We had the good fortune of connecting with Isabella Joffroy and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Isabella, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I think that work-life balance is something that is always changing and evolving. Nine years ago, when I first started with Yelp, I don’t think “work-life balance” was even a phrase that was present in my mind, ever. I said yes to everything, took every meeting, worked late nights, skipped meals, worked through family time, worked on vacation and eventually, I reached burn out. Ultimately, all of it is a choice. How we structure our daily routines is so important and it took me years to learn the power of saying “no” and feeling confident in that. I have found that balance is not something you find, it’s something you create. Balance is also cyclical in that there are crazy times of year and projects that might require more energy than others, but maintaining a balance for me is sticking to my non-negotiables. A work-life balance right now looks like not skipping my daily workout because something on my to-do list didn’t get crossed off the day before. Work-life balance for me is not taking calls or meetings before 10am. My morning routine is very important to me and that includes a daily workout, meditation, etc. Work-life balance is also about planning ahead, mapping out my year and sticking to a plan so long that it makes sense. And when I’m feeling out of balance, I take a pause and reflect on what might be the cause, reevaluate my priorities, make changes and keep going!

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a graduate of the University of San Diego with a BS in Communication and Media relations, I have to say that I wasn’t sure my degree would serve its purpose when I graduated back in 2006. After I graduated, I worked in a variety of internships that involved PR, event planning and corporate meeting planning. My real passion was for the culinary arts and hospitality industry. I looked at going to culinary school but wasn’t sold on the idea of personally being a chef. And call it serendipity, but around the same time a family friend was expanding their uber popular restaurant and invited me to go work with their family and literally learn the ropes of opening a restaurant. I packed my bags and left sunny San Diego for an idyllic ski town in the Canadian Rockies. That experience was all hands on deck. It was probably one of the biggest lessons of my life to get to partake in the day to day operations of a small family run business going through the expansion process which meant dealing with investors, sub contractors, shopping trips for equipment and furnishings, testing recipes, interviewing staff and the list goes on. I was thrown right in and it was awesome. I also worked front of the house and back of the house and did it all from helping wash dishes when people didn’t show up for work to prep cooking and eventually taking a role on the cooking line. I got very personal and first hand experience in witnessing the trials and tribulations that business owners go through in the process. It’s grueling and takes a great amount of grit. As I mentioned in an earlier question, I deeply admire business owners. They take big risks in going independent. This experience ultimately came to an end due to work visa related issues. I moved back to Tucson in 2009 still with a passion for hospitality but a new perspective on pursuing being a restaurant owner myself. I took my job as an assistant to the Marketing and Events directors at the Lodge at Ventana Canyon. During that time, the events director took maternity leave and I was entrusted to run her office in addition to my daily duties. It was such an honor for me. I literally had all of her wedding clients and corporate meeting groups in my hands during that time. It was a learn as you go time that required a lot of overtime hours but again, more learning! I truly believe that we learn by doing and when we’re tested to really step up, that’s where real growth happens. I juggled two jobs at the time as well. I was a server at Tavolino to supplement my income. Plus, I love food and wine and Tavolino was an excellent place to work. I also helped with catering events during my time there. The owner, Deborah Tenino, I think mentored many of us in different ways that we maybe didn’t realize at the time. She is a hardworking woman and knows how to run a business. She once told me that I’d probably work three different jobs before landing on “the one.” I never forgot that! My next job was as a sales representative with US Foods. Again, another job that kept me close to the restaurant and hospitality industry. I was there for about two years then offered a district manager in a training position. During that period, I was introduced to the Yelp community manager at the time. We hit it off right away. A few months after we met, he called me and said he was moving on to another Yelp market and that I should apply for the job. I had no idea what Yelp was or really what he did as a community manager, but it sounded interesting so I applied and I was hired in 2012. Three significant job experiences later, I landed “the one.” I have to say that professionally, one of the most important factors is relationships. All of my experiences and opportunities have presented themselves through the help of others. We never know where our career path is going to take us but what I do know is that we don’t get to those places alone. One other commonality in all of my career experiences is that you can say “yes” to the opportunities that excite you and figure out the rest along the way. And I’ve been able to do that through various jobs. We all have the power and potential within us to “make it happen” and oftentimes it’s during periods that push us to the edge of where we think our limitations are and then you just make it happen!

Interviews like these are truly a great opportunity to reflect on where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I believe that we are never done learning and if you reach that point in a job it’s a good time to ask yourself why. I’m constantly learning and adapting to marketing trends, corporate initiatives, community changes and more. I knew that what I brought to the table at Yelp was my ability to nurture relationships, my understanding of the restaurant industry, event planning experience and simply a personal and deeply rooted passion for supporting independently owned businesses. The rest, I’ve learned along the way. I’m always learning. Some days I’m wearing the PR hat and other days I’m planning social media content and watching youtube tutorials on how to use the latest feature on Instagram, planning events or taking on a public speaking engagement to educate businesses on how to use Yelp. I wear many hats in my role but my proudest accomplishment so far is the community I’ve built for Yelp in Tucson. I know that the work that I do helps small business owners. Every meeting I take with a business owner is very important to me because I am able to help identify opportunities that raise awareness about their business and bring people through their doors to support them. There hasn’t been one day in my nine years at Yelp that has been the same. I’ve faced a lot of challenges and difficult conversations with business owners, but I am most proud of being able to create a bridge with them by being authentic to myself and Yelp as a brand. Being a Yelp Community Manager means that you represent the brand and its mission. And that is a huge responsibility and privilege. Integrity is everything in our professional and personal lives. I am proud that I have built a positive and vibrant local community for a global brand. Yelp connects people with great local businesses. I get to bring Yelps mission to life through the events this coordinate, whether it’s a thirty person event at taco shop to meet the business owner, learn about their story and eat tacos togather or a 300 person multi vendor large scale event (which are on hold due COVID). I would love for people to know that supporting local is not just shopping local, but that extra step huge to share our experiences through positive reviews and photos is incredibly impactful. Millions of users turn to Yelp everyday to make a decision and those of us who take the time to talk about it on Yelp and even social media are laying the foundation for a small business to gain more visibility. I’ve always told people that I view Yelp as “paying it forward.” So the next time you feel compelled to show extra love to a local business, whether it’s your dog groomer, plumber or barista, write that Yelp review and join the community of fellow foodies and local enthusiasts!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Considering that staying in the “know” of the latest and greatest in Tucson is my job, I literally have Collections (curated lists) on my Yelp profile that I share with friends and family- from outdoor activities, to shopping to eating out and more depending on what people’s needs and interests are. However, my personal itinerary for a visiting friend would be a mix of outdoors explorations, arts and culture and of course eats and drinks! Tucson and the surrounding areas are just incredible places. We’re really quite lucky to have Mount Lemmon in our backyard. It’s such a special drive to start at the base and see the lush Saguaros and as you climb in elevation you get more of the high desert brush, huge boulders and then at the top you’re it’s pinetrees and at least 10 degrees cooler! Another incredible place to visit is Saguaro National Park. Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as high as 50 and can live longer than 200 years, it’s amazing! And a must do in Tucson. I love heading out there for a sunset drive or packing a picnic to catch the views. There are also tons of hiking and mountain biking trails. If it’s more of an eat and hike, I love taking friends to Barista del Barrio for a breakfast burrito before or after. It’s one of my favorite spots on the West side of Tucson. They use delicious flour tortillas and griddle the burritos! The downtown and Westside of Tucson are amongst my favorite areas. The culture and spirit of the city is really felt here from the clusters of locally owned businesses to the public and murals. It’s just truly what makes Tucson… Tucson. I’d take my visitors to the Mercado San Agustin for a coffee at Presta and to cruise around the mercado and MSA Annex shopping area. The local retailers are all really unique and 100% locally owned and operated. They have live entertainment weekly too. My favorite spots to take friends to dinner are either Anello Pizzeria or Tito and Pep. Both eateries equally emphasize quality ingredients, delicious food and a team of people that are just the best! I can talk about food all day long and I have many local favorites for different reasons, so I always curate visits based on what my friends’ tastes might be. Tucson weather is beautiful Fall through late Spring, so spending time outdoors plays a big role. Lastly, I love taking friends to the Patagonia/Sonoita area. I grew up in Nogales and spent a lot of time picnicking and exploring the area. Sonoita is also wine country and the drive is spectacular. I like making a full day or overnight trip and staying in Patagonia. The sky is so clear at night it feels like you can touch the stars! Southern Arizona is a beautiful place and I love showing off the true authentic side of my home region.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many amazing people that I have connected with over the years. Cultivating relationships with members of the Tucson community, both in the service/hospitality and small business community and Yelp users, is both huge privilege and responsibility that I have earned and feel deeply grateful to have. Being a Yelp community manager is still a role that can be misunderstood and comes with obstacles when trying to connect with local business owners. I take great pride in being the person that brings the mission of Yelp to life in Tucson- to connect people to local businesses, share their stories and create experiences for the community to connect with business owners IRL. I get to build community and celebrate the people who use Yelp- aka. Yelpers- those who write reviews, upload photos and make Yelp the useful app that it is! I also get to organize events and experiences for community members to meet like-minded, local enthusiasts all while supporting local businesses. None of this would be possible without both the Yelp community and the trust local business owners have put in me to help them connect with local consumers, share their story and showcase their business in the most authentic way possible. Business owners are the soul of our city and I deeply admire them for the work that they do. I credit every single business owner who has taken the time to meet with me, collaborate with me and ultimately see the value of the work that we do! I credit the collaborative mindset and spirit of the community in my success in building Yelp Tucson.

Website: yelp.com

Instagram: @YelpTucson https://www.instagram.com/yelptucson/, personal: @IsabellaJoffroy; https://www.instagram.com/isabellajoffroy/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/isabella-joffroy-1118335b/

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=6ObFF8-uKnOAlXuSH4TlyQ

Image Credits
Pedro Romano Photography

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.