“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.
“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.
“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.
311 Main Street, Chatham, NJ 07928
Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.