‘She Started It’ Showcases Female Entrepreneurs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Gwen Brown went into business by accident.

She is the owner of Gwen Erin Natural Fibers in Hubbard and was among 30 exhibitors at She Started It, a trade show heldWednesday at the Youngstown Business Incubator as part of its Women in Entrepreneurship program.

“I spin and dye my own yarn and I use it to knit hats, mitten and the like,” Brown said. “I also sell the yarn and fiber for other people who are spinners and knitters as well.”

Brown, whose display featured knitted products as well as yarn, recalled working at the McDonough Museum of Art while a student at Youngstown State University.

“They always had a Christmas craft show and so I had some surplus items,” she said. Her colleagues suggested she sell the surplus products. She began in 2006 with displays at a holiday craft show and now does about 10 shows each year. “So it wasn’t a plan. It just happened by accident,” she said.

Exhibitors at the trade show represented fields that range from crafts, health and beauty and baking to technology and insurance.

“We want to bring awareness to our community that women are doing well on their own as far as business ownership is concerned,” said Stephanie Gilchrist, director of the Women in Entrepreneurship program. “We want to push the message out to the women who are aspiring to become entrepreneurs that they can do it.”

Among other exhibitors was Jessie Tuscano, one of the co-founders of Bravura 3D LLC, a YBI portfolio company that delivers “a holistic approach to 3-D printing,” she said.

“A lot of companies either focus on education or improving the printer itself, but we see it as a threefold problem,” she said. “We’re fixing quite a few things and we’re delivering an excellent 3-D printing experience.”

Among the items Tuscano displayed were a cookie cutter in the shape of the continental United States made by one of the company’s 3-D printers. “I love making cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies?” she said.

Like many of the exhibitors, Tuscano said, one of her goals was to get exposure for her company. She was also aware of the importance of getting the word out about female business owners.

“Women entrepreneurs are so few and far between. It’s unfortunate,” she said. Women make up half of the population.  “When you think of an entrepreneur,” she said, the image – at least in her mind – is that of a man. “So many women are very creative and very passionate that they should really be focusing on entrepreneurship instead of low-paying jobs and other traditional jobs women tend to take,” she said.

Briana Stankich, who in April founded her candle making business, Corals & Clover, looked forward to meeting other vendors as well as raising her company’s profile. She manufactures all-natural soy wax candles.

“I know there’s a lot of great ladies  here,” she said, and looked forward to learning from them and what they do.

“When we have younger people coming up or younger people coming out of school, they don’t always know that there are a lot of women who actually own businesses and it’s nice for them to be able to see that,” said Paula Gilliam, owner/agent with American Family Insurance.

Gilliam, who owns the Paula Gilliam Agency in Austintown, has been in business two years. “I’m hoping to get my name out there, get some recognition, help other ladies get recognition and support each other,” she said.

Deanna Guerrieri of Canfield and Sarah Moynihan of Youngstown, owners of My Beverly Jewelry, said they never expected to go into business. The entrepreneurs make “vintage-inspired” jewelry in their homes that they grow, pick and press.

Both held full-time jobs but wanted to work for themselves and “were playing around creating things and it just kind of took off from there,” Guerrieri recalled.

“This is our most successful year,” she added. “We’ve actually gotten into a few stores so I think things are only going to get better.”

The entrepreneurs also want to get the message out that women can “do anything that you set your mind to,” Moynihan said. “We never thought we would be doing this and here we are today.”

“Being able to make it all happen is pretty awesome,” Guerrieri said.

Erin O’Donnell of Salem, who works downtown, came to shop at some of the displays and support the entrepreneurs. “We need to support other women, get them up on their feet and helping their business,” she said.

Pictured at the event are Stephanie Gilchrist, Colleen Kelly, Brittany Housel and Gianna Centofanti.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.