Forming Impact community member Stephenie Rodriguez is a member of the 2018 Necker Impact cohort. “I’m on a mission to impact a billion lives by 2025 and democratize safety,” Stephenie begins every talk, pitch or business meeting with this one sentence, setting the tone for what she is trying to achieve through her entrepreneurship journey.
Stephenie second from left enjoys the festive revelries at Necker Impact 2018
Stephenie is an inventor, founder and motivational speaker. Most recently, she is tackling the problem of personal safety through a project called WanderSafe, a technology-led smart solution, that offers the user access to an app and compact personal safety devices, with a beacon that offers help 3x faster than a phone call or message. It gives users the options to alert, call and notify loved ones in case of an emergency more quickly and seamlessly than a smartphone. Another standout initiative Stephenie actively advocates for is SheEO, a global community of generous women building a $1B perpetual fund to support women and non-binary people working on the world’s “to-do list”.
In 2019, Stephenie’s mission was well on its way to fruition; she had traveled across the globe to launch WanderSafe, speak at various forums, and meet clients, investors and fellow changemakers. The extensive tour culminated with a short stay in Boston before a scheduled flight back home to Australia. On the date of her departure, Stephenie felt unwell but decided to soldier on, she was determined to make it home. On reaching the airport, her condition deteriorated.
Two weeks later, Stephenie regained consciousness. She had been diagnosed with Cerebral Malaria, a disease with a 97.7% fatality rate. “To be a two-percenter is nuts. it’s a daily reminder of how fragile life is. When I woke up, people were trying to give me the easy, simple version like you’re alive, and we are so happy. But no one could say your feet are very damaged.” Stephenie shares, recalling the experience. The infection caused led to a situation that necessitated a life-saving treatment that caused irreversible damage to Stephenie’s feet.
The road recovery has been difficult, “I’ll never forget the moment; it was incredibly humiliating and humbling because I couldn’t move, do anything for myself. To be in complete submission and vulnerability was a game-changer. It was then that I thought about who I was before this incident. I got to a very vulnerable place; the only person who could save me was me. My life is worth fighting for.” And while she faced an uncertain path to recovery, Stephenie found a much-need catalyst for inspiration in Beyonce’s concert film, Homecoming, “Every night I would watch Beyonce’s film, and sing and dance in my head with her, and rehabilitate myself.”
Stephenie spent 22 months in a wheelchair and after multiple surgeries to save her feet, she underwent an amputation. Today, Stephenie is walking tall, thanks to bionic limbs, and she more determined than ever, “I am going to do my best for my son, for myself, and my mission.”