March is always an incredible month as we celebrate women worldwide. Global movements helping bring women to equality is unfortunately still a daily fight, but one worth battling and with as many soldiers as possible. When we band together as a global community, there is no stopping the possibilities of a bright future where men and women co-exist equality in society.
As women’s month approached this year, our team was thrilled to recognize that many of the incredible brands carried here at Alma Boa are female owned, showcasing just how innovative, creative and fearless female entrepreneurs really are. Facing the daily challenges of the average entrepreneur is inevitable. Facing unique challenges as a woman focused on social purpose initiatives and ethical production, is a whole other side to the business world of today. Our co-founder, Renata, is a beautiful example of a female, social entrepreneur, and overall an extraordinary woman of many talents. From product research to daily accounting, Renata is one of the greatest driving forces behind Alma Boa. Being an immigrant from Brazil, language and cultural barriers are evident, and struggles that would be faced regardless of gender. When challenged with additional gender related issues in the workforce, Renata continues to thrive and run her business as the successful entrepreneur she is.
In honour of women’s month, we caught up with two fearless female entrepreneurs from two of our Alma Boa brands: Mashallah Ghouled of Mashallah, and Rachel DeCavage of Cinder + Salt.
“The road that lead me to where I am has been a long and interesting one. Filled with memorable experiences that continue to fuel my future. At the age of seventeen I started my own hair and makeup company. At twenty I decided to offer styling as a service as well. This then lead me to AKIRA, working with the young company for close to 4 years was invaluable to the next chapter in my career. It allowed me the opportunity to learn so much about the business side of retail.
I can still remember the day in 2010 that I was hosting a wine, cheese and jewelry making party for my girls. This was truly the first time I had ever made jewelry. We used tutorials I printed from the web to guide us. Jewelry design became a fast growing interest of mine and through hard work, dedication and the support of my husband MASHALLAH the jewelry label was born.”
“Cinder + Salt grew out of my passion for the environment; my creative energy to ‘make things’ and my entrepreneurial spirit. I went to college for Visual Arts with a focus in mixed media; during that time is when I realized I could make beautiful things (art) out of clean waste (trash). I started designing trashion, clothing made out of unrecyclable materials like vinyl beach chair tape, Astro turf scraps, popped pool floats, etc. Eventually I turned my art into a more conventional business model : zero-waste screen printing on Eco-friendly fibers. I rebranded my company in 2014 and that’s when cinder + salt became what it is today. “
WHY ethical fashion?
“I am very mindful when designing to create jewelry that is truly unique to my label. Being a very visual person, everything I see and interactions I have influence my creativity. There is no telling where the concept of the next collection is going to stem from.
As I am someone that is completely in tune with environment and people the decision to have an ethical business was very intentional. Beyond doing no harm, MASHALLAH represents an approach which strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, while also minimizing and counteracting environmental concerns.”
“When people ask, ‘Why ethical fashion?’ I ask ‘Why UN-ethical fashion?’ The fashion industry moves VERY fast these days and to keep up that speed and demand, values are sacrificed. I don’t believe we should EVER sacrifice the safety of our process, the quality of our goods or the health of the planet. I feel that actions that defy those principles are just wrong. It’s really not a challenge to run an eco-friendly, sustainable, ethical business, and now more than ever its vital to. Sure, maybe your growth may be slower or your profits not as huge, but I feel good about what I do and why I do it, and that’s precisely why I became an entrepreneur; So I could be certain that every step the company takes is in line with my values.”
What have been some of your favorite MOMENTS and greatest CHALLENGES as a female entrepreneur?
“After 6 years of building MASHALLAH out of my home it was necessary for continued growth to have a dedicated space. While we continue to attend many art and music fest's here in Chicago, having a dedicated space allows us to create a well rounded experience for our patrons. MASHALLAH Studio is our creative space and lifestyle shop.
The greatest joy of opening the shop gives us the opportunity to better serve our clients and get to know many others. For me the luxury in interacting and being inspired by truly amazing individuals that walk into our shop is most rewarding.
As for the challenges, there are too many to mention. I will however say that it is because of these many challenges that my team and I continue to prosper. The way I see it, is that challenge is necessary for growth.”
“My favorite moments are usually when I get a big order, LOL! Not because I’m like, ‘money money money’ but because my entire product line is centered around my artwork. When a buyer chooses 10 or 15 designs for their store it’s so validating and humbling to know that there are people out there who appreciate my aesthetic, my vision and my values. It’s makes me feel less alone on this journey and more empowered to keep pushing forward. It’s an incredible feeling to know that the drawings in my sketchbooks provide me with a stable career; it’s amazing what you can do with hard work and determination.
Some of the most frustrating challenges I’ve faced as a young female entrepreneur have been lack of respect from other business people. Sometimes I’d have a guy with me when I was talking to a contractor or meeting with a realtor and EVERY time they would address the guy, not me, even though I was the one making the decisions and signing the checks. I’ve had to deal with people criticizing my appearance in meetings! That’s when I snap back and ask, ‘are we here to talk about my outfit or to talk about you doing your job?’ Not being heard because I’m a woman can be hard to brush off with all the other challenges you face as an entrepreneur. But as my own boss I have the power to stand up for myself which is validating.”
What does WOMEN’S month mean to you?
“This is a time that I take to reflect on the following:
- How incredible it is to be a woman.
- All of the exceptional woman that have paved the path for other woman today.
- Celebrating today's movers and shakers.”
“So, every woman I know woke up and sobbed on the morning after the presidential election when 45 won. It was the worst day to be a woman in my life so far. Nothing was as emotionally crippling as going from a leader as caring and respectful as Barack Obama, to a callous, ignorant, hateful pig who objectifies women and promotes fear. However, the truly sparkling silver lining to this national tragedy is that women are uniting now more than ever. So what does Women’s Month mean to me? I didn’t even know it was a thing until 45 took office! It means that the future is female; it means equality is achievable; it means we are not alone; it means hate won’t win. To be a woman is to be strong, gritty, compassionate, brave & resilient; I’m so glad we have a month to celebrate that!”