Five Questions For … Carolyn Rodz, Founder of the Circular Board

Houston—As a child, Carolyn Rodz couldn’t decide what she wanted to do when she grew up.

Doctor, lawyer, teacher: they each appealed to her. Rodz finally figured out the common thread among all of her interests—a desire to help others. “I’m an idealist,” she says. “I truly believe there is a solution to everything, and I think that is why I want to help drive those [solutions] forward.”

Today, she’s the founder and CEO of the Circular Board, a Houston accelerator for women entrepreneurs that she founded two years ago. The program is online and eschews traditional pitch-oriented demo days for feedback sessions that she says are more valuable for women.

For this week’s “Five Questions For …” Rodz talks about why she’s motivated to help others, her favorite snack, and cocktails with Amelia Earhart.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Xconomy: Where do you think your drive comes from?

Carolyn Rodz: I am very driven by our mission. It’s easy when you’re running a company to get caught up in the details of daily task list. When I get around female founders and hear stories and the difference we’re making, it just makes me want to work harder. It’s the fuel at 2 am to get me excited about what I’m doing. I know it matters but to be reminded of it helps.

Helping others has always been in many ways core to my being. I don’t like to see problems and leave them alone. Every time I see  problems—as evidence of notebooks of the business ideas I’ve had next to my bed since I was 10—I am driven to solve them.

X: What’s the most embarrassing thing about yourself that you’re willing to admit publicly?

CR: I can eat an entire, well, multiple boxes of Girl Scout cookies in a single sitting. [Editor’s note: She might not be alone in said compunction. …] I’m a cookie addict. My entire team now knows when things are crazy busy and anyone needs a pick-me-up, cookies are our company go-to. Any cookie, really. We’re pretty cookie agnostic.

I do Tiff’s Treats orders late at night; it helps me power through late-at-night work. I feel like what I’m doing is justifiable because it’s a woman-owned company … or Betty Crocker is the same deal. As long as I’m supporting the women, it’s calories for good.

X: If you could go back in time and get five minutes with any major historical figure, who would it be, and what would you want to say to them?

CR: Amelia Earhart for sure. I think that ability to take risks, I loved how she was a risk-taker, a pioneer, an advocate for women. She was an advisor and counselor later in life for women, really helping others to push forward. I’d love to have a cup of coffee or a cocktail with her.

I’d ask her what inspires her, what compelled her to literally put her life on the line, to forge new innovations, to be so committed to exploring and innovating. I think it’s pretty amazing.

She went down doing what she loved. What better way to go.

X: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

CR: Everything. I wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, I wanted to be working in the business world. I was fascinated always by those big fancy buildings. I thought they were so cool and mysterious. I wanted to be an oceanographer, an author. I can pull notebooks out where I was exploring all of these career paths. I wanted to run a charter school.

If I could describe my 5-year-old self, curious is the first word that pops into my mind. There was an intense curiosity for knowing and learning how people operate and why they think and why they do the things they do. That can be manifested in so many different ways, which is why I love working with founders. I didn’t know this was a career possibility before; I could’ve saved myself a lot of time dabbling.

X: How do you define success?

CR: Success for me is impact. Our time on Earth is really short and it’s important—I tell this to my kids everyday—to leave this world better than we found it. Everybody does it in a different way, but if we all focus on that at the core, to me that means I’ve led a really successful life. That’s in every part of my life, with my children, work, random people that I meet and interact with along the way.

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