Monday, March 19, 2007

Unusual Women Owned Businesses, Part I

She has race-car driving in her blood. Kristine Gross's great aunt Greta Molander was one of the world's first open-wheel race-car drivers: a Swede who began rallying in 1929 and took the Ladies Cup in 1952. So it makes sense that Gross made the leap from marketing communications manager at AT&T to found eight-person, Chicago-based Rising Star Driver Development. The company, an all-inclusive motor sports training system that prepares and promotes young drivers, earned around $400,000 in revenues last year. Gross says it's not all about DNA: She had had the idea of starting her own marketing consultancy right around the time that NASCAR was taking off. Then she realized nothing existed for aspiring racers at the grassroots level, and her business was born.

How did you, a woman, get into motor sports?

I find that Viking blood runs in my veins, and I carry a bit of the Molander thrill-seeker DNA in me, just like my Great-Aunt Greta. Because of my previous career at AT&T Wireless, I had been approached numerous times by different motor-sports entities regarding sponsorship—teams, drivers, series, etc. I didn't fully appreciate the level of excitement and fan loyalty attached to the sport until my good friend, Roger Johnson, who owns a race team, invited me to a Busch race to experience it for myself. I was hooked! And yes, I have been in a race car, rounding a turn at over 100 miles per hour. Most importantly, I am involved in motor sports to help promising young drivers, regardless of gender, race, creed, or socioeconomic background, to make it to the top levels of their sport.

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