Meet Jessie Garcia, Founder and CEO of Tozuda

Jan 5, 2020

The high-growth founders who make up AWE's community are proud to support women-founded startups like Tozuda who have the potential for growth.

Meet Jessie Garcia, Founder and CEO of Tozuda and the winner of the 2019 AWE Pitch. Tozuda — Spanish for “hard-headed” — makes and sells affordable helmet sensors that alert the wearer when he or she is hit with enough force to potentially cause a concussion. The company motto is “If it’s red check your head.”

Here's what she shared when we talked to her:

Why did you found this company? I needed a solution for my own problem. I was a rugby player at Lehigh University and my coach didn’t recognize the symptoms of my concussion and left me in a game playing. I suffered for about six months with post-concussive symptoms. Then, the only head impact sensor available was a mouthguard that costs $199. I realized there must be a simpler and more affordable way to let people know they’ve been hit too hard and need to be checked out by a doctor.

What’s your core business philosophy? Fail fast and fail often. Put yourself out there and collect feedback as much as possible. Realize that when we fail, we still move forward towards success if we learn from all those situations and outcomes.

How did you fund the company when you first started, and why? I bootstrapped Tozuda. I didn’t have a financial network of friends and family to borrow from to make our prototypes so I invested in the company myself as much as possible. I worked a full-time job, lived at home, and saved all my money while working nights and weekends on the technology. The big financial help that really got the product to market was our Kickstarter, which allowed us to manufacture at volume for our users.

How do you keep a competitive edge as your company grows? I am finding great talent to bring to our team, people with different skill sets. We go to conferences and trade shows so we can stay current with what is going on in our industry and with TBI research. I’m also a great listener and I do my best to understand our customers and our end users to make sure we are still providing the value and solution they desire.

How do you measure success? That’s a tough one. Right now, success is getting our product out there to as many industries and applications as possible. The more people we can help the more successful we are.

What motivates you? I am a first-generation Cuban American and I am motivated by all that my family had to sacrifice and go through to come to the US to give us a good life. I have applied their disciplined work ethic to my life and Tozuda, which has allowed me to bring the same level of hard work and enthusiasm to the company each and every day. This motivation is what has enabled our team to overcome obstacles, develop our creative, patented technology, and most importantly, help bring visibility to an invisible injury.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? You need to know what you don’t know and realize when you need to ask for help. Don’t take it personally. Everybody needs help some time. When we began asking for help, we saw more progression in the business.

How has the AWE network impacted you and your business? It’s been great. Since AWE, I’ve been invited to pitch to three other organizations, opportunities that would not have come our way without AWE putting us in the loop. AWE opens up doors. It has given me more confidence because other entrepreneurs want to help us grow. Seeing these seasoned companies and their accomplished leaders makes me see what Tozuda could be one day.

What’s the most influential book you’ve read in the last five years? Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. He was a psychiatrist who chronicled his experience as a prisoner in four Nazi concentration camps. It encourages us to find a purpose in things we have struggled through. It’s very deep. Although we can’t avoid suffering, your outlook on what you’re going through makes all the difference whether be in business or your personal life.

If you weren’t involved with your current venture, you would be: I don’t have a Plan B. I’m all in with my business. But if I have to give an answer, I would run another business, something in product design because I love engineering and working creatively to solve problems.

The goal of the Cover Stories series is to profile female founders scaling companies to counterbalance the constant flow of cover stories that only focus on 20-year old men dressed in jeans and hoodies. High-growth women founders exist, and their stories should take a leading role in shaping how we see entrepreneurship so we empower the next generation of female founders to reach even higher.