York Times and Forbes magazine for her forward-thinking nature.

As for Syracuse University, Renock was extremely fond of her time of campus. A sister of Kappa Alpha Theta, she attributes so much of her success to the programming and network she received at the university. “I was already scrappy and resourceful before starting Wethos,” she said. “Syracuse University taught me to bulldoze anything in my way. I’ll take that well into my future!”