JC Moms Get Down to Business
It was Mother’s Day this past weekend and we’re ready to celebrate moms doing amazing things around Jersey City! We’ve highlighted just a few of our local moms in business we’d like to see get a little recognition for going the extra mile for their children and the community.
Andrea Rizvi, Owner of Boomerang Bites
Boomerang Bites is an artisanal bakery and cafe, set to open soon in The Heights in tandem with Babka Bailout, offering authentic Australian bite-size treats, customizable gift boxes, and catering services. Before setting roots down in Hoboken 20 years ago, owner Andrea Rizvi grew up in Australia and traveled extensively advising on projects to bring water, sanitation, electricity and roads to underdeveloped communities across the globe. After more than two decades of working to bring some good around the world – from the slums of Mumbai, to remote outback Aboriginal communities to war-torn Saravejo – and sharing her favorite childhood treats with her own children, she started 2017 to give back to her community and spread the joy of Australian goods to others in the US.
“I started Boomerang Bites to bring together two passions – baking and social change,” said Rizvi. “The concept for the business originated in response to a void I observed in the baked goods market. As a mum to four boys and frequent coffee shop customer, I was frustrated at the lack of smaller sized flavorful baked goods … I felt there was a need for something that was rich and indulgent, with a dense flavor-packed punch and yet portion controlled without additives to address the health-conscious mindset. I knew the delicious Australian recipes from my childhood presented a unique solution to this problem and Boomerang Bites was launched!”
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Being a mom of four boys – Zak (20), Calum (18), Ryan (15) and Mackean (13) – is a big job on its own without adding in starting a new business and opening a storefront. But Rizvi saw any challenges that arose as an opportunity to set an example for her kids as well as fuel for her motivation to make it all happen.
“It’s important to me that they know that women are strong, capable and can do hard things. This has been a tremendous motivator for me and has helped me stick to my goals,” said Rizvi. “Finding the right balance between work, kids, and self is a challenge for all mothers – and I am not immune. The last few months with the build-out of the storefront has been especially intense. But this has made me more determined to ensure that the workplace that we create as we grow Boomerang Bites is one that is supportive of all lifestyles, and offers flexible work hours that respects people’s lives/families/outside commitments.”
With the support of her community, and especially her boys who she calls her “number one fan club,” the Boomerang Bites storefront is set to open this year with another hard-working Jersey City business mom, Michal Prevor, founder of Babka Bailout.
“The new space will be shared with Babka Bailout because the only thing better than a mom-owned business is two mom owned businesses,” said Rizvi. “And Michal has AMAZING babka!”
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Boomerang Bite donates at least twenty percent of every dollar to local causes. For now as they put the finishing touches on the JC storefront, you can order directly from her website, https://www.boomerangbites.com/ and use code EVERYTHINGJC for 10% off your order!
Zoe Bournias, Owner of LIFE Pancake
A true institution in Jersey City is LIFE Pancake Company, but you may know it by its former name, the Brownstone Diner, or how about Newport Pancake House? Or maybe even MnA Diner? Whatever you know it as, owner Zoe Bournias’ family has owned and been serving staple diner foods, inventive breakfast, and, of course, pancakes, since the 1970s. Once a new generation takes over, they put their own spin on the theme, so in 2019 when Bournias inherited the helm from her parents, she rebranded as LIFE. She’s hoping in the future, her own daughter – 3-year-old Pax – will carry on the tradition and take over with her own special touches, but not before knowing every corner of the business and earning her spot at the top just like Bournias had to before her.
“Being a mom and business owner is definitely not easy but so amazing and hopefully my baby girl will take over but definitely has a long way to go,” said Bournias. “I want her to learn how I did from my parents. I started off being a busser to server to chef. I think it’s important to learn all positions so you are able to teach and lead others.”
Having a supportive partner has made all the difference for Bournias who loves her business, but for her, family comes first.
“Being a business owner and mommy time management is not easy, but I am lucky to have a wonderful partner,” said Bournias. “I close my restaurant at 4:00, so I know every night I will have time with my family and we all have dinner together.”
Diana Young, Co-owner of Treehouse
If you’re looking for coffee in the West Side, it’s not hard to spot Treehouse Coffee Shop with its bright, color-blocked exterior. You might even catch the owners, Frank and Diana Young, outside filming fun social content with their kids. The whole vibe of the shop, from the front to the back seating areas, gives off good energy, which comes from a family, who also lives in the same neighborhood as their shop, who genuinely loves what they’re doing in their community. The husband and wife duo were once busy Manhattan commuters who decided to leave the rat race behind with the birth of their son Wyatt – now 8 ½ – and opened Treehouse in 2019 to spend more time closer to home.
“Our main mission is to provide good coffee and tasty treats for our community; just to keep it simple,” said Diane. “It’s such a pleasure to be able to meet our neighbors every morning as they go about their days.”
Now with an 8 ½ year old and 1 ½ year old Levi, there’s a lot of juggling happening in the shop between diaper changes and bedtimes, and for Diane, “Motherhood has influenced me or rather humbled me to be more realistic with expectations of my work … Sometimes everything happens all at once and you just have to roll with it, learn to prioritize and compromise in the same breath.”
But, luckily, there are also extra hands eager to learn the family business and help Mom and Dad stay successful.
“We give our oldest tasks around the shop, for sure!” said Diane. “Restocking plant-based milks, sweeping, mopping, composting, to name a few. Our 1 ½ year old mainly delegates. I hope they can see that you can both have a happy family while also dedicating yourself to work; for them to see how my Husband and I run this as a mom and pop; teamwork is big.”
Look out for vintage clothing pop-ups at the store around Memorial Day, and make sure to stop in for a Donut Plant Doughnut on the weekends. Plus, check out their stand at the Lincoln Park Farmers Market starting in June.
Aishwarya Gupta, Owner of Spell Bathing
One thing moms know best is finding the solution to a problem when there isn’t an easy option available. Gupta started Spell Bathing – Jersey City-based artisanal skincare and bath products company – two years ago after her daughter, Ahana, turned one year old. As a burn survivor, she was never able to use many skincare products available in the market, so her mother would create products based on ancient ayurveda practices to help soothe her skin. This inspired her to create her own line using only natural and organic ingredients with a mission to make everyone feel confident in their own skin, just as her mother did for her. Now as a mother herself, Gupta is even more conscious of the quality, impact, and safety of her products.
“Being a mother is probably the toughest job in the world and I feel it’s reflected in all my products,” said Gupta. “I always ask myself a few questions: will I use this on my 4-year-old? Are the ingredients safe and chemicals-free? Is my packaging eco-friendly? Am I being able to add value via my products as a mother? When you are a mother, you start thinking from several dimensions.”
Running an online business means you do a lot of work from home, but luckily, Ahana loves helping Mom and learning life lessons in the process.
“My daughter loves to be a part of my business,” said Gupta. “I frequently bring her to the pop-up events I do. Consciously and subconsciously, I feel she has learnt countless life lessons from the way she handles things around her. I put a lot of emphasis on sustainability, and I can see Ahana following some simple sustainable steps, which for a kid of her age is so surprising. I am sure she is growing up and becoming a stronger woman.”
Being a one-woman army of soap making expertise plus juggling being an awesome mom is a 24-hour job, but Gupta wouldn’t have it any other way and encourages all other entrepreneurial mothers to follow their dreams.
“My advice to mothers who are interested in starting a business would be: You got it!” said Gupta. “You can make it happen. Count on your blessings and strengths and take one step at a time. This is not a race and everyone has their own pace. But promise yourself to be consistent and never give up.”
You can find Spell Bathing products including soaps, bath bombs, bath salts, body butter, and gift packs, like the special Mother’s Day Pamper Hamper, online at spellbathing.com. Gupta can also be found at crafters’ pop ups around the city – follow @spellbathing on Instagram to see where she’s exhibiting next!
Sherry Singh, Owner of SMILE Preschool and Founder of Whole Spectrum Autism
For some, autism awareness is only observed in April, but for families with members on the spectrum, their fight for more than awareness, but acceptance, is a daily reality.
“In my house we do autism every single second of the day,” said Sherry Singh, founder of Whole Spectrum Autism.
Jersey City-based Whole Spectrum Autism Foundation was started by Singh seven years ago as Colors of Autism in Hudson County and changed two years ago as it became a non-profit and expanded its mission to serve everyone nationwide on the autism spectrum. Whole Spectrum champions autism acceptance and inclusion by facilitating community engagement and serving as a voice for families whose loved ones are on the spectrum. Founding this organization comes from a personal place for Singh, whose son Ravi, falls on a more severe end of the autism spectrum. Now 35 years old, he did not grow up with the same level of awareness of autism as there is today, which led to struggles for the Singh family that Sherry hopes no one else will have to experience.
“For me and millions of other parents, our children fall into an age bracket that never had any help. Our kids are the ones that lacked education, services, and therapy,” said Singh. “I went through a lot of difficult situations with my own son personally. I started Whole Spectrum to not only get help for those families, but to help every other family out there.”
Singh works with local businesses to host game nights, dinners, and general networking “breathing time,” as she calls it, for families with members on the spectrum to have a little fun in a relaxed environment with like-minded people. Along with organizing get-togethers for families, Singh orchestrated lighting the Newark Ave Pedestrian Plaza blue for April in honor of Autism Awareness Month wherein Downtown businesses were given free blue Christmas lights to hang them in the window to signify their support, which they did and still do seven years later, with over 20 businesses participating in this past April.
Sherry has also been the owner and director of Smile Preschool and Nursery in Downtown Jersey City for the past 25 years. Her son’s influence can be found there as well, with his life-changing smile being the inspiration for the name.
“There are times that my son is smiling and does something that makes you laugh but a second after that laughter turns into tears,” said Singh. “When I opened up my preschool 25 years ago, I named it Smile, which came from my son. I focused on the feeling his smile gave me, not the sadness after. He taught me what a difference a smile could make.”
To support Whole Spectrum Autism, consider buying a ticket to or sponsor a family for the 7th Annual Autism Acceptance Gala on September 8th, 2022 held from 6-10pm on the Pedestrian Mall on Newark Ave. Proceeds benefit Whole Spectrum Autism.
For educational resources, community events, and more, visit www.wholespectrumautism.org and follow on social media @whole_spectrum_autism.