She Hustles: Women-Owned Businesses
This Women’s History Month—and all year long—explore and support local, women-owned businesses while learning their stories and enjoying new experiences along the way.
by Celeste Smith
Women’s History Month is a time to reflect and honor women’s contributions to history, the economy and the community. There’s no better time to celebrate the female entrepreneurship that thrives in the Queen City, although there are so many amazing women-owned businesses in Charlotte to support all year long.
Stop by this restaurant, art gallery and gathering space next time you're in NoDa. Owner Christa Csoka works to preserve the area's local art and history while putting an emphasis on fresh, local and organic ingredients.
Let your creativity shine at this fun do-it-yourself workshop great for team-building sessions, a night out with friends or other group gatherings. In 2016, Maureen Anders and Adria Ruff launched AR Workshop (their last name initials combined to create AR) in Pineville. Now, they have more than 150 locations franchised around the country.
Neighborhood: West Charlotte
Cristina Rojas, aka “The Batchmaker,” has always loved baking cakes and preparing batches of cookies since she was a child growing up in Honduras. She moved to Charlotte after getting her degree in psychology in Georgia and is now pursuing a master's degree in Clinical Mental Health, but during her pursuit of higher education, she has also been able to bring her favorite hobby to life through the Batch House. Stop by her West Charlotte store and be sure to try the popular Oatmeal Creme Pie cookies.
Billed as Charlotte’s first pharmacist-owned CBD boutique, Blue Flowers opened in 2019 led by Joslyn Brown along with her husband Colby with the intent to provide high-quality hemp products and education in a welcoming environment. Joslyn Brown’s own CBD journey started while she was looking for alternatives to prescription medicine to treat her diagnosis of Crohn's disease.
Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop honors the classic pie recipes you remember from your grandmother’s kitchen. Originally founded in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2013, sisters Savannah Lape and Gabby Sillyman opened Charlotte’s first location in 2021 at Birkdale Village in Huntersville. Both with backgrounds in different fields (Lape was a nurse and Sillyman a teacher), they decided to shift their career focus to entrepreneurship—and doing it together made it even sweeter.
What better way to get to know Charlotte’s history and highlights than by foot, bike, van or Segway? That’s the concept that prompted Dianna Ward to start Charlotte NC Tours, Charlotte’s only full-service tour company. Ward also launched Charlotte’s first bike share system in 2012, then known as Charlotte B-cycle. In 2020, she introduced a new and improved bike experience called Charlotte Joy Rides, which includes a fleet of more than 300 pedal-assist e-bikes with 33 stations in and around Center City. She also launched Intown Charlotte e-Delivery Service in 2020, Charlotte’s only e-bike food delivery service.
Neighborhood: Lower South End
Looking for fun cooking classes, catering services or fresh meals for pick up? You’ll find all this and more at the family business owned by award-winning chef Alyssa Wilen and her husband, Andrew.
Neighborhood: South End
California-native Tamu Curtis, the CEO and founder of The Cocktailery, brought her promoter skills she learned in the Golden State to Charlotte in 2012. She launched her first business, Liberate Your Palate, in 2015 focusing on experiential beverage events, curated cocktail tours and pop-up cocktail classes. The concept transformed into The Cocktailery, which opened in 2021 in Atherton Mill as a cocktail supply and beverage lifestyle shop that also offers private cocktail classes.
Chef Zhang Qian and John Nisbet are the wife/husband team behind The Dumpling Lady. The Dumpling Lady food stall is open every day at Optimist Hall, serving fresh, authentic, handmade Chinese dumplings and noodles, as well as other dishes they describe as Sichuan street food. The food truck also has a permanent residency at Resident Culture Brewing Co. in Plaza Midwood.
Owner Lindsey Williams hosts wine tastings, bottling parties and a relaxing place to enjoy a glass of wine inside a space billed as the first urban winery in Davidson. Davidson Wine Co. also has a City Sippers Wine Club and hosts regular social activities, like jazz events, wine flight nights and more.
Neighborhood: West Charlotte
Triathlete Zsa-Zsa Porter wants to show the way in helping others to build and maintain healthy lifestyles by “exposing” the myths about the vegan lifestyle. The pandemic served as inspiration for launching her plant-based cuisine store, which serves fresh bowls, juices, smoothies, soups and other items.
Neighborhood: North Charlotte
Year-round, owner Tamika Ishmael crafts creative hairstyles for clients—while producing and selling on Etsy and Amazon her own product line that includes shampoo, conditioner, body butter, lip balm and other care items. During the summer, she hosts a Natural Hair Summer Camp for ages 10 and up, where kids learn hair braiding, twists, color techniques and more.
Popular T-shirts, like "The Power of the Babe" and "Honeys Making Moneys," highlight the mission of Girl Tribe, which aims to support women entrepreneurs. Classmates-turned-friends Carrie Barker and Sarah Baucom transformed their business ideas first into a regular pop-up event and online store before opening a retail boutique in South End and sister concept Girl Supply at Birkdale Village in Huntersville. These pop-up events, now happening across the country, showcase women-led brands and include DIY workshops and fitness classes.
Mood House is self-care based on your mood. Clients can choose one of four moods: Calm, Clear, Abundant and Awake. The massage style, music and aromatherapy all work together in the experience created by owner Cristina Wilson. “It’s really special how we incorporate (optional) affirmations into the massage,” Wilson says. “Our massage therapists inspire and support our clients emotionally, not just physically.”
Jill Marcus, the founder of The Mother Earth Group, is passionate about food, the environment and the art of celebration, which is evident in the concepts she’s launched with her team over the last 30-plus years in Charlotte. The Mother Earth Group includes Something Classic Catering, restaurants including Mariposa and Fern, Flavors from the Garden, and a prepared foods division.
After more than 20 years in the corporate world and raising four daughters, Michelle Castelloe brought her dream to life when she opened Moxie Mercantile in Plaza Midwood in 2015. More than just a boutique, Moxie Mercantile is a curated shopping experience featuring home decor, jewelry, vintage finds, and more that supports both makers and the community. Castelloe opened a second Moxie location in Davidson in 2018, a third in Matthews in 2021 and a fourth concept called Betty a few months later. Expanding her retail purview, Castelloe shifted focus at Betty to children’s clothing, adult apparel, toys and gifts. She also operates Moxie Huddle, a consulting firm that helps nurture the growth of artists and other business owners.
Neighborhood: University City
University City’s popular collection of international eateries includes Papi’s, chef Tara Quinones’ tribute to her upbringing and the authentic Puerto Rican cuisine it consisted of. Born in New York, she grew up in her grandfather "Papi’s" summer resort business in the Catskill Mountains, where the visiting Puerto Rican community from the city came to enjoy live music and authentic food that can now be experienced at her restaurant in Charlotte.
For founder and CEO Haley Bohon, SkillPop is all about making learning accessible and fun. Local professionals teach a range of classes ranging from photography to podcasting and marketing to jewelry making via live online classes. Bohon wants the skills participants take away to enrich lives and get people out of their comfort zones. SkillPop is also good for people looking for skills they need to get a side hustle or creative business off the ground. Since opening in 2015, Skillpop now operates in six cities and has hosted thousands of classes.
Owned by chef Velvet Jacobs (known as Chef Vel) and her wife Tre'ona Kelty-Jacobs (known as Tree), Veltree offers vegan soul food, as well as smoothies and juices, with a twist. The restaurant originally opened in University City but relocated to Ballantyne in late 2021. In 2020, Veltree was recognized by PETA as one of the top five vegan soul food spots in the U.S.
Work For Your Beer is the ultimate guide to brewery (and cidery, winery, bar or bottle shop) workouts in cities across the country. Co-founded in Charlotte by Alicia Valenski and Mel Fox in 2016, the website provides all the information needed for the workout—including details about pricing, parking and more—so that all you have to do is show up and have a good time. WFYB also sells apparel and accessories and produces content about booze, wellness and travel.
Edits and additions made by Kristen Moore in February 2022.