Talking shop with Greenpoint’s vintage store mavens

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To celebrate International Women’s Day I met up with some female entrepreneurs who are changing the face of business in Greenpoint. Vintage fashion dominates Manhattan Ave., creating a community of fashion loving business women who truly support each other. Female owned ventures are gaining ground in Brooklyn with a 39 percent increase in the last five years, according to a study from the Center for an Urban Future. If you are interested in starting up a business, read below to see what these inspiring woman have to say and check out the links at the bottom to organizations that help women and minorities start their own businesses in New York. Good Luck! The future is female.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Fox And Fawn
570 Manhattan Ave.
Owned by Marissa Johnson and Beverly Ragon

How did you have the balls to start a business in New York?

Marissa: I think we both had the experience and took a leap of faith. We didn’t know what we were doing with our lives so we thought: let’s try this! We spent a lot of time and all the money we had and opened the store. We’ve been at this location for seven years now. We started on the Lower East Side, but moved here three years ago. Both of us had worked in vintage clothing for years.

Beverly: Since I was in high school, so it’s been a while.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Do you have any advice for readers who might be interested in starting their own business in Brooklyn?

Beverly: Location location location. It’s one of the most important things in a small business. That’s why we moved from the Lower East Side to Greenpoint. The Lower East Side was great, but we were off the beaten track by half a block and it made all the difference. Also, don’t be scared. There are things like local credit unions that have special grants or lending programs for neighborhood businesses for women starting businesses, for people of color starting businesses. Even if you don’t have the money, you’d be amazed at how much you can come up with. I invested in another business, I walked into the bank with $4,000 and I left the bank with $45,000 and I had one credit card in my name. You have to be resourceful, dig deep and go for it.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Marissa: Yes to all that, but especially location. Here in Greenpoint we are on a busy street, lots of foot traffic, people come to shop. On the weekends there’s a brunch of traffic.

Beverly: If you’re opening a retail store, open near a place that serves brunch on the weekends. Don’t open by bars that are only open at night because people won’t be walking by your store when it’s open.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Mirth
606 Manhattan Ave.
Owned by Lauren

Lauren: We opened in 2015

Where does the name come from?

Lauren: I had an Etsy store and I wanted to change the name of it. You can only do it once so I changed it at 2am in a cab home. I was studying literature in school at the time and Edith Wharton has a novel called House of Mirth so I chose that.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Is it just you?

Lauren: Yes. There was another store here and I was working in it a couple of days a week. The owner was stuck and wanted to move on and I was selling vintage, so I took over the place.

Do you think there’s a strong community of female entrepreneurs in Greenpoint?

Lauren: Yes! I know a lot of them. Everyone is super friendly. When it comes to vintage, it seems to be mostly women-owned stores.

What advice would you give to women thinking about opening their own businesses?

Lauren: You can’t do everything. Know that you’ll need help and take days off!

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Awoke
688 Manhattan Ave.
Owned by Elizabeth Power

Liz: Our first location opened in Williamsburg about five years ago and we opened in Greenpoint about three years ago.

How did you get into vintage fashion?

Liz: I was in the music business in Australia and I couldn’t get a visa – I tried everything! So I came over and opened a business.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Had you ever run a business before?

Liz: No, it was a baptism by fire.

Any advice to other women seeking to open their own business?

Liz: The best thing is getting advice from people who have done it before. I wish I had known more people in the industry, rather than being fresh off the boat. Everybody is super friendly in Greenpoint, there’s a community of business owners here. People from a store across the street came over to help when I was first opening up, they offered to lend me their power tools. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

Line and Label
568 Manhattan Ave.
Owned by Kate O’Riley (but I spoke to Kate’s assistant and designer in her own right, Amalya Meira)

Amalya, you don’t own the business, what do you do here?

Amalya: I am an assistant designer. It’s a community based operation. We make and design everything here and we buy from other independent designers too.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

What advice would you give to aspiring female business owners?

Amalya: Well, I also am an aspiring entrepreneur so I’m here to learn! Yes, it’s a job and I get paid, but I’m learning how to run a small business. It’s women helping women.

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Photo by Ruthie Darling / Brokelyn

If you’ve been inspired to start your own venture check out the Small Business Development Centre which has a special page for women and minorities looking to start businesses. Find them here. Also check out the Small Business Administration, which offers resources and finance opportunities to women in business. They can be found here.