During her commute from her home in southern Indiana to her job in Louisville, Rachelle Starr passed an adult entertainment business every day and felt a heaviness in her heart for the women who worked there. She decided to do something about it and offered the women a hot meal once a week — just in an effort to show them love and kindness. That act of kindness grew into a calling and she started a non-profit dedicated to women in the adult entertainment industry: Scarlet Hope. She then opened a bakery, Scarlet’s Bakery, as a way to employ all women in the Scarlet’s Hope program trying to start new lives. Rachelle Starr is living proof that one person can make a difference — and today we’re thrilled to have her as our FACE of Louisville!
Tell us about what you do and how you started in this line of work.
I am the founder and executive director of Scarlet Hope, a ministry that exists to share the hope and love of Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry. Nearly a decade ago, I felt the Lord calling me to serve exploited and marginalized women, so a couple of friends and I went into a local strip club and asked the manager if there was a way we could show love and kindness to the women working there. So a few days later, we brought in a home-cooked meal and had dinner with the ladies. We started going in each week and began forming relationships with the employees. That club led to many more and now our ministry has gone into more than 20 strip clubs and massage parlors around the city. We have had the privilege of serving hundreds of women and seen numerous lives transformed. I have a pretty amazing job!
What compelled you to help women in the adult entertainment industry?
It was totally the work of God. I grew up a pastor’s kid and have loved people my whole life. Before the Lord started burdening my heart for this type of ministry, I had no prior experience in working with women in the adult entertainment industry. It took nearly a year of prayer with my husband and a couple of close friends before I even knew what it was He wanted me to do. And, even then, I could have never imagined all that He would do through Scarlet Hope.
How is Scarlet’s Bakery related to Scarlet Hope, your non-profit organization? Explain to us what a “social enterprise” is.
For years, it has been my dream to open a business that could employ the women that we serve at Scarlet Hope. Obviously, when a woman we are working with desires to make the transition out of the industry, one of her first and greatest needs is to find a new job. This isn’t always an easy feat for the women we serve and many of them need more than just a job; they need a group of people that can support and lead them through this huge transition. This is what Scarlet’s Bakery does for the women we employ. What makes Scarlet’s Bakery a social enterprise is that we are striving to be a lucrative business — not to make our employees or myself richer but to improve the lives of women who have never been given a second chance, before. I long for Scarlet’s Bakery to be a successful business so that my employees will know, maybe for the first time in their entire lives, that they are valuable and that they do have a purpose in life.
How do you balance your time between Scarlet Hope, running the transitional housing there and the bakery?
It’s certainly not easy but I have an amazing staff and team of volunteers who help carry the weight of everything. We are certainly stretched thin because as Jesus himself said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Some days, I can easily become overwhelmed with the brokenness and darkness that I step into on a daily basis. But then I get the opportunity to pray with a woman in the middle of a strip club, or I get to celebrate a woman’s one-year anniversary of leaving the industry, and that’s when I remember why I do what I do, and I realize it’s totally worth it.
You are seven months into the bakery. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge, thus far, is getting the word out and competing with so many other wonderful restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops in this city! We are blessed in this city with great places to go, so staying top-of-mind for all of our customers and new customers is the greatest challenge.
What’s next on the horizon for your organization?
We are currently working on making improvements to our Day Program. We want to increase the number of days we offer it and make improvements to the curriculum. I have an occupational therapist, a recreational therapist and a licensed psychologist working with me, so I am really excited about what we’ll soon be able to offer the women we serve.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
That’s hard because it is constantly changing. I spend a lot of time leading and coaching my staff, encouraging them and helping them problem solve. They are the ones that lead the programs and oversee hundreds of volunteers, so the more supported they are, the more successful the ministry will be. I also meet with members of our executive board, as well as donors and other ministry partners. And if I’m not doing those things, you’ll probably find me meeting with a woman I’ve met in a strip club or preparing lattes at Scarlet’s Bakery.
What advice do you treasure?
I treasure solid advice about how to stay healthy and focused so that we are here years to come!
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my __________.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
I live in the Clifton area, so I love walking around Frankfort Avenue with my husband and 2-year-old son, Isaac. There are many great local restaurants and shops that we enjoy going to around that area.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
My husband and I love to try new restaurants and Louisville is a great place to do that because there’s always something new and delicious popping up around town. We also love taking Isaac to the Louisville Zoo.
Are you a night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
I’d like to consider myself an early bird. I like to get up, get the day started, and I stay focused the best in the morning. I always say, “Think in the morning, meet in the afternoon.” I work best if I follow this schedule.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown; amazing book! Every leader needs to read it.
- The E-Myth by Michael Gerber
- Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers for a little fiction
Lightning round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge: chocolate bourbon balls
- Guilty pleasure song: “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble
- Tearjerker movie pick: “P.S. I Love You“
- Standby nail polish color: Big Apple Red by OPI
- Favorite cocktail: an Old Fashioned
- Cartoon alter-ego: Daphne Blake
What are three of your favorite things right now, excluding faith, family and friends?
Thank you to Adele Reding Photography for her beautiful photography of our FACES of Louisville.
Love learning about local women making a difference in our community? Check out more of our FACES of Louisville here. And, if you want to check out all the great local places to shop, eat and see, download our SB App — it’s free!