Women’s businesses flourish in East Village

Congress signed L.97-28 in 1981, officially declaring the second week of March
“Women’s History Week.” With this established law, national organizations have decide that the month of March would be Women’s History Month. This year, female entrepreneurship is highlighted.

Female entrepreneurship represents a huge disparity within male-dominated industries. CAS freshmen Sarah Habib believes that even today, women are discriminated against in the business and economics fields.

“Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, women don’t have the same support as men do, which is not fair,” Habib said. “Women have the intelligence and power to participate in the business world.”

A Repeat Performance, an antique store, and Dirt Candy, a restaurant, are examples of the various successful businesses run by women in the East Village.

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Dirt Candy features inventive vegetarian cooking. Since its opening, the restaurant has become one of the most popular healthy restaurants in New York City. Owner Amanda Cohen owes her success to her determination to run a successful
restaurant business.

“Usually when I’m running Dirt Candy, I’m not thinking a whole lot about owning a
vagina,” Cohen said. “I’m thinking about not failing. In the end,
I don’t see myself or Dirt Candy as a success, I see us as the result of refusing to fail over and over again.”

Cohen stressed that the key to running a successful business is not dependent on one’s sex as much as it is affected by one’s willingness to work hard. Nevertheless, she does believe that female chefs are underrepresented considering the media’s emphasis on male chefs, but that the problem is being addressed.

“The big difference in the food world is that the press covers female chefs much less than it covers male chefs,” Cohen said. “That’s changing very slowly, but it is finally changing.”

A Repeat Performance, opened by Sharon Jane Smith and Beverly Bronson, is known for its eccentric antiques. While Smith still runs the shop, Bronson has extended her attention to a women’s shelter in Nepal called “House with Heart.”

Bronson notes that the Eastern and Western worlds have different perspectives on women’s education and entrepreneurship. In the East Village, the latter
perspective dominates.

“Women in the West are encouraged to follow their dreams, nothing is impossible for them if they want to work for it,” Bronson said.  “In the East, or at least here in Nepal, many women are uneducated and looked down upon as second class citizens.”

Despite loyal customers and a supportive landlord, Smith and Bronson face financial difficulties to keep the 26-year-old business running. Nevertheless, these problems are inherent to the neighborhood. High rents, for example, have resulted in the struggles of many East Village businesses. In Nepal, however, Bronson faced a set of financial challenges that found their roots in the social foundation of
the society.

“This is a patriarchal society and women are not respected, so I had a tough time in the beginning,” Bronson said. “Many men in Nepal tried to cheat me in various ways — but I wasn’t born yesterday and they soon found that out.”

In the end, Bronson stresses  the fact that one’s sex is not at all related to one’s ability to perform in life.

“I don’t see why it would be easier for a man to open one [business],” Bronson said.  “Anything men can do women can do just as well.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 9 print edition. Email Dhriti Tandon at [email protected]

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