Client Success

Small Business Spotlight

Experience the impact of the WCEC Women’s Business Center through the stories of our clients, woman-owned small businesses.

Christine Carlson
Founder, Maybelle

“The WCEC has been a great resource for me. I have participated in several webinars covering topics including Social Media, Loans, Marketing and Excel. The PR podcast was super informative. The business coaching offered by the WCEC has been a game-changer. The one-on-one sessions really helped me organize my thoughts, led me to understand what my next steps should be and helped me with business planning.”

December 9, 2021

Like many fempreneurs looking to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christine was looking for inspiration. She always wanted to start her own business and use her love of fashion, skills as a designer and expertise in the bridal industry in new, innovative ways. It was seeing her daughter Charlotte’s passion for the environment and knack for second-hand shopping that fueled her lightbulb moment. After the shutdown, she and her daughter were shopping at a local thrift store on Route 22 in New Jersey. While Charlotte and her friends were browsing through the denim section, Christine was looking at dresses and came across a beautifully constructed 1950s satin gown with the most exquisite lace applique patterns and a separate long watteau train, which attaches higher up on the shoulders or bodice, unlike the traditional cathedral train. She loved the design, but the dress was tiny, with a high neck and a boxy, unflattering fit. It also had some discoloration from wear and tear. Christine never backed down from a challenge. She purchased the dress, not knowing that transforming the dress into a modern design would be the start of her new business – Maybelle – a bridal store that offers upcycled wedding dresses for women of all shapes and sizes who are budget conscious and support sustainable fashion.

Christine was always drawn to vintage evening and bridal gowns. As a girl growing up in Minnesota, she loved to watch old movies for the elegant costumes. Her unique fashion sense led her to New York at age nineteen to study fashion design at Parsons School of Design. She has used her years of experience in fashion and the bridal industry and her passion for sustainable fashion to create upcycled or re-purposed vintage wedding dresses, making them relevant for today’s modern bride. She uses deadstock or recycled fabrics to revamp these unique pieces and turn them into one-of-a-kind, sustainable dresses that are perfect for every woman’s special day.

Like many small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, Christine has made the pivot to developing an e-commerce business, focusing on creating and upgrading her website and reaching her customer base through target marketing, PR and social media campaigns. She has also expanded her services to include concierge couture services. Christine is currently planning for the future and is looking to partner with local boutiques and venues for in-person events. She plans to give back to the community by connecting with local charities and non-profits and to use her business to make a social impact and help those in need. Christine’s ultimate dream is to one day have her own atelier space where she can display her one-of-a-kind upcycled dresses, meet clients, and have an on-site seamstress who can help with special orders. 

As a new business owner, Christine believes that the WCEC Women’s Business Center has been an invaluable resource.

“The WCEC staff have been an amazing source of knowledge and support. Access to training, multiple industry connections and the constant morale boost from business counselors has been a lifeline for me!”

October 7, 2021

Like many women, Tangie Griffin suffered from skin issues. As she entered her early thirties, she developed excessively oily skin, hyperpigmentation and started noticing fine lines. She also discovered that there were many skin care products out there that did not specifically address the needs of women of color. As an African American woman entrepreneur, this fueled her passion to create the perfect skin care product line for diverse skin types and shades and Vow Beauty was born. She began creating and testing her products at home. After six years of preparation, she decided to shake up the beauty industry since the clinical active ingredient skincare space at that time was not geared towards BIPOC communities. She was determined to create affordable eye-catching, cruelty-free, sustainable products that would fill this gap in the market.

In 2019, Tangie took the next step in professional development by furthering her education in the Beauty and Personal Care field and completed cosmetology school. She then opened a small beauty studio in Midtown Manhattan that provided luxury services like microblading and eyelash extensions, while still working on her product line. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, like many small business owners, she was forced to shutter her business. The closure of the studio led her to pivot and focus on how to rebrand her skincare line. In the summer of 2020, she took that leap of faith and submitted her vegan-based products to the Walmart Open Call initiative, which was designed to support small and medium sized businesses that created American-made products. A lifelong dream came true for Tangie – Vow Beauty’s Something Borrowed…Something BHA 2% Toner was selected, with a product launch scheduled for October, 2021 allowing for distribution in up to 500 Walmart stores, as well as being listed on and Walmart Marketplace.

Tangie continues to focus on growing her brand and the Walmart opportunity has led to another potential deal with a leading retailer that would go into effect in 2022.

She has worked with the WCEC Women’s Business Center at every step to build her brand and has greatly benefitted from WCEC resources.

Tangie Griffin
Founder & CEO, Vow Beauty

Shikha Rungta
Owner, The Atticco

“I cannot thank the WCEC team enough for all that they have done for my small business during the pandemic. Being a solopreneur is challenging and tough. It is very easy to lose direction, but they have supported me through the town hall meetings and the very valuable webinars and classes. I am grateful for the one-on-one counseling sessions. I could steer myself in the right direction through networking and receiving pointers from other business owners and experts who I have met through WCEC events.”

May 20, 2021

Growing up in Rajasthan India, Shika was inspired by her family who worked in the textile business. She loved the rich colors and beauty of handmade fabrics and grew up appreciating this time-honored tradition and the immense time and skill it took to create handmade scarves. She started The Atticco to preserve this traditional art form and bring a collection of beautiful, high quality block print scarves to the United States.

Like many small business owners, Shika’s business struggled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. A large part of her sales were based on working with Artisan markets and participating in craft and trade shows. When the Covid crisis hit, all live events were shut down, international shipments were delayed and this meant Shika could not launch her new collection, resulting in a big dip in sales.

Shikha managed to hold down the fort by pivoting to an e-commerce model and focusing on online sales. A new business strategy was put in place, which involved revamping the website, participating in more virtual events and implementing a PR and social media campaign to increase visibility, connect with customers and boost sales. The experience of doing virtual live events on Facebook and Instagram, along with more digital marketing brought Shikha out of her shell and gave her the confidence to take her business to the next level.

“I had just started their FastTrac GrowthVenture program with facilitator Sandra Holtzman in March 2020 when everything closed down. I received a 75% WCEC Ann Cohen Scholarship with the help of Rising Tide Capital. I was part of a group of 11 women entrepreneurs who started this 10 week program not knowing how we were going to pull through. I pivoted my business in the middle of the course to go all virtual. Every Friday as I met with such an amazing group of strong and resilient.”

April 1, 2021

Laura Hoyos was born in Colombia. At the age of nine, she migrated to the United States with her mother. As an art teacher, graphic designer and certified make-up artist, Laura always loved the way art brought her back to her roots and how it connected diverse communities. She believed adding a splash of color to art projects was life affirming and that anyone could use a paint brush and color palette to express themselves. She turned her passion for art into a business and Paint 2 Smile was born to help people bring out their inner artist. Paint 2 Smile started primarily as a face and body painting business, where experiences included moms-to-be having their baby bumps painted.

Due to the Covid crisis, all in person events were cancelled. Laura was forced to pivot and come up with new ways for her business to serve customers. In an effort to keep bringing art and delivering smiles to clients and their families, Paint 2 Smile went virtual and started delivering art kits and offering 90 zoom art experiences for customers and their family members. As a result, Paint 2 Smile was able to partner with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and offer online classes to members as part of its Wellbeing series. Paint 2 Smile continues to offer popular packages for both private and corporate events, including birthday celebrations, family gatherings and fundraisers.

Laura Hoyos
Owner, Paint 2 Smile

Jessica Gaffney
Owner, Wavework

“The WCEC GrowthVenture course truly helped me to reimagine a future for my business during a very uncertain time while also keeping my mind sharp by learning and growing during a slow time in my business. Additionally, and most importantly, I was introduced to the woman with whom I am now collaborating in Pharma.”

February 25, 2021

Jessica was inspired to start her business based on her more than 20 years experience in sports and entertainment hospitality. She wanted to make the experience of finding premium seats and luxury suites for VIP customers more streamlined and cost-effective and decided to use her tech savvy skills to create an innovative platform.

Wavework was born out of the need to improve the live event customer experience with a more user friendly one-stop hub. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it took a major toll on the industry, shutting down all live events. While facing the sober reality that her prospects had turned cold, Jessica vowed not to throw in the towel and decided to pivot and focus on a timely issue – how to use her platform to improve the patient experience during the Covid-19 crisis. In working on revamping the platform, Jessica saw the need to address the issue of health inequity and healthcare disparities, where not only are minority and BIPOC communities disproportionately affected by Covid, but also face limited access to resources, resulting in more spikes in cases and higher death tolls. Jessica wanted to tackle the issue of how minorities and people of color are underrepresented.

“I was able to take business courses, had access to experienced consultants, and received help and advice in applying for PPP loans and small business grants. I believe the secret to success is to think outside of the box and to surround yourself with quality resources. There are a lot out there and the WCEC Women’s Business Center is one of the good ones!”

November 11, 2020

Jennifer was inspired to start her business Mexican Spice when she noticed there was a lack of options for quality Mexican food in the NJ area. Born and raised in Mexico, she wanted to bring authentic dishes with that zesty Mexican spice to the Garden State and offer a taste of home for her customers. She began selling her dishes at a local farmers market 6 years ago and with a lot of hard work, created a busy catering company, restaurant and taco truck.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Jennifer was faced with having to cancel all catering events and how to keep the lights on at retail locations affected by mandatory lockdowns. She decided to pivot by drastically transforming her business model by first, offering hot food available for pickup and delivery and then starting a crowdfunding campaign, which allowed her to relocate her business to a beautiful location on Main St. in Chatham. Mexican Spice is now fully operational, offering mouth watering dishes to the community.

Jennifer Alarcon
Owner, Mexican Spice

JaLeena Anthony
Owner, Create That Party

“The WCEC Women’s Business Center has helped my business because they helped me become more business savvy and connected me to like minded people. They always offer training and programs that come at the right time. It’s important to continue to learn and educate myself and the WCEC constantly reminds me of that.”

October 21, 2020

While a student at Rutgers University, JaLeena got bitten by the event planning bug by working in the Conference Services department coordinating conferences and special events for the campus. She later took her skills to the corporate world and developed her passion by creating company-wide holiday parties, employee appreciation days, benefits and leadership conferences for major organizations such as Verizon. After enjoying success in the corporate world for several years, JaLeena felt like something was missing. She knew she had a knack for event planning and creating unique social gatherings and decided to take the leap to start her own business Create That Party. She invested in her own luxury event space in South Plainfield NJ and began arranging private parties for clients throughout Central and Northern New Jersey. Jaleena was set for the grand opening of her luxury venue this year when the Covid pandemic hit and she was forced to pivot.

Faced with the reality that she lost all of her confirmed bookings and was not able to generate any income for the first 4 months, JaLeena focused on creating virtual events and new ways to promote her venue and brand. As a black female business owner, Covid has definitely disproportionately affected her business because she did not have access to traditional funding resources. She was forced to drain her savings and max out her credit cards to fund her new luxury event space. She applied for Covid relief funding, but was denied the SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan due the drop in her credit score and high balances on her cards. As a minority-owned business, JaLeena saw first hand that her white counterparts in similar situations were given more opportunities and were able to appeal and secure more loans. She was also disheartened by the fact that larger companies received PPP loans, leaving small businesses holding the bag. Fortunately, JaLeena was persistent and her appeal was granted. As a result, she was approved for the Middlesex County Grant program which was a lifesaver.

“The WCEC Women’s Business Center has helped my business in so many ways. For 2 years, it has not only provided the guidance and resources to help me understand what it truly takes to build a business step by step, but the compassion and open ears to help me navigate my next steps. As a solopreneur, it’s easy to feel very alone in the journey, and to consider giving up when you hit too many hurdles. Overall, I have learned that building a business is in steps. Each step takes you further out of your comfort zone, helping you to grow. It’s nice to know the WCEC is always there for the NEXT STEP.”

September 17, 2020

Janet Ryan, Founder of SpectraSpray, was inspired to start her business over 20 years ago, when her mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers at age 59. This was a turning point that motivated her to learn everything she could about wellness, prevention, genetics, nutrition and aging. During her research, she met a Naturopathic doctor who introduced her to spray delivery for vitamin intake and realized that this direct absorption delivery system was superior to every other delivery system except Intravenous vitamins, and decided it would be her mission create a business that would promote these products and develop exclusive Lifestyle kits.

As with many small businesses impacted by Covid-19, Janet had to pivot and reassess her business strategy. Initially the Immune, Vit D, Sleep, B12 Energy were big sellers and the business was focused on the travel and hospitality industry. When travel halted due to the pandemic, they hired an outside PR agency to increase visibility and boost sales and worked with a social media manager to increase social engagement. SpectraSpray is positioned to explore more e-commerce opportunities and will revisit working with the travel and hospitality industry when regular travel picks back up.

Janet Ryan
Owner, SpectraSpray