Good morning, Friends! Today I have a super nice JLP Profile for you. For those of you who are newer to Jewish Latin Princess, let me tell you about my JLP Profile series… JLP Profiles capture exceptional Jewish Latin women, who infuse their physical endeavors with spirituality in a unique way. It is one of my favorite projects and if you haven’t read the previous ones, you should because we have amazing contributors and lots of inspiration. Each one is just a gem. And so is today’s. I am proud to introduce you to Ronit Spiwak Wolf.
Ronit is an entrepreneur, who via her new company SchlepNot, is changing the landscape for the kosher consumers and thus revolutionizing the hotel industry. Please meet Ronit…
What is SchlepNot? (I love that name, by the way)
SchlepNot is a Kosher travel concierge Service that aims to facilitate international kosher travel and events (such as weddings), making it easy for the consumer. We focus on non-group/personalized travel, offering delivery of kosher food to hotels and ensuring you are in a kosher-friendly hotel that has been trained in kosher handling and will not charge you extra fees for catering to your kosher needs. We also work with local kosher food vendors in each of the destinations and build custom menus that feature local dishes and flavors, so that you can actually enjoy the food of the country you’re visiting!
How did SchlepNot come about?
I got married in Cali, Colombia in 2012. The idea for SchlepNot first sparked during that time, when I was planning a kosher wedding in a city that didn’t have the infrastructure for it! Lots of kosher-keeping family and friends were flying in for the wedding and it was a real challenge to figure out all the kashrut logistics. Despite the challenges, we did it! However, I thought “there has to be an easier way for Kosher Jews to travel the world.”
Did you have prior experience in the hospitality industry?
Yes, I worked with Spiwak Hotels (a new brand) alongside my family in Cali, Colombia during the construction of it’s first Hotel. For a full year I was working as Importing Manager importing things such as slate, marble, mattresses, fixtures, etc… mainly from China. I traveled to Guangzhou, China twice during this time. I then worked in the operations of the Hotel once it opened for about 6 months. My experience in the hotel industry with my family business along with my Master’s in the same industry made the whole process of making an idea into reality much easier. I must add that at a very young age my family implanted in us a passion for travel. My graduation gift upon graduating from college at Brandeis University was a family trip to India! I’ve never let that go, and never plan to! I love being able to curate my career around travel and at the same time in a way that I am serving “my people.”
As you said before, you are evidently providing a service that is unique to “your people” – the Jewish people. Did you ever imagine being in that position? What do your friends and family say?
Honestly, I never imagined I would be in this position! I don’t think I had ever planned it that way, but I’m so happy with this added twist to my professional career. I am so glad that what I do has the potential to help the global Jewish community. My family is very excited for me and they guide me and help me along the process. I think my friends are shocked but in a good way I hope! :-)
Why would your friends be in “shock”?
I didn’t grow up in an observant household. Yes, we were active members of the Jewish community, and very much identified as Jews and Zionists (look at my name haha), but my parents didn’t keep a kosher home when I was growing up. Only later in life did I take on kashrut for myself, as well as Shabbat observance. Being an observant Jew has brought so much beauty to my world, I am so thankful I got here. As you would say in Spanish (and my dad used to always say to us as kids): “La vida te da sorpresas, sorpresas te da la vida!” – life surprises you and it has certainly surprised me in the best of ways. It is also a famous line in a salsa song by Ruben Blades! :-)
Tell us about your grandmother…
My grandmother started a chain of successful hotels in Colombia a few short years after she became a widow with 5 young children living under her roof and she ran them herself for years. There are no words that could accurately describe my grandmother’s efforts. Being a wife and mother myself now, I can only imagine the hardships she endured to get to where she got. You could say such an entrepreneurial woman was definitely ahead of her time in many ways. I don’t think it’s coincidence that I’m sort of following in her footsteps. If she could create a company on her own under those circumstances and in those times, I certainly hoped to do the same under a much more favorable time and circumstances. I am nowhere near where she was in terms of professional accomplishment, but I think I am on the right path for myself- trying out a business of my own in the same industry as hers. I think the only way I was able to create Schlepnot and be the person I am is thanks to my role models that surround me – not just my grandmother but my parents and brothers as well as my husband – all working in entrepreneurial ventures. Their examples gave me the courage needed to do this!
You made a choice to take on the mitzvah of kashrut as an adult. Not only have you benefitted personally, but you’ve created something that benefits our people. How does it feel to be part of something bigger than yourself – something of such high impact?
The truth is I never thought of what I do in the way you express it! But it’s a lovely idea and the truth is I hope I am bringing something into the world that benefits our Jewish communities worldwide and specifically that it allows our Orthodox communities to see the world more easily. Travel, quite literally and metaphorically, takes me to a mental and physical place nothing else can take me to. I love it. I want to spread that love and help other get to that “place.” Jewish communities have given me so much, it’s amazing if I can offer something in return!
Aside from the long hours, financial risks and everything else that being an entrepreneur entails, how has your personal life as a Jewish woman been affected by the business?
Well people tend to travel on holidays and “off times,” so a lot of those times I end up having to work. I remember the morning of my second son’s Bris, Ittiel, I was on the phone re-booking a hotel for a client who’s flight to Costa Rica got delayed due to a snow storm. I remember thinking “I cant believe I have to do this NOW, the morning of my son’s bris.” But the truth is being a business owner means that. You work whenever wherever no matter what is going on. Even your son’s Bris!
How do you think your Judaism has influenced your work up until now?
My Judaism has not influenced it, it is it, it is everything. If I had not become observant in the way that I am now, I would have never realized the opportunity that existed in the market.
How would you describe what you do in three words?
Kosher Travel Facilitator
Any practical tips that you can give JLP readers…
Follow your gut. I took the decision to start this company and quit my job 9 months after I had my first son. It was a big risk but I knew it was the right decision. If I would have paid attention to societal pressures, maybe I would have still been working at my old job and well, many things would be different.
What a beautiful girl and story, right? I told my husband that we need to start saving for a nice trip with SchlepNot. (Have you seen those destinations? I’m having a hard time choosing where I want to go!) Friends, I encourage you to visit Ronit’s page and take advantage for this amazing service when you’re planning your next vacation. I love the idea of being able to try different local menus, kosher! Yay!!!
Do you know an exceptional Jewish Latin woman, whose story would inspire a JLP Profile? Email me, please!