How the pair forms an unlikely support system to overcome insurmountable hurdles.
For entrepreneurs nurturing an up-and-coming startup, the odds are, to be frank, pretty grim.
"This community loves him, and he can't do enough for the community. We're very fortunate to have Rusty.” – Kim Scott, The Great Gourmet.
Nine out of 10 startups fail, according to a recent article from Forbes. It's a staggering statistic, considering that most time as an entrepreneur is spent coddling a coffee cup, eating dinners on a dime (or skipping dinner all together), and mending heartbreaking failures, one after the other.
That struggle was no stranger to Kim Scott, who began her Federalsburg, Md-based wholesale seafood business, The Great Gourmet, with two $20 bills, a Sam's Club Freezer and a web domain.
So when Scott's first order request came in, it was a moment of pure elation – an affirmation that she had beaten the intimidating startup odds and succeeded. In celebration, she turned to UPS driver Rusty Murphy, the only individual who could be considered a fellow employee in her employee-less company.
"I remember running up to him and jumping up and down and telling him how happy I was – we had an order! He would be so excited for us he would actually jump up and down with me,” she says.
As Scott's orders grew, Murphy took notice. "She would have one or two or three packages that she put together in her own kitchen. It got to be more and more and more every day,” Murphy says.
Scott's business outgrew her home and she moved to a 35,000-square-foot facility. Luckily, Murphy's route was revamped, ensuring he was still her driver.
Today, Scott's products are available on QVC and the Home Shopping Network. On a good day, she might send out 15,000 packages in eight hours (her record is seven trailers full in one day).
All the while, Murphy has continued to be an enthusiastic partner and relentless cheerleader. "He always made me feel like he was part of my team. We weren't alone – UPS was there with us,” she says.
Don't take no for an answer
Murphy's history with UPS goes back much further than his connection with Scott. After high school and a stint in the U.S. Navy, he heard about an interview at UPS.
"But the interview was that night, and candidates had already been called,” Murphy says. He showed up anyway, only to find 20 people there interviewing for three jobs.
"After several hours, the interviewer was about to turn out the lights and asked if he could help me. I nervously said, ‘This is where they told me to come for the UPS part-time position.' He looked puzzled but said, ‘Okay, what's one more interview?'”
Murphy didn't get the job. But he persevered.
"After a few weeks I called [the interviewer] at his home. I figured he was either going to be upset that I called him at home or he was going to see how badly I wanted this job,” Murphy says.
Murphy's determination paid off. He began part-time employment with UPS in 1988, becoming a full-time driver in 1994.
"By that time I had a 5-year-old daughter, and not long after I started driving, my son was born. Things were going great for me,” he says.
A UPS driver who refuses to give up
Murphy's good fortune lasted until a diagnosis of testicular cancer in 2006. Surgery and radiation brought him a clean bill of health until 2008, when a scan picked up lymphoma.
As was the case with Scott's startup, the odds were against Murphy. The doctors recommended radiation and chemotherapy.
"After six months in the trenches, the lymphoma was gone,” he says. But in 2012, the cancer returned – this time in his thyroid. He underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his neck.
Three years later, doctors found cancer again. "I was told that I should get my affairs in order. But I made my mind up that I was going to fight,” he says. Determined to watch his children grow up, he started treatment again.
Murphy has not stopped living his life.And through it all, Scott was there to support Murphy.
"We have watched him overcome four bouts of cancer,” she says. "And all through the cancer treatments he still wore the brown proud. He always smiled even when you knew deep down he was hurting.”
Building strong community connections
Along with working for UPS and spending time with his family, Murphy is involved with his community. He serves on the board of trustees at his church and was elected to his town council.
"People don't vote for you unless they truly love you. This community loves him,” Scott says. "And he can't do enough for the community. We're very fortunate to have Rusty.”
*At the time of this writing, Rusty is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. He says, "My goals, aspirations and plans are all on track. My daughter graduated college and I just walked her down the aisle in November. My son graduated high school and is attending college and working for UPS.” We wish Rusty and his family the best in his recovery.
Learn more about Kim Scott's remarkable entrepreneurial story.