‘Adapt & Survive’: Stephenie Rodriguez, Founder, Creator and CEO, WanderSafe

By Andrew Pentol |

ADAPT AND SURVIVE Stephenie Rodriguez - 460x306In a remarkable show of courage, grit and determination, WanderSafe, Founder, Creator and CEO Stephenie Rodriguez is continuing her recovery from cerebral malaria and septic shock amid the ongoing backdrop of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Rodriguez contracted malaria after being bitten by an infected mosquito during a WanderSafe business trip to Lagos, Nigeria in September 2019.

It wasn’t until another business trip to the US soon after that she collapsed because of the illness and fell into a coma.

Speaking to TRBusiness from the Prince of Wales Private Hospital in Sydney, Australia as part of our Adapt & Survive Skype video series, Rodriguez said: “I fought for my life for two weeks in a coma because of the malaria parasite in my blood.

“During the coma I was given medication which kept me alive but caused collateral damage to my hands and feet.”


Rodriguez, who is continuing her recovery amid the evolving Covid-19 pandemic added: “April 25 was World Malaria Day. This was a sad day for me because everyone is in a state of panic over Covid-19, meaning we are no longer devoting resources to end the global pandemic that is malaria, which kills a human being every two minutes. Covid-19 is yet to reach that magnitude.

“It is not the time to take the foot off the gas in terms of the way funds and resources are allocated to malaria, now that Covid-19 is flavour of the month.”

Offering further thoughts on the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact in Australia and beyond, she commented: “I do not have access to the some of the traditional media, but I am proud of how Australia has dealt with the situation.”

“I am also very proud of how certain other countries have managed the situation, but have seen some very bad behaviour from countries like the US, which makes me very glad to be here.”

In addition to monitoring how Covid-19 is being controlled in Australia and elsewhere, she is also observing the impact of the pandemic on the DF&TR industry.

“I have seen the way travel retail is being impacted by the virus through the conversations people are having on LinkedIn and Facebook and the daily news briefs I receive in my mailbox. The industry has been given the chance to evaluate what it is has done previously and had the opportunity to create new value for the new paradigm.

“This will challenge some people, but those who are creative and listen to what people want will be winners in the next normal.”

WanderSafe beacon

Rodriguez has received strong support from the JOZU for Women WanderSafe investors throughout her ordeal.

Prior to the start of her ordeal, the plan was to launch a new WanderSafe product in time for the 2019 Christmas period, but this never materialised due to the illness. As reported, the WanderSafe device, which helps women travel safer and better, was launched at the 2018 TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes. It was then re-branded as the Beacon at the start of last year.

“Unfortunately, the coma took me and had me on the sidelines well into November. Then Covid-19 crept along,” she recalled.

Thankfully, Rodriguez has the backing of the Jozu for Women WanderSafe investors who have extended their positivity and belief. “They are continuing to support the company during this period of hibernation, so we can eventually continue the journey we started which is to impact a billion lives by 2025.”

Click here to donate to Stephenie’s recovery fund.

Adapt and Survive asks members of the travel retail industry community, often working from home, for their candid commentary on the constantly evolving Covid-19 pandemic.

The video series is a direct response to the industry’s critical need for direct, factual and analytical commentary and – in typical TRBusiness fashion – interprets clearly and concisely the challenges faced by travel retail during Covid-19.

To register your interest in the Adapt and Survive series, please contact one of the editorial team at the following addresses: [email protected][email protected][email protected].


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