Jersey City Moms Making Moves
It’s Mother’s Day, and we’re ready to celebrate moms doing amazing things around Jersey City! We’ve highlighted just a few of our local super moms we’d like to see get a little recognition for going the extra mile for their children and the community.
Michal Prevor, Founder of Babka Bailout
It’s no secret that the pandemic put a lot of people out of work and into scary, uncertain situations. In May 2020, Michal Prevor’s friend and housekeeper, Carmen, told her she had lost all of her clients, so she could not afford rent and had to rely on food banks to feed her family. Michal offered to pay double, but even that was not enough to help, and she spent sleepless nights thinking of ways to help her friend. Inspiration hit after a day in the kitchen with her husband baking challah bread and babka as gifts for friends who raved about their baking skills.
“I said, ‘You know what, we’re going to make a batch and sell them and I’m going to give all the money to Carmen. I’m gonna try it. Let’s see how much money I can make for her,’” said Michal. She posted the idea in a Hoboken mommies Facebook group and, “within 30 or 40 minutes we were sold out. I got orders for 40 babkas, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t make that many!’ But we did, then we delivered them and the moms must have started telling their friends because that’s when the messages started coming in.”
The demand was surprising and a little overwhelming at first, but ultimately welcome. Michal’s initial plan, titled Babka Bailout, was to bake for a few months to help her with her rent payments, but what started as a little side project has turned into a full-time business. Through social media and word of mouth, orders came by the hundreds a week. Eventually, Carmen approached Michal saying she no longer wanted the babka money but instead would rather team up and work under Michal full-time to continue the business while giving her stable income. Pre-pandemic, Michal traveled often for work, which she hated because it kept her away from her family. Now, Michal is home baking and growing her small business into a babka empire with the help of her husband and daughters.
“In the summer, my daughters loved it. My older one especially liked being in charge of deliveries. She would make a list of the deliveries and routes and found an app with the best way to do it,” said Michal. “My younger one is our babka ball master. My husband taught her how to make the babka balls, and she was the one that was making them during the summer. When she had to go back to school, she taught me how to make them! I let them find what they like to do. I didn’t say they had to do this. They wanted to help on their own.”
In addition to being able to spend more time with her family through her babka making, Michal is also able to share a piece of her childhood and culture with her community, chomping at the bit to buy her lovingly made sweets.
“I’m Ashkenazi and my grandmothers are Polish and Russian, so this is what they made. It’s what I like and it’s my heritage to share, so that’s great,” said Michal. “In Israel, it’s a very popular dessert… When I moved to Israel at 17, I fell in love with these cakes. I remember I was a senior in high school, and every Friday or Saturday, I would go and buy one and eat the whole thing. There isn’t anything like that here. Some places make them with one or two flavors, like Nutella or cinnamon. And that’s it. But there isn’t much available if you want other flavors.”
Michal offers a revolving menu of sweet and savory flavors for babka and babka balls, with some of the most popular flavors being Oreo, Nutella, Cereal Milk, Olive and Feta, and Brie and Guava. Michal also offers rugelach, pull-apart, vegan options, and custom orders for events and holidays. Babkas are available for local pickup but can also be found increasingly around town, including in the Grind General Store, Hybrid Coffee & Kitchen, and Cangiano’s. They are also available to ship nationwide and can be found in Chelsea Market baskets.
Christina Moore, Owner of Xtina’s Variety & Vintage Shop at the Hive Goods
Christina Moore is a person of opportunity. She grew up being told “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it” and taking chances to stumble onto the next big project. While looking to make friends and find where she fit in after moving to Jersey City six years ago, Christina came to Deep Space Gallery for an event and found exactly what she was looking for in an art community and circle of like-minded people. She spent her time hanging out in the gallery upstairs, but the space downstairs went mostly unused as a space with miscellaneous items that were unclear if they were part of the art or for sale. Christina, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology business school and daughter of a business-owning mom whom she looked up to, saw potential and asked to take on the project of renovating the space for her favorite things – like thrifting, sustainable and affordable fashion, and clothing swaps – that, years later, would become much more than just a passion project.
The shop evolved from a chaotic space beneath the Gallery to a highly curated store with art from local makers on the walls and organized racks of affordable clothing, jewelry, shoes, records, home goods, and more, artfully arranged on the floor.
“I wanted it to be a place for curious minds,” said Christina. “I always say there’s no obligation to ever spend money here. You can just come here and hang out. I have things for $1 for $3 and I never want to lose that. I needed that so badly when I was a kid. My mom always took me secondhand shopping and I remember being ashamed of it. I want to make that cool now, and I want people, kids, and moms alike to feel like you can be whoever you want to be. You can be creative, you can be a boss, you can be whoever you want to be in this space.”
This opened up the opportunity for Christina to host her beloved clothing swaps and pop-ups, uplifting local artists and female creators, especially, among other themed events. Once the pandemic hit, however, these events and clothing swaps were put on hold. This period has allowed Christina to devote more of her time to really making the store her main focus alongside her creative business consulting.
“I’m really proud of it. It’s my shop, but before I was basically swap focused and event focused. I was only there once or twice a month whenever I could fit it into my schedule,” said Christina. “When we are able to reopen in June, I decided I wanted to take this opportunity to be in the shop whenever I could. So, I spent the summer into the fall merchandising it, you know, getting the price tags on setting up displays, making relationships, really making it a cool space.”
As a soon-to-be first-time mother, Christina is excited to raise her daughter in a creative environment where she can explore and let her curiosity guide her.
“The thing that I want my baby to understand is having an open mind and just being willing to try everything,” said Christina. “Going after her dreams is definitely something that will be very important in our household. I plan to bring my baby to the shop and have her be influenced to see what she will become. My mom used to say that to me all the time about food or going on the big slide or talking to the kid in the corner, ‘You never know, ‘til you try.’ So, I definitely want to encourage a sense of curiosity and action in her.”
The shop is open by appointment only with more events and pop-ups coming soon to be announced on the shop’s Instagram.
Nyquazah Hawkins, Founder & Executive Director of Qua’s Creative Arts Center
The way to uplift an underserved community of people is to provide the tools and encourage them to grow. Nyquazah Hawkins has been an artist since she was a kid and always enjoyed doing arts and crafts. She always wanted an art center to visit while growing up with resources and supplies to do more of the art she loved, but nothing like that existed around her, so instead, she made it her goal to open one someday to provide this outlet to her community. In February 2020, Nyquazah was able to make that lifelong dream a reality when she opened her first Qua’s Creative Art Center on Ocean Ave. The mission of the Center is to uplift the community by providing children and teens with the tools they need to get inspired to through fun activities, including arts and crafts, acting classes, dancing, yoga, and stretching activities. They also host crafting parties, tutoring help sessions, and events like Easter egg hunts and field days outside.
As an adult crafter who can make anything, she loves being able to take what she knows and have the opportunity to teach a younger generation to express themselves artistically through her centers with her favorite helpers by her side.
“I opened up the space to allow other people in the community to show their talent and show what they can offer to the city, also,” said Nyquazah. “My kids help me with everything. We grew up together. I became a mom at 18. Pretty much from day one we were very close and they’ve helped me with everything from the arts center to home crafts and more.”
In addition to taking care of her two sons, her mother, and running several successful businesses– including the recently opened second location of Qua’s Creative Center in Bayonne– Nyquazah is a lupus survivor. She admits it gets hard and there are some tiring days, but she stays positive and empowered through her devotion to helping her community.
“I love what I do so much that it doesn’t bother me,” said Nyquazah. “It makes me happy, so I don’t mind being tired at the end of the day doing what I do. The things I love to do I’ll do for free, especially when it comes to building up the community.”
Lindsay Donnelly, Founder of Jersey City Mamas
If you’re a mama in Jersey City, following the @jerseycitymamas account on Instagram is a must. In 2017, Lindsay Donnelly, JC Mamas founder, was struggling with postpartum depression and needed a major change in her life to start to heal. She quit her stressful job and moved from NYC to Jersey City with her one-year-old daughter in hopes of reclaiming her calm. Looking to connect with like-minded stay-at-home moms in her new city, she started the Instagram account where she featured real parents in their daily lives, inspirational quotes, and funny posts to encourage laughter on even the toughest parenting days. The focus was always organic, open, and honest conversations about parenting and motherhood. This authenticity helped launch the page to over 4,000 followers in a short amount of time.
Along with being a place to tag and share photos of kids and families around JC and funny mommy moments, the page has become a hub of information on upcoming family events, charity opportunities, social justice resources, and more. It also became a safe place for mothers to share their experiences of motherhood. Pre-pandemic, dozens of meet ups hosted by the account helped to create bonds, friendships, and support for mothers who may have been struggling or just needed someone in their lives who knows what they’re going through, too.
While Lindsay has taken a step back from Jersey City Mamas to help shine the spotlight on other mothers in Jersey City and focus on her own business, Authentic, she has her own IG account @la.donnelly where she makes funny reels of modern mom life.
Mary Christian, Owner & Director of Ivy Primary Prep
Being a mompreneur is all about finding and filling the voids where you know there’s a better option to benefit your and your community’s children. Mary Christian, a mother of two who immigrated from India to NYC when she was 14, was starting her family in Jersey City when she identified one of these said voids. While still pregnant and starting the process of enrolling her toddler in preschool, Mary had a hard time finding an early education program that offered both a primary focus on academics with a combination of play. So, she decided to start her own. Although Mary had co-founded a digital agency that she managed for over 10 years prior to starting her new venture, she always had a passion for education. As a first-generation American who had earned her MBA, Mary had the opportunity to experience two different educational systems, which served as her inspiration to work within education herself. So what better time to act on this passion than when looking for the best possible option for her soon-to-be-born son?
Mary opened Ivy Primary Prep, located inside The Enclave apartments, in January 2021 with the philosophy of providing a safe and nurturing environment where students are comfortable and eager to learn by exploring and asking questions. The goal is for children to build confidence in classrooms filled with love, respect, and happiness – everything and more that Mary had hoped to find for her own children which she can now provide for them and others in her community. The school is now enrolling children ages 2-6 for their first fall semester.
Elizabeth Cain, Owner of Hound About Town & Hazel Baby
Elizabeth Cain has moms of all kinds (of human babies and fur babies) covered with adorable gifts and necessities in Jersey City. JC resident Elizabeth Cain is the owner of two small businesses: Hound About Town, a pet retail boutique celebrating 10 years in 2021, and Hazel Baby, a boutique that specializes in clothing, toys, gifts and more for babies. Her shops were inspired by her own two babies, her son Landon and Wiley the dog. Landon was born with 8 of the 10 top food-related allergies, so she focused her family’s lifestyle, and the shop’s inventory, on natural and organic, non-toxic ingredients for a safe and healthy environment.
Elizabeth is also actively involved in the development of downtown Jersey City, serving as the director of the Historic Downtown Special Improvement Area where she recruited small businesses to open in or relocate to Jersey City and spearheaded projects including streetscape improvement, the rezoning of Restaurant Row, the Newark Avenue Redevelopment Plan, and the drafting of an updated entertainment ordinance for Jersey City!
Francine Mikhail, Co-Founder & CFO of Jungle Communications & EverythingJerseyCity.com
When we’re talking about amazing mothers in our community, we would be remiss to not include one of the hardest working women in Jersey City and co-founder of EJC, Francine Mikhail. As a special Mother’s Day surprise, we interviewed her husband of 25 years, Sam Mikhail, to get the scoop on our dance-loving, super mom of three CFO.
Born and raised in Jersey City, Francine has worked all her life to put herself through school, starting with paying for her Catholic school tuition while other kids were still learning to tie their shoes, to Fairleigh Dickinson and Rutgers for college where she studied accounting. She worked as an accountant until she had her second and third children, born just 51 weeks apart, and decided to stay home to raise her kids and “take a break.” But Francine, not one to stay still for long, took on copywriting assignments from the radio station where her husband Sam worked to take some of the burden off of him while also getting to write, something she loved to do.
Francine juggled motherhood, working, and writing as well as volunteering with her church, managing family properties, and caring for her and her husband’s ailing parents for years.
“Francine, when she stayed home, essentially gave up a career, with the exception of some of the very specific copywriting she was doing,” said Sam. “She set aside a lot of her passions during that time, passions like her love of dancing, to make sacrifices to take care of the family. I have to give her so much credit.”
In 2001, Sam and Francine started their own marketing agency, Jungle Communications. Their business grew by word of mouth, and the pair have spent almost 20 years solely focused on their clients and their advertising needs. The real dream, however, was to create a platform where the Mikhails could promote the good in Jersey City and the businesses they loved at no cost to them. In September 2019, they finally made the dream a reality with the launch of Everything Jersey City, featuring articles, guides, and resources for all aspects of life in Jersey City. From dining to raising families to sharing inspiring stories of our neighbors and more.
Now the blog has become a family business with Francine and Sam’s kids writing, editing, and managing parts of EJC and getting more involved in their community, following in the footsteps of their mother.
“A lot of their passion for social justice rubbed off from their mother, for sure,” said Sam. “We chose to stay and raise our kids in Jersey City because of the diversity. We’re such a diverse community that we really couldn’t see raising them in another area. We wanted them to see and be around people from all around the world. And you get that here in Jersey City.”
Francine even finds time to give back to her community. As a result of the pandemic, Francine was really concerned about food insecurity in the city and the many out-of-work families suffering quietly. She helped spearhead a food pantry outreach at her church, Grace Gospel Church, serving The Heights community, with 130 families coming out to the first event in March. She hopes to turn the grocery bag giveaway into a monthly event.
This hard-working mother isn’t slowing down when it comes to her career, community, and kids, but she is definitely getting her groove back.
“The good thing is she’s doing a lot more writing now,” said Sam. “And I’m always catching her dancing when I walk through the door.”
Finally, we’d also like to give a special shoutout to our Editor-in-Chief, Leslie Victori, who is about to join the ranks of “Moms Making Moves” with her first little one due in June! We can’t wait for you to embark on this new journey.
Happy Mother’s Day! Shout out to the moms shaking things up in Jersey City!