Women Business Owners Collaborate To Help Others Achieve Success

Sandra J. Pennecke
The Virginian-Pilot

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The women launched the “Make an Impact Program” in February.  The program helps up-and-coming entrepreneurs launch their businesses with support that includes mentorship, money, and marketing expertise.
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Virginia Thornton, Zahra Ahmad and Ethel Delacruz know the joys and struggles of starting a business, especially for females.

Thornton and Ahmad co-own Get Well Soon, a self-care sanctuary in Norfolk, and Delacruz runs Have A Good Day, a branding studio based in Norfolk’s Assembly.

Delacruz said was shopping for a little self care when she met the others in their wellness studio, which specializes in guided meditation, yoga, facials and massages.

“I knew I wanted to work with them. We share the same values and truly care about building a community,” Delacruz said.

The trio launched the Make an Impact Program in February.

“Since both studios are female-owned, it was natural for us to launch the project during women’s month,” Delacruz said.

“We’ve been super blessed with thriving during a pandemic, so we really wanted to give back to someone who is trying to do the same,” Thornton said.

The inaugural program received 113 applicants — in less than three weeks — highlighting the fact that there are a lot of female entrepreneurs in the 757 who have just started a business or are looking to start one.

The first winner, Natalie Higgins, was named on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Her winnings include business mentorship, a branding package worth $2,500 and start-up cash to cover business fees.

Higgins has worked for 16 years as a cook in restaurants and cafes. She’s hoping that the Make an Impact Program will help her reach the dream of owning her own place.

She plans to open a spot in Norfolk that’s a wine and artisan food market by day and sells pasta and natural wine with artisan goods from local makers by night.

Higgins said she plans to hire 10 to 12 employees.

“I had been looking for retail space with hopes of getting the ball rolling on a restaurant/market within a year or two, but, honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to make it work financially,” she said.

Laid off twice in the past year due to the pandemic, Higgins said she didn’t have much more than hopes and dreams — much less a savings account.
“There have been many set-backs and disappointments, but I’ve held strong and done the work. Now it’s time for me to give back, to hire the most marginalized people to work next to me …” Higgins said. “Winning the grant reminds me that I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do.”

“We felt that what she’s hoping to build is a collection of what we’ve experienced in many of our travels, (so) it’s going to be very natural for us to assist her,” Delacruz said. She said 65% of her branding company’s clients are in the food and beverage industry, so “I can confidently say that Natalie will have an experienced branding team behind her.”

The women are selling a Get Well Soon and Have A Good Day box with items including a coffee mug, coffee beans, socks, bath bomb, crystal, and postcards. Ten percent of the sales will go to the program winner. Boxes can be purchased at Get Well Soon for $50 each.

While the program was created to name one winner a year, Delacruz said that with such a great response and possible partnerships with other organizations, they hope to offer it again sooner.

Delacruz also said it was difficult to choose just one winner so they also selected a handful of runners-up: Alyxandrea Littles, From the Garden of Eden, an alternative and holistic health services business in Norfolk; Briana Berkowitz, So Many Flowers, a specialty cut flower farm in Virginia Beach; Myria Jones, The Black Effect Youth Initiative, a mentoring and scholarship program in Hampton; Rebekah Rickards, Home757grown, performing arts classes, virtual; and Deja Booker, Glow and Grow, a social service for young girls in Virginia Beach.

They are going to receive basic branding and business mentorship. Delacruz said the Make an Impact Program is looking into additional partnerships to help the runners-up grow their businesses.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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