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She Owns It: Women-Led Businesses in Durham

Estimated Read Time:
7 minutes

From restaurants to retail and distilleries, it’s clear that talent runs aplenty in this city. Here are some women-led spots that are worthy of your wallet.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff

Durham is where women — white, Black, Latina, and queer — have made marked change in the community. It's where Virginia Williams, one of the Royal Seven, took part in a sit-in protesting segregation at Durham's Royal Ice Cream parlor in 1957. It's also where it has been reported that the gender wage gap is the smallest in the nation and where conditions are among the best in the nation for women to start businesses. We support women here.

Our present-day cityscape is marked with the fruits and fortitude of women-led ventures. From Bright Black Candles to So Good Pupusas, wins for women look good on Durham. When founders and CEOs of startups and businesses like Firsthand Foods and Zen Succulent take flight, women-led success feels powerful.

The entrepreneurial spirit of women is everywhere in the Bull City. Outlined below is a collection of talented business owners that we crowd-sourced from our followers. Read on to find out more about the women-led businesses you can support during Women's History Month ... and all year long.

Bean Traders: Christy Chapman

Christy and Dave Chapman have forged a true love story set over steaming mugs of coffee. South Durham's Bean Traders follows each bean from farm to cup, serving 800 people a day with farm-fresh ingredients and contributing over 3,000+ lbs of brewed coffee grinds to compost each year.

Bowerbird Flowers and Apothecary: Diane Joyal

Diane started Bowerbird Flowers and Apothecary with a passion for flowers and floral arranging. Over nearly a decade, she has seen the business grow from a small Chapel Hill studio to a beautiful UHill shop and botanical bar filled with flowers and arrangements, locally-made and thoughtfully curated gifts, cards, and an apothecary featuring skincare, teas, candles, and more. But Bowerbird is much more than a retail shop: their in-demand floral services keep them busy designing decor for weddings and events year-round and supporting local flower farms while they're at it.

Diane Joyal poses with bouquets of flowers at her business, Bowerbird Flowers and Apothecary

Bowerbird Flowers and Apothecary Photo: Discover Durham

Bright Black Candles: Tiffany Griffin, PhD, and Dariel Griffin

Bright Black candles "pay tribute to Black greatness one beautifully-crafted candle at a time." Intended to "change narratives and enlighten the world," these candles' scents are intended to get you talking about the complexities of identity, rich black history and community. Developed by Tiffany M. Griffin, PhD, with her husband Dariel, the Durham scent contains hints of tobacco, cotton and whiskey, each from local, treasured sources. It's carefully cultivated to pay homage to Durham's grit, authenticity and soul.

Tiffany Griffin poses outside the new storefront of Bright Black Candles on the day of the ribbon cutting.

Tiffany Griffin outside her Lakewood shop. Photo: Discover Durham

Chet Miller, Parker & Otis, and Tiny: Jennings Brody

Jennings Brody is the owner of four unique shops that offer various unique goods and gifts in Durham. Named after her grandfather, a “scrappy” candy salesman from Indiana who had a penchant for antiques, Chet Miller provides curated gifts, décor and artifacts. With Parker & Otis, Jennings created an oasis of delightful food with fresh, local ingredients and wares that are perfect for any occasion at the American Tobacco Campus. Filled with a delightful selection of things for children (and children at heart!), Tiny is filled to the brim with tiny treasures. Parker Paper Co. celebrates the inspiration and possibility of a nice notebook and writing utensil.

Chez Moi Bakery: Rhonda Jones

What started as a passion project involving a bottle of duty-free Caribbean rum and a home oven led Rhonda Jones to quit her corporate job and bring her beloved rum cakes and lemon curd to Durham's masses at a growing number of establishments like Namu, Cocoa Cinnamon locations, and more. Since she was featured on PBS's "A Few Great Bakeries," she hasn't looked back. Chez Moi's highly crave-able sweet treats are worth seeking out.

Cocoa Cinnamon: Areli Barrera de Grodski

From a smaller coffee operation on a bike to three locations and Little Waves Coffee Roasters, Cocoa Cinnamon's story is sweet indeed. Barrera de Grodski was born in Mexico and lived in Tijuana until she was six years old. Her ingenuity and determination to bolster community create opportunities for us all to celebrate culture, churros, and delectable, locally sourced desserts and beverages.

Crafts and Drafts NC: Virginia George

This woman-founded venture was the passion project of Virginia George, who left a tech job to bring her dream to fruition. This D.I.Y. bar endeavors to "bring communities together through creative exploration and continuous learning." Get a craft set or bring your own and enjoy a drink with friends or family. Kids are invited too!

Dogstar Tattoo: Kathryn Moore

Established in 1997, Dogstar Tattoo Company is one of the Triangle’s oldest shops. For over a decade, the business was located on Durham’s busy Ninth Street. In 2010, they relocated to Golden Belt to occupy a beautifully renovated warehouse space in an energy-efficient Gold LEED certified building.

Durham Distillery: Melissa Katrincic

Melissa and Lee Katrincic combine tradition with modern chemistry to create both classic and contemporary gin. Melissa manages Durham Distillery’s business and marketing operations, and Durham Distillery actively supports STEM, musical, and performing arts education, while ensuring a living wage for employees. In addition to their internationally award-winning Conniption gin, Durham Distillery also offers coffee, mocha, chocolate liqueurs, and cucumber vodka. Try all of the spirits at Corpse Reviver, Durham Distillery's on-site cocktail bar located behind the distillery.

Firsthand Foods: Jennifer Curtis & Tina Prevatte Levy

The co-owners of Firsthand Foods are reshaping the supply chain for meat in North Carolina by creating market opportunities for small-scale farmers by connecting those who humanely raise beef, pork and lamb to restaurants and stores in Durham. In recent years, they have reported bringing over $1.3M into Durham's local food economy, with nearly 80 percent of revenue supporting small farmers and rural meat processors in their network. With the help of their distribution partners, they brought over 300,000 pounds of ethically-raised meats to market in 2019 alone.

"We pay our farmers and processors for their hard work, uphold our production standards to ensure animal welfare and environmental stewardship, and are working to expand our transparency efforts to build an even more aware and compassionate consumer base." Here's to more of that!

Grub, Nosh, and Piper in the Park: Wendy Woods and Piper Lunsford

Three friends and partners have created three amazing restaurants — together they form Rocketship Restaurants, offering delicious fast-casual food all over Durham. For this group, "it is more than providing great food and service. It’s about creating community in a city they all love, and work consistently to make better."

Hairizon: Valerie Jackson and Joi Stepney

The minds behind Hairizon Beauty believe that hair care’s best ingredients are found in nature. They provide products derived from the earth yielded agents selecting products that avoid any unnecessary chemical additives and instead incorporate essential oils, herbs, flowers and minerals to protect and strengthen hair. Their store is located on Guess Road in Durham.

Hamilton Hill Jewelry: Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill is passionate about art, design, fashion, personal style, and urban revitalization. She opened Hamilton Hill Jewelry in Brightleaf Square to share her unique jewelry with the community. Sarah has had the honor of being employed by the Smithsonian Institution, The Urban Institute, Duke Women’s Studies, and other brilliant organizations.

Honeygirl Meadery: Diane Currier

Honeygirl Meadery is the Triangle's first meadery. They celebrate nature and the hard work of honeybees by making meads (honey wines) with seasonal fruits, flowers, herbs, and honey. These delightful libations are hand-crafted in small batches with all-natural ingredients.

Indio: Wendy Sease

Wendy Sease, founder and owner, and Kate Kyle, shop stylist, were both born in North Carolina; they share a birthday, a love for dogs, and a great sense of style. This neighborhood shop is filled with beautiful, handmade goods from equally stunning makers. Kate has been with Wendy from the beginning of the Indio journey — they’ve worked in tandem to curate the beautiful space and the gorgeous selection of goods, workshops, and events that make up Indio.

Liberty & Plenty: Tina Williford

After many years spent in corporate finance and beverage import and distribution, Liberty & Plenty owner Tina Williford earned her expertise in distilling at Scotland's renowned Heriot-Watt University. She joins the estimated one percent of female-owned distilleries in the US – the second here in Durham – with her cocktail bar and distillery adjacent to The Rickhouse. The distillery has plans to produce rum, whiskey, gin, and flavored vodkas, with their Bronze Bull Spirits Bourbon and Rye, Cap & Cane Rum and Slate Belt Vodka as the first releases. Pick up a bottle or enjoy a seasonal take on a classic cocktail at the bar.

Locopops: Summer Bicknell

Summer Bicknell of Locopops made it to Durham from Nashville by way of Mexico, stopping to learn how to make paletas and speak Spanish before bringing both creamy and juice-based popsicles to locations all over Durham. Find these delicious treats at their location at 2618 Hillsborough Road, and at summer concerts and various grocery stores, co-ops, and shops throughout the Bull City.

Melanated Wine & Spirits: Lashonda Fort-Modest

Melanated Wine is Durham’s first Black-owned wine shop. Owner Lashonda Fort-Modest wanted to simplify wine and make it enjoyable and accessible for the minority community, so she set out to explore what the industry was missing for people of color. Melanated Wine demystifies the complexities of the buying experience, so wine can be educational, delicious, and fun for everyone.

Pine State Flowers

Around 80 percent of flowers used in the U.S. are imported from other countries, often traveling thousands of miles before they arrive to their destination. Pine State Flowers is doing blooms differently. More than 95 percent of the flowers used at Pine State Flowers are grown right here in North Carolina, and the shop has put over $150,000 into the hands of local farmers since 2014. Visit them in the historic Roll's Florist building off Chapel Hill Road.

Sabrina Seymore Events: Sabrina Seymore

Sabrina is all about sharing the love. This North Carolina Central University alumna brings signature creativity, style and organization to events, weddings and gatherings, committing herself to flawless execution. Her Durham event company has been selected as a winner of Wedding Wires' Couple's Choice Award, as well as awards from The Knot, and Best of Durham distinctions.

So Good Pupusas: Cecelia Polance

You’ll have the opportunity to savor the stuff of brilliance when you visit this haven of mobile magic founded by Cecelia Polance. This delightful food truck offers a self-proclaimed "taste of El Salvador with a side of social justice," mostly in the form of mouthwatering chicharron, frijoles, queso, and ayote pupusas. While the cuisine is flavorful, the women-led team is a strong pillar in our community. So Good Pupusas supports their nonprofit partner, Pupusas for Education, which provides scholarships to undocumented and DACAmented students to attend any higher education institution or program. Eat with a purpose!

Two Sisters Adventure Company: Natasha, Cathy and Rainbow Teasley

Sisters Natasha and Rainbow and their mother, Cathy, collectively share over four decades of experience working as outdoor guides and paddling instructors. They started Two Sisters Adventure Company with a mission to create a more respectful and inviting environment for all people in the outdoors. Their work to break down barriers through education and mindfulness, as well as creating opportunities for low-income adventurers, addresses issues around representation, safety, and self-doubt in the natural environment through self-guided and guided trips, camps, and classes in Durham County.

Super Taqueria: Roselia Flores

From Tobacco to Tortillas”, an ABC News story reads... a stark homage to the progress Durham's growing Hispanic community has made in the Bull City. The piece follows Roselia Flores, the entrepreneur who started Super Taqueria in 2001, and supermarket La Superior in 2005. The supermarket employs 49 people and is supported by vendors from Mexico, Central, and Latin America. She secured grants and a loan from the historically Black-owned Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and her success is a glimpse into the power of community-based support and empowerment that has been a common thread throughout Durham for generations, in all walks of life.

Vert & Vogue: Nadira Hurley

Nadira and Ryan Hurley met in a men's boutique in Paris in 2001. They opened Vert & Vogue in 2008, and now they're one of the longest-standing women-led businesses in Durham. Their boutique features modern vibes and upscale fashion for women.

Virtue Events: Joye Speight

With over 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Durham native Joye Speight is the owner of Virtue Events, the largest minority- and woman-owned event planning team in the Triangle. Entrepreneurship is in Joye’s blood  —  she was born and raised in Durham to a family of serial entrepreneurs. Her goal in starting Virtue Events was "to create memorable experiences that bring a variety of people from different backgrounds together for a common purpose.”

Yoga Off East: Kathy Smith

Yoga Off East recently refurbished their new studio on Ninth Street. They offer a variety of yoga classes designed to strengthen, stretch, and support you as your best self, "regardless of which version walks in." Kathy Smith has given space for over a dozen instructors to guide you in a restorative and invigorating practice.

The Zen Succulent: Megan and Margaret George

Located in downtown Durham (with another location in Raleigh), this lush, gorgeous, modern terrarium and plant craft business was created by the mother/daughter team Margaret and Megan George in 2016. Megan is the author of Modern Terrarium Studio, as well as a teacher, workshop leader, and the mind behind the brand and design of her terrarium masterpieces. Her mother manages all of the logistics of the business.

So, which of these incredible women-owned businesses are you excited to visit and support?

About the Author

Discover Durham Staff