The Women of Upshur: Celebrating Petworth’s female business owners

Join Petworth News and local business owners to celebrate International Women’s Day!

Join Petworth News and local business owners to celebrate International Women’s Day!

The last two years have brought a flurry of openings to Upshur Street. As the Petworth News team covered these openings, we noticed a pattern. We were writing about Anna and Hannah, Carlie and Holley, Julie and Dani… that’s a lot of women!

Sure enough, we did a back-of-the-envelope count and there are upwards of 11 female-owned businesses on Upshur Street alone! That’s the vast majority of the street’s retail and restaurants.

To celebrate this awesome fact, and because March is International Women’s Month, we’re throwing a party and will be profiling each of these boss ladies in a series of articles, starting March 1st. Then you’re invited to join us at a free community discussion and party on March 8th!

Celebrate at a Discussion & Drinks event on Friday, March 8th!

We’ll bring it all together with a free community event on Friday, March 8th, on International Women’s Day, from 7-9pm at 810 Upshur Street (the new home of the Lemon Collective). We’ll hear from several of the business owners we’ve profiled as well as DC Councilmember Elissa Silverman, and enjoy some snacks and adult beverages graciously provided by businesses on the block. Afterwards, everyone is invited to Taqueria del Barrio for happy hour discounts to continue to conversations! Sign up for the March 8th event, and hear about what it takes to open a successful women-owned business in Petworth.

Come listen to and ask questions of:

  • Holley Simmons (She Loves Me, Lemon Collective)

  • Anna Bran-Leis (Taqueria del Barrio, DC Empanadas)

  • Dani Moreira (Timber Pizza, Call Your Mother)

  • Hannah Oliver Depp (Loyalty Books)

  • Fia Thomas (Fia’s Fabulous Finds)

  • Julie Wineinger (Willow, Lulabelle’s Sweet Shop)

  • Carlie Steiner (Himitsu)

  • Elissa Silverman (At-Large DC Councilmember)

So what did our reporting reveal?

We found an incredibly diverse group of women, in every sense of the word. They are white, black and Latina, gay and straight, younger and older, first-time business owners and veterans. As such, they had a range of responses to the stock question of: “What is it like to be a female business owner?”

Some women hadn’t given the question much thought. For example, Dani Moreira, co-owner of Timber Pizza and an immigrant from Argentina, found her non-native command of English to be a much bigger barrier in the business world.

Others were quite purposeful about what it means to be a female business owner. Fia Thomas, owner of Fia's Fabulous Finds, mused about how she wishes every woman could one day experience being her own boss. Carlie Steiner, co-owner and beverage director at Himitsu, told me she only sources wines that are female-owned or female-produced.

Most fell somewhere in between; they weren’t deliberate in how they approached being a female business owner, but that fact of life inherently impacted their operation. Julie Wineinger conducted our interview inside her newly reopened Lulabelle’s Sweet Shop, while nursing her one-month-old son. Annie Stom told us “A business is a business,” but her co-worker explained how many people ask male employees of Annie’s Ace Hardware whether they are the owner, despite Annie’s name being emblazoned across the store’s front.

Holley Simmons also demurred on the female owner question, but when I asked her what the hardest part of owning She Loves Me was, she threw out a classic challenge female entrepreneurs face: “Learning to say no.”

So how do these women fall within the national context? The 2018 State of Women Owned Businesses Report found that 40% of US businesses are women owned. The share of women-owned businesses nationally leapt from 29% in 2007 to 40% in 2018, and the numbers are even better for women of color: while the number of women-owned businesses grew 58% from 2007 to 2018, firms owned by women of color grew at nearly three times that rate (163%).

Interestingly, while the share of women-owned businesses has increased substantially in the last decade, the proportion of total employment these businesses create, and revenues they account for, stayed almost flat. That means that while there are more women-owned businesses around, these businesses aren’t necessarily getting more successful. The report points out one depressing reason for this: some of the same factors that prompt women to start their own businesses in the first place (inadequate work-life balance opportunities, limited growth potential) also stand in the way of them scaling their business.

“Because of an owner’s inexperience, insufficient capital, inadequate networks or the desire for flexibility and/or worklife balance, many of these smaller firms have limited prospects for growth,” the report states.

We hope that the women on Upshur can buck this trend, and the numbers so far are promising. All of the businesses we profiled have several employees in addition to the owner, and many of them are thriving.

Want to learn more about how these women are doing it? Keep an eye on the Petworth News site for our article series, and RSVP for the free community discussion event on March 8th.

Articles in this Series…