Rocio Frej Vitalle is a member of the Energy + Environmental Sciences Cluster. As founder and CEO of Improving Aviation, she applies her background as an aerospace engineer to create a more sustainable, autonomous and innovative aviation, and space industry.
Read on for highlights from her interview with us about Improving Aviation, the Central Florida innovation ecosystem and how she is forging a path for future generations of women to thrive in the tech industry.
What inspired the idea for your business?
For me, it was hard to imagine a more exciting topic than aviation. I was fascinated not by airplanes themselves, but by the wide range of skills that are required for an airplane to complete a trip safely. The industry is my passion, but at the same time, I recognized how complex it is. Aviation has a dark side to it when we think about emissions, but at the same time, can be such a huge help in fighting climate change and providing solutions for general disasters. I created Improving Aviation to develop aviation technologies that make airplanes more sustainable and help to build a more sustainable world. Our journey started working side by side with the federal government in the next generation of aviation and air traffic management systems, but we are now taking our expertise to develop aviation-related technologies for a more sustainable future. Our technologies are dedicated to fighting climate change using aviation solutions.
How has Central Florida’s innovation ecosystem supported your business growth? Can you share more about your involvement with Cenfluence and how it has impacted your business?
We have been attending Cenfluence seminars and becoming more informed with current initiatives through membership. The seminars have been tremendously helpful in addressing some of our legal, intellection property and partnership challenges. We have also closely worked with Cenfluence Program Director Amy Beaird, who has provided amazing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) proposal preparation support. Amy reviewed our proposals and gave us very insightful information and suggestions on how to structure the proposal, and make it standout. I don’t think we would have achieved any of these SBIR awards without Amy’s help.
We are excited to be part of Cenfluence and the Central Florida innovation ecosystem. Through Cenfluence, we have been introduced to previous SBIR awardees and reviewers who have shared information and highly increased our chances of selection.
What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of? Why?
As a tangible objective, being selected to receive SBIR awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA has been the company’s biggest achievement to-date, no doubt. Personally, I am most proud of my team and how everybody is so passionate about building a more sustainable world. The energy on our team is amazing and everybody is committed to using their expertise and skills in creating a better world. It’s all about the energy, passion and motivation around everyone on the team. It is amazing when a customer tells us they appreciate the passion, work ethic and integrity of the team.
Have you faced any challenges unique to women business owners? What advice would you give another woman looking to start her own tech company?
Being a woman in an industry dominated by men may have some prejudices and add some challenges. However, I don’t think it ever determines the final outcome. In my opinion, everyone faces difficulties. I am an immigrant and for 12 years until I became a resident, I was constantly being turned down when I applied for jobs because I needed visa sponsorship. I didn’t even get a chance to submit a resume. That helped me learn that I might need to work 10 times harder than others for the same outcome. But everyone has their own challenges. As a woman, I may have to work harder for the same outcome, but by doing so, future generations of women will not have it so hard, just like older generations had it much harder than we do today. We are getting there, and women entrepreneurs play a huge role in that.