Stories / Impact

Here Are the 2019 Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellows

Katherine Miller

June 03, 2019


Owning It Chicago women with their hands up photo by Galdones Photography
Photo: Galdones Photography

One of the opportunities that excited me most about joining the James Beard Foundation was the chance to grow our Women’s Leadership Programs (WLP). With founding support from Audi, these WLP initiatives, including our Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership and Owning It programs, work to raise up all the women out there building their own businesses in the food industry.

As of January 2017, according to Women Owned, there were an estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in revenues. Food-related businesses are one of the top sectors of women-owned businesses and this sector is growing year over year.

Like other industries, we know that when women own businesses, their communities win. Women reinvest up to 90 percent of their income into their families and communities, compared to 40 percent for men.

The women growing these businesses are entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, chefs, farmers, and butchers. They are partners, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, mothers, and friends. They are also employers supporting thousands of jobs and creating hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue across our food system for other farmers, fishermen, and producers.

Yet there are structural barriers to success that impede even faster growth of women-owned businesses.

Just 4 percent of the total dollar value of all small-business loans go to women business owners. This is particularly acute in food-related businesses where fewer women apply for loans and the amounts awarded are, on average, lower than loans to men.

The non-traditional nature of food and hospitality jobs (early morning and late evening work, highly seasonal employment, etc.) leaves many families and women struggling to find child care and support. The United States is the only developed country that does not offer government paid parental leave or any government paid maternity benefits. The U.S. also spends less than .5 percent of its GDP on childcare, which is the lowest level of spending for any developed country.

These barriers—coupled with high rates of sexual harassment, a lack of women-centered support services, higher student loan and other debt ratios, and gender-bias in media coverage—make it challenging for women in our industry to start businesses and thrive as leaders.

At the James Beard Foundation, we’re working to erase these barriers. We know the only way to change things is to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work.

We’ve opened our own channels, including our blog and our events, to highlight more women-identifying voices. We’ve expanded our programming to include regular webinars on topics such as mentorship and branding. We’ve launched a new city-based training program, Owning It, focused helping early-stage entrepreneurs access experts and resources around visioning and financing.

And today I’m excited to announce the 20 fellows participating in the 2019 Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program:

  • Ann Ahmed (Lat14 Asian Eatery and Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine, Golden Valley, MN)
  • Mary Aregoni (Saigon Sisters, Chicago)
  • Caitlin Carney (Marjie’s Grill, New Orleans)
  • Gina Chersevani (Buffalo&Bergen and Suburbia, Washington, D.C.)
  • Penny Chutima (Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas)
  • Vicky Colas (Pro Kitchen Hub, Sunrise, FL)
  • Christina Corvino (Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, Kansas City, MO)
  • Sonya Cote (Eden East and Hillside Farmacy, Austin)
  • Sarah Ecolano (Copper River Fish Market, Cordova, AK)
  • Rohani Foulkes (Folk Detroit and Farmer’s Hand, Detroit)
  • Sarah Gavigan (Otaku Ramen, Nashville)
  • Jocelyn Guest (J&E Small Goods, NYC)
  • Katy Kindred (Hello, Sailor and Kindred, Davidson, NC)
  • Tiffany MacIsaac (Buttercream Bakeshop, Washington, D.C.)
  • Tim McDiarmid (Tim the Girl and The Good Kind, San Antonio)
  • Caroline Morrison (The Fiction Kitchen, Raleigh, NC)
  • Nikki Nickerson (Cowgirl Enterprises Restaurant & Retail Group, Rosemary Beach, FL)
  • Evelyn Padin (Hardgrove Restaurant, Jersey City, NJ)
  • Teresa Razo (Cambalache & Villa Roma Restaurant, Fountain Valley, CA)
  • Trish Rothgeb (Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, San Francisco)

For five days in October 2019, in partnership with Babson College, these fellows will learn new skills to grow their careers and scale their businesses. Women who’ve been through this program in the past report major growth in their businesses: alumnae of WEL have expanded from a single restaurant to restaurant groups, signed national product distribution deals, and launched whole new companies.

This latest class of business leaders come from across the industry and represent diverse communities nationwide. We expect them to do amazing things, too.

Our suite of Women’s Leadership Programs is designed to support a woman leader at every stage of her career. Together these programs can help shift the way society views women, influence culture change in the food, restaurant, and hospitality industries and ensure that these industries continue to grow, thrive, and professionalize.

To follow the progress of our WEL Fellows check out #JBFWomenLead across social media. Find out more and learn how you can support these programs by visiting our website.

Read the full press release.

The JBF Women’s Leadership Programs are presented by Audi.