Founding, growing and managing a business from scratch is like trying to cook for your entire family, by yourself, on Christmas Eve. These women-owned businesses are managing to kill it in the Cleveland food scene, and they told me everything about their journeys.

I’ve been in Cleveland for almost two years and one thing I can say is that the diversity, quality, and creativity in this city’s culinary game is simply amazing

Some of the newest spots have blossomed into hip neighborhood landmarks, and today we are discovering the faces behind them.


Rachel owns two charming grocery shops in booming Cleveland neighborhoods. Her mission? To promote healthy food options while improving neighborhood connectivity.

"Years ago I lived in Raleigh, NC, and through my french neighbors I learned to think of food as a holistic experience. When they finished their studies and moved back to France, I visited them in Marseille and fell in love with their eating habits. We would walk to the local grocery store every morning, buy fresh bread and other ingredients, and cook lunch and dinner all together. It was an experience, not just a physiological need," she explained.

When Rachel moved back to Cleveland, she realized that people were filling new neighborhoods and there were not walkable options to get healthy food.

"I wanted to create a space that was a mix of grocery store and grab-n-go with truly fresh, healthy options for the people who work crazy hours or just can't find the time to cook." 

"When I started juggling with the idea of quitting my job and starting my own business, the only person who knew about it was my boyfriend. I was committed, but I needed a business plan, and had no idea what that actually meant."

The game changer was that business plan. Rachel's brother was doing his MBA and helped her understand what it meant. The work she put into it was what made her valuable for the lenders. This wasn't just a girl with a good idea; she also had a plan and concrete evidence to prove it would work. 

"Once I was all in, knew where the shop was going, and had the support of the Cleveland Economic Development Department and the lenders, I started sharing the news with everyone. A lot of people were initially shocked, but then everyone was very supportive. My sister did a mural and my friends helped me paint the walls! To this day, my mom brings me the fresh bread from our favorite bakery every morning, and my dad comes hang out as moral support."

The first shop is turning 4 years old in 2019, and the second one has been opened for 5 months. Rachel's goals are to keep growing, to expand their catering services, and to provide ready made dinners.

Most importantly, this amazing, passionate woman wants to offer a specialized grocery experience where people can understand the art of cooking and why it is a labor of love. "For me, cooking food equals love and self care."


Marina Wollmann

Part of the women-owned businesses crew is Shelley Pippin. She had never dreamed of starting her own donut and beer shop, but life is pretty cool sometimes!

The craft-beer-based donuts idea wasn't born overnight. Shelley and John Pippin were working at their marketing and consulting jobs when they had an epiphany. Why not mix the three things that they loved the most: Cleveland, beer and donuts?

Shelley explains that between the boom in the Cleveland's brewing movement and the expanding restaurant culture, there was room to create a unique spot that mixed two of America's favorite treats. 

Brewnuts started with two countertop fryers from Target and a feeling that something incredible was ready to take flight. 

In 2013, Shelley and John started making doughnuts and selling them in pop-up events and various spots around the city. Their official brick and mortar shop didn't open until 2017. Lots of hard work, community and brand building went in the mix to get them to where they are at today.

I met Shelley through a Women in Digital event, where she was invited to talk about her archi-successful Instagram presence. I asked her if she could talk to her 20 year old self and give her advice from where she is standing today.

"I would tell myself to do as many things as possible, and to not feel that everything needs to be relevant. I would tell myself not to try to find what my purpose is because that gets you stuck and it's the biggest waste of time."

"Experience everything you can, and understand what you want, what you are good at, and what makes you happy by process of elimination. You can't know what person you want to marry if you don't date others, you can't know what your 'dream job' is (if that exists!) if you don't work in different places."

Shelley's plans for Brewnuts are still cooking. There is potential expansion on the horizon, but she is also open to exploring other interests and to keep on learning and experiencing, "I think of myself as a student of an eternal learning process. There's so much I want to do, and I think not having things fully figured out is ok, we should all learn to be ok with that situation. That's life!" 

Clevelander's absolutely love Brewnuts, so much that they've won the Cleveland Donut Fest  as the Crowd Favorite for two years in a row. They feature a different menu EVERY DAY, and all of their options are fun and creative, like Red Velvet Cream Cheese Candy Cane Frycake, Sea Salt Honeyed Nut Walnut or Pear Frosted w/ Ricotta Cake Crumble. 

So, if you are ever around The Land... you know where to go!


Two friends, a passion for baking, persistence and determination is what describes this Non-GMO, naturally exquisite bakery. 

As you can tell by the picture above, they are also happily married and both have two and five kids, respectively. They are  equal partners in the business they started four years ago.

I talked to Sara to find out more about their behind-the-scenes stories: "It all started over pie and coffee. We both had a passion for baking and sharing our creations with friends and family. We decided we wanted to do something different, groundbreaking recipes that were also healthier versions of the classics."

In fact, technically everyone can enjoy Floressa's creations, their cookies, brownies, cakes and muffins are made with thoughtful ingredients. They have vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free options so each person can leave with a sweet treat in their hands.

"I used to work as a personal cook for people with vegan and paleo lifestyles, I love to play around with different diets. Caitlin was a manager of Whole Foods bakery and she still works part time there, but in a different area, so there is no conflict of interest."

Sara and Caitlin sell their products all over Cleveland and are a huge success amongst people of all dietary lifestyles. But everything they’ve done until now has been part-time. 2019 marks the year in which they’ll transition to a full time business.

They have been so sustainable the whole time that they were able to buy their own building last year! Floressa is expecting its brick and mortar grand opening this summer. 

"Our kids have dreams of working in the shop with us, and one of my daughters wants to make some of the art to hang on the walls. 

It's really exciting because they get to be part of the journey, I feel like I'm raising little entrepreneurs. They understand the value of time and what it's worth. They love coming to events with us and help us in the summer when we go to markets and fleas."

These two women have worked really hard to get to this point. They had kind of just met when they started, so you can imagine how much effort they put in to get to where they are now. Figuring out logistics and working together as a team was the biggest challenge. Juggling all the different components is not an easy task, but after four years they've found a wonderful balance and have a great vision for the future. 

The women behind these successful businesses are passionate, friendly, hard working...and exhausted! Although they are all constantly struggling to find an ideal work/life balance, they are thrilled to have taken that scary first step to follow their foodie entrepreneurial gut.

I can only clap and thank them, everything they do is not only community oriented, but finger-licking good!