The United States boasts over 12.3 million women-owned businesses, creating $1.8 trillion a year for the economy. These businesses are not only surviving; they are prospering in the face of a global pandemic and limited external funding. According to a recent survey, 77% of women-led companies feel confident they will continue to grow, and in fact, many are looking at expansion. To say that women-owned businesses are resilient is an understatement.
In honor of National Women’s Small Business Month, we spoke with some of our women-owned impact partners (affectionately referred to as our Purposeful Purveyors) to discuss the challenges, successes, and support found in this thriving community of business owners. Each of these companies gives back to their communities in meaningful ways through missions crafted by the women that lead them.
Proud to be women-owned and led
Finding success in a business is sometimes a moving target, but it can be an overwhelming moment of joy and pride when things really go right. But, with time, love, effort (and a lot of creative thinking) comes accomplishment. We asked our purveyors about their proudest moments as leaders in a women-owned business.
Jean Thompson, CEO and founder of Seattle Chocolate Company and jcoco, knows the ups and downs of starting a small business and what it means to create a team that can turn any challenge into an opportunity. “I am proud that my team has turned around a company that was struggling to cover payroll for its first ten years of operation. The key contributor to this is the amazing staff of smart, collaborative people that I have hired to work on my staff,” says Jean. “We have made lots of decisions and adjustments each year that have created a financially stable US chocolate manufacturing and consumer product company.” Through the sales of artisanal chocolates, Seattle Chocolate Company and their give-back line of chocolate (jcoco) seek to Americans affected by food insecurity.
And, as Together We Bake co-founder Tricia Sabatini will say, building a team from the ground up can be one of the most rewarding aspects of leading a business. The Alexandria, VA-based business blends baking and mission through a comprehensive workforce training and personal development program for underserved and underrepresented women. “As a women-owned business, we are very proud of having served over 200 women through our program. However, I am most proud of employing six of our program alumni as full-time staff members of Together We Bake. Our ability to provide them with health insurance at no cost to them, retirement funds, paid vacation and sick days, and a supportive workplace filled with opportunities for growth is a dream come true.”
Nina Tickaradze, CEO and founder of Nadi, has formed and grown her business on a mission to lift refugees from the country of Georgia into meaningful employment that embraces their rich cultural heritage. “I am so proud of the positive impact we have on displaced refugees and their families, especially the mothers who were struggling to support their children,” says Nina. “Steady jobs and reliable income are essential so they can get back on their feet, rebuild their lives and create a better future for their families.”
A Community of Women-Owned Small Businesses
Packed with Purpose is no stranger to the robust community of women-owned businesses, and we’re proud to also be Certified Women-Owned. The support from other entrepreneurs, whether it be shared resources, promotions, mentorship, or messages of encouragement, is as critical to success as it is beautiful.
Emmy’s Organics founder Samantha Abrams knows this support first hand. “Over the years, I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting other female-identifying founders in the CPG [consumer packaged goods] space, many of whom I consider close friends today.”
Emmy’s Organics began humbly in a home kitchen (The company’s namesake is a nod to Samantha’s mother-in-law, Emmy) and has grown to employ a robust and diverse workforce, evolve into a B-corp, and give back to the community. “Being able to have candid, relaxed conversations chatting about life and business has helped me grow so much as a person and business leader. We share horror stories, ask each other for advice and share what’s working. Knowing other women in my industry has inspired me so much.”
On the flip side, providing that same support back into the community is just as important. Jean Thomas (Seattle Chocolate Company/Jcoco) recognizes the responsibility to include other women and their businesses in the upward trajectory of her brand. “ We collaborate with women-owned organizations whenever we get the chance. We engage independent artists to design our packaging, most of whom are women. We try to purchase ingredients from companies that are owned by women. And finally, putting girls at the forefront of our philanthropic mission will ultimately seed future businesses with more and more women.”
And, this community extends not only in the professional realm, but throughout the supply chain. Recognizing the critical role women perform in the sourcing of key ingredients means also acknowledging inequity and injustice in global consumerism.
“One of the main things we looked at this year as well from a support perspective was labor practices in our supply chain,” says YES Bar founder Abigail Wald, who founded a company focused on plant-based, vegan snack bars. “Women are often the majority of workers in communities that supply our chocolate and cashews for instance. We completed audits this year and absorbed some pretty steep price increases to support better labor practices for the communities that help us make YES Bars.”
Packed with Purpose founder and CEO Leeatt Rothschild is committed to fostering this community through close partnerships and using this gifting platform for good. “As a women-owned company, it’s important for me and for my company to amplify the voices and missions of other women striving to make a difference.”
Looking Towards the Future
Not ones to rest on their laurels, many of these featured founders have big plans for the upcoming year. So, what’s next?
Tricia from Together We Bake has goals for expansion not only for their facilities but for the people they can serve. “The proceeds from sales have helped us expand our program and production, therefore allowing us the need to hire more alumni. Our goal of owning our own facility with a separate kitchen for training and retail production is in sight.”
Some are focused on the continued upward trajectory of their brand development and internal growth. “We are very excited. We are adding new varieties of Happy Hearts apple chips, and our goal is to grow our distribution to be able to reach more customers,” says Nina of Nadi, who was recently a finalist in the Eat Me Guilt Free “You Glow Girl” grant.
Others look for ways to continue optimizing their supply chain in an effort to become more eco-friendly and adaptable. “Well of course we have more delicious products that we can’t wait to make! I also think we have the ability to continue to make food with amazing integrity and also push with ethics and sustainability,” says Abigail of YES Bar,” We are aiming for a fully zero-waste product line in the coming years!”
And others look to expand their success to others, by reinvesting in their communities and the future of women-led initiatives.
“For the past ten years, we have donated a serving of food to American food banks with the purchase of any jcoco product,” says Jean of Seattle Chocolate/jcoco, “I am very excited that we are going to kick off a built-in philanthropic donation for our 30-year old Seattle Chocolate brand starting in January of 2022. All Seattle Chocolate purchases will contribute to Girls Inc., a national organization that invests in the future of women with programs to lift girls up and give them their voice.
You are making it happen
The resilience of these businesses is felt with every interaction of their brand, founders, and fans. Whether you find their products in a Packed with Purpose gift, on the shelf at a local specialty food store, or happenstance, support of these women-owned businesses directly results in their continued success. And that success for these purveyors means growth, opportunity, and the ability to lift up their communities for a better future.
We’re proud to feature these powerful women and others in our Make Them Smile gift, showcasing the high-quality and mission-driven products from these incredible women-owned businesses.