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21 Local Women to Watch in 2021

by Victoria Marie Moyeno
Attain Medspa
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These 21 women have either launched a new business, been promoted to a high-level position, are lending their voice to important causes, or reaching milestones in their career. Here are 21 local women based in Hoboken and Jersey City to watch in 2021 because we are sure that they will only achieve even greater things in the new year.

Gisella Amaya

Founder/Owner of Paloma Salon

Gisella Amaya

Gisella is the founder and owner of Paloma Salon in Jersey City. Her vision in creating Paloma was to build a space that evoked creativity. “We are more than just a salon, we’re a community of artists. From our elevated interior design to our curated retail, self-care is key. We create hair for the modern-day person focusing on effortless, chic styles.”

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their career?

My advice to anyone opening a business would be to trust your gut and don’t half-ass anything! People can tell when things are rushed, take your time, and create the space you dreamed of. Stay true to yourself.

Club Pilates 2023

Rachel Sieg

Executive Director of the Historic Downtown SID

Rachel Sieg

Zap Fitness
Rachel Sieg is the executive director of the Historic Downtown SID.  Rachel’s role at the HDSID as the Executive Director is to manage and develop new relationships between the HDSID Board of directors, businesses, city organizations, city council, and the Mayor. Since joining the HDSID, she has coordinated over 100 ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new businesses and the Mayor, with a large portion of them starting as vendors at the farmers market then expanding into a brick and mortar. Rachel has been instrumental in developing the Grove Street Farmers Market, Groove on Grove, Annual All About Downtown Street Fair, and the Pedestrian Mall on Newark ave. The All About Downtown Street Fair is the largest annual event in Jersey City with over 40k in attendance.  Rachel coordinates fundraising to maintain and enhance the pedestrian mall on Newark Avenue and throughout the Downtown Historic District.
What advice would you give to a new business owner?
Shop local, hire local, time management, be persistent, form relationships, and love what you do.

Tennille Ortiz

Founder/Owner of The Cupcake Carriage
Tennille Ortiz

Tennille is the founder and owner of The Cupcake Carriage, a beautiful boutique Mobile Cupcake decorating Studio and Bakery. The Cupcake Carriage is dedicated to bringing all things sweet and pretty to life’s most precious moments. The truck is open for retail in Hoboken from Tuesday – Friday and available for private events on Saturday and Sunday.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their journey to entrepreneurship?

1. Don’t ever let fear dictate your decisions.
2. Set clear goals and strategies for your business regularly. If you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you will end up where you don’t want to be.
3. Know your finances. It’s important to understand your numbers.
4. Entrepreneurship is a journey of highs and lows. The one main struggle on the road to success is never giving up.

Raakhee Mirchandani

Founder/Host of The Brown Mom Podcast + Editorial Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Dow Jones

Raakhee Mirchandani

Raakhee Mirchandani is a journalist, author, and community activist. Currently, she works at Dow Jones in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Raahkee recently launched The Brown Mom Podcast where she and guests discuss Desi culture and being brown in America. Previously, she was a columnist at the New York Post and Managing Editor at the New York Daily News. Raakhee is also the award-winning author of Super Satya Saves the Day {Bharat Babies, 2016}. Her next book, Hair Twins {Little, Brown, 2021} is about the special bond between a Sikh father and daughter and is available for pre-order now. Raakhee serves as the President of the Board of the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, a 35-year-old pediatric cancer charity. She is also on the board of the Hoboken Public Library,  Steven’s Cooperative School, and the Children’s Book Council. She also serves on the Hoboken Arts Advisory Committee.

What advice would you give to someone looking to lend their voice to a cause they believe in for the first time?

Lending your voice to a cause you believe in is one of the most powerful things you can do. For me, that meant figuring out what I was passionate about, identifying organizations or causes that light me up and then matching my skills with the needs of the movement. There are few things more fulfilling than using your hands, heart, and voice to lift others up and bring the community together. This doesn’t mean you need a lot of money to make donations or find countless hours to volunteer. Using your voice can mean raising awareness through social media campaigns, joining forces with friends to support existing community efforts, or working service into family activities like making sandwiches for the Hoboken Shelter, having kids pick out items to bring to the Hoboken Community Center, or engaging little artists to make cards for elderly neighbors who could use a little extra love in these isolating times.

Tee Hundley

Founder/Owner of the Suite Tee Beauty Studio
Tee Hundley

Tee Hundley, Editorial Manicurist, opened Suite Tee Beauty Studio in 2018 primarily as a wax studio but now offers nail services, spray tans, and beginning in January, Vajacials. “Although I had to take a couple of steps back because of Covid I still have so many great plans for moving full steam ahead in 2021!”

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?

You’re going to need support. It’s great if you have supportive family and friends but get a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and people that know more than you. Keep learning, you’re never done improving yourself or your business.

Gabi Lombardi

Owner of Sorellina Italian Kitchen + Wine Bar and Sirenetta Seafood & Raw Bar

Gabi Lombardi

Gabi is a 30-year-old, Jersey-born & raised, Certified Sommelier & the Owner of Sorellina Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and Sirenetta Seafood & Raw Bar. “Sorellina, which means “little sister” in Italian {I am also the youngest sister in my family}, was my first restaurant which opened in 2016. I created Sorellina to provide a lively space where guests can celebrate Italy’s vibrant culinary culture through food and wine. Sirenetta, which opened in October 2020, means “little mermaid” in Italian & is my coastal spin-off restaurant, where we offer the same level of first-class hospitality with a different concept. With the recent opening of Sirenetta, I am excited to continue to make the corner of 11th and Washington a lively destination for quality dining and imbibing in uptown Hoboken.”

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?

After this crazy year of 2020, I think the best advice I can give is to not give up! I know that sounds cliché, but it is very easy to lose sight of your dreams and of yourself in this crazy world. It is so important to be confident in what you are creating, even when it seems the odds are stacked against you… (like opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic). Things aren’t always going to go your way, but it is our job as business owners to constantly adjust and evolve with the times. So believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to take some risks!

Rosemarie Matos-Moyeno

Rosemarie Matos Moyeno LLC

rosemarie moyeno matos lawyer hoboken

Rosemarie is a business attorney and a second-generation Latina BNR in Hoboken. With nearly two decades of practice experience, she has extensive knowledge in various practice areas, including business, cannabis, insurance, environmental, regulatory compliance, and real estate law. If you are looking for an attorney that understands the risks and complexities of running a successful, legally compliant business and who offers a thoughtful, balanced, and cost-effective approach to best practices, problem-solving, and risk mitigation, she is the attorney for you. Rosemarie recently graduated from the first-ever Latina Entrepreneurship Training Series {LETS} sponsored by the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and serves as a legal coach for LETS and the Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program. She is also a member of the board of directors of LUPE Fund, Inc.

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

The best advice that I can give to any new business owner is to take the time to understand the complexities involved with running a business in your particular industry and implement compliance strategies from the start. Getting your contracts and policies reviewed {if not drafted} by an attorney, ensuring your books are organized and up-to-date, and having proper and adequate insurance coverage from day one are key. New business owners, whether because of lack of experience or funds, sometimes cut corners on important matters such as legal, accounting, and insurance. This often turns out to be a costly mistake in the long run. Take the time to consult with an attorney, before registering your business, to make sure you are setting yourself up for success from the start!

Najwa Khan

CEO of dalci
Najwa Khan
Najwa Khan is the founder and CEO of dalci, a gut-healthy dessert brand focused on providing ready-made, nutritious, clean, microbiome-friendly, and delicious treats. She has over 10 years of experience in the health and wellness space working in various roles for non-profits, market research firms, healthcare technology startups, and D2C wellness businesses. Najwa has a Masters in Public Health from NYU and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Syracuse University. dalci was founded on the belief that everyone deserves to indulge in a treat they can feel good about, from their taste buds to their gut.
What advice would you give to a budding founder?
As a new founder, I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the months leading up to our official 2021 launch. There have been many exciting moments, but also a great deal of navigating the unknown. For anyone looking to start their own food or beverage brand:

Stay humble yet confident, do what you’re passionate about, ignore the noise, take feedback and constructive criticism, Stay true to yourself, don’t let the fear of the unknown prevent you from just starting or moving forward.

Alessandra Canario

Owner of Ally Bird Vintage

ally bird vintage hoboken

Alessandra is a 25-year-old vintage clothing dealer and small business owner that has been working in the vintage industry for nine years. “I’ve always been deeply sentimental and used to want to be a fashion designer as a kid, but as a teenager became troubled with the bad environmental impact that industry was contributing to. I started working in a vintage clothing store called Speakeasy Vintage in my hometown of Montclair at age 16 and it was a perfect fit. I could continue working with clothes, promote low waste sustainability, and share people’s and generations’ histories through material objects left behind. When I went off to college I continued working at Another Man’s Treasure over breaks. I entertained the idea of working different related jobs but my heart ached at the thought of leaving my “shop girl” days behind so I decided to try dealing vintage myself. I started off doing flea markets in the Catskills on the weekends while I was in school, a year after graduating I moved to Jersey City, joined a collective shop in Brooklyn, and this year I opened my very first store of my own in Hoboken.”

What advice would you give to a new business owner?
If you don’t eat, breathe, and adore what you’re doing, you’re in the wrong industry. I’ve had so many ups and downs in this line of work, I felt like giving up, but I loved it too much so I persevered. Eventually, I was out of the muck and successful by my standards. You have to do what you love to make the pains worth it. You will never be able to fully dedicate yourself to your business enough if you don’t adore what you do.

Lana Walsh

Founder/Broker for Boutique Realty
Lana Walsh
Lana was born into an entrepreneurial family. She grew up in Jersey City until she was 14 and then my family moved to Monmouth County. After graduating from Loyola University she went right into real estate in Hoboken. “In 2005 I went back to school part-time and received my MBA in finance from Seton Hall University. I opened Boutique Realty in 2009. It’s an independent, full-service brokerage with office locations in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Red Bank. We service all of north, central, and south Jersey. We place an emphasis on personalized partnerships with our clients and I have a family-like team of powerhouse agents, many of whom have been with me since my opening over a decade ago.” Lana owns and operates the business while still servicing her own clientele. She is married with three children {9, 5, and 3} and resides in Jersey City.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?

My best advice is to be adaptable, there will always be hurdles but follow your gut and trust yourself. It is also important to know yourself and be able to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, always protect your reputation, but let it speak for itself.

Neha Chawla

Real Estate Broker for Opnhouz LLC + Founder/Owner of The Villiage 

Neha Chawla

Neha is a mom and a serial entrepreneur. Her innate love for architecture, design, and real estate drew her to her career as a real estate broker in New York and New Jersey where she has been practicing for over a decade. Neha’s knowledge of the real estate business and her close ties to her community have resulted in a natural pull towards restoring historic properties in the Hudson County area where she now has a growing real estate investment portfolio. Inspired by the birth of their first children around the same time, Neha and her friend Dana opened The Village, a café, play space, and children’s boutique in Edgewater NJ, The Village has provided a safe space for children and parents during the pandemic and is slated to open new locations in 2021.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in their small business venture?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of being flexible and pivoting your business strategy according to the times. I would advise new businesses and new business owners to be patient, kind, and authentic. Growth and success take time, and it is important to be farsighted and stay focused on what motivates you.

Jen Prado

Founder/Owner of KLADO – House of Brigadeiros

jen prado klado house of brigadeiros

Jen is the founder of KLADO – House of Brigadeiros. She took the leap, leaving over a decade long career in finance to build a company that creates one-of-a-kind Brazilian inspired truffles, brigadeiros. As a first-generation American, she always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and knew that she wanted to pay homage to her Brazilian roots with her first venture. “At KLADO, we have taken the traditional brigadeiro and reimagined it completely, making it fun, artisanal, and healthier. We infuse each of our brigadeiros with the spirit of travel, from Atlanta to Denpasar, drawing inspiration from the places we’ve been. We’re constantly pushing the flavor limits and love to get creative, inventing unique flavors such as Unicorn Meat and The Fizz (Irish soda bread) all while remaining gluten-free, nut-free, and vegetarian. Even if you’ve had a brigadeiro before, I guarantee you’ve never had one like KLADO.”

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

Starting a business is hard, and it’s even tougher as a female business owner, so you’ll need to grow some thick skin. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t take “no” for an answer. When you’re starting out, not everyone will see your vision, but know that’s okay. Instead, find your tribe! Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and those that support your goals. Stay focused. Be patient. Dare to be different, take risks, and go out there and crush it!

Eiko La Boria

Founder and CEO of The Flow Initiative

Eiko La Boria

Eiko La Boria is a social commentator, writer, gender equality activist, and poet. She is the Founder and CEO of The Flow Initiative, a nonprofit working toward ending period poverty and establishing menstrual equity. She is also a United States of Women Ambassador for Gender Equality, New Jersey. Eiko is a former Dramatic Writing Fellow, Writers Guild of America East/Columbia University. She has traveled extensively and has written of her experiences particularly with the subject of sexual harassment, assaults, and systemic silence in the Los Angeles film industry. Eiko is currently working on policy and legislation that will amplify and elevate all girls and women by breaking the barriers to greater gender equality in Hudson County.

What advice would you give to someone looking to make a change in their community?

My humble advice to anyone looking to make a change in their community is to look around you. Start with your surroundings. Once you identify a void in your community or a group of marginalized people in need of help, create a statistical survey to obtain data for your cause. Create a simple questionnaire that is relevant to what you are trying to accomplish or to the people you want to help. Data is important because it will tell you what is needed the most, who needs it the most, and inspire people to rally behind your cause.

Vannesa Rissetto

Co-Founder of Culina Health

Vannesa Rissetto

Co-Founder of Culina Health, Vanessa received her MS in Marketing at NYU and completed her Dietetic Internship at Mount Sinai Hospital where she worked as a Senior Dietitian for five years. She is certified in Adult Weight Management {Levels I & II} by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her work in private practice also includes treatment of GI disorders, bariatric surgery, weight management, PCOS, and family nutrition. She is mostly interested in helping clients to take an active role in their health journey, any of her clients can tell you she motivates and ensures that they always achieve success. Vanessa was named by Essence magazine as one of the top 5 black nutritionists that will change the way you think about food and currently serves as the Dietetic Internship Director at New York University.

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

Surround yourself with people who will challenge you to always do the right thing. Make sure you stay true to your core business, all the articles, and fame won’t matter if you forget about the main reason you started your business. Have fun, and make sure you have integrity with everything that you do.

Audra Carter

Hoboken Fire Department Battalion Cheif

audra cater hoboken battalion chief

Audra was born and raised in Hoboken, and currently still resides in town. She attended Sacred Heart Academy and graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She was hired in December 2002 as one of the two first female firefighters hired simultaneously. Audra was promoted to captain in 2011 and this year she was promoted to Battalion Chief in 2020, the first female Battalion Cheif in the city’s history.
What is your advice to anyone starting out in a career?
My advice is anything is achievable. If you want something you have to work hard for it. Don’t let anyone discourage you, anything is possible.

Erica Alvarez Castro

Founder/Owner of The Co.
Erica Alvarez Castro
Erica is the founder and owner of The Co. in Hoboken. She began the company after 10+ years of working as an Interior Designer and Architect, realizing that it takes more than just design, to turn a house into a home. “At first, the Co. began as a company where I might be able to express my various interests, combining Design and Holistic Living. The Co. — SHOP is an extension of this idea. It is a small Holistic Goods & Gift Shop where you can find goodies for not only your Mind, Body, Spirit but also for your Home.” The Co. mindfully sources every object, carefully taking into consideration where it was designed or made {preferably locally} or if it is vintage, upcycled, and/or spiritual in nature.
What advice would you give to a new business owner?
Try and focus on whatever it is that comes naturally to you and that you are passionate about! Usually, in life, we gravitate towards and are excited about, the same things over and over again. So, try to hone in on what those things are, and how you might use them to boost your business! Don’t be afraid to experiment and overlap different interests, and see where those take you.

Melissa Diaz

Founder/Owner of La Tienda de Mela Fleurs
melissa diaz
Melissa Diaz is the founder of Mela Fleurs flower shop. “My nearest and dearest call me Mel or Mela. I’ve lived in Hoboken for a little over two years now and recently opened Hoboken’s first-ever sustainable Floral Design studio. Before Mela Fleurs opened, I worked in media; the New York Times, Mashable, and New York Mag/Vox Media {most recently}. My background is in market research and analytics, which I love, but always drawn to creativity and beauty. The pandemic allowed me to explore my passion for floral design. ” Mela Fleurs specializes in custom everlasting arrangements. The aesthetic is colorful, natural, and whimsical. When crafting a floral piece, Mela Fleurs loves reaching for those bold blooms, smaller textural elements to create a unique look. The mission is to help others design and create beauty in their living space every day.
What advice would you give to a new business owner?
Cut yourself some slack. After many sleepless nights, I realized I could only do so much myself. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Tap into your network of friends, family, and community that can support you and be a sounding board for financial and strategic planning. But, choose wisely. The people you surround yourself with will directly impact the quality of your work, your ability to grow, and ultimately, your business’s success. I also believe in supporting one another as a female, Latinx, and I surround myself with a community of the same SMB owners who share similar experiences and values. You will have many questions and doubt everything, and they will be your best resource! And use your brand to help other small businesses collaborate and co-promote.

Mollie Busino

Founder/Director of Mindful Power LLC

Mollie Busino

Mollie is the Founder and Director of Mindful Power LLC, which is a group psychotherapy and coaching practice in Hoboken. She started the practice 10 years ago as a solo clinician and has grown to a team of ten people. “Although all the therapists have strong CBT training each one also has its own area of specialization so that we can meet the individualized needs of our clients.”

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

Always stay genuine and authentic as you grow a business…I have seen many businesses get caught up on the goal of growing that they lose sight of truly valuing their current or future clients’ needs. Be patient and enjoy the ups and downs…there is no business that only has an upward trajectory of growth. The challenges are where we learn and have the most opportunities!

Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez

Owner of SW3AT Sauna


Alyza is the owner of SW3AT Sauna Studio, a real estate entrepreneur, and is currently deployed with the U.S. Navy serving. “I do a couple of other things too but the best is being a mom.” SW3AT is JC’s 1st infrared sauna studio designed with private suites for personal sauna usage. Benefits include weight loss, toxin detox, and immune system boost. In 2021 we will be launching our e-commerce site with performance and lifestyle wear.

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

Don’t be delusional. It’s hard not to, I get it…this is your dream and you did it. But you didn’t. Kudos on the first step but the real work starts now. No one wants to tell you this because it sounds harsh. It’s ok, chin up. PUT. IN. THE. WORK. Success is not overnight and people will only believe in your product/service as much as you do. You got this! Plus you made it out of 2020. If you can do that, you can do anything.

Priyanka Poddar

Founder of Knead Some Love NY

Priyanka Poddar

Priyanka Poddar is the founder of Knead Some Love NY. Knead Some Love NY was born in her little apartment kitchen amidst the global pandemic, with a desire to build something unique and an obsession to bring a piece of her culture to the world through her unique fusion pastries. As a self-taught baker, she’s taken her love for quintessential Indian desserts and married them to traditional American Donuts and cakes. “It’s the perfect confluence between the East and West, and that’s my biggest differentiator from a traditional donut/ pastry. “They’re too pretty to eat” is what I hear almost every customer say when they first look at my desserts. I chose creativity over the crisis, had an idea, found a niche, and ran with it. I’m constantly challenging and re-inventing myself to transform my baked goods into beautiful works of art and can confidently say a large part of my inspiration is drawn from my culture!”

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

Starting your own business is often a learn-as-you-grow process. But whether or not the business will be successful is dependent on important decisions made early on. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to listen to what others have to say – your customers, your employees, and fellow business owners. Don’t ignore the power of advice from those who’ve been through the process. They’re truly the ones who know first hand what works and what doesn’t. Make your business the solution. Rather than thinking about how to sell, think about what it will solve. When a business idea solves an existing problem or fills a gap in a niche market, the customer base is almost always organic and solid. Lastly, only start a business for something you are absolutely obsessed with. I mean obsessed! This is a dealbreaker because you must love what you do in order to give it your all and more.

Kristin Karotkin + Catherine Willhoit

Co-founders/Owners of The Hive

The Hive

Kristins and Catherine founded and opened the Hive, a coffee and retail shop that also has a small, creative playspace for littles within. The mission is to foster community while being a place of discovery and connection for our neighbors. Catherine spent her career in the beauty industry, working in public relations for brands like Dermalogica and IT Cosmetics, and while on maternity leave with her first son, she met Kristin at a new moms group at the Hoboken Hospital. Kristin, at the time, was working for Soul Cycle’s retail team. She’s spent most of her professional life in corporate merchandising for retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret. Kristin always loved products and discovering new brands, which is why curating a retail assortment for The Hive has been such a fun part of the business for her. They both took huge leaps of faith by leaving behind their former careers to pursue this new path.

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

If you’re pivoting professionally, as we did, we recommend doing as much research as you can before taking any drastic steps like securing a loan or investment, signing a lease, etc. Reach out to industry peers to get their advice and hear their stories so you can learn from their experiences and apply them to your own. And if you’re entering into a partnership with someone, be sure your values, vision, and work ethics align. We both have very different skillsets and for us, they create a healthy balance for The Hive’s operations.


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