Women Owned Business Entrepreneurs Who Empower

During the second half of the 20th century, women joined the U.S. workforce en mass, changing America’s economic landscape. While the fight for equality is hardly over, we celebrate the progress that has been made. Meet these local business leaders who honor and admire the women who paved the way for them.

Andrea Gruber

Owner of Massage Mechanics

7 S. Washington St., Ypsilanti
734-408-1648 | ypsimassagemechanics.com

Noon-8pm | Sunday, Monday and Wednesday
1-8pm | Tuesday 
10am-8pm | Thursday-Friday
Noon-6pm | Saturday

Andrea Gruber, owner of Massage Mechanics

How did you get your start? After completing a rather eclectic education with my Bachelors of Fine Arts, followed by a massage therapy certification, I worked for several years as a massage therapist. After experiencing a wide range of work environments (some rather negative), I decided to open my own massage therapy business. I felt by running my own business I could treat staff more fairly than I had been treated, and also provide better quality therapeutic work to our clientele. While attending Eastern Michigan University, I fell in love with Ypsilanti, and it felt like the right place to bring my vision to life.

Who is a woman you admire and why? I’m inspired by the many women business owners and community organizers of Ypsilanti. Our city is full of intelligent, driven, creative, and witty women who make our community vibrant, connected, and constantly evolving. Hopefully, I can inspire others as they’ve inspired me. I feel so lucky to be a part of this community.

What’s your professional philosophy? At the end of the day, it’s all about “treating people like people.” This goes to my clientele— the people who choose to support my business— and to my staff who are on the journey with us. Finding the balance between providing the best possible care for clients, as well as providing my employees with a sustainable career path, living wages, and benefits, is the driving force behind all of my decisions.

Eileen Bristol

Owner of RelaxStation

734-623-1951 | Relaxstation.com

Main Location: 300 W. Huron St., Ann Arbor. 10am-8pm, daily
Phoenix West Location: 117 N. First, Suite 30. 9am-9pm, daily

Eileen Bristol, owner of RelaxStation

What do you do? I run two businesses, RelaxStation Massage Therapy in Ann Arbor (with the help of a resident manager), and Sahara Lounge in Austin, Texas, where I currently live.

How did you get your start? Working in my parents’ motorcycle shop in Houston. I was pulling a paycheck when I was 9, helping out in the parts department. Our motorcycle shop had customers from all walks of life, all races, professions and income brackets. So I am comfortable with all kinds of people.

What’s the best advice that you have ever received? Cut yourself a little slack, just like you cut your friends some slack.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women? Working to harmonize income disparity.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career? Opening two businesses. Just starting something is a huge risk. You can count on losing money during the first few years.

How has your industry changed for women since you first got your start? Being the business owner, I haven’t perceived a lot of change, not having someone over me who might not respect me was never a problem.

What’s your professional philosophy? Live by the Golden Rule— treat others as you would like to be treated.

Kit Lambert

Vice President of O&W, Inc.

734-480-4012 | Onwbeer.com

Kit Lambert, Vice President of O&W, Inc.

What do you do? I am the Vice President of O&W, Inc., a beer distributor that sells an array of over 60 suppliers brands of beer to seven counties in southeast Michigan. I am the oldest “kid” in the fifth generation of our family to work at O&W and I oversee the Sales Division.

What’s one thing every professional woman should remember? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s important to find out where, what, who, why and when things occur. It allows you time to get to know people and processes better and think of ways to integrate new solutions to problems and find opportunities to get better. Asking questions will also improve the quality of your work as you better understand the goals you are trying to achieve.

How has your industry changed for women since you first got your start? The beer business used to be a sea of blue sports coats and polo shirts at industry meetings and events. Men joked about women in casual conversation and talked about what their wives were doing. Commercials were full of busty women in tight clothes serving men beer. Women were not allowed in and were not privy to the same opportunities to gain the knowledge they needed. Instead of attending a meeting about pricing strategy, I would be tasked with arranging the company picnic. Now things have changed. More suppliers and distributors are realizing that women are an asset to their companies. We are not just as “the girls in the office,” but we are useful in collaborating, generating ideas and making critical decisions. Suppliers are hiring women to be everything from reps to CMO. The new President of Heineken USA is a woman! Now, more than ever, you see major suppliers marketing to people— not just men— but people. They understand that women drink beer too! It’s refreshing to see the shift and be one of the faces to help this shift occur. I have my dad and uncle to thank for trusting me to be part of the change.

Dori Edwards

Owner and founder of Bloom City Club

423 Miller Ave.
734-585-0621 | Bloomcityclub.com

10am-8pm | Monday-Wednesday
10am-9pm | Thursday-Saturday
11am-6pm | Sunday

Blue Sage Alternative Health

421 Miller Ave.
734-585-7063 | Bluesagehealth.com
10am-6pm | Monday-Friday

Dori Edwards, owner and founder of Bloom City Club

What do you do? I am the founder and owner of Bloom City Club in Ann Arbor and the owner & CEO of Blue Sage Alternative Health. I am the creator of Dori Balm, an analgesic recovery rub, Ayurvanna wellness products, Sensi Slims, Blue Sage CBD products and Cramp Ease. I also facilitate wellness retreats for women, both locally and around the globe. www.thisisdori.com

How did you get your start? I wanted to live my life on my own terms from a very young age. I got my start as a business owner in my early 20’s. I started a day-care in my home. From there I owned, directed, choreographed and danced for Like Water Drum & Dance. When the arts funding in Michigan was lossed in the crash of 2008 I pivoted to cannabis and opened Treecity Health Collective and Sticky Ypsi because I fully believed in the efficacy and safety of the incredible cannabis plant.

What’s one thing every professional woman should remember? Professional women should remember that we can change the work/love paradigm. We are the nurturers and most of the time lead with our hearts. It’s ok to bring that into our work place. It’s ok to feel our way through decisions weighted with our intellect. We can lead by example by paying living wages and offering incentives to employees who participate in fitness classes and wellness activities.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women? I’m not sure I see one. I see more and more female teenagers taking on great leadership roles and being quite vocal in government, business, entrepreneurism, civil rights issues, spirituality, mindfulness practices and more. I’m inspired by these young women and think they are going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Sava Farah

Founder and CEO of SavCo Hospitality

734-669-3310 | savcohospitality.com

Sava Farah, Founder and CEO of SavCo Hospitality

What do you do? I’m the Founder and CEO of SavCo Hospitality, the management company behind Sava’s, Aventura, Wilma’s (aka Fred’s, aka Babo) and the soon-to-be Dixboro House.

How did you get your start? I started bussing tables at a Greek diner when I was 13-years-old. Clearly, I had found my passion at a young age.

What’s your professional philosophy? We at SavCo call it “Hospitality and Hustle”— which really means: be good to people and work hard!

What is your current top priority? Having received these interview questions while on maternity leave with my second son, Dominic, who was born on only five weeks ago, my current top priority is introducing him into the world and doing my part to ensure that my family and I are as well adjusted as possible before returning to work. With both of my pregnancies, countless people asked me if I planned on taking maternity leave. I found this question illuminating in the sense that some of our human friends are still setting up these unrealistic expectations for women and mothers in business. Of course, I’m taking maternity leave and recovering from childbirth while being able to nurture a newborn. I’ve since made it my business to be a good example of women brave enough to give their all to their families and for our human friends who need examples that it is quite possible for working women to be available for their families. Of course, taking a proper maternity leave was a bit scary considering the significant responsibility I have towards my organization and community, but giving myself and my family the time and attention we all need to adjust to a new baby is what seemed natural to me and I had to trust that everything would work out— and it has.

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women? As more women move into leadership positions and other positions of power, I am interested to see where we’ll be in 20 years when it comes to the work-life balance for the women who dare to focus on their careers and their families. As a nation, I believe we have a long way to go in supporting our mothers.

Laurie Gross

President of Gross Electric

Lighting Showroom & Electrical Supply Counters

Ann Arbor, MI: 2232 S. Industrial Hwy. | 734-665-8676

Toledo: 2807 N. Reynolds Rd. | 419-537-1818

Electrical Supply Counter only:
2521 Woodville Rd., Northwood
419-698-1818 | 

Laurie Gross, president of Gross Electric

What’s one thing every entrepreneur should ask themselves? “Are you going to love what you’re doing?”

How has your industry changed for women since you first got your start? Much more inclusive…although there are many more women than when I started, there still aren’t that many, at least on the electrical supply end of the business.

How do you stay motivated? I love what I do. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I go out on the showroom floor and spend the day waiting on customers, it reinvigorates me.

What has been the most surreal “wow I made it” moment in your career? We take professional pictures of our lighting jobs, which we post around our showroom. I remember looking at one of the job photos that looks like it could be in Architectural Digest and thinking, “Wow, I did the lighting to make that house look like that!”

What’s your professional philosophy? Be positive about every situation. Do the best you can for your people, your customers and your company.

What stereotype about feminine weakness do you think is actually a point of power? Our empathy. It allows us to see situations from all angles and work for the best solutions rather than just going for the “win.”

What’s one thing every professional woman should remember? You can have it “all,” just know what your “all” is.

Stephanie Kosarin

Founder and owner of Ballet with Stephanie


Stephanie Kosarin, Founder and owner of Ballet with Stephanie

What do you do? I teach beginning ballet classes to adults and children. I also run weekend arts retreats— low-key explorations of dance and art by day, and fabulous dining by night!

Who is a woman you admire and why? The woman I admired the most in my life was my mother, Jackie. She was elegant, brave and curious. She was a photographer, a writer, and also a gourmet cook, while somehow raising five kids and getting me to piano and ballet lessons! I truly have no idea how she managed to keep it together, but mostly, she did.

What’s the best advice that you have ever received? “If you can visualize it, if you can dream it, there’s some way to do it.” A quote from Walt Disney, who happens to share my birthday!

What are three secrets to your success? 1. Stay open to fresh new ideas 2. Don’t worry about it— relax and laugh a lot 3. Be grateful! I am honored to help the universe in what my own gifts are… music, dance and authentic friendliness. Although I couldn’t cook a meal to save my life, I am good at what I do and am so happy to share this!

What’s an early experience you are most grateful for? When I was 9-years-old, the Bolshoi Ballet Company came to Detroit and they were auditioning little girls, ages 10 and up, to be in a piece. I was technically too young, and actually had never before wore the required pointe shoes, but through true gumption and spirit and, honestly, guts, I auditioned and got into their performances! I did it the next year, as well. It taught me, at such an early age, to fudge the rules and do what I want to with passion and courage.

Lisa Mattison Roberts

Owner of Rock Paper Scissors

216 S. Main St.
734-531-6264 | rockpaperscissorsshop.com

11am-6pm | Sunday-Tuesday
11am-8pm | Wednesday-Thursday
10am-10pm | Friday-Saturday


What do you do? I own and operate Rock Paper Scissors, Rock Paper Scissors Weddings, and Midwest Supply Co., all based in Ann Arbor. Rock Paper Scissors is our home and gift shop specializing in celebrating everything. Rock Paper Scissors Weddings is our custom design and invitation business located in our invitation studio in the back of RPS. Midwest Supply Co. is our in house brand of Michigan and midwest-themed merchandise. We sell direct to customers but also to retailers and have over 125 customers in Michigan alone.

How did you get your start? I grew up in a college football family. We moved every few years to new college towns throughout the country. Each time we landed in a new town, my mom and I would discover the downtown shops and restaurants. Each time, that is where we found the heart of the community and I fell in love with small, local businesses. Fast forward 10-20 years and I was working for major corporations— Target & Bank of America, logging hours on conference calls, as far from the small, local businesses I grew up loving as I could be. I started Rock Paper Scissors as a creative outlet from the world of banking in Tecumseh, Michigan in 2011. A year later we opened in Ann Arbor, and the rest is history!

What’s one thing every professional woman should remember? Support each other! As the self proclaimed most competitive person on the planet, it’s important to remember we’re in this together! When other businesses are successful, we all win. Encourage, support and empower each other. When women support each other, incredible things happen.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career? Retail is not for the risk adverse. We take risks every day in retail with the lines and products we buy. Each employee we hire is a risk— will they represent the brand the way you want them to, will they do right by the brand, will they be good people? Throughout the last eight years we’ve taken big risks— we have done two Detroit pop ups, we opened Bed & Butter (a higher end home store across the street in Ann Arbor from RPS), started Midwest Supply Co, and the biggest risk, I left my big corporate job for the unknown of retail.

+ posts

Recent Articles