Welcome to our Women’s History Month Series featuring some of the incredible founders from the Newark Venture Partners portfolio. Last week, we introduced you to Naomi Shah, founder of Meet Cute. This week, we are proud to introduce you to Jessica Gonzalez, a Newark business owner, and Founder of InCharged and VendX, which develop and produce top-of-the-line event tech. During the pandemic, Jessica also founded Lux Disinfect, a sanitization tech company. We spoke with her about her get-it-done approach to startup life, her family and pandemic challenges, as well as some leadership favorites, and of course the future of Newark! Here is what she had to say:
NVP: How has your life, and/or your experience as a woman in business influenced the way you started, run, and grow your business
Simply, I’ve always had to hustle. When I first started InCharged, I had no access to help or capital but I had a great idea and one that I knew would work. For me, a lot of my strength and perseverance comes from my roots as a Latina, and I’ve always been proud of my ability to bootstrap things. When the pandemic put my plans for VendX on hold, I bootstrapped UVC cleaning tech out of my garage. I’m not good at slowing down and I actually enjoy a good challenge. My life experience has taught me that a little elbow grease can go a long way, and that nothing can stop me when my mind is made up.
NVP: What else should we be talking about during Women’s history month as it pertains to business, startups, tech and VC?
JG: We should be talking about how hard it's been as mothers to be both business owners, employees and taking care of our children during this pandemic. My wife and I welcomed our second child this spring, just as things were shutting down. It’s been a blessing, for sure, but honestly, it’s also been a difficult time for growing families and growing businesses.
As moms, it’s true that our kids come first, but as a business owner, I also have to worry about keeping the lights on and payroll going. Part of being a parent is earning a living so we can provide for our children, and providing an example to them. We are trying to keep our kids and ourselves safe, while keeping the bills paid, with minimal childcare.
This pandemic stretched us to our limits, and I’d love to see some good come of it. How can we engage our leaders on more support for working parents? How can we develop a strong childcare system that works for families? How can we enable small businesses to support their employees in times of crisis? These are important questions that we should be asking now so we are better prepared for next time.
NVP: What three books (or podcasts!) can you recommend on leadership?
JG: Never split the difference, 4 hour work week, and EOS traction:
Never Split the Difference: Chris Voss is phenomenal! This book showed me how you negotiate everything in life and business and it’s not about meeting halfway it’s about two people who have a problem in front of them and need to come up with a solution together.
4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss taught me how to delegate and automate as much as I can
EOS Traction is great for running your company and giving both the company and employees tangible goals.
NVP: How did you wind up with your office in Newark?
JG: I've lived in New Jersey all my life, and I was looking everywhere for affordable space. Eventually, I found this warehouse space in Newark and I just fell in love with the potential. It was the perfect price point for a growing business - so I went for it. Now that I know the area, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
NVP: What do you expect to see in Newark over the next few months?
JG: I expect it to see Newark become a true tech hot spot, for one thing. Newark has been on track for a comeback for years, and I think that as this pandemic fades into the past, we will see some big moments for Newark. This city has always had potential, but now that businesses and people looking at new ways and new places to live and work, I think Newark offers such a perfect solution. Not everyone wants to be in a suburb, and here you have the cultural foundation, the restaurant scene, the corporate/VC network and the talent to do whatever you want - and to do it more affordably than you’d do it other places. I’m team Newark all the way!
Tune back in next week for our interview with Eden Full Goh, Founder of Team Mobot