Hera Hub DC is excited to share Startup Stories from our members. We periodically interview incredible business women from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Our goal is to share our members’ wonderful stories with the public.

Rachel Westfall, a licensed SASS Defense instructor, teaches women and young girls how to protect themselves against life-threatening attacks. She has been a member of Hera Hub DC for 4 months. This is her startup story:

What was the inspiration behind your business?

The statistics and the names and faces of those statistics: 1 in 3 women in the US will be survivors of domestic violence, 1 in 5 college women will be survivors of sexual assault, 1 in 6 women in the US will be survivors of sexual assault. I took SASS Defense my sophomore year of college. As I went through the class and learned the statistics and felt how empowering it was to be able to defend myself, I just wanted to do more. I continued with SASS throughout my next three years in college. As a TA for the class, I got to really see how big of an impact SASS had on the young women taking the class. I also ended up being able to put a name and face and a story with each of those statistics and it broke my heart. I love SASS; I love what it does, what it stands for and what we are working towards with it. Being able to do what you love for a living seems like a pretty great life to me.

Who are your clients and what do you do for them?

Our clients are women and young girls ages 12 and up and we teach them how to defend against life threatening attacks as well as empower them in other aspects of their lives.




What are your business’ values? How do they align with your personal values?

Respect and female empowerment are two of my biggest personal values and they intertwine with the core of SASS Defense. We want to empower women to thrive in all that they do, whether it is in their personal life or professional life and we accomplish that by teaching women techniques that then make them feel that they can take care of themselves in even the most dire situations, because they can. Empowerment and respect go hand in hand, because once you know the level of respect you deserve it isn’t hard to ask for it or to have the courage to stand up and let people know when a line has been crossed.

The empowerment women feel also comes from thinking about being in those dire situations and examining how they value themselves. Frequently women and young girls are told that their needs come second. By taking this class and having to mentally put themselves in these situations, they have to reflect and evaluate their worth. Many of the young girls and women that take SASS leave the classes either having realized or validating that they are worth fighting for. They leave knowing that their safety and security is more important than any social construct or decorum. When the concern for meeting societal norms or expectations goes away, women are left with very few obstacles in their way and that’s where the empowerment from SASS spills into other aspects of her life.

How/Why did you choose your business name?

SASS Defense is already an established business; I am a licensed instructor so the name came with the work.

rear-full-arm-chokeWhat do you love most about your work?

I love knowing that I am a part of making a difference in someone’s life, whether it is big or small.

What is the biggest challenge in running your own business?

Scheduling! It can be difficult to find a good time and date that works for a group of women to come in and take our longer classes.

What are your/your business’ goals for the future?

To be teaching SASS Defense on university campuses in the DC area.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Just do it. Planning and preparation are important and necessary but often times you just have to go out and do it to learn what you need or what your next steps are going to be.

Rachel is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina and has moved to Washington DC where she is quickly building a strong and supportive community of females whose lives have been positively influenced and empowered by SASS Defense.  With a degree in Sports & Entertainment Management and a savvy business sense, Rachel plans to replicate, in DC, the successful movement that SASS Defense has initiated and fostered in the Southeast. Connect with Rachel on Facebook , Instagram, and Twitter.