How 6 Women Entrepreneurs Thrive In The Food World

Food & Drink

The food industry is known for its fast pace and high pressure, a proving ground for skilled entrepreneurs. This Women’s History Month, we focus on six women who have survived and thrived in this tough environment. We spoke to six women whose flavors, visions, and relentless determination reshaped the food world.

Their insights give us a window into what it takes to stand out and succeed in today’s food world. From the challenges of supply chain snags to the triumphs of a perfectly balanced dish, these women share their real-world experiences of running a food business. Here’s how they stay dedicated, inspired, and manage to lead by example.

Shweta Garg, Masala & Chai

Navigating dual careers in cyber security consulting and food blogging, Shweta Garg showcases a stunning embodiment of balancing passion and profession. As the founder of the Indo-American site Masala & Chai, Shweta proves that commitment and structure can coexist with culinary enthusiasm and cultural tradition.

“Staying on top of my commitments is something that only came with time and implementing efficient processes,” Garg comments, drawing attention to the resilience required when juggling a 9-5 job managing a successful food blog. “Reminding myself about the ‘why’ when it comes to building a business you’re financially and emotionally invested in – it helps you get through the hardest days. For me, it was realizing the impact I could have on people’s daily lives… Once you have your goals in place, you can begin building structure, routine, and processes around the items you need to tackle daily, weekly, and monthly to stay dedicated and organized in running your business.

Jisung Chun, House of Jeon and Soy & Rice

A commitment to self-care, healing, and leadership is at the heart of Jisung Chun’s entrepreneurial vision for her two brands: House of Jeon and Soy & Rice. Chun’s journey is a narrative of transformation, not just of a business leader but of an individual intent on making a positive impact through the universal language of food.

“The entrepreneur journey has taught me to focus on my self-care and healing journey,” Chun reflects. This emphasis on personal growth and well-being is foundational, shaping her approach to leadership and service. “The more healed I am, the more authentic, loving, and kind I become,” she observes, acknowledging the ripple effect of personal transformation on her ability to lead and inspire.

Chun’s commitment extends beyond the confines of her inner world, influencing her ethos in the food industry. “It is an absolute priority that I know who I am and what I am here to do with utter conviction,” she asserts. This clarity of purpose and identity guides her mission to offer more than just sustenance. “I take being in the food industry with great honor and intention to serve healthy food and a positive environment for the people I work with and customers coming into my space.”

For Chung, food transcends its basic nutritional value, embodying the dual role of medicine and a universal social glue. “Food is the oldest medicine and a universal social language,” she states, underpinning her intention to nourish both body and soul. “And I intend to serve food that is just that.”

Paula Patterson, The Pony Show

As the wine director and co-founder of The Pony Show, which specializes in private dinner parties and pop-ups across Upstate New York and beyond, Paula Patterson draws endless inspiration from the formidable women shaping the culinary landscape.

“I look to the other women who have built up this industry with and around me from all angles, and allow myself to be continually inspired by their passion, joy, and dedication,” Patterson reflects. “Women are farmers, event coordinators, bakers, chefs, general managers, food writers, beverage directors, servers, guests, and so much more. Women bring passion and determination in those roles in countless ways, and whether I’m working alongside them or watching them from afar, the women in all aspects of this industry continue to compel me to wake up every day and make it happen in my own journey.”

Through her observations, Patterson highlights the multifaceted contributions of women to the food industry. She admires them for their culinary or managerial skills and their unwavering passion and determination, which inspire her daily. “Looking through my connection to others, and watching the spark and glimmer in their eyes as they live out their dreams has always helped me keep mine,” she reflects, emphasizing the cyclical nature of inspiration and support among women in the industry.

Maria Lara-Bregatta, Cafe Mamajuana

Cafe Mamajuana in Burlington, Vermont, is not just a culinary establishment; it’s a vibrant testament to the power of food in celebrating cultural heritage and diversity. Maria Lara-Bregatta is at the helm, and her passion for her Dominican-Italian background infuses every dish and decision at her restaurant.As a business owner in the food industry, I find my dedication and inspiration rooted in the rich connections between food and heritage,” Lara-Bregatta shares, revealing the deep-seated motivations behind her entrepreneurial journey. “Food has always been a powerful way for me to honor my Dominican-Italian background and embrace the cultural diversity that defines my identity.”

For Lara-Bregatta, food is not merely sustenance but a narrative medium, a storytelling tool that bridges continents and generations. “It serves as a bridge that connects me to my roots and allows me to share my history with others,” she explains. This philosophy is the foundation upon which Cafe Mamajuana is built, aiming to feed bodies and nourish souls and minds.

“By understanding the significance of food in shaping our identities and empowering communities, I have found a sense of purpose and fulfillment in my entrepreneurial journey,” Lara-Bregatta concludes. Her words underscore the power of food, as a catalyst for cultural celebration, personal identity, and community empowerment.

Carolina Wang, EatGoodNYC

Carolina Wang’s journey into the culinary world as the co-founder of eatgoodnyc encapsulates the unexpected twists that life often presents. Venturing inadvertently into the food industry, Carolina’s narrative is a powerful testament to the role of perseverance, learning, and community in shaping an entrepreneur’s path.

“How do I stay dedicated and inspired as a person who owns a business in the food industry?” Wang begins to ponder. “To be honest, this is not even something I knew I wanted, and I kind of fell into it.” Her candid acknowledgment reflects a journey not borne out of long-held ambition but luck and resilience. “It’s a learning curve every day no matter how long you are in the industry, it will always find ways to humble you.”

Wang’s approach stands out because of her keen focus on personal growth and community impact. “What keeps me inspired is seeing how my actions have changed me as a person and gaining the knowledge and experience to confidently share it with my community to inspire others to do so as well,” she shares. This reflection underscores the transformative power of entrepreneurship—not just on the individual but also on the broader community.

Wang emphasizes the essence of purpose-driven business, stating, “No matter how successful you are in your business, it will mean nothing unless it gives back and empowers your community in a lasting way.” This philosophy is core to her vision at eatgoodnyc, where the mission transcends business boundaries to nurture and elevate the community it serves. Wang not only charts her path of discovery and growth but also lights the way for others to follow.

Sonya Vega, Doña Vega Mezcal

Sonya Vega, the founder and CEO of Doña Vega, Mezcal, stands out as an entrepreneur and an inspiring figure for women aiming to carve out their space in this field. Grounded in passion, knowledge, and authenticity, Vega’s advice encapsulates a roadmap for aspiring female entrepreneurs in the spirits world.

“My advice to women looking to get into the spirits industry is to find a product that excites you and learn everything you can about it,” Sonya Vega shares. This emphasis on passion and expertise is more than just a strategy; it’s a foundation for meaningful engagement with the product and the market.

Vega understands that standing out in an industry as saturated as spirits requires more than just presence—it demands a genuine connection and contribution to the space. “The industry is crowded, so be sure you can authentically contribute to the space, and let your passion shine!” Vega advises. It’s a reminder that authenticity and enthusiasm aren’t just add-ons but critical elements that define a brand and its relationship with consumers.

Vega’s journey with Doña Vega exemplifies how an authentic commitment to one’s product and its story can resonate deeply, creating pathways for success and impact.

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