International Women’s Day: 5 Local Female Founders We Admire

Happy 111th International Women’s Day! A day first celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland where more than one million women and men attended rallies fighting for women's rights to work, vote, hold public office, and end discrimination. Now, it’s a day when our attention narrows on the state of women when it comes to gender equality, bias, stereotypes and pay disparities. 

While there’s no doubt we’ve come a long way since this day’s inception, we have far to go to reach our goals - especially since the pandemic. It’s been reported that since February 2020, women in the U.S. alone lost more than 5.4 million jobs. While many individuals of both genders have lost their jobs during these unprecedented times, it’s been mostly women who’ve stepped away from their careers to attend to their kids during school closures and take care of other family members. It’s been a devastating setback that’ll have long-lasting impacts.

It’s no secret that at Prism, a woman-owned, women-led, and women-operated business, working with women is an important part of our identity. So is shopping local and supporting the women that help make our eclectic Long Beach community what it is. There are so many who inspire me everyday, but here are just a few of our favorite women-owned local businesses and their founders:

International Women’s Day: 5 Local Female Founders We Admire

Kristin Colazas Rodriguez, Colossus Bread

Pastry chef and bread baker, Kristin Colazas Rodriguez, has been the owner of Colossus Bread for four years. She opened her first bakery and cafe in San Pedro in 2019 and expanded to a second location with a full kitchen in Belmont Shores in 2021.

Three Women Who Inspire You & Why:

Heidi Swanson has perfected the art of minimalism in life and through her work, and she's so darn humble about all of it. 

Melissa Perello leads by example as a chef and owner. She is one of the top chefs in the nation, and she is a force in her restaurants. You can taste the love.

My mom was a single mother and an educator. She is inherently selfless and unbelievably modest. She gives so much to everyone around her and literally never stops teaching.

One of The Biggest Lessons You’ve Learned: 

"You don't know what you don't know." I try to always remember that while I've learned a ton over the last four years - the learning is never over. There's always a curve around the bend, and I try my best to always be poised and ready to learn, listen, and adapt - it's the only way to keep getting better.

Best Piece of Advice You’d Give to Those Starting Out:

Listen and ask tons of questions. Be confident in what you know, respect those who know more, and constantly strive to be better. Oh, and invest in some shoes with arch support. 

International Women’s Day: 5 Local Female Founders We Admire

Maggie Stoll, Burke Mercantile 

Maggie started her modern lifestyle shop, Burke Mercantile, in 2017. She focuses on independent brands, conscious fashion, and fostering a space that supports progressive change-makers in the fashion industry while making philanthropy a cornerstone in her business.

Three Women Who Inspire You & Why:

Malala Yousafzai has always been an inspiration as a young survivor who has gone on to be a Human Rights leader advocating for women's education including her own, and being the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Céline Semaan is a Lebanese-Canadian designer, writer, public speaker and advocate who co-founded the Slow Factory Foundation working to educate on the intersection of human rights and environmental justice. 

Tracee Ellis Ross is my ultimate fashion icon, she puts joy into the world by portraying natural beauty, confidence, and self love, and normalizes being a happy, single woman without children. She also uses her position to advocate for human rights as well as creating opportunities for representation in the tv and film industry.

One of The Biggest Lessons You’ve Learned: 

One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that everything works itself out! I am generally a major control freak, and that doesn't work very well with running a new business. There are so many learning curves and highs and lows with getting a business off of the ground. I've had to learn over the years to just have faith and let go when things are out of my control, because in the end the good times have always balanced out the bad.

Best Piece of Advice You’d Give to Those Starting Out: 

Embrace community over competition! It's way too easy these days to compare yourself and your business with everyone else in the world but it does no good. I've found so much reward staying true to myself, in giving what I can to and embracing my community, and being sure that the only person I'm competing with is myself. My business is stronger this way, and I am personally more fulfilled.

International Women’s Day: 5 Local Female Founders We Admire

Whitney Lozano, Hello Radiant You 

Whitney is a certified holistic nutritionist with a passion for all things wellness coupled with a love of understanding and helping others. She works one-on-one with clients facing any and all health issues to lead them down a path of healing, from the inside out.

Three Women Who Inspire You & Why:

Dayna Mance and I have been friends for almost 20 years! I’ve seen her move up the chain at Anthropologie and open her own business - all done very successfully! Her work ethic is unmatched all while growing two perfect humans, she’s so incredibly inspiring.

Natalie Kottke  is one of my dearest friends, she has always been so genuine and really driven. As a documentarian she is well read, astute and very inquisitive. I have learned how hard work pays off from her as well as how to manage a busy work schedule while having a family! 

My mom, Linda Clineff, showed me how to be selfless and giving all while being a mega power house. Day in and day out she knew how to handle business and make sure everyone around her was taken care of. 

One of The Biggest Lesson You’ve Learned:

As a naturally anxious person I like to be organized and know what’s next, but as I learn to allow more and control less I see the beauty in letting my business unfold naturally and the directions it has taken me. This doesn’t mean I am not organized, albeit just open and in alignment with the flow, so many unexpected opportunities have come my way and I attribute them to the fluidity I invite into my life now, less rigidity.

Best Piece of Advice You’d Give to Those Starting Out:

Do whatever lights you up! That little thing that brings you joy that seems like a “hobby” or just an interest, follow that. Get out of your own way, meaning don’t let the limiting mindsets or fear you may have hold you back. For years I let the fact that I’m not a good photographer hold me back cause I was stuck that I needed perfect images for my content, I decided to just do my best. My images still aren’t great, but some people have expressed that one thing they like about my content is how it’s “real.” You have to start somewhere, everyone was a beginner once, and it’s all about progress not perfection when it comes to putting yourself out there. Knowing you won’t be for everyone, making peace with that will also help when it comes to social media and your niche. Also, use your resources. I called on every one of my friends that I could tap into for help with photography, editing and technology support (my worst fear!) to help get me started. I did lots of trades for services - most people are actually willing to help and want to see you succeed, those are your people!

International Women’s Day: 5 Local Female Founders We Admire

Maria Leyesa-Perez, Foodologie Baked Goods

Marisa is a first generation Filipino-American who’s always had a love of food. While working as a full time occupational therapist, she found herself with extra time while at home during the pandemic and decided to finally pursue a lifelong desire of learning how to bake. After she started perfecting a few recipes, she had people inquiring how to place orders and Foodologie was born.

Three Women Who Inspire You & Why: 

Lisa Ling has tenacity and passion about learning and sharing the stories of others as well as her representation for Asian-American women. 

Mindy Kaling  has stayed true to herself, while being wildly successful in her industry. 

Candace Nelson took a big risk leaving her finance career behind to open Sprinkles Cupcakes - and we all know how well that worked out for her.

One of The Biggest Lessons You’ve Learned: 

Consistency is key. Prior to launching my business, I had no knowledge in baking or business. However, I believe that my success so far has been because I have stayed consistent even when the going gets tough.

Best Piece of Advice You’d Give to Those Starting Out: 

There is purpose and reason behind your dreams. The fact that you can think/imagine/daydream about it means that you can do it. There will never be a "right" or "perfect" time to go after your dreams so you might as well do it NOW. You'll be so surprised how things "fall into place" as your journey unfolds. Another way to think about it is...if not you, then who? If not now, then when? -- a little mantra I like to keep in mind when things get overwhelming or I feel like giving up. 

International Women’s Day: 5 Local Female Founders We Admire

Shella Garcia, Sweet Threads

Run by Shella and her husband, Paul, Sweet Threads is a trend-setting children’s boutique with items made by small brands and independent makers from around the world. Shella also curates a collection of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces that embody childhood nostalgia.

Three Women Who Inspire You & Why:

There are many but here are a few!

Abraham (Esther) Hicks has a way with her words through her speeches and teachings that lands with me and supports me in my own self discovery and journey to my higher self.

Qveen Herby is not only multi-talented with producing her own music and cosmetics line, but I love that she is an independent artist who empowers through her music and is generous with offering aura cleanses to her followers on social media.

Laura, a.k.a. @theotbuutterfly, is a no-nonsense, smart, creative OT who inspires me to be a better parent. I really enjoy her entertaining yet educational content that serves back to the community!

One of The Biggest Lessons You’ve Learned:

That there are no “bad people,” they just have “bad habits.” I’ve learned I have blind spots and limiting beliefs that led me to play small because of my childhood, life experiences, and traumas but by putting in the work, I now consciously make better choices to be a better version of me.

Best Piece of Advice You’d Give to Those Starting Out:

Don’t be afraid to fail. There is no perfect time to start. Just go for it. Everything happens perfectly the way it’s supposed to. Embrace the journey, all of it. It’s part of your story. 

Make sure to follow and support these amazing women in business. You can also shop products from the 100+ women-owned brands, makers, and artists we stock here at Prism. 

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