This month is Women’s History Month, and even though I’m surrounded by inspiring and hard-working women at work, I’m also taking some time to reflect on how women have helped me get where I am today.
I started making chocolate when I was 12. I used to help my mom and sisters make thousands of pounds of chocolate every Easter–by hand. It wasn’t easy!
At 18 I vowed to never make chocolate again and went off to study to become a nurse. I worked as a nurse for the better part of 10 years, but struggled to get ahead. After a rough break up I decided to start afresh with a trip to the US.
My original plan of 3 months turned into 9 months. During that time I met lots of Brazilians who helped me in countless ways, I studied english, I worked as a nanny, and also met my now husband and tinyB co-founder, Andrei. It was a busy 9 months!
After a couple of years in Brazil together, we moved back to San Francisco. While Andrei was working on a startup, I started to make brigadeiros for friends, and soon realized they were a huge hit. In 2014 Andrei and I decided to turn brigadeiros into a business. It was scary at first as I didn’t know anything about running a business, but I studied, worked hard, and looked to others for inspiration.
We’re now into our seventh year of business. We employ over 30 women that work across production, product development, marketing, logistics, and customer service, and we’re growing from month to month.
When I think of which women have inspired me over the years, I always come back to my mom. She taught me to work hard, to be resourceful, and to never dim my own light.
However beyond my mother, there are a few other women who I looked to for ideas on how to start and run with a small business:
Christina Tosi founded Milk Bar, an iconic New York bakery that’s now a part of the Momofuku restaurant group. She was raised by women who love to bake and she had a passion for combining simple supermarket ingredients like cornflakes, sprinkles, and chocolate chips. After a couple of career changes she made her way to fine dining kitchens, however it didn’t feel like the right fit. After moonlighting as a baker, she decided to open Milk Bar, a place inspired by childhood treats and dreams. I simply love how Christina was able to stay true to her roots and push through bureaucracy, criticism, and kitchen mishaps to create what she has! Even though no one thought Milk Bar would succeed in a world where everyone was obsessed with low-fat and sugar-free diets, it has now become one of the most successful and well-known bakeries in the US.
Farm Rio is arguably Brazil’s biggest fashion label and I was so excited when it arrived in the US a few years ago. Their clothing is light, breezy, fun, and vibrant–basically all of the fun stuff about Brazil! Katia inspires me because of her motivation and drive. Over 20 years ago she was working as an auditor but knew deep down she loved fashion. She eventually went on to study fashion and work in a variety of boutiques helping customers choose patterns, prints, and styles that suited their body shapes. While she wore many hats in the beginning–driver, model, accountant, seamstress, sales, distribution–these days she is focusing on taking her brand global. She’s an inspiration because she found a gap in the market, worked hard, and went for it despite having limited resources and encountering countless barriers along the way!
Sara Blakely started Spanx after she was getting ready for a party and realized she didn’t have the right undergarment for her white pants. She spent two years trying to design and test the perfect body-shaping pantyhose, despite everyone telling her it wasn’t a good idea. While funding everything herself, she came up with a prototype and found a factory that was willing to work with her, despite not having any purchase orders. However once she had a final product and women everywhere could see the magic of her product, the sales started rolling in. Oprah even added it to her favorite things list for 2000. Sara has continued to launch new products, land big purchase orders, open stores, and more. She has also committed to giving half of her wealth to charitable organizations, making her even more of an inspiration!