Meet Becoming Independent's JayJay Rico, one of North Bay Business Journal's 2019 Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40 winner

Age: 35

Director of Social Enterprise

Becoming Independent

1425 Corporate Center Pkwy., Santa Rosa 95407


JayJay Rico, 35, director of social enterprise for Becoming Independent in Santa Rosa, is one of North Bay Business Journal's Forty Under 40 notable young professionals for 2019.

How do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty Under 40 professional?: I play an active leadership role within the organizations that I am involved with and leverage my involvement to foster partnerships that benefit our community.

Years with company: 6.5

Length of time in current position: 2 years

Employees: 275

Number who report to you: 15

Greatest professional accomplishment: Increased BI's Social Enterprise revenue by 10 fold in the last 2 years.

Greatest professional challenge: Building social enterprises that are community based and financially sustainable, while simultaneously allowing for vocational training and employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

Best advice received: Everything we do has a multiplying effect -- on individuals, groups, organizations, and the world. We must maintain awareness on many levels, and act in accordance, to make a real difference in this fragile yet wonderfully resilient world.

Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months

Opening the BI Buzz Cafe, which provides job training and employment for people with disabilities.

What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?

As a nonprofit, garnering the resources to provide wages that compete with for profits has always been challenging. Recruiting and retaining talent in the current economy, with a historically low unemployment rate, remains one of the company's primary challenges.

In order to mitigate this situation, we take a proactive stance when it comes to attracting talented staff by offering a robust set of benefits and professional development opportunities. We also pay close attention to the outward and inward expression of our culture. Nonprofit organizations are particularly susceptible to operating from a scarcity mindset as a result of having limited resources, which may be real or imagined.

At BI, we challenge that notion through creativity and innovation. We have also benefited from what appears to be a cultural shift among young people entering the workforce. This most recent generation appears to place a high level of importance on contributing to the health and vitality of their community. Over the past several years, we have seen an influx of new hires who are motivated by the opportunity to spend their days making a tangible, positive impact on the lives of others.

Drawn in by Becoming Independent's strong and compelling organizational culture, innovative mindset, and opportunities for professional development, we are managing to retain this new generation of employees at a higher rate.

Next professional goal: I would like to be the chief of operations or executive director at a nonprofit that serves our community in a meaningful way.

Education: I am currently a graduate student in the master's degree in organization development program at Sonoma State University. I will be graduating in May.

Hometown: Rohnert Park

Community/nonprofit activities: I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to engage in a variety of community activities with both for profit and nonprofit organizations throughout our community. Critical to Becoming Independent's (BI) ability to flourish over the past 52 years are partnerships that continue to be created with organizations throughout our community.

These partnerships allow BI to provide meaningful volunteer, job training and employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

As a member of BI's Leadership Team and a representative of the agency, I often serve as a liaison for organizations throughout the community and am able to help create mutually beneficial partnerships. In addition to the community activities that I'm involved with through BI, I am personally involved with the American Diabetes Association as a Tour de Cure fundraiser and Participant and the American Cancer Society as a Relay for Life Team Captain, fundraiser and participant.

Mentor/admired businessperson: Tony Robbins - Through his books, I have been able to tap into the ‘giant within'.

What is your most disliked buzzword?

High Functioning when used to describe people with disabilities.

Typical day at the office: A typical day at the office is anything but typical. My role requires me to be nimble, based on what is going on at BI as it relates to the day or larger overarching goals.

On a daily basis, I find myself interacting with a wide range of people, which include: persons served by BI, my team of 15 members, fellow members of the Leadership Team at BI, business and community partners, and supporters and donors of the organization. Various points in my day require a very different skill sets, including analytical skills, customers service, and emotional intelligence.

On a given day, I may be creating the structure to foster growth for a person served at BI or I may be going forth with a member of our Fund Development team, meeting with leaders from other organizations to establish mutually beneficial partnerships that contribute to BI and our community at large.

Best place to work outside of your office: The third floor balcony of the Student Center at Sonoma State University. The energy on campus is revitalizing and working from an elevated platform allows me to elevate my thinking.

Hobbies: Cycling, hiking, music - everything from DJing to playing instruments, Netflix and Chillin'

What you wanted to be when you grew up?: As a child, I wanted to be a boxing ring announcer.

No. 1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: To be recognized as a Forty under 40 by the North Bay Business Journal.

First job: For my first job, I was an academic mentor and residential adviser with Upward Bound Pre-College Programs, supporting low-income, first-generation college bound high school students through academic and social activities.

Throughout my employment with Upward Bound, I worked with students in Santa Rosa, Vallejo and throughout the Greater Sacramento Area. This job was particularly meaningful for me because I was a graduate of the Upward Bound Program.

Social media you most use: Instagram

Favorite book: “The Alchemist” - I appreciate books about personal journey, which allow me to consider a greater perspective.

Favorite movie: “Game of Thrones” - although technically not a movie.

Favorite after-work drink: An ice cold locally crafted IPA.

Last vacation: I went to Maui in October 2018 to celebrate marrying the love of my life.

What does your mom or dad brag most about you?: I will soon be the only person in my family to earn an advanced degree. They are hoping that this will serve as inspiration to my family that education is still the ultimate equalizer.

Favorite app: Nest Thermometer App. The things that excite me nowadays are quite different than the past.

Forty Under 40 winner

Age: 35

Director of Social Enterprise

Becoming Independent

1425 Corporate Center Pkwy., Santa Rosa 95407


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