Guest Writer Alexandra Saarela
Alexandra is a loyal Bay Area native. Born and raised in Walnut Creek, she went on to attend UC Berkeley and live in San Francisco. She now works in marketing for a South San Francisco–based, f…See full bio
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I wrote this piece before the world went into panic mode. However, it has never been as important as the present to spend your dollars locally and show support for small, female-founded businesses. In an era of instant gratification and e-commerce—and in a society realizing that #timeisup on inequality—it’s imperative we not simply share our support via social media, but also act daily to create change.
When I was taking a political science course at UC Berkeley, the distinguished (and frankly, cheeky) professor and economist Robert Reich asked us if we found it important to support small, local businesses. Being in Berkeley, it was not surprising that the response from the nearly 700 students was, “Yes, we find it important to support small, local businesses”—but his follow-up question inquired about the number of times we purchase products from Amazon and other large e-commerce sites. With that, professor Reich quickly put a well-intentioned group of students in their place.
So, thanks to professor Reich, I always use my dollars to support the inspired women entreprenuers of California. As a Golden State native and San Francisco resident, I’ve become very familiar with the female-founded brands in the City by the Bay. Here are a few of my favorites.
Okay, trust me when I say this San Diego–based brand of spreadable granola is what your kitchen is missing. I usually eat it by the spoonful, but it’s also delicious on fruit, in yogurt, and on French toast—and it’s way too much fun to bake with. (Buy it and thank me later.) Kween & Co. founder Ali Bonar, also known as the @avokween on Instagram, uses her food-filled platform to talk nourishment and body positivity. Bonar is transparent about her turbulent past with eating disorders, claiming she started her company to show that nourishing your body and living your best life don’t have to be mutually exclusive. This makes supporting her yummy creations much more meaningful, as her brand seems to represent her journey to heal her negative relationship with food. What a kween!
Wildwonder is a beverage company founded by Rosa Li, a San Francisco resident and Stanford Graduate School of Business alum. Li creates organic, superherb-infused tonics loaded with antioxidants—but not refined sugar. The nourishing beverages are inspired by her grandmother’s homemade herbal tonics and provide everything the immune system needs right now (and in the cutest bottles, too). Her recently released Prebiotics and Probiotics drinks are comprehensive gut-healers featuring herbs, plant fiber, live vegan probiotics, and fruits. Your purchase will not only boost your immunity, but also your mood: For every bottle sold, 5 percent of the profits go towards female and minority causes, so you can feel good in every way possible.
Free of soy, dairy, and gluten, this cashew-based gelato certainly isn’t traditional, but you’ll still be hard-pressed not to become a loyal fan of Vixen Kitchen after the first spoonful. Santa Cruz resident Sundara Clark was inspired to create a delicious and wholesome dessert that her daughters—one of whom has a dairy allergy—could enjoy, leading her to concoct a vegan and 100-percent organic gelato. When you buy a pint, you’re paying for the quality. The gelato is made with simple ingredients (you won’t find any added gums or fillers) and sweetened only with maple syrup, so you can feel good about eating the entire pint of gelato in one sitting…or at least I do.
Once you’ve stocked up on the delectable goodies and healthy snacks at Bi-Rite, you’ll be ready to visit some of the best local shops, located merely steps away from the market on Divisadero Street.
You’ll have fun spending your money at this dreamy, female-founded shop. With the slogan “beautiful things to hold in your hands,” Rare Device does not disappoint. The storefront is filled with thoughtfully designed, trendy home decor, bath products, jewelry, accessories, and more. Owner Giselle Gyalzen picks every handmade item herself, ensuring each object has its own story. With the store’s backdrop serving as a rotating gallery wall of local artists, you can enjoy monthly art exhibitions on-site, too. So whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, frequenting this locally powered boutique is the epitome of putting your dollars back into the community.
One block down from Rare Device you’ll find another whimsical, woman-owned shop: The Perish Trust. This modern day general store was established in 2008 by commercial photographer Kelly Ishikawa and art director Rod Hipskind. It’s the type of shop you want to model your home after—you will leave feeling some kind of magical. Offering everything from artisanal homegoods and cool kitchenware to handcrafted earrings and that coffee table book you didn’t know you were missing, The Perish Trust might burn a hole in your wallet before you can get off of Divisadero Street (but you won’t regret it at all).
This female-founded workout studio is guaranteed to kick your booty into shape. Located in NoPa (my favorite part of the city), SALT offers an array of amazingly effective hybrid classes such as “Barre Fight,” which mixes those tiny, painful motions of a barre class with the intense cardio workout of a kickboxing class, and “SALT Flow,” which combines core-centric movements with gentle stretches to tone your body while also relaxing your mind. There’s even a “SALTbump” class for expecting mommas. SALT owner Melissa Boyd is an expert in all things fitness and boasts a mighty team of female instructors who are just as tough as they are kind. I highly recommend taking a fitness class or booking a personal training session. Another big plus: The studio is close to all of the standout restaurants on Divisadero Street, so you can treat yourself to a satisfying meal immediately after that salty workout.
If you prefer to revive your spirits at a spa rather than at a workout studio, look no further than International Orange (IO) on Fillmore Street. Founder Melissa Ferst is a UC Berkeley graduate (go Bears!) and a PR manager–turned–wellness guru. Between the gorgeous sundeck, tranquil atmosphere, and luxurious changing rooms—complete with saunas—you’ll completely forget you’re in a bustling city. While IO offers yoga classes, too, the spa is the perfect place to unwind with a high-quality massage or facial. Make sure you don’t miss out on the complimentary chocolate in the waiting area (that’s always the cherry on top for me), and be careful not to spend all of your money on the luscious products in the foyer (because trust me, you’ll want to).
Whether you opted for a rejuvenating spa day or an invigorating workout, treat yourself to a decadent dinner at these top S.F. eateries.
If you’re as hungry for old-school Parisian vibes as you are for fresh dishes made in an environmentally conscious kitchen, head to the famed Bar Crenn. The elegant eatery helmed by Dominique Crenn—the only female chef in the country to garner three Michelin stars, for her flagship S.F. restaurant Atelier Crenn—has created another dreamy space. The dining experience at Bar Crenn is as intimate as the food is divine, with a wine list that’ll keep you coming back for more. You’ll definitely want to book a table for date night!
You cannot go wrong at Jane. Offering everything from fresh-baked bread and pastries to hearty paninis and healthful salads, this female-founded restaurant can satisfy any kind of eater. Chef-owner Amanda Michael opened up her dream café in 2011—naming it after her daughter—after ditching a career that didn’t ignite her fire and following her passion for cooking instead. She’s opened up multiple Jane locations over the years, but she remains committed to using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and crafting everything from scratch daily. With welcoming vibes, delicious food, and a sweet staff, this spot makes you feel good in every way.
I hope this list of California businesses founded by trailblazing females has sparked inspiration and excitement. Most importantly, let’s take a moment to realize that when the coronavirus pandemic is over, we need to rush to these businesses—as most of them are likely struggling in the midst of this economic downfall. (You can also show your support now by buying items online or getting gift cards.) I’ll gladly spend a chunk of change to support these women-owned businesses, and hopefully you will, too.
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