On the day of filming, Edwin Ortiz wore a blue blazer. It’s not his usual work attire. The collaborative workspace in Northwest Arkansas where Edwin runs his startup is a relaxed, open environment. There are original brick walls and glass doors and long tables, couches and leather armchairs. A communal coffee bar and a patio overlooking the street and shops below. Several small businesses and startups work there, side by side, in a kind of community. On the day of filming, there wasn’t another blazer in sight.
“She wouldn’t be okay with me just wearing a t-shirt,” Edwin said, talking about his grandma, Teresa. “She wanted us in button downs. Ironed – we couldn’t be all wrinkled up. She’d starch the shirts so they practically stood up on their own.”
It’s a detail that makes me smile.
Edwin’s grandmother, Teresa Ortiz, grew up in Michoacán, a small town on the west side of Mexico. For many years, she and other members of her family would travel to the San Fernando Valley for work during the farming season. The back and forth between California and Mexico was hard and didn’t provide long-term stability or room to grow. Even after permanently moving to California, Teresa wanted more for her family.
When she heard about opportunity in Northwest Arkansas in the ‘90s, she took the leap, moved to Rogers, Ark., and started working at Tyson Foods. She was able to buy a house, and she opened her doors to others who were also seeking new beginnings and a better life.
Edwin’s dad had been travelling to the San Fernando Valley, too, from Mexico City and decided to move his family to Arkansas. Edwin remembers, at 15, coming to live at his grandma’s house when they first arrived in the U.S. Teresa was also sharing her home with two other families at the time.
“She was funny and witty,” Edwin said, laughing, remembering. “She’d cook on the weekends, and everyone was invited – all the family, all the friends, whoever. She didn’t like pictures. She was in charge, and there was no question about it.”
What she cared about most, Edwin said, was helping people. She helped people find homes and jobs – many joining the Tyson Foods family – and encouraged education. Edwin and two of his cousins became the first in the family to graduate high school. Edwin went on to graduate from Brigham Young University and began a career in business. Now, he’s the CEO and co-founder of a new startup called Rejoicy.
Helping Local Businesses and Communities Thrive
Rejoicy was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Edwin saw local businesses struggling and not having a way to reach their customers. Most small and local businesses don’t have an e-commerce site, meaning customers need to physically come to their store to shop. Edwin and fellow Rejoicy co-founder, Luke, wanted to help.
The Rejoicy platform creates digital storefronts for these local businesses, giving customers the ease of buying from their favorite local shops all in one place. Over 40 Northwest Arkansas businesses can be found, and shopped, on Rejoicy – from candles and jewelry to clothing, art, and grocery items. Getting started as a business is easy: all you have to do is send a text. You answer four questions, and then Rejoicy will send you a link to launch your store. Rejoicy also offers local pick up from three set locations, free local delivery on Saturdays, and shipping.
“It’s almost like you’re going to the farmer’s market,” Edwin said, “but one that never closes. We want to make it as easy as possible to shop local online, to open doors for these entrepreneurs, to be a link between opportunity and those that are hungry for it.”
And it’s a system that’s working. One local candle company, for example, went from selling at local farmer’s markets and out-of-home to their own brick-and-mortar store.
“When you’re buying local,” Edwin said, “you’re helping your neighbors and your community.”
A Ripple Effect
It’s easy to see Teresa’s influence on her grandson’s company. Just as she worked to uplift and assist those in her community, Rejoicy is now doing the same. It’s an impact that has a ripple effect, and it’s a story that has come full circle. Recently, Tyson Ventures, the investment arm of Tyson Foods, made an investment in Rejoicy.
“It’s crazy finding myself, 17 years after I moved here, working with Tyson to open doors for others – like my grandma did,” Edwin said. “Tyson is still helping, and there’s still more opportunities to make a difference.”
The support from Tyson, Edwin said, has been incredible, but the success of Rejoicy really comes down to his team. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Luke Brown, Creative Director Bryce Holland, and Customer Success Manager Kieran Henderson worked with Edwin on a previous startup, Luncher, and have been vital to the Rejoicy project. Kate Lynn, Olivia Pledger, and Kealie McClain joined the team as Rejoicy continues to grow and thrive.
Before we wrapped up our interview, I asked Edwin how he thought his grandma would feel knowing her move to Arkansas created this pathway for him and so many others.
“I think she would be super proud,” he said, “and I think she’d also be looking to help more.”