Women’s History Month: Celebrating 8 Jersey City Female Entrepreneurs
March is Women’s History month — the perfect time to reflect and celebrate on the amazing contributions that women have made to our city. We recognize the value that female entrepreneurs present to our great, growing economy worldwide but have you ever asked yourself how many are in your very own city? Well, you will know now — I’m really excited to be sharing the interviews I’ve had with 8 of the many new and established female entrepreneurs in Jersey City.
Meet Lizeth Morales
Favorite JC Spot: Harry’s Daughter
Owner of El Gordo Eatery in The Heights
Sitting in the middle of the Heights is a restaurant some of you may be familiar with, El Gordo. This restaurant offers one of the most delicious cuisines in the world – Peruvian food! But did you know, it was owned by a female immigrant entrepreneur?
El Gordo Peruivan Eatery was established in 1996 by Lizeth’s Mother Monica Velis. A former housekeeper and single mother at the time who had the courage and determination to chase the American Dream and build a legacy for her family. “We believe good food opens the door to culture and we are proud to serve dishes that give Natives a taste of home and foodies a true culinary experience of Peruvian Cuisine”, says Lizeth. Being Peruvian myself – I am excited to have a local Peruvian restaurant with amazing food.
While speaking with Lizeth, I was moved by her determination and will to keep growing. The food industry’s tough and competitive environment caused her to doubt herself and even limit her goals at times. Clearly, this didn’t stop her, as just this year, she has opened her third location in Union, NJ. When we asked Lizeth for one piece of advice she could give to women looking to open their new business she said not to limit themselves. “Ask for help and vent, build a network of women who support you emotionally. You often hear entrepreneurship is a lonely road but it doesn’t have to be if we learn to ask for help”.
Meet Jacey Lambros & Danielle DeAngelo
Favorite JC Spot: Razza and Mathews & Cangiano’s
Owners of JaneDo
Strong women stand together – as this awesome duo Jacey Lambros and Danielle DeAngelo have done! These two former Radio City Rockettes founded JaneDo – a fitness company focused on inspiring women to reach their fitness goals while also empowering them. Their hard work and dedication have helped them grow and expand into 4 different cities – Jersey City being one of them. Their major strength is having each other – two business partners with opposing skills who support one another. “The journey is so much more fun when you have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to get through the tough times with, and someone to join in celebrating the achievements”.
If you haven’t checked out JaneDo – their workouts are designed with every woman in mind and have the variety women need to DO it all. From dance cardio to trampoline, HIIT and step, they’ve got you covered.
Meet Jennie Santos
Favorite JC Spot: Liberty State Park
Owner of Art Mango
In 2016 Jennie Santos, a Jersey City native decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Setting up her paint studio on the ground floor of her house, she was determined. While speaking with her, she shared that since she’s opened her business she’s been able to gain more awareness of not only herself but also her community. “I have enjoyed the full support of total strangers. It’s a beautiful thing to witness in life” Jennie says.
Art Mango provides painting, illustration, and graphic design classes where Jennie guides you every step of the way. Her goal is to challenge you and push your boundaries when it comes to art. Their signature class is the glow-in-the-dark paint & sip.
Meet Aylin Cabrera
Favorite JC Spot: Café Esmé
Owner of Tainable
Since she was a child, Aylin admired the way you can express yourself with fashion. Her earliest role model was her mom – “ I admired my mom’s great style in the ’90s and as I assume every kid did, played dress-up”. This drove her to study Fashion Merchandising Management at the FIT where she became infatuated with the dream of working in fashion or even having her own fashion line. Although the artistic talent didn’t follow, she later realized she had a niche for curating, merchandising, and styling pieces. Through working in the industry, she gained a wide range of skills from fashion to marketing which has helped her shape her online store’s presence.
Aylin has always been a fan of vintage shops which inspired her to come up with Tainable, her online boutique which features handmade and sustainably-made pieces by independent artists from around the world. Paying homage to her Bolivian roots, she wants to incorporate the pieces of art into her collection. In the near future, Tainable will host a “meet the artist” section on the website where each month she’ll collaborate with an artist, and shoppers can get a behind-the-scenes look at how their favorite items came to be!
When asked what advice she would give to new entrepreneurs she said “…to say no to the fear of failure, you SHOULD fail. Fail as much as you can at a young age because it is the lessons that come from these failures that will carve your path to success. Ultimately, you will regret not starting sooner ”.
Meet Sam Nakhoul
Favorite JC Spot: Torico Ice Cream
Owner of Bored Stiff
Bored and with nothing to do (as many of us were this past 2020), Sam found herself watching endless Tik Toks that featured artists creating jewelry with polymer clay and became intrigued! She quickly ordered some clay, jump rings, backings and started making earrings in her kitchen for her friends. Their response was overwhelmingly positive, encouraging Sam to discover her entrepreneurial side.
Sam knew she wanted to give back to organizations and was able to start giving back through her new business venture. She has since been able to raise $280 for Women Rising Inc. a local organization helping women of the Hudson County community. “I’m really excited for future drops and trying to beat that number for other organizations,” Sam says. Her major advice to new entrepreneurs is to cultivate your ideas and commit to making them happen – “just do it”.
Meet Anna Mae Slocum
Favorite JC Spot: Newark Avenue
Owner of Anna Mae Creates
Anna, along with many artists, was sadly laid off during the pandemic. Sewing since she was 9 years old, Anna decided to put her experience as a Broadway/Movie costume maker to good use. She had never owned or operated a business she figured now is the perfect time to learn.
Anna Mae Creates is a shop that features one-of-a-kind items mostly made by Anna. Her shop mostly sells tote bags, but she also makes purses, pillows, baby/kids clothes and bibs, and adult clothes. She sews the items herself and bases designs on what she is inspired by at that moment. She has an extensive collection of fabric that she’s collected through the years in which she uses – so you know you’ll be getting a one-of-a-kind item.
Recycling clothing material is Anna Mae’s next step for her business, a current example is tote bags she is selling made of old corduroy pants. She’s also collaborating with Jenna Leggio (owner of JMT Art @jmtartjc) on creating clutches. She encourages everyone to support independent artists during this time. “With the shutdown of Broadway and no sustainable work, many of the small businesses that work to create the costumes are in danger of closing permanently, leaving many arts workers without jobs”. Her totes are sold at The Hair Room JC at 140 Bay Street or you can follow her page to stay tuned for her new projects.
If you would like to support other artists that have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, please check out The Costume Industry Coalition (www.costumeindustrycoalition.com) and Be An Arts Hero (www.beanartshero.com) for all the ways to help arts workers and the arts and culture sector of the economy with donations or advocacy.
Meet Monica Meiterman-Rodriguez, Esq.
Favorite JC Spot: Taco Cart @ the corner of Congress St. and New York Ave
Owner of Jefa Pants
Growing up in a household that nurtured art to express themselves, Monica used it as a tool to cope during the pandemic. After the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman Monica and her mother Gloria admired, Gloria channeled her sadness into a beautiful RBG portrait.
This sparked an idea for both of them – and they decided to create the brand JefaPants, which loosely translates to “Bossy Pants”. Their goal is to make products that promote women feeling good while doing good, which is why they donate a portion of their proceeds to different causes. All their pieces are sustainably made and inspired by RBG but they also do custom orders and designs. A portion of their proceeds are donated to various organizations and for this month they’re donating to Feeding America. When asked what advice she would give new entrepreneurs she shared a simple quote — “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. She urges women to take care of themselves, stating JefaPants started out as an artistic outlet to help them get through personal challenges – it was only after that they were able to turn it into an opportunity to give back to the community.
Meet Grayleen Mandile
Favorite JC Spot: Porta Rooftop in the summer
Owner of Dominant Vibes
After working in corporate for 20 years and on the verge of being laid off, Grayleen decided to try out a passion she’s had since she was a child – fashion. Grayleen thanks her grandmother for inspiring her. “My grandmother has a clothing line in Honduras and my mother never left the house looking less than fabulous”. While trying out different ideas, she focused on creating an edgy feminist clothing brand concentrated on providing women with a way to express themselves through fashion. “Fashion is a way to express who you are without having to say a word”.
Her goal is to spread knowledge and power about social issues while also giving back as much as she can – her sticker proceeds are donated to @period.wny. Having no experience being a business owner she leaned on the support of like-minded women whom she found on the JC Collaborative group. It’s great to see women supporting women! Lastly, her biggest advice to women out there is to “do what lights your soul on fire”. I agree.
The overall consensus has been to not be afraid and just do it. Chase your dreams and don’t limit yourself. Fear of failure shouldn’t be the stopping point. Happy Women’s Month to all the women of Jersey City.