What happens when you put over 25 women-owned small businesses together for one photo shoot? You get beautiful photos, a lot of inspiration, and a way to promote women-owned businesses for International Women’s Day.
That’s what Ashley Melanson, owner of Abode Beauty Bar was hoping for when she started the project.
She’s been focusing on photo shoots for her own business, but really wanted to put one together that would focus on women makers, entrepreneurs and designers.
“I wanted to shed light on the fact that women can be beautiful, Ashley says, “but they can be smart and they can be creative and they can do things.”
Balance for Better
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Balance for Better, calling on everyone to strive for a gender-balanced world.
In 2017, there were more than 11.6 million women-owned firms in the U.S., 39 percent of all privately held firms, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. They employed nearly 9 million people and generated $1.7 trillion in sales.
To celebrate and support women business owners, Ashley brought together some of the finest female makers and creatives in the greater Boston area.
And what came out of it was a celebration of the accomplishments of women business owners who pooled their talents for a beautiful photo shoot.
“I didn’t think it was going to be this large. I got a lot of great feedback from people. Before I knew it, it exploded.”
“You always want to be involved in shoots to promote your brand,” says Kristen Lambert, owner of knitwear boutique Third Piece. “It’s hard to take it on, but when they got all the brands and people and photographers together, it sounded like such a cool idea.”
And it was.
I asked some of the business owners to tell me what it meant to own their own business and to be a part of an event that promotes women just like them.
Here’s what they said.
Jo Hersey: Twig + Briar
Twig + Briar specializes in floral designs for non-traditional weddings. As Jo’s website describes it, her unique floral arrangements are for “the weirdos and the artsy kids and the people in the back. For the punk rockers and the bohemians and the ones living on their own terms.”
She began her journey as a business owner just a few years ago, and says the experience has freed her.
“My background as a single mom is definitely what brought me here. I was working fulltime to support us, but I wasn’t satisfied at all.”
Her business allows her to be a more present parent and a more confident person.
“I feel younger and healthier and happier than I ever have in my adult life because I’m not looking to anyone to support me.”
Her advice for other women who want to start their own business?
“We all have that insecurity that we’re not good enough. Those feelings of insecurity — those voices that you’ve been hearing since you were a little girl — that you can only accomplish things in a partnership. Get that voice out of your head.”
Kristen Lambert: Third Piece
Kristen started her knitwear boutique, Third Piece in the South End soon after finishing her MBA. “I had a friend who was knitting and I was really excited about what she had as a customer.”
What started as a side project turned into a full-time business that gave Kristen the opportunity to lift up women crafters.
“I wanted to start a company that would provide opportunities for women, especially locally. I grew up in Boston.”
“It’s a female-dominated craft,” she says. “We make products for women. Women make our products. Many of our customers are women. We are all about female empowerment.”
Alison MacDonald: Doris Loves
Alison brought Doris Loves, a service that creates messages in marquee letters for events, over from the UK in 2017.
She was so excited to be a part of the shoot because it was an opportunity to really showcase the sheer talent of local women.
“We want to let people see how amazing these businesses are,” she says.
She loves how supportive the community is, where women build each other up and encourage one another.
“There’s something about when you’re working with other women you feel very strong. It’s almost like a spark. No one is trying talk over you.”
The shoot was bustling, but it was clear that everyone there was doing what they truly love. That labor of love turned into an event that sparked a sense of empowerment in everyone involved.
“I was so inspired by all the things all these creative women were doing,” comments Ashley. She wanted to share that inspiration, and she succeeded.