The value of Women's History Month (which concludes March 31) is up for debate depending on how you approach it. Some believe it only serves to highlight the gender gap; others advocate for its importance in balancing the scale. But regardless of the angle, risk-taking women who support each other is always worth celebrating.
Female entrepreneurship—in fields ranging from the arts to tech—has seen steady growth in recent years, in big cities and rural areas alike. Success can be especially challenging when the business is based away from central hubs. Being a female business owner in the North Bay often means cultivating community support and joining forces with other like-minded women. A number of such female-powered ventures are sprouting up across Northern California, and they deserve recognition—whether it's Women's History Month or not. From a chic co-working space to a knitting haven, here is a sampling of businesses that make sure local woman power is alive and kicking all year long.
Jam Jar, Santa Rosa The best collaborations are often multidisciplinary. Jam Jar, located in Santa Rosa's SOFA district, is a great example. Artist Molly Perez and jewelry designer Jamie Jean Wilson decided to join forces, and opened the colorful, chic Jam Jar. "We've known each other for 15 years and often talked about going into business together," Perez says. "I couldn't handle it all by myself." Inside, you can find quirky collages and paintings by Perez, earrings and necklaces by Wilson and guests designers, vintage finds and décor items. Jam Jar is a decidedly "neighborhood" shop—one of the two owners will usually greet you with a big smile, and the store is an active participant in all of SOFA's happenings and events. 320 South A St., Santa Rosa. 707.480.8506. mollyperezstudio.com.
428 Collective, Healdsburg An all-women arts collective, 428 organizes art events and presentations and serves as a marketplace for some of the area's most cutting-edge artists. Among them are multimedia artists Alice Sutro and Jessica Martin, photographer Caitlin McCaffrey, filmmaker Flora Skivington, painter Christina Hobbs and six other creative women. In addition to art-themed parties and lectures in the Healdsburg headquarters, the collective keeps an online art store and supports its individual members by promoting new shows and exhibits on their Facebook page.
"We all bring something different to the table in terms of our experiences, vision, circumstance and general outlook, having a deep respect for one another and an unwavering belief in art's ability to educate, enhance and unite us in the human condition," says collective member Victoria Wagner. "There was no presumption or foresight regarding gender; it had much more to do with a sense of community that we naturally formed around having really high regard for one another." 428 Moore Lane, Healdsburg. 707.433.6842. 428collective.com.
- BUZZING Grace Kraaijvanger’s Hivery in Mill Valley offers coworking to an all-female clientele.
The Soap Cauldron and Three Sisters Apothecary, Sebastopol Soap, family and female friendship: sounds like a recipe for a Hallmark mini-series—or the story behind the Soap Cauldron. Emma Mann began her small soap venture with her daughter, now a student at UC Berkeley, who manages the company's social media accounts. Located in the Barlow since 2013, the Soap Cauldron is a family business that happens to employ all women, and the theme thrives in Three Sisters Apothecary, a line of beauty and soap products that the Cauldron produces.
"I named it for my sisters and I, who are all two years apart," Mann says. "My sister Marlo was killed in her home back in 2010, which mobilized me on many fronts. My sister Pandora is a payroll and [human resources] specialist, and weighs in on our business structure. Her daughter Roxanne and my daughter all work actively in the business with me."
Together, the group of women makes herbal bar soaps, body butters, shampoo and salves, all packaged in simple, retro-inspired tins. 6780 McKinley Ave., Ste. 120, Sebastopol. 707.888.5659. soapcauldron.com.