As the rise in technology and craft culture abounds, Reno Tahoe is simultaneously witnessing another exciting era: the age of the female entrepreneur. From handmade shoes to Burning Man-inspired brews, women are changing the business landscape throughout the region. Today, we’re exploring the unique stories of four inspiring boss ladies hustling right here in Reno.
Own a business in Reno Tahoe, or considering starting one? Our friends at the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada offer countless services, including workforce resources, public relations and licensing. Learn more here.
Like many startups, Lauren Reeser launched her business after unintentionally stumbling upon a niche: new old shoes. What began as a blog seven years ago, today American Duchess Shoes is a thriving small business with an international customer base producing beautifully handcrafted shoes that are comfortable, yet historically accurate. Customers include opera singers, historic reenactors and period piece TV producers. Lauren met with us at her daily haunt, gorgeous Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, where blooming florals complimented her vintage ensemble.
Most of Lauren’s customers aren’t based in Reno — with no brick and mortar shop, customers purchase the footwear almost exclusively online. So, why Reno? Aside from a strong digital presence, Lauren says her success can largely be traced back to Reno’s entrepreneur-friendly culture.
“Reno has this amazing business community that is growing very quickly with all kinds of free support systems and mentoring programs. I don’t run into barriers — there is always someone to help!”
Thinking about starting a business in Reno? Lauren recommends pitching at 1 Million Cups, where she was first introduced to everyone in the local business community. After that, get involved with the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Lauren stresses: find organizations who aren’t looking to make a profit off helping your business succeed!
Sounds like a perfect fit.
Melissa Test is leading the way for Reno’s burgeoning craft beer scene as 10 Torr Brewery & Distillery’s head brewer and distiller. What started as home brewing for Burning Man, Melissa inadvertently realized she really liked making booze for people. She sat down with us at her newly-opened brewery to explain some of the nuances unique to the beer business — and how Reno is the perfect backdrop to find success.
“Reno is becoming this vibrant city — the brewery culture alone is huge! We don’t see it as us competing against each other — it’s us small guys against the big guys. As craft beer grows bigger, it’s better for all of us.”
Melissa’s typical workday usually starts around 7 a.m. Daily tasks include brewing beer, making distillery mash, running the stills, cellaring, kegging and canning. It can be frustrating work.
“You can put everything into a beer and if the yeasts just aren’t cooperating, that beer doesn’t work! You’re always learning something new — it’s an art form.”
After having recently celebrated one year, what’s next for 10 Torr? The better question is what’s NOT next. Plans are in the works to open up distribution in California, launch a coffee liqueur, barrel-aged whiskey and beers, small batch one-off gins, and possibly flavored vodka. We’ll cheers to that!
Laura “Jimmy” Zander is happiest scrambling up a mountain, her dogs Dodger and Princess Leia running alongside her. When not adventuring outdoors, Laura is both boss and mentor to her 40+ employees at the 20,000-square foot Jimmy Beans Wool headquarters.
We sat down with Laura on the trails outside her home and chatted about weaving a sustainable business in Reno.
“I’m passionate about helping people who want to make a living out of their passions. In our business, we make sure everybody who’s a part of the system gets where they want to go. If I’ve got an employee that wants to be a doctor, then it’s like — what kind of jobs do we have that can help their resumé when they apply to med school?”
With EDAWN’s programming, the University of Nevada, Reno’s accessibility and SBA, Reno has been the perfect big little community to catapult Jimmy Beans into success. Laura’s eventual goal is to get her business profitable enough to ensure every employee — many of whom are UNR grads — can afford to buy a house.
“It’s not restful, but it’s rad.”
We chatted with Jen Gurecki while she was cycling next to elephants in Botswana: just another day-in-the-life for this powerhouse who is shattering the ski and snowboard industry. Meet Coalition Snow:
“In June 2013, while on a backcountry ski trip, we were chatting about an emerging shift in the snow sports industry, largely due to outspoken female athletes. Perhaps it was the altitude (or the flask of whiskey) but that day I decided to pursue the concept of a women’s ski and snowboard company.”
Today, the award-winning brand manufactures skis and snowboards by women for women, but more than that, Coalition Snow is starting a conversation. Starting a business in the snow sports industry is competitive to begin with, but launching a seasonal hard goods company marketed exclusively to women? That’s a whole different beast. Jen’s faced every challenge imaginable and works her ass off seven days a week.
Days off? That’s funny. Jen says when she needs a break, she’ll occasionally enjoy a few pow runs. Simple tasks like opening mail or grocery shopping at Great Basin Community Food Co-op offer welcome respites throughout the week.
Thinking about starting a business? Jen had this to say:
“Make sure you are solving a real problem. Enlist a team of experts as mentors, and make a budget. I personally have worked with Summit VMS, a program created by EDAWN, as well as StartUp NV. If you’re new to business, start networking. Reno Tahoe is all about community, so start building it in your business. And find out what it is that you can offer back. Reciprocity is key.”
Reno Tahoe is home to countless entrepreneurs and business owners. Do you run a business, or want to start one? Find out how the Economic Development Authority (EDAWN) can help.