We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jessica, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
It is completely necessary to take a leap of faith, learn as you go, stumble along the way, and shed a few tears on your way to success.

What should our readers know about your business?
I started a small business in 2016, providing one-on-one Aquatic Physical Therapy to children. Over the next 4 years my business grew exponentially, through referrals and returning clients. It occurred to me that the community need was far greater than my small business could provide. Our special needs community wanted skilled and experienced swim instruction, they could trust. It was important to me that these community needs were met, so a new business was formed. Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) with Stepping Stones is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Our mission is to provide socialization, wellness, and water safety through aquatic programs for children with special needs. The non-profit model was important to meet our operational objectives. Affordable, families from different socioeconomic backgrounds can participate in programs. Accessible, indoor community pool partner so that families can continue to access programs year-round. Charitable, offer scholarships for low-income families. Sustainable, aquatic programs have a continued and growing need in the community. Our aquatic program is different because it was created specifically for the special needs community. SNAP with Stepping Stones staff has the highest level of education and experience. Our program director, Jessica Rodriguez, is a Pediatric Physical Therapist and an experienced Special Olympics head coach. Our Occupational Therapist, Mikayla Hall, is an experienced swim instructor and competitive swimmer. Our lead swim instructor, Sabrina Decker, is an experienced Special Olympics swim coach and a certified Swim Whisperer, special needs swim instructor. Our original plan was to open in Spring 2020, however, given the current situation we were forced to postpone our opening. We were not prepared for the challenges COVID-19 would bring. Our team now had to solidify partnerships with a community pool, fundraise, and market our programs during the most unpredictable and challenging year. Our greatest challenge was hosting a virtual raffle fundraiser through social media. Luckily, we gathered a wide variety of donated prizes and sold virtual tickets online. Despite the setbacks, our fundraiser was a great success. It took a lot of dedication and perseverance, but we met every challenge we faced. SNAP with Stepping Stones is now ready to serve the community, pending the safe re-opening of community pools.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite place to visit are our beautiful beaches. A perfect day trip would be to start the morning at Malibu Farm Pier Cafe for breakfast, then drive up Pacific Coast Highway to soak up more sun and beaches. Favorite local spots include La Piedra State Beach, Hollywood Beach, and Carpinteria State Beach. Best local restaurants are Malibu Seafood, The Old Place in Agoura Hills, Joi Cafe in Westlake Village, Little Calf Creamery and Cafe in Thousand Oaks, and the Shrimp vs Chef food truck. There are lots of awesome hiking trails in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties some of my most traveled are Cheseboro Canyon Trail, Mishe Mokwa Trail, and Los Robles Trail. Attractions I love to visit are Griffith Observatory, The Getty Museum and of course, Disneyland.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In 2019, I decided our community needed special needs aquatic programs that were customized and affordable to children of all abilities. I reached out to a few friends, with a variety of skill sets needed to start a non-profit organization. These amazing women believed in my vision and selflessly volunteered their time and talents to bring this dream to a reality. Sabrina Decker, is our lead swim instructor. She was instrumental in collaborating on program development. Erika Robles and Joanna Fouad, sit on our Board of Directors as our Treasurer and Secretary. Both sharing their non-profit experience to create a solid business and ethical foundation. I will forever be thankful for the continuous support, vibrant energy, and passion from this dedicated group of women. I am so proud of the program we created and can not wait to share it with our community.

Website: snapaquatics.org

Instagram: @SNAPwithSteppingStones

Facebook: @SNAPwithSteppingStones

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