Twenty small business female makers to follow
I first mentioned my list of twenty small business creative women in the NYC and Boston areas that I love over the Thanksgiving weekend, when big box chains were hitting us hard with tempting deals. I’ll admit I may have fallen for one or two myself, but we’re all human! Some of you asked for a list of these entrepreneurs, so here it is. It’s a little late for holiday gift giving, but it’s great to start the new year learning about local makers and companies that support them.
Some women on my list are singular makers, while others have built full shops and networks of local creatives. I’m so excited to share these women with you. All photos are mine and are of products by these women that I own and love!
In a lot of little ways, these makers are connected. Some carry each other’s products or collaborate. I’ve found them all organically as part of a larger woven community of female makers that I admire.
1. Helen Levi (Brooklyn) is a potter born and based in New York.
I’ve seen her planters, pots, mugs, etc. pop up in shops around New York and most sets are available and ready to ship on her site. She launches new pieces often, and her social media videos of molding clay are mesmerizing. I love her “Dealer’s Choice” option in her online shop. If you can’t decide which piece of hers you want first, I suggest you try it!
2. Soapwalla (Brooklyn) is a vegan skincare line founded by Rachel Winard, which she started after continually coming across harsh, irritating chemicals in her skincare products that bothered her sensitive skin.
I’ve been a follower of hers for a long time, and own a few of her products, including her most signature - the aluminum free, baking soda free sensitive skin deodorant. I’m pretty addicted and may have stocked up on three of them during Soapwalla’s Cyber Monday deal…
3. Millay Vintage (Boston) is a sweet little online shop of the most gorgeous, curated vintage pieces.
Mary used to have a brick and mortar store, and after a stint in Philly, realized that on her return to Boston she wanted to keep her store solely online (for now hopefully). I love following her day to day life on Instagram and seeing how she puts together a mix of meaningful modern pieces and sourced vintage.
4. The Slow Factory (Brooklyn) is a mission-driven fashion label and lab.
They believe in slow fashion and collaborate with artists to create accessories and clothing to support global causes. To me, they are pioneers in fashion activism and there is so much more I need to learn from them!
5. Fiona Chinkan (Brooklyn) known as Fiona C. is an improvisational visual artist creating her works by freehand.
I first met her while hosting an artist panel for The Other Art Fair and have been entranced by her work since. Her drawings are affordable for amateur collector folks like myself and have a modern twist of bright colors and designs that can really light up a room.
6. Sara Boccaccini Meadows (Brooklyn) is an illustrator and designer best known for her signature prints of plants, lush locations and little details of her travels.
You can find her work in a lot of awesome collaborations, but her prints and new “how to” paint botanicals book are my current favorites!
7. Queen of Swords (Somerville) was founded by a floral design and event small business and built by women who wanted to curate a selection of clothing, home goods and meaningful products by small makers.
Their store is so thoughtful and cozy, you can tell they take such time to put together their space. I’m so glad more female maker communities like QOS are popping up around Boston!
8. Follain (Boston + beyond) was my introduction into the clean beauty movement.
Tara Foley brings together a bunch of my favorite brands, holds great talks and events and really makes understanding the ingredients that we should keep out of our cosmetics so digestible. Follain has opened up in a few more locations, but I’ll always look back fondly at my years in Boston and popping in to their South End flagship store.
9. APPRVL (Brooklyn) Megan Mussari built her business of naturally dyed hand rope bags and other textiles after working in the fashion industry and discovering how toxic and unsustainable a lot of the materials she was working with were.
To say I’m addicted to Megan’s brand is an understatement. I admire her move from the corporate fashion world to the independent maker life and can’t get enough of those rope bags!
10. Porcelain and Stone (Somerville) is a hand-crafted jewelry company with a nautical flare. Her pieces are made from ceramics and different types of metals.
You can find Kimberly Huestis’s jewelry in a lot of pop-ups and small stores, besides her online shop. Her pieces are really so unique - to me they are somehow statement pieces yet very delicate at the same time. Kimberly is conscious of metal sensitivity and creates all of her work pieces by hand.
11. Brooklyn Craft Company (Brooklyn) is the sweetest little craft shop holding tons of workshops and events, perfect for the newbie to crafting like myself.
After a workshop in weaving, I quickly zipped here to pick through their wide array of yarns. The shop owners are helpful and keep the space updated and neat, so you feel like you are choosing good quality materials that aren’t outdated or too sophisticated for the regular crafter.
12. Natalie Andrewson (Brooklyn) is unapologetic in the colors and process of her work.
She can take old stories or seemingly common moments and turn them into something spectacular. I met Natalie at a pop-up crafters event in Greenpoint and found her work so striking. I’m not naturally drawn to comics, but appreciate them more and more as my brother has gifted me a few and I love how Natalie uses a risograph to produce prints.
13. Suji Ceramics (NYC) was founded by a SoCal native who ran out of interesting pots to hold all of her plant friends.
I took her ceramics class and totally fell in love with her brand when I went home and checked out her site. She’s the sweetest, and a great instructor too!
14. Aelfie (Brooklyn) was traditionally a rug company, with both antique and newly designed works sourced from India.
They’ve since expanded into more home decor and are creating more of their original designs. Their online store is awesome, but if you’ve got the chance, I would recommend checking out their studio and popping in for weekend artist residencies. It’s such a relaxed atmosphere where you can meet like-minded creatives.
15. Young & Able (NYC) was born from the idea that emerging artists and makers need unique spaces to showcase their work.
Rosa Ng’s sourced goods are always available online, but she hosts seasonal pop-ups in NYC several times a year. I was first introduced to her work during her Winter 2018 pop-up in a three-story Brooklyn brownstone. She hosted parties, and workshops and was so welcoming to women who want to learn more about starting their own e-commerce business.
16. Olives and Grace (South End) is the epitome of a maker’s community to me.
Started by Sofi Madison in 2012, this little shop is full of heart and soul. With bountiful gift giving ideas from food to fashion + home goods accessories, it’s a great stop for a one-off treat or place to curate a larger gift box.
17. The Boston General Store (Brookline + Dedham) has a truly vintage-inspired feel which is easy to fall in love with.
It’s a place I so wish was around when I lived in Brookline! They’re big on zero waste products, and have a lot of outdoor gear options too which I haven’t found curated in such a meaningful way outside of male-owned shops. I’m very into the strong woman who only owns quality, long-lasting items - and this store is sure to set you in that direction.
18. Ibu Textiles (NYC) is how I developed my love of weaving!
Jennifer Fleischer is a fiber artist whose pieces are in her online shop, at a few spots around NYC and many craft fairs too! If you’re looking for an introductory class in weaving, I would highly recommend Ibu Textiles.
19. Hourglass Boston (Boston) describes itself perfectly, as a “weird little arty pop-up thing in Boston!”
The two women who started Hourglass are true powerhouses in the entrepreneurial fashion world. You can shop their goods online, but their most recent pop-up on Boylston Street just closed after Christmas. They’d love ideas from the community about where we want to see them next, so share your thoughts!
20. Calhoun and Co. (Brooklyn) is a home decor and gift line focused on the cozy and intimate feelings we all want when snuggled up for the weekend.
Kerry Stokes creates all of the illustrations for their products, and I would say some of their most coveted items are their blankets. Have you ever seen their “Good at Naps” one? I’d say that may well be my life slogan, and I KNOW it will be my next local maker’s purchase.