Six Stories on Women Entrepreneurs for Women’s History Month

By Angela Bao
Women entrepreneurs

This Women’s History Month, we honor women entrepreneurs and their contributions to society.

March is Women’s History Month. The purpose is to acknowledge and highlight the many contributions women have made to American society, especially since history has a pattern of overlooking the accomplishments of women.

In 2021, small businesses comprised 99.9% of all U.S. businesses and employed 46.8% of all U.S. employees, or 61.2 million people. Women-owned businesses make up 43.1% of those small businesses, and that number continues to grow. This Women’s History Month, we wanted to spotlight a few inspiring women entrepreneurs and East West Bank clients who are carving out their own success.

1.   Novacane Bar & Grill

Angie Martinez, owner of Novacane Bar & Grill

Angie Martinez is the owner of Novacane Bar & Grill in the Huntington Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. When Martinez first opened Novacane, with the help of her mother Lupe, an experienced restaurateur, there were few other places like it in the area: a so-called “dive” bar featuring graphic art, craft cocktails, and millennial-friendly foods like nachos made with Hot Cheetos (vegan and vegetarian options available too, of course). Read more about how Angie and Lupe Martinez helped revitalize their local community at Novacane: a Hip Dive Bar for a New Generation.

2. Habit Cosmetics

Aja Frierson, founder of Habit Cosmetics

From a young age, Aja Frierson had been obsessed with makeup, but her sensitive skin required her to use only clean, organic products. Unfortunately, there was a dearth of clean, organic makeup products for women who looked like Frierson—so she decided to solve that problem by starting her clean beauty brand, Habit Cosmetics, that is now available in over 100 stores, including Target. Read more how Frierson overcame manufacturing challenges and obtained funding as a women and entrepreneur of color at Habit Cosmetics: Scaling a Green Business towards Growth.

3. MasterWord

Ludmila "Mila" Golovine, founder of MasterWord

MasterWord started off as a college class project for Ludmila Golovine and became a global translation services company that operates in over 50 countries and 250 languages. From forming ties in immigrant communities, to learning about the importance of diversification, Golovine has ridden through several highs and lows of being an immigrant woman entrepreneur. Learn about Golovine’s experiences and what she’s learned at From Shoestring Budget to Global Expansion: MasterWord.

4. PurseN

Hardeep Melamed, CEO and founder of PurseN

Like most great ideas, Hardeep Melamed came up with PurseN based off a real-life need: to organize her purse. At the time, the options available may have fit her functional needs, but, stylistically, they left Melamed wanting. From a travel-friendly jewelry case, to luggage, PurseN slowly but surely expanded from its humble beginnings in Melamed’s home basement to making Oprah’s Favorite Things list. Read about Melamed’s entrepreneurial tenacity at Melamed’s entrepreneurial tenacity at How This Woman Entrepreneur Got on "Oprah’s Favorite Things."

5. Sugarbird Sweets and Teas

Kei Okumura, founder and owner of Sugarbird Sweets and Teas

When Kei Okumura first established Sugarbird Sweets and Teas, it was a simple farmer’s market stand that sold her custom tea blends. Now, Sugarbird has evolved into a catering operation and distributes their scones, teas, and other baked goods to restaurants and hotels nationwide. Okumura has developed quite the loyal customer base with her unique scones, many of which incorporate her Japanese heritage into their flavors. Read how Okumura found capital as a minority woman entrepreneur and leveraged her peer network to grow her business at Raising Capital to Take a Sweet Business to the Next Level.

6. Dots Cupcakes

Hailey Kwon, owner of Dots Cupcakes and Dots Cafe

Hailey Kwon started her cupcake business with no money and no baking experience. But she has since built up Dots Cupcakes into a successful local business in Southern California that now includes a Dots Café and Bakery. As difficult as starting her cupcake business was, building out her own café space proved even more challenging. However, with perseverance and grit, Kwon was able to get it done. Read about how Kwon overcame her hurdles—and still found money-saving tips along the way—at A Café of Her Own: How Dots Cupcakes Founder Expanded Her Business.

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