LC Bulletin: ROJO – the color of giving

October 23, 2009. Retrieved online October 23, 2009 from Gabriel Vasquez, Las Cruces Bulletin

Who knew 7 ounces of knit cotton could feed 50 starving people in Zimbabwe?

Jose Rodriguez and Aron Jones, graduates of New Mexico State University, have started a business with charitable giving at its core – ROJO Apparel.

“Before we knew we wanted to sell T-shirts and create an online-based business, we knew we wanted to have a charitable giving business model,” Rodriguez said. “That was the most important thing to us.”

Rodriguez, who graduated in December 2008 with degrees in finance and economics, moved to northern New Mexico to pursue a career working for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

But after hour-long phone conversations and extensive email communication with Jones, his best friend in college, he decided to abandon the security of a government job and pursue his life dream, becoming an entrepreneur.

“For me, it was a combination of life experiences, education and finding where my heart was,” Rodriguez said.

ROJO Apparel, launched in late September, offers a variety of T-shirts and accessories for sale through its online shop, and with each sale, 50 nutritionally based meals are distributed to impoverished communities in Zimbabwe. To date, the duo has helped distribute more than 4,100 meals.

The name ROJO derives from the last name of both entrepreneurs – “The Rodriguez and Jones Project.”

Rodriguez said ROJO, Spanish for red, also symbolizes the color recognized internationally for aid and relief.

Jones, who graduated in May with a degree in marketing and leadership management, said the business was created with a relatively low start-up cost and has the option of expanding exponentially as it gets more orders.

“I took a marketing class that dealt only with charitable organizations and nonprofits,” Jones said. “That really set me into motion. One time, as a kid, I dreamed of being a CEO for a Fortune 500 company. But with the Enrons and Bernie Madoffs of the world, it made me change. Now, I just want to build a company that helps people.”

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