While we believe every day should serve as an occasion to celebrate the endeavors of women, womxn, and female-identifying, we are thrilled to take the opportunity to further make noise around their successes and strides within the culinary community. These women are so much more than just the creators of delicious treats and beverages—they are founders with a mission, cause, and social justice goals.
Deciding to take the leap to start a business is terrifying, especially in a market most view as already highly saturated. We are in awe of the individuals that push through every obstacle on this journey, making space for their story and products. These founders not only persevered to achieve their goals, but continue to showcase the power of innovation and how a network of strong women can uplift each other.
Check out these incredible women-led small businesses you should know, their advice for determined entrepreneurs, and their nominees for fellow boss ladies.
Une Femme Wines: Jen Pelka
- Get To Know the Business: Jen Pelka previously owned and operated The Riddler, a Champagne bar in New York and San Francisco. It was there she came to realize there simply wasn't a great sparkling wine brand for modern women. Of all the top Champagne and sparkling wine brands, 100% are over 100 years old and none are owned by women, but all are marketed women. Enter: Une Femme. Pelka set out to create a brand centered around women winemakers and that gave back to women-centered charities. Make sure to check out The Hall of Femme.
- What to Buy: We're currently sipping on The Piquette, a light pinot meunier from Napa winemaker Samantha Sheehan. Coming this spring, you can find Une Femme's The Callie, a California sparkling rosé, at every Ritz Carlton in the country.
- Advice From a Boss: "One thing I've learned is that when you are a founder of a business, there is no one on your payroll who is paid to fill your tank," explains Pelka. Her advice is to surround yourself with other founders who are going through a similar experience because of all the highs and lows. And, don't forget to stop and celebrate. Pelka continues, "There's always a million fires that you're fighting, but on the big days, make sure you pop a bottle of Champagne to commemorate the moment."
- Their Nominee: Another Tomorrow is a sustainable fashion company that is all about luxury fashion. The founder is an incredible woman named Vanessa Barboni Hallik. She's a former investment banker turned founder and they are making a real impact on sustainability through fashion. — Jen Pelka, Founder
Sunscoop: Carli Blum & Chelsea Fisher
- Get To Know the Business: Sunscoop is a plant-based ice cream reimagining the classics. Founder Carli Blum loves food, especially ice cream, but struggled with allergies to dairy, gluten, nuts, soy, eggs, and sensitivity to refined sugar. Similarly, Research & Development Chef Chelsea Fisher realized the importance of food in health after being diagnosed with Hashimotos, an autoimmune disease. Together Blum and Fisher created Sunscoop to deliver this nostalgic dessert to every dietary restriction and preference.
- What to Buy: It's hard to choose a favorite pint, but we are currently digging into the Cold Brew Swirl and Toasted Coconut Butter.
- Advice From a Boss: Blum and Fisher are motivated by how much they believe in their product line. Through all the struggles of maintaining a startup, Blum explains, "At the end of the day we are selling sunshine in a pint and want to make sure that we are having fun, laughing a lot, supporting each other, and making sure the ice cream is out of this world delicious."
- Their Nominee: Tonya is the founder and CEO of Rainbo Mushrooms. She's a holistic nutritionist, educator , healer and truly one of the most rare souls on this planet. She embodies her product in every form and Rainbo is part of her purpose on earth. — Carli Blum, Founder
Couplet: Gefen Skolnick
- Get To Know the Business: Couplet is queer woman-owned with the mantra to make great coffee more fun, approachable, amd most importantly, for everyone. Founder Gefen Skolnick was obsessed with coffee from an early age, but always found the specialty brands intimidating. With a team full of baristas, poets, artists, and community builders, Couplet offers ridiculously delicious cups of the good stuff in conjunction with limited edition drops and events to bring everyone together.
- What to Buy: We suggest The Espresso for Everyone Blend that you can prepare in one of Couplet's unique Mooka pots.
- Advice From a Boss: "Starting my dream company during a pandemic has been equal parts terrifying and exhilarating," said Skolnick. Though the company picked up speed quite quickly, the key to continued growth is all about finding unique and fun ways to engage with their community.
- Their Nominee: Another brand that I love and want to shoutout is Ali Bonar's Oat Haus. The company offers granola butter as a nut-free spread option with flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry shortcake. — Gefen Skolnick, Founder
Fly By Jing: Jing Gao
- Get To Know the Business: Founded in 2018, Fly By Jing is inspired by the flavors of Gao's hometown Chengdu and its famous fly restaurant—a term referring to the hole-in-the-wall spots that attract diners like flies. Offering everything from Mala Spice Mix to Zhong Sauce, Jing hopes to share thoughtful food that creates meaningful dialogue.
- What to Buy: You will find us shoveling the Sichuan Chili Crisp onto everything from eggs to ice cream. We're particularly excited to test out the new hot pot starter kit the team just dropped.
- Advice From a Boss: Gao often reflects on the courage it took to simply believe enough in her idea to take the leap. Luckily, she has dear friends who did the early believing for her until she could get there herself. She continues, "That belief that the company I was building was bigger than me is what carried me through the other many, many challenges—from dismissive investors to supply chain fiascos." Her advice is to surround yourself with other female founders and founders of color who get it. "My small, but incredible, community of founders has shared tips, tricks, and emotional support when the times get tough," said Gao.
- Their Nominee: I love Fishwife! Not only do they make the best tinned fish, their founder Becca is a one-woman wonder—doing everything from supply chain to creative direction. — Jing Gao, Founder
Trade Street Jam: Ashley Marie Rouse
- Get To Know the Business: Chef, woman, and minority-owned, Trade Street Jam started in a little apartment in North Carolina, but now spans across the country. Rooted in unique flavor combinations, Ashley enjoys taking risks to offer new culinary experiences to the masses. The company keeps regional makers in mind, sourcing everything from local vendors and famers.
- What to Buy: We are currently in love with the Black-Owned Breakfast Box, including Trade Street Jam's Blueberry Lemon Basil spread. The cocktail elixirs are also great options to mix up your happy hour or mocktail hour.
- Advice From a Boss: Rouse's advice for other entrepreneurs is to be in it for the long haul. Whatever your idea is, give it all that you've got but don't expect it to be an easy journey. She elaborates, "Almost everything in building Trade Street to what it is today has been a struggle—funding the business, scaling for growth, getting into retail, trying to get customers to understand your product, etc." Through all the obstacles, Rouse learned to become comfortable with being uncomfortable—this is just a piece of the puzzle to how she paved the way for today.
- Their Nominee: I love what so many females are doing that I can't pick just one! Partake, Black Girl Baking, Justice of the Pies, Boss Blend Coffee, Grandbaby Cakes, Ayako & Family...so many! — Ashley Marie Rouse, Founder
ZORA Chocolate: Fatima-Zohra Hakam
- Get To Know the Business: For Fatima-Zohra Hakam a bar of chocolate is so much more than a simple sweet treat. It's the aromatic notes, that quintessential snap, and a deep connection to those producing it, specifically the largest cocoa-producing region of West Africa. ZORA Chocolate keeps women at the forefront, the company empowers and amplifies the voices of female farmers, products, and artisans who are most often marginalised in the current system.
- What to Buy: You cannot go wrong with the Ginger + Sesame or simply Fleur de Sel bars.
- Advice From a Boss: "Launching Zora has taught me to let go of set expectations, which calls for more openness and vulnerability, as a founder, a team leader, and a creator," describes Hakam. This has allowed her to appreciate and embrace both the shifts and growth of the company.
- Their Nominee: Ghia is a spirit-free aperitif made with pure, natural extract. I have always admired Mélanie Masarin, especially because she grew up outside the USA just like me and really spearheaded this category as one of the first players and leaders. — Fatima-Zohra Hakam, Founder
Balkan Bites: Ariana Tolka & Alida Malushi
- Get To Know the Business: It all began when Ariana Tolka asked her aunt Alida Malushi to teach her about traditional Albanian recipes to honor her late grandmother. Tolka is first generation American born to a Croatian mother and an Albanian father from Kosovo, while Malushi is an Albanian born and raised in Kosovo. The company started off at local markets in New York City in 2019, but soon after the team was forced to pivot their business model due to the global pandemic. They now ship to homes around the world, providing Balkan culture through authentic family recipes.
- What to Buy: For an easy appetizer or anytime snack, we reach for the Mushroom and Goat Cheese Burek. However, the Chocolate and Hazelnut Burek is the ultimate sweet tooth treat.
- Advice from A Boss: To keep Balkan Bites alive throughout the pandemic, Tolka and Malushi created an online store to sell frozen burek, but found it extremely challenging to attract new customers to their website. From this experience Tolka explains, "My advice to other entrepreneurs would be to launch one channel at a time if you don't have a big team."
- Their Nominee: We love Jaju Pierogi! These handcrafted pierogi delicious and the founders (and sisters), Vanessa and Casey are awesome. — Ariana Tolka, Founder
Diaspora Co.: Sana Javeri Kadri
- Get To Know the Business: At just 23-years-old, Sana Javeri Kadri founded Diaspora Co. with just one spice: Pragati Turmeric. The dream? To grow a sensational, equitable spice trade that curves a broken system into an equal exchange, paying their farm partners an average of 6x the commodity price. Today, the company sources 30 single origin spices from 150 farms across India and Sri Lanka. Javeri Kadri invests in community, leadership, and land stewardship that keeps climate change top of mind for an everlasting food system.
- What to Buy: If you're looking to explore new spices, we suggest The Pantry Refresh or The Baker Set. There's also plenty of beautiful brass tools and even a sweatsuit, we have our eyes on/
- Advice From a Boss: Though it may seem to some like Diaspora Co. just “took off," it has felt like a tumultuous marathon to Javeri Kadri. Throughout the long road, she constantly questioned whether the vision and dream she had for a radically progressive, colorful and delicious spice company would find a community to support it. She elaborated, "We still have such a long way to go, which is part of the fun. Knowing how challenging the road ahead is only makes me more excited."
- Their Nominee: Queens SF is our local Korean Superette run by Clara and Eddo Lee. Besides importing the most delicious products from small, artisanal producers across South Korea, Clara makes a gochujang that nobody in my family can live without. I cart several jars back to Mumbai every few months to keep us all stocked! — Sana Javeri Kadri, Founder
Just Date Syrup: Sylvie Charles
- Get To Know the Business: Sylvie Charles created Just Date in her home kitchen, with initial intentions of sharing it with family, friends, and her patients struggling to kick their refined sugar habit. While on a never-ending hunt for a healthier sugar alternative that didn't skimp on flavor, Charles found the perfect recipe using medjool dates, something her Indian family used for generations to sweeten chutneys.
- What to Buy: Though you can't beat the original Date Syrup, we suggest grabbing a jar of the Chocolate Date Tahini and diving right in—or, it goes great over some ice cream.
- Advice From a Boss: "Entrepreneurship is a challenging, daily rollercoaster of highs and lows, but seeing the daily satisfaction of customers never fails to bring me joy," says Charles. She encourages other entrepreneurs to find joy and satisfaction in every little win, otherwise the business can bring you down fast. Although there are undoubtedly hard days, Charles aims to bring as much positivity as she can to every workday.
- Their Nominee: Seed + Mill is an organic tahini company out of NYC with the silkiest, tastiest tahini around. Their founder and CEO, Rachel Simons, leads their team with such grace, is incredibly supportive of other female-owned brands, and aims to lift all the women around her however she can. — Sylvie Charles, Founder
Material Kitchen: Eunice Byun
- Get To Know the Business: Byun founded Material Kitchen with her David Ngyuen, bringing thoughtfully designed items for your kitchen that bring joy into everyday. The duo is obsessed with good design, high-performing products, and making "keep for life" kitchenware.
- What to Buy: We are currently obsessed with Material Kitchen's sleek, sustainable cutting boards, The reBoard, made from recycled plastic scraps and renewable sugarcane. Additionally, The Iconics set includes all the best tools you will ever need in a functional, elegant base.
- Advice From a Boss: Byun believes in finding something new outside of your work and the company. "It gives your brain a breather from constantly thinking about what you're building, allowing yourself some mental rest," she says. Currently, Byun is learning how to play tennis, so that she can physically and mentally take herself out of the office for a few hours a month.
- Their Nominee: I love Sponge.NYC and the playfulness founder Alexandria Pak brings to the kitchen sponge category. My mom has given me many Korean crocheted sponges over the years, but none as beautiful and imaginative as what Alexandria hand creates. They also clean like a beauty and don't get that gross mildew-y smell like all the other traditional sponges. — Eunice Byun, Founder