Introducing Stephenie Rodriguez, Founder of JOZU for WOMEN

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a global citizen and serial entrepreneur. I traveled to 52 countries and get inspired every time I pack a suitcase.

What exactly is JOZU?

JOZU for WOMEN is an online destination for all things related to women who travel, from content to travel advice, by women for women.

What inspired you to start JOZU?

I moved halfway across the world 20 years ago, from the East Coast of the US to Australia. Since then I have traveled extensively both to visit my family in Puerto Rico and for work as a Digital Transformation and Marketing Specialist to the travel industry. I have now spent more than 3 years at 30,000ft and 9 years in hotel room nights. It made me grossly aware of the unique needs of women when they are abroad and planning their trips.

How did you come up with the name?

JOZU is a Japanese word that means “well done” or “better than”. We refer to this as the JOZU principle, and everything we do in our company builds upon this. Our product is called WanderSafe, and it’s a personal safe navigation app. Its name speaks for itself.

What was it like for you to start your own company?

This is my third entrepreneurial foray. I used all that I learned the first two instances to guide me and more than 20 years of substantial business experience and wisdom to help de-risk the exercise. There are always new challenges but experience and a solid business network make it much easier.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My team and I are global, and being in the travel space never in the same time-zone however we are always connected, except when I am asleep. My day starts every morning with coffee, then if I am at home, preparing my son to go to school whilst skimming all the Facebook messages, tweets, and emails between 7am and 8:30am. I typically have an hour to review and blue-sky what needs to be prioritized for the biggest impact, and then review team questions. I spend an hour on investor relations every day, as I believe it’s important for angels to stay engaged. I spend the rest of my day (if not traveling) on investor calls, product calls, and refining our marketing with my marketing team. I pause in the afternoons to have some time with my son after school for homework, debriefing and then dinner, and then will typically return back to my desk for a few hours between 9pm and midnight as the team become online around the world to update them on progress made while they were offline.

What is your favorite part about running JOZU?

What I love most about what I do is the ability to build something that I know will improve and possible save lives. Safety is the crippler of most women as it relates to travel and to equip them with safety tools and information will empower women. This makes me excited about building WanderSafe.

What is your least favorite part about running JOZU?

My least favorite part about JOZU is explaining that women are at the heart of our mission as sometime men feel excluded. Men travel and make decisions differently than women and are less vulnerable but they don’t like to feel left out.

How do you spread the word about your company?

As big and as loud as we can. We don’t do things in halves. Last year we road-showed the brand every month and had a presence at SXSW Interactive, BeConference, CHTA (Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Board Conference), Forbes Women, Girls In Tech Catalyst, Collision, Web Summit, My Destination Experience, TechBeach Retreat, and TFWA in Cannes. Some activations were larger than others but we gave out several thousand of our iconic hot pink branded sunglasses, and held “Secret Women’s Business” pop-up events. We invested in PR, street teams and hustled. We were ranked 45 of the 1500 brands tracked on social media during SXSW last year according to Drumroll. We build a database of 1 million connections in 12 months, but we really worked hard to connect with all those people.

Is there anything on the rise for JOZU?

Yes, WanderSafe launched with Kickstarter in March.

How do you keep yourself feeling confident?

It’s tough because it’s easy to doubt yourself on the hard days. I remember my “why” and return to the achievements and results I generated for my travel clients in my consulting days. I get reminded that my investors believed enough in me to back my vision and leverage their belief in me to vanquish self-doubt.

How do you balance your work life and your personal life?

Everyone has a proverbial Achilles most people see my work ethic as mine. I am not great at separating the two because I love both my work and my life. My team and my investors are like my family.  Because I have always worked in the travel sector there is always the tyranny of distance and that has its challenges. I think that when you love what you do, like being a mother for example, that does not stop when I am working. I have been able to take my son on some of my business trips and it’s been a great education for him to see what my time away involves and also for him to learn about the business. My business allows me to do the things I love – traveling and connecting with people – and in my own unique way get great satisfaction in my life because the work and life are intertwined.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a woman who wants to start her own company?

Starting a company is a challenge and running one is even more challenging. Seek the counsel of those wiser than you and be prepared to learn and work harder than you ever have for anyone else. Consider the sacrifices you will have to make, and they will be plentiful. Decide whether you want a lifestyle business that makes you comfortable or a shiny unicorn because those are two very different paths. You should get clarity on that first because it will impact the people you work with, the products you make and the way you build your business.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us? Like a fun fact or a favorite quote? 

My motto is “Live your Eulogy. Do everything every day so that no matter when your life is over, your story gets told exactly as you wrote it with your actions.”

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By | 2018-04-27T08:44:52-07:00 April 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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