One of the most often asked questions that I get when making public appearances from Rebecca Ray fans is, “Where Does the word Ray come from?” In honor of Father’s Day, I thought it would be fun to tell you all! Many assume my middle name is Ray, or perhaps my last name is actually Ray - spoiler alert - my married last name is Smith.
But, it is true that my maiden initials spell Ray. Rebecca Ann Yuhasz. I always tease that I went from an unbelievable last name (Yuhasz) to a disbelievable married name: Smith. Try to order a pizza with the last name of Smith. Right. You get the picture. But there is something even more unique about my maiden initials that is the premise of my story. And only my parents know if they were up to shenanigans or it was a stroke of fate. My initials spell my Dad’s first name: Ray.
My Dad and his beautiful bride, my Mom Ann.
So many, many years ago, while working in the non-profit education sector, I never got the idea out of my head to have my own business. My Dad had always encouraged both me and my brother to start our own businesses and work for ourselves. My Dad, Ray, is extremely industrious, artistic in unexpected ways and can create anything. He always has believed that girls can do anything the boys do and as I grew up, I loved making things. I still do!! 25 years ago as Rebecca Ray became a twinkle in my eye, my brother, Chris, had started his own business with a childhood friend and that business has grown greatly and continues to prosper today. In fact, in retirement from their careers, both my parents now work for him.
My brother Chris and I as children on the farm.
I remember wishing that I could emulate what my younger brother had been brave enough to execute after he finished his masters. So one day, while still living in California while my husband was in a tech career, I took a leap of faith and started a tiny business. We first won the Country Living Magazine Entrepreneurial Search; then we have been honored to be on the Oprah Magazine Made In America Feature List Twice. But to be clear, it’s not easy to start and manage your own company. There are sleepless nights, unexpected twists and turns and challenges that no one ever sees coming.
But I was determined when we created this company that our products would be made in America by talented men and women, creating cottage industry jobs, paying livable wages and teaching life long skills in the arts, which we are losing in this country. And trust me, that in itself is a challenge and a scalability conundrum. But we’ve managed this far and have been able to embrace to our corporate mission. So, when you decide to buy something, you have many, many choices. I always choose to support local, made in America companies that “do well, while doing good for their communities.” It’s a win-win.
So, 25 years ago, it seemed like it just went together: Rebecca and Ray, Ray as a way to honor my Dad’s constant enthusiasm to me starting a business. And, after all these years, now you know the story behind Ray, who inspired a company by teaching me that anyone, girls included, can do anything to which they set their minds. I’ll remind him when he’s wrapping packages with us during the Christmas rush this year!!!
Thanks for sharing our mission and the journey with us!!
Happy Father’s Day to All - Rebecca
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