Denene Jonielle Rodney is an award-winning researcher, graduate of business acceleration programs, and CEO of the qualitative and quantitative research design firm, Zebra Strategies. Through Zebra Strategies, Denene has worked with hundreds of companies across various industries like nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and varying aspects of healthcare. Zebra Strategies serves these firms with the aim of engaging perspectives of differing cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Known for her warmth and humor, Denene creates a safe space for people to have open conversations on any topic while maintaining a sense of easiness and respect. Since she founded Zebra Strategies in 2000, Denene’s life, mission, and message have been fully integrated into her company. From her early years, Denene saw that typically many people do not draw a great “ticket” in the “lottery of life.” Through Zebra Strategies, she has made it her goal to bring these voices to the forefront, lift them up, and make them a part of the bigger conversation, and thereby gently shaping the world into a better place.
For Denene, the goal has always been to look past the numbers. She looks at the heart of people’s stories to help understand their background and help their business. “When we research, we find where we’re the same, study why we’re different, and help find actionable solutions that help us weave a web of respect and togetherness.” Denene is an entrepreneur driven by her passion for the communities that she serves. Through her work, she realized that her community and business belong not to just one, but the culmination of so many other communities. This helped her to find common ground, see people as individuals, and marry the perspectives for real-life change.
About Zebra Strategies
Zebra Strategies is a certified woman and minority-owned, integrated, qualitative and quantitative market research and strategy firm. They specialize in marginalized, vulnerable, and hard-to-engage populations. Zebra Strategies has over 20 years of experience and over 400 client engagements across a wide range of industries like consumer products, B2B, Pharma, technology, public health, financial services, nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and all aspects of healthcare. They focus on difficult-to-reach populations and targets and are known for their inventive recruitment and engagement strategies. Zebra Strategies offers an unparalleled approach to understanding the motivations and cultural nuances of underserved communities and the impact on products, services, social initiatives, and user experiences. Employing a nationwide staff of thirty dedicated professionals, Zebra Strategies has the ability to facilitate research in a number of languages. In each language, the team is highly skilled in engaging vulnerable populations, interpreting responses, and transforming insights into action.
Helping clients see beyond the numbers, Zebra Strategies as a whole is led by the mantra, “Be curious—but not judgmental.” It is this idea that allows the team to connect with various communities and gain insight on sensitive topics, providing safe spaces for candor and respect.
It’s not just black and white. Zebra Strategies’ consultants are a mix of classically trained market researchers, strategists from advertising agencies, and academic researchers—resulting in a holistic portrait of marketing issues with actionable solutions. The mission is to amplify the voices of marginalized and vulnerable populations through meaningful qualitative & quantitative market research.
What does being a minority business, or supporting minority businesses, mean to you?
Being a minority business owner means I’m taking an active role in changing the landscape of what other aspiring entrepreneurs see. When trying to push forward, it’s encouraging to see other people who look like yourself making it on their own terms. Also, it means that I get to bring so many marginalized communities to the table with me when I take my seat.
How has being certified with the NMSDC helped your business?
NMSDC has brought awareness to my business and brand. Clients know who we are and trust us to serve.
What is one thing you wish you had known when you were starting gout in your career?
There will always be something to overcome and people are not always as kind and professional as you think they should be. However, when servicing with dignity and passion, the rewards are always great.