Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, The Hoboken Girl wants to take a moment to acknowledge some of the community members who make Hudson County the special place we know and love. Let’s highlight some of these neighbors who make Hudson County shine: The Hoboken Girl’s Women to Watch 2024. Read on to learn about these women who inspire us and improve their communities every day.
Kelli Brown | Founder of Bounce Mkt
Photo Credit: @rachelrivalphotography
Kelli Brown is the owner of Bounce Mkt — a kids’ clothing resale business with the goal of sustainability. She previously worked in consulting with large companies “to build new products, services, and customer experiences.” But Kelli felt there was something more, and she wanted to do something involving sustainability. With Bounce Mkt, Kelli hopes “to change perceptions around secondhand and give parents an easier, better way to shop secondhand.” While working with the people around her, she says, “I’m inspired by people and organizations that are building products and services that do more than just meet a customer’s need — they do so in a way that does a little good for the community.” She wants to continue to pave the way for secondhand community.
Local business owners Kelli looks up to: “I love Margo Market and Do Good Donuts. They are not only sustainable but also have amazing products.”
Gala Zakharova | Founder of Galastella Studio
After moving to Hoboken, Gala Zakharova felt inspired to open a craft and sewing studio in the Uptown Hoboken area. Galastella Studio, located at 1012 Grand Street #407 in Hoboken, is where she teaches sewing, embroidery, and other crafting forms. In ways of how she feels inspired while she works, “I’m inspired by giving people an opportunity to feel empowered through learning a new skill. I enjoy being their guide into the world of new experiences and possibilities.” As she continues with her business venture, her goals are to motivate people to “try a new skill or hobby and to build a creative community of like-minded people.”
Raakhee Mirchandani | Editor, Author, Activist, + Mom
Photo Credit: Kim Lorraine Photography
Raakhee Mirchandani is a woman of many talents. She is an editor, children’s book author, activist, mom, and volunteer. She also helps her local communities by supporting local non-profits like Hoboken Shelter, Hoboken Public Library, Stevens Cooperative School, and Drag Story Hour NY. She draws inspiration from “ [her] communities, the Indian-American experience, and [her] 10-year-old daughter Satya in her day-to-day life. Her daughter (who battled cancer) inspired her to start writing children’s books. She hopes these works can help kids feel “inspired to share their stories with the world.”
Raakhee’s favorite part about living in North Jersey: “New Jersey isn’t a place to live, it’s a way to live! I love how bold, honest, brassy, and unapologetic we are here. Living in NJ means you are always surrounded by passionate, diverse folks who care a lot about the small and big things and I love being around that energy.”
Emily Wirt | Founder of Do Good Donuts
As a Uptown Hoboken resident, Emily traded in her job at the NBA in 2022 to become a self-taught doughnut maker. She is behind the popular pop-up Do Good Donuts, a pre-order doughnut business. She felt compelled to start a doughnut business because she “realized there wasn’t a doughnut shop in Hoboken.” As for plans for Do Good Donuts, she “would love a permanent space, but until then, [her] goal in 2024 is to collaborate on events with others based on sustainability, creating joy, and maybe some silliness, giving back and of course, doughnuts.” Every month, Emily supports a non-profit organization with a portion of the doughnut proceeds.
Local business owners Emily looks up to: “As a baker, it’s hard for me to not be inspired by Baking Mama! I also want to shout out the Shaka Kitchen sisters and Gabi Lombardi, who owns Sorellina and Sirenetta. Restaurants owned and operated by women are scarce in this town, so all the power to them! Irina Kapetenakis at Rumble is also a sweetheart and loves working with local businesses. And one of my favorites is a born and raised Hoboken mama, Shakera of Mile Square Mommies! She runs multiple businesses, is a kind soul, and loves highlighting all the diversity in this cute town.”
Maddy Cretella | Director of Engagement + Marketing of Landmark Hospitality
Photo Credit: Zack Perl
Maddy Cretella is the Director of Engagement and Marketing at Landmark Hospitality. Inspired by her parents lifetime in the hospitality industry she felt compelled to dive into the events industry. She attended Monmouth University and double majored in business management and public relations. At Landmark Hospitality, she oversaw the company’s growth and introduced the Maddy Rose restaurant concept. Maddy tells HG, “In the field of hospitality, the people are what inspire me. I am fortunate to meet so many people every day at our venues – be it someone joining us for dinner, planning their wedding, or a colleague. I meet all different kinds of people.”
Local business owners Maddy looks up to: “First and foremost, my mother, Jeanne Cretella, is a local business owner I most definitely look up to. She and my father, Frank, founded Landmark Hospitality in 2001 with our flagship property, the iconic Liberty House of Jersey City.”
Shakera Rosa | Founder of Mile Square Mommies
Shakera Rosa is the founder of Mile Square Mommies. To her Mile Square friends and family, she goes by Kera or Pixie. Born and raised in Hoboken, Shakera is currently living 10 short steps away in the Newport Waterfront area. She is a wife, mom, mompreneur, and fashion artist, and titles herself the “Fairy God Mother of Parties.” She finds that Hoboken inspires her every day. “Hoboken is home! I’m an ’80s baby, so I got to grow up in the Mile Square during a magical time,” she shared. “Hoboken inspired me in many ways from the diversity, awesome community programs & events that were available to us back in the day, the people, the school district, etc.” Shakera ventured to launch Mile Square Mommies “to restore that old town magic, to highlight + celebrate the families, especially the moms, mom bosses, and mom artists of the Mile Square City.”
Shakera’s favorite local Hoboken businesses: “Vision Of Hair Salon, Torna’s, Charritos, Medicine Man, Albini’s Pharmacy, Empire Coffee + Tea, Sweet Hoboken, Urban Coal House, Grimaldi’s, Taste Buds, St. Mary’s Thrift Shop, Hoboken Hot House, and Fiores.”
Keep up with Shakeria and Mile Square Mommies here.
Monica Razak | Owner of MONICAS Collective + Content Creator
Monica has been working as a software engineer and has been living in Hoboken since 2014. Along with her corporate job, she owns a small, sustainable goods business called MONICAS Collective. In her free time, she’s a content creator focused on productivity, creativity, and sustainability. With the creation of her business, she shared, “My primary goal is to share my love and appreciation for a sustainable, productive, and balanced lifestyle, through my content and my shop. I share a lot about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on for my small business in hopes that others can learn about the process if they are also thinking about following their dreams of starting a side hustle.
Liana Wright | Founder of Dollhouse Xpress
Photo Credit: Ashley Jaklyn
Liana has been a part of the Hudson County community since the age of 12 and now has a permanent business home in Jersey City Heights. With a degree in fashion merchandising and psychology, she used her knowledge to open Dollhouse Xpress, a women’s boutique selling fashion-forward pieces like jean skirts, blazers, knit tops, as well as jewelry. To curate the boutique, she uses “select styles made by women of color and collaborates with local designers.” When she’s not at the boutique, she is the co-host of the podcast, Boss Babes + Bubbly, which is dedicated to women in business.
Liana’s local business owners she looks up to: “718 Beauty Bar is an inspiration to me, it is also woman and Latina owned. Their space is small and cozy like mine, but they did so much with it, and the service and quality have always been great. Before opening my store, I did a lot of pop-ups and one of them was at their location. I love that the owner is also big on collaborating and showed me so much love when we met. That is the kind of quality and energy I always want to provide as well.”
Eiko La Boria | Founder of The Flow Initiative
With roots in Puerto Rico, this Jersey City resident, Eiko La Boria, is making her mark as Founder of The Flow Initiative, Project Local Access, and as the United States of Women Ambassador for Gender Equality. Eiko and The Flow initiative, played an instrumental role in Governor Murphy’s signing of the Free Menstrual Products in Schools Bill. Eiko hopes to, “continue having candid conversations about menstruation and all that comes with it, from menarche through menopause, there is so much that affects the womb.”
Eiko’s favorite local spots: “Lately, I’ve been into La Brujeria on Grand Street.”
Learn more about Eiko’s work with The Flow Initiative here.
Sabrina Natasha Browne | Partner of The Flow Initiative
Sabrina is an award-winning PR executive, global menstrual health advocate, and luxury content creator. In addition to this, she is a partner for the Flow Initiative alongside Eiko. Her role at the organization is to oversee its public relations, social media, and organizational partnerships. Sabrina also helps with launching menstrual health awareness campaigns. Sabrina has been able to establish partnerships with The Flow Initiative and USOW, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Planned Parenthood, Pandemic Periods, and others. With The Flow Initiative, she says, “We are on a mission to end period poverty and achieve menstrual equity for all, and this would not be possible without our community here in Hudson County and beyond. The power of the community is essential to The Flow Initiative’s work and the people we advocate for each day.”
Sabrina’s local business owners she looks up to: “Hoboken has many incredible business owners, including Faye, the owner of 718 Beauty Bar and Salon. I’ve been a client since 2020, and I could not have been happier with the manicure and pedicure services I receive. Faye and her team keep me fabulous, and I’m grateful for their flexibility in my busy travel schedule. In addition to Faye, Jordan Hernandez, Founder of Completely Booked, and Joelle Hernandez, Founder of Double Dough, are two other amazing women entrepreneurs I admire. Finally, the fantastic team at Alfalfa Hoboken for creating a fun, delicious, and welcoming environment. I believe empowered women empower women, and I am so inspired by the women entrepreneurs shaping the landscape in Hoboken!”
Letisia Campo | Co-Founder of Morelia Paletas
Letisia Campo and her husband, Harold Campo are the team behind Morelia Paletas. Letisia is a Pediatric ER RN while managing Morelia Paletas. She loves to travel and explore new places with their two kids and husband, who both immigrated to the United States with their families at a young age. Despite working in different career industries, the duo wanted to build something that would be fun and delicious for everyone. That was when they came across the Paletas Morelia franchise and immediately fell in love with the concept.
With hopes of what they want Morelia Paletas to become, Letisia told HG, “As cliché as it may sound, our main goal for our business is to provide a delicious and fun experience for everyone that walks through our doors.”
Letisia’s favorite local spot: “We have been going to Benny Tudino’s for over 20 years! Harold would often reminisce about his high school days when he would visit Benny Tudino’s to celebrate after every football game. Bar hopping when we were younger has now changed to pizzeria hopping with the kids. Each one of us gets to pick a pizzeria, and we have one slice from each place and take turns rating it while we walk around.”
Keep up with Morelia Paletas on Instagram here.
Valerie Dantone | Founder of Blue Skies Pottery
Photo Credit: Joe Dantone
Valerie was Director of Sales in the fashion industry when she lost her job at the start of the pandemic. As a way to cope with her mental health, a creative urge built inside her. Valerie found the art of pottery and “quickly opened [her] eyes to how healing art could be.” With her new hobby under her belt, she knew she wanted to open her pottery studio, leading to the launch of Blue Skies Pottery. With her studio, she knew she wanted to “focus on creating as a form of therapy, and prioritize building a community.” Around this time, her nephew was diagnosed with developmental delays and was recommended clay therapy. This led me to the realization that clay-based learning for adults and children with disabilities could be “the final pillar of my dream studio.” A few months after Blue Skies Pottery’s opening, [she] was able to introduce special needs classes to the full-service pottery studio.
Valerie’s local business owners she looks up to: “Yuki Levinson of Yuki’s Bakery. I love their food and staff, and it’s been inspiring to watch her grow her business and expand this year! Jessica Nisler of Mojo Coffee, her shops are so well run.
Amanda (Medina) Atkinson | Founder of Consigned Designs JC
Although born and raised in Hoboken, Amanda has called downtown Jersey City home for over eight years. Amanda’s life journey has taken her through the worlds of fashion and corporate strategy. She worked as a brand manager in the fashion industry and then as an executive assistant in a strategy company. In 2024, Amanda will be shifting to running her consignment shop full-time. She says that this business endeavor aligns with her “passion for sustainable fashion and community engagement, and I’m eager to contribute to the vibrant tapestry of Downtown Jersey City.”
Amanda’s local business owners she looks up to: “Kerry at Love Locked is phenomenal! Her insightful advice has been incredibly helpful during this transition into entrepreneurship.”
More about Amanda and her shop, Consigned Designs JC can be found here.
Melissa Ben-Ishay | Co-Founder + CEO of Baked by Melissa
Hoboken resident Melissa Ben-Ishay has been making strides in the New York Metropolitan area. If you’re not familiar with her, she is the founder and CEO of Baked by Melissa, a New York-based dessert company famous for its handcrafted bite-size cupcakes and treats. Also, she’s no stranger to the world of TikTok — where she has gone viral for her videos of salads and everyday meals. Melissa is on a mission “to make people happy with her bite-size treats and empowering tips for the home kitchen — one bite at a time.” Besides that, she hopes to also “inspire women to achieve success and be genuine and authentic along the way.” In terms of what she looks forward to in 2024, she will be releasing a new cookbook, Come Hungry, featuring a variety of recipes.
Melissa’s local business owners she looks up to: “Jen Tripucka of The Hoboken Girl, Mollie Busino of Mindful Power, and Kristin Yacovon of The Hive.”
Mara Alcantara + Angelika Neira + Alyzza Uy | Owners of Creme Brewtique
Photo Credit: Marga Alcantara-Nalam
Crème Brewtique opened its doors at 558 West Side Avenue in Jersey City. This café is a pink lover’s dream, with an Alice in Wonderland vibe with vibrant pink-hued furniture and walls. The concept was the idea of Mara Alcantara, Angelika Neira, and Alyzza Uy. Each of these women had a different work background from working in the medical and IT fields. Ultimately, they went in together to open this Jersey City café. Mara shared that, “Crafting unique beverage experiences and genuinely creating a welcoming atmosphere for customers is what inspires me.” The aesthetically pleasing drinks are at the forefront of the café but the women of Crème Brewtique hope that the café can become “a community hub that fosters connections, supports local initiatives, and contributes positively to the neighborhood.”
Mara’s favorite Jersey City food spot: Pampangueña Restaurant.
Keep up with Creme Brewtique on Instagram here.
Andrea Rizvi | Founder of Boomerang Bites
View this post on Instagram
Australian native Andrea has made a name for herself in the Mile Square city. Originally, she was in the engineering field and built a career in international development. Eventually, she met her husband and had her four children when a sweet, creative spark came to her mind. Andrea wanted to recreate the Australian treats she enjoyed for her children, friends, and families. Her business, Boomerang Bites, was born in 2018. Her mission is to “spread [her] passion for the goodness of delicious Aussie treats, but also as a ‘socially conscious’ business that is mission-driven.” Currently, Boomerang Bites has its storefront located at 152 Newark Street in Hoboken and shares space at 476 Central Avenue in Jersey City with Babka Bailout.
Andrea’s local business owners she looks up to: “The awesome women at The Hive — Cat, Kristin, and their team, Donna and Kate from Little City Books, Clemence at Choc O Pain, Jen at Hartshorn Portraiture, and my stylish running buddy Joan from JPatryceDesign. They are women who support and help others – and I will be forever grateful for their advice and assistance as I have grown my own business.”
Impreet Sodhi + Ankita Nagpal | Owners of Fomo Momo
Jersey City is home to a variety of restaurants and bars, but its food truck scene shouldn’t be overlooked. The food truck Fomo Momo brings a slice of Indian-Fusion street food for residents to enjoy without having to travel far. Impreet Sodhi and Ankita Nagpal are the duo behind Fomo Momo. Impreet and Ankita shared, “We’re inspired by blending traditional Indian flavors with the diverse American palate.” Hence, the name Fomo Momo, the food truck does sell “momos” — a dumpling that comes either steamed or fried. With a chance to bring a taste of India to Jersey City, the duo reflects on North Jersey’s diverse population. It allows business owners like them to have “an opportunity to attract a broad range of customers with varied tastes.”
Jennie Pu | Director of Hoboken Public Library
A place like Hoboken Public Library has been reshaped into a community hub over time — all thanks to its director, Jennie Pu. Since stepping into her role, Jennie has been able to make the library become “fine-free and introduce an open-access drop-in service with its social workers.” Jennie strived for inclusivity and did so by making the library a place for all. As she reflects on the library’s journey, Jennie tells HG, “I’m proud of all the groundbreaking initiatives that have made a real difference in the lives of our community. Hoboken Public Library’s rich legacy is every bit as relevant today as when it was founded over 130 years ago — on a growth, renovation, and expansion trajectory.”
Local business owners Jennie looks up to: “As a librarian, I’m, of course, a huge fan of the owners of Little City Books, Donna and Kate.”
Theresa Chen | Owner of Saka Japanese Restaurant
Theresa Chen, the mind behind Saka Sushi + Hibachi in Hoboken, has been in the food industry for over 15 years. her daughter is her motivation; she wants to show younger girls to “always be strong and be independent.” She reflects that being a female business owner comes with challenges. Theresa tells HG, “I love the hustle and bustle of this industry, and it helps me to work harder. If I can rely on that through my work people can taste my hard work.” Theresa wants to continue to make Saka feel like a “home away from home.”
Theresa’s favorite Hoboken spots: Benny Tudino’s
Learn more about Saka through here.
Joanne Simmons | Founder of Silver Sculptor
London-born Joanne Simmons made the move to Jersey City in her 20s with a dream. She was looking for a creative outlet during her time working at the Tourist Board for Britain. Joanne used her passion for “always making things” from crafts, and sewing hats, to greeting cards, and leading her to the craft she loved the most — creating jewelry. Joanne would see a jewelry piece she liked, take inspiration from it, and make her own version of it. Joanne realized that making jewelry was something she enjoyed, eventually turning into a business, Silver Sculptor. She eventually left her full-time job and devoted her attention to her business. Joanne says, “People, connections, and my surroundings are my inspiration.” In 2023, Joanne did something else for a good cause — climbing Mount Kilimanjaro Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. She reflects that it was something “out of her comfort zone” but she used her dad as her inspiration, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2021.
Business owners Joanne looks up to: “Beverly Parsons runs Jersey Cats, a non-profit that takes care of unhoused cats in Jersey City. She works hand in hand with TNR organizations in the area and organizes fundraising, foster parents, adoptions, and social media. Everything that the organization needs, she attends to while working a full-time job. Johanna Wood of Metal Cloth & Wood is another Jersey City jeweler. I have known Johanna for over 15 years, and she is such a talented, kind person. She specializes in bug jewelry. Tinika Green of Glim + Glow. Tinika and I met the year I moved here. She makes the most delicious smelling candles, and its aroma fills the room (even when not lit!).”
Amanda Hardy | Owner of Downtown Flwr
View this post on Instagram
Jersey City welcomed its second dispensary in October 2023. Downtown Flwr, located at 141 Newark Avenue, was founded by Amanda Hardy, who had first-hand experience in using cannabis for health benefits. Amanda is a cancer survivor who used cannabis to relieve symptoms of the side effects of chemotherapy. , she has been working to open her own medical cannabis business since 2018. She shared with HG, “I started with medical marijuana to offer people a better quality of life.” Now with the opening of Downtown Flwr, she hopes to bring quality resources to the Jersey City community.
Jess Quarello | Co-Founder of Extra Lucky Moms
View this post on Instagram
Hoboken resident Jess Quarello and Caldwell resident Taryn Lagonigrol co-founded the online platform Extra Lucky Moms in 2021. The duo were inspired by their two daughters with Down syndrome and were looking for an inclusive platform to share their experiences. ELM creates a space for all disabilities that provides support and education through media, publication, literature, and corporate speaking. Jess shared with HG, “Our community inspires us because it is made up of the hardest working mamas and children around! These are fierce mamas fighting for the best for their children, who work hard every day to do some of the things we take for granted.”
Jane Dua | Founder of nunchi
View this post on Instagram
Jane Dua has a decade-long career in the fine jewelry industry, having grown her brand nunchi from a 12-style assortment to a collection worn by celebrities including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Rihanna. She told HG, “Advocating for community and representation is the lifeblood of our business, with 100% of our supply chain being BIPOC, immigrant-owned, and family-owned businesses in New York City that are internally vetted and audited to ensure fair wages and ethically sourced materials.” With nunchi, she remains driven and is “continually inspired by their passion to wear their values and tell their stories about their authentic selves through our pieces.”
Jane’s favorite local business: sam a.m.and Another Man’s Treasure
Yvonne Kwok | Pet Portrait Artist + Founder of DoggyDots
View this post on Instagram
Yvonne found a creative outlet by making custom artwork of pets and animals via her business, DoggyDots. Her method is anything but conventional: all of Yvonne’s portraits are an amalgamation of tiny dots on a page.
Yvonne is a dog parent to her 10-year-old English Bulldog, Pang Pang. Her furry friend is both her inspiration and muse for DoggyDots — and it is through this special relationship that Yvonne has dedicated herself to “capturing the unique personalities, characters, and the very soul of each pet.” Yvonne says that it is a time-consuming process where she “hand-draws using only dots, entirely without the use of pencil or drafting.”
In the future, Yvonne hopes that DoggyDots can collaborate with an animal shelter, to “further combine my passion for art with my love for animals for a good cause.”
Yvonne’s local business owners she looks up to: “I admire business owners who not only turn their passion into their work but also share that passion with others. This includes Kerry from Love Locked and the sister duo at PLNTD — Lauren and Danielle.