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On the Rise: The Undeniable Power of Women-Owned Businesses

Within a half-mile stretch in Downtown South Boston, a plethora of women owned businesses fill the retail space and bring life to a small-town Main Street. These local women entrepreneurs represent a

growing trend. According to the 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of women-owned businesses is growing double the rate of all businesses nationwide, now representing 42 percent of all businesses. Women of color are starting businesses at a rate of 4.5 times more than all businesses. As of 2019 women of color make up 50 percent of women-owned businesses, the American Express report also noted.

According to entrepreneur and best-selling author, Paula Nelson, “Going into business for yourself, becoming an entrepreneur, is the modern-day equivalent of pioneering on the old frontier.” Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston, agrees. “Paula Nelson is right. The new frontier is the economy, and it’s vaster and wilder than the west ever dreamed. Just like women drove covered wagons, raised families in the middle of unfamiliar lands, and dreamed of the life to come, they are now driving the economy, forging new paths and realizing the success of business ownership.”

These women-owned businesses in Downtown South Boston are made up of a cake shop, a home décor store, a flower and gift shop, two cafes and a studio and art gallery. These one-of-a-kind businesses are within walking distance of each other, making it easy for customers to spend an entire afternoon perusing the stores and heading home with delicious treats and shopping bags full of gifts.

When you visit each store or check out their Facebook pages, you can tell these businesswomen love

what they do and what they provide for their community. You will also notice the support that the businesses have for one another. Of course, business is competition, but the mutual respect and support they show for each other’s work makes this small-town business community even more enjoyable.

This support may appear in the form of shares or likes on social media or advice given to each other in a personal conversation, but sometimes it is even more obvious to a customer than that.

Stop by The Busy Bean to enjoy one of their tasty lunches, and among their delicious desserts, you may find a cake or cupcakes made by KJ’s Cake Creations owner, Lakisha Jackson. When you make a cup of coffee at a Wister’s Open House, you might observe that the coffee was made just up the street at The Busy Bean. While you are enjoying a homemade breakfast at Southern Plenty, admiring a flower arrangement by the cash register, you will realize that Wister’s supplied the day’s blossoms. These are

just a few of the examples of how this small-town business district comes together to support one another while also working on their own to be successful businesswomen.

THE BUSY BEAN

“It’s every girl’s dream to open up a business in their hometown,” said Anne Eakes, owner of The Busy Bean. Born and raised in Halifax County, Eakes took over ownership of The Busy Bean in 2018. Since then, The Busy Bean has provided the community with a cozy atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed, at home and inclined to sit and stay awhile. The Busy Bean is a café that serves the community delectable lunches, coffee drinks, pastries and desserts.

One of her favorite parts about owning the business in her hometown is meeting new people. “It’s awesome meeting someone new each day that somehow has a connection with my family,” Eakes said. Although the year has been tough on small businesses, she is more thankful than ever. “We have so many fond memories and cherished people who have filled our space and supported us as we’ve grown. We are grateful for the constant love,” she said.

DISTINCT IMPRESSIONS

Rhonda Green, owner of Distinct Impressions, partnered with her husband, Nookie Green, to open their store in 1998. They moved to their current location in Downtown South Boston in 2004 to combine their already established screen printing and embroidery operation with a unique gift shop. Rhonda, taking charge over the gift shop, offers personalization on many of their retail items – a natural fit with the already existing embroidery and screen-print operation.

Distinct Impressions partners with local businesses to supply products with their logo on them. “Distinct Impressions makes all of our swag wear for Springfield Distillery,” said Kelly Fraser Gordon, Springfield Distillery owner. “Their gift shop is amazing for unique birthday and holiday gifts and for those gifting themselves.”

KJ’S CAKE CREATIONS

KJ’s Cake Creations, a bakery specializing in cakes, cupcakes and cake pops for all occasions, is located in Downtown South Boston. KJ’s Cake Creations has been open in South Boston Lakisha Jackson, KJ’s Cake Creations for just three years, but the owner, Lakisha Jackson, has been creating delicious treats out of her home for much longer.

KJ’s Cake Creations offers homemade cupcakes with over 15 flavors that can be purchased individually or by the dozen. Customers love the variety of flavors. Chamber Ambassador, Jeremy Holt, praised the bakery, “It doesn’t get better than this! I’ve never been dissatisfied with cupcakes from KJ’s! South Boston is lucky to have a dessert shop like KJ’s Cake Creations.”

MOTHER CLUCKERS

Sabrina Jones is the owner of Mother Cluckers, a boutique-style home décor and gift shop in Downtown South Boston. She had a whirlwind first year in business. One week after the shop’s grand opening, the business community was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and were forced to change her plans.

Sabrina took it in stride. “Instead of us dwelling on the what-ifs, we focused on believing that everything happens for a reason. COVID-19 is here, so we revamped our focus to better serve the community through our social media, “Jones said of maintaining a positive mentality to persevere. She is thankful to be a part of a community that supports small businesses.

SOUTHERN PLENTY

Southern Plenty is an artsy, eclectic café in Downtown South Boston that serves fresh and delicious pastries, sandwiches, quiches, soups and other items. They also are stocked with gourmet groceries, deli items, wine, fine craft pottery, art, handmade jewelry and crafts, and coffee drinks abound. Mary Bagwell, owner of Southern Plenty, has extensive experience in the business world, having owned nine businesses.

Bagwell said South Boston has been the best place to own her business. “The community and various support systems (Town Council, Destination Downtown, the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, the Visitor Center, the state of Virginia) have enabled and supported the growth of my business in whatever way they can,” she noted. “I have never had a community have my back in such a way as the community of South Boston.”

WISTER’S

Situated on Main Street in South Boston, this shop is filled with creative floral arrangements, curated gifts and delicious chocolates, caramels and any other confections you can imagine. The light and airy garden atmosphere welcomes you upon your first step through the front door.

The store is named “Wister’s” after owner Amanda Rose’s grandfather, who was a great supporter, encourager and mentor for her. Rose honors his memory by naming her “dream-come-true” floral and gift shop after him.

Wister’s and other women-owned businesses are leading local business growth and innovation, noted Matthew Wagner, Ph.D., Vice President of Main Street America. “Over the past decade, while rates of entrepreneurship have been rather stagnant, the bright spot has been the rise of female entrepreneurs,” he said. “In my most recent visit to South Boston, I was amazed at the growth and concentration of such innovative, new downtown retail, all launched by a cluster of local, smart and savvy women. In fact, in presentations across the country, I commonly use Wister’s ‘flower bar’ as one of the best examples of experiential retailing”

Women owned businesses aren’t limited to Downtown South Boston. During your next visit, these attractions found in Halifax County are worth supporting and exploring.

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