Four Female Founders Share How They Made Their Mark in the Retail Industry

We all love to shop. Seriously, nothing beats a pleasant retail experience, especially when there’s an entire village with the perfect atmosphere. Over in Boston, there is an entire village highlighting some inspiring female business owners. A SHE-VILLAGE!

The largest city in New England introduced She-Village, a pop-up village at The Current in Boston Seaport hosting a collection of female-founded and owned shops. Why the She-Village? Well, the point is to shine light on visionary women who are fashion-forward, inspiring, and have passion and purpose in the retail space. Seaport, the most innovative district in Boston, introduced pop-up village The Current. Each season The Current will have a new set of retail shops all connected to a common theme. This first iteration is the She-Village, a collection of female-founded and owned shops.

We caught up with four of the leading women whose shops are now open for business to discuss how they got started, what it’s like to represent female founders in the first-ever She-Village shopping destination, and what’s next for them in 2019.

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Actress, singer, songwriter and entrepreneur Caitlin Crosby knows a thing or two about inspiring others. She started The Giving Keys, a jewelry company that gives jobs to those affected by homelessness. Each product carries an inspiring message like fearless, hope, believe or inspire. The wearer is encouraged to embrace their word, then Pay It Forward by giving their piece of jewelry to a person who needs the message more. Then, they are invited to share their Pay It Forward story on the

Why are you excited and proud of being involved in a project like She-Village? Why is it important to you?

There are so many women doing inspiring things right now—finding new, empowered ways to live the lives they want. She-Village showcases the work of women who represent a lot of what I value—creative expression, doing the unconventional, taking risks, collaborating and being in it together. Women are powerful and capable and any space that reminds us of that is important.

Who’s another woman in the She-Village community who inspires you?

I think it’s really remarkable how Cynthia Rowley has continued to evolve her brand over time. She started in the early 80’s and is still going strong!

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur in 2018?

Building a brand that is somehow making an impact and can be articulate about what value they are adding to the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean working with underserved communities, doing workforce development like we do, but it is being able to demonstrate that your businesses core values are not just something that hangs on a wall in your office—but they are what you do and demonstrate through your products and business model.

Your business is rooted in philanthropy. Why is it so important for you to pay it forward?

Because life is is just better when lived with an open hand. We encourage our customers to wear their word and then, when they’ve embraced that word for themself, pay it forward to someone that needs it more than them. Those pay it forward moments are incredibly powerful—life changing even for some people. I think at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all looking for—moments of real human connection where we turn an everyday moment into one that means something.

What’s next for your business?

We’ve loved dipping our toe into physical retail spaces. We started with an airstream and branched out to She-Village, Oculus in NYC and our flagship store at our HQ in downtown LA. We love getting to translate the brand into space and experience. We will continue to explore retail and have been launching 3x as many new products as we did last year. We want to play with keys and other shapes as well as apparel to create all kinds of new ways for you to wear your word.

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Kelly Brabants is one of Boston’s most sought-after fitness instructors, as well as the founder, and face of fitness brand Booty by Brabants. Known on social media as @bootybybrabants, Kelly’s line of leggings stays true to her personal style.

Why are you excited and proud of being involved in a project like She-Village? Why is it important to you?

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of Seaport’s first-ever pop-up village; it was a dream when I got the call to open my first brick-and-mortar at Boston Seaport and the She-Village concept shares so many of the same values as my brand, centered around empowering women, so it was a no brainer. My company wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of so women in Boston who have taken my class, worn my leggings, or followed my journey on Instagram, so I’ve really experienced first-hand how powerful it can be when we work together and support each other. I am so proud to be part of a movement that is building on that.

Female entrepreneurs are still underrepresented. How can we all take steps to support women-owned businesses better?

As a female entrepreneur, I feel extremely fortunate to say that since starting my business 4 years ago, I have had such an amazing response from the community in Boston. I believe that we need to genuinely want to support each other without expecting anything in return. Small acts of kindness to help lift each other up instead of competing with one another can go such a long way.

Who’s another woman in the She-Village community who inspires you?

I love Orly! She’s so cool, genuine, and her work is flawless. I’m obsessed with flowers and hers look like they are literally out of a fairytale. #GIRLBOSS!!

Being a Boston-based business, what have you learned about female entrepreneurship in the city?

Work hard, be kind, stay in your lane and don’t compare yourself with anyone else! Also, if you see another women wanting to start a business or if they ask you for advice, help them, we’ve all been in the same boat; no one is better than anyone.

Where do you find the inspiration for your pieces?

I find inspiration everywhere, but a lot of it comes from Brazil. I’m so obsessed with fabrics and silhouettes and I love being so hands-on with every product.  I make sure to test all of my samples in my BBB classes before I produce them.

What’s next for your business?

The past year has been life changing for me and to be honest I don’t 100% know what is next. I’m working hard every day on new products, my e-ccommerce website, expanding into different markets and growing my Booty By Brabants classes. The beauty of being the president of a small business is that you never really know “what’s next.” I am open to opportunities and ready to take risks to continue to grow my business and take it to the next level.

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Lee Mayer is the co-founder and CEO of interior design start-up Havenly. She started the company in 2014 to make decorating a home easier, and more affordable for all of us. Havenly is an online interior design company and e-commerce platform, based in Denver, making beautiful design more accessible to real people. Through their online platform, Havenly learns the customers style, pairs them with a real interior designer, and facilitates everything from final design renderings to the actual ordering of products.

Why are you excited and proud of being involved in a project like She-Village? Why is it important to you?

I love that we’re part of a community supporting women in business. That’s always been core to our mission as a company—about 90% of our designers are women, and we’re proud to provide them flexible and creative work. We also are a majority female team, serving a customer base that is majority female so this fits really naturally into our brand.  We are super proud to be in such great company.

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur in 2018?

Commitment! There’s a myth that abounds that starting a company is glamorous - hop onto the train, and all of a sudden, you’re a billionaire. Some entrepreneurs do indeed get lucky that way, but for the most part, so much of entrepreneurship is overcoming a lot of setbacks while searching for really massive growth. This means late nights, weekends, travel and a lot of things that aren’t that glamorous at all.

What inspired you to go for an interactive online interior design experience versus traditional selling?

The goal with Havenly has always been to make interior design more accessible to everyone. The idea actually came from my own experience and need after moving from an apartment in NYC to a home in Denver. I wanted it to look nice, but I just couldn't figure out how to do it myself and most professional designers I reached out to were out of reach from a budget standpoint. I knew there had to be so many other people who were experiencing the same road block and felt there just had to be an easier, simpler and more affordable way!

As the founder of a startup, what have been the biggest challenges and biggest rewards you’ve experienced?

The biggest obstacle is really just figuring out what to do next. You work so hard to get things going from the momentum of your (first) big idea. And then once everything is underway and you feel like you can catch your breath people are already asking you what is next. It can be really frustrating but it really just comes down to continuing to challenge yourself and push yourself further.

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Monica Royer is the founder, CEO and main mom behind the scenes at Monica + Andy. After her daughter was born, the new mom wanted nothing more than to know with absolute confidence that what touched her baby’s skin, second to her arms, would be the softest and most trustworthy fabric. When she couldn’t easily find it, she vowed to make it herself. The result? A kind and conscious company creating organic essentials for moms and babies, made by moms with babies.

Female entrepreneurs are still underrepresented. How can we all take steps to support women-owned businesses better?  

I think the first step is giving back when you can to other entrepreneurs. As a mom and a founder, my time is limited so I started The Mentor Files. It is podcast of all of the mentors I have had and the great humans that have given me advice, both male and female.  There have been so many feminist men that have believed in me and supported me. I wanted to democratize their advice.

What is the best advice you can give women who are starting a retail business?  

If you are starting a retail business I think it is great for the first few years to have your office from your storefront.  Meet and see your customers every day, listen to what they are saying and see what they are buying. Digital brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do digital surveys to understand customer behavior, but you will learn so much from just getting to know who is shopping with you.  

Why are you excited and proud of being involved in a project like She-Village? Why is it important to you?

We have loved being a part of She-Village.  I feel passionate about entrepreneurship in general and female founders specifically.  We have to pass over more hurdles in so many ways. That said, we are stronger as we all stick together. The idea of a village of female founders to me was amazing - not only did we get to be amongst great friends like Havenly and Cynthia Rowley, but we got to meet so many great new people. It also gave us an opportunity to explore a smaller retail footprint which we felt was really successful for us. Oh, and we got to meet the amazing moms of Boston!!!

What inspired you to launch a clothing line for children?

My brother is the one that inspired me to do something entrepreneurial.  He really was the wind beneath my wings to get me going. That said, my daughter is the one that inspired me to go into childrens.  It was with her birth that I was really inspired to make organic clothing for kids. I felt so lonely in those early days of new motherhood being at home.  I was really inspired to build a community.

If you’re in Boston this season, don’t forget to check out the budding retail scene over at She-Village for the full experience.