Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) marks a day of recognition, empowerment and support for women in business worldwide and champions all women for the opportunity to make an impact on their communities and the world every Nov. 19.
Wendy Diamond, a social entrepreneur and humanitarian, founded Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO) in 2013 as a nongovernmental, nonracial, nongender and nonpolitical volunteer nonprofit organization.
A year later, at a United Nations conference in New York, WEDO convened for the first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event, where 144 countries recognized the day and inspiration and empowerment for women began to transpire throughout nations.
“When women are elevated financially, communities and countries prosper. It builds a global blueprint to alleviate and eradicate poverty. Since the first WEDO, we have grown our organization to become a powerful network for women in business, and have reached over 5 billion people,” WEDO’s website reads.
Since 2014, a trickling effect of support for the cause ensued, with the United Nations celebrating the day annually and the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing the day as “A Day in Honor of Women Entrepreneurs” under Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y. Not long after, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council declared WED an official day in Los Angeles.
A virtual celebration, Los Angeles Virtual Women’s Entrepreneurship Day 2021, hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, will be held Nov. 19 “in recognition of the significant impact women business owners have made on the Los Angeles economy and quality of life despite significant obstacles,” according to the description of the event.
ROW DTLA, a historic, mixed-use destination for independent retail, restaurants and lifestyle boutiques, is home to entrepreneurs and visionaries, many of them women.
Rose Apodaca, founder and CEO of A+R, an independent modern furniture store, opened the storefront with her partner Andy Griffith in 2005, and they were the first tenants to open their doors for business in ROW DTLA.
Prior to venturing into opening a design-centric furniture boutique, Apodaca was a full-time pop culture and style journalist and editor and said, “The decision to open a design shop was not long planned and happened rather quickly. (Andy and I) haven’t looked back.”
The switch from their long-time careers to something new came at a time, for both Apodaca and Griffith, when they were looking for “something to excite” them, she said.
“On my end, publishing was facing major struggles and the writing was on the wall that the industry was changing — and not for the better. Andy got out of editing documentary films before the genre hit its renaissance — but the demanding hours and budgets have not,” Apodaca said about her and Andy’s mindsets and situations at the time.
Though Apodaca and Griffith knew the challenges of owning and operating a retail business, their “mutual obsession for travel and discovering new everything” compelled them to take a leap and venture into a new life.
“Discovering new everything” ties into the story behind A+R’s name, which Apodaca said “stands both for the first letter of our first names, as well as a nod to Artistry + Repertoire, that part of the music business that ‘discovers’ new talent” or, in this case, modern furniture and décor items.
“We started with smaller items (in the store) and have since evolved into furniture, lighting and décor and a resource with nearly 80 global brands,” Apodaca said about A+R’s journey.
“That ethos to discover new talent and products, to be excited (and) to share those discoveries remains the same 16 years later.”
Los Angeles and ROW DTLA both play a significant role in Apodaca’s life as well as the life of her business, and stressing the importance of Los Angeles’ role in design, she said, “This is where wild ideas and beauty come from around the world to be fostered and filtered through the free-thinking visions of the makers here.
“There is nowhere else I would live and have a business and raise a child than Los Angeles. We took our time landing at a space, (like ROW DTLA), that would help define our role as a global resource for the new in design.”
Apodaca said she has “always had an instinct and understanding of the possibilities and the demands that come with business ownership” and that flourishing as an entrepreneur has come as second nature to her.
For those looking to pursue an entrepreneurial dream or idea, Apodaca said, “I’ve mentored many strangers and friends over the decades, and to anyone interested in starting their own business, I advise: Do the research.
“Dream with a heavy dose of honoring reality. Don’t go into it if you’re not willing to get up earlier than anyone else or go to bed later than everyone else. Being an entrepreneur — regardless of sex or gender orientation — is relentless — relentless demands, a relentless need to be nimble, and, yes, relentlessly fulfilling.”
Apodaca is currently focused on a balance between running A+R, writing and creative directing her fourth fashion book, consulting, and raising her 11-year-old daughter.
Juliana Rudell Di Simone, American director for tokyobike, an independent Japanese bicycle company, said her connection with tokyobike and the founder, Ichiro Kanai, of the Tokyo-based company happened by chance.
When Di Simone and her husband, Dean Di Simone, met Kanai in 2013, they were fans of the brand, and a mutual respect and admiration between Kanai and the couple formed.
“It was a good synergy between what (Dean and I) had going on in our lives at the time and being able to launch tokyobike in the U.S. to help them expand and build a brand over here. We were really excited about it,” she said.
Tokyobike launched in the U.S. market in 2014, and Di Simone and Dean opened their first store in the Lower East Side of New York City.
It wouldn’t be long before Di Simone had a pop-up in ROW DTLA in 2016 and moved permanently to a storefront in Downtown Los Angeles in 2017.
“I really love, support and trust what (tokyobike) founded,” she said. “The whole concept of the brand really speaks to me, which is the idea of how you connect with your surroundings and how you perceive things around you in a different way, and a bicycle being the perfect vehicle for that.”
The concept Di Simone is referring to is tokyobike’s philosophy, which the brand was founded on, called “Tokyo Slow.” The concept shifts perspective when viewing a bike from a mode of transportation to a vehicle for contemplation.
“If you’re walking, you can only cover so much distance, and if you’re in a car, you’re moving too fast. A bike is the perfect vehicle where your body is connected to this object and moving the object and everything becomes a lot more prominent around you,” she said.
Di Simone said that since tokyobike did not have a presence in the United States at all, it gave her a chance to “grow and establish the company as more than just a bicycle company and into more of a lifestyle brand that’s centered around design.”
The challenge, Di Simone explained, has been centered around education and changing American perspectives on bikes. “In Japan, a bicycle is an extension of who you are,” she said.
Though tokyobike has grown in popularity in the United States, especially during its time in New York, Di Simone said, “Downtown LA speaks to the brand a little more. We’re not a beach cruiser, and we’re connected to a more creative crowd.
“Downtown has an interesting overlap of different creatives in a variety of industries, and in ROW DTLA it’s all about the community. … For us, we are thinking about the community that we’re building but also the one we’re a part of as a brand (ROW DTLA).”
Di Simone’s background in business, whether it be marketing or experience as an entrepreneur, gives her an idea of what she wants to create through her ventures. In any industry that she goes into, she explained, she is trying to create an inclusive space for anyone who would like to be a part of that community or brand.
“I think that the beauty of entrepreneur women, women who start things, is that they are able to bring more inclusivity into the things we do, and I think that comes from our own personal experiences,” she said.
About Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, Di Simone said, “I think that it’s important for women to be in these positions for representation and for women who come in the future to see that they’re represented and they can do it.
“It’s exciting to see all the female-founded companies that are seeing success and launching their businesses, be it a big or small business.”
Di Simone plans on working with the tokyobike team and continuing to watch the brand grow while pursuing another business venture.
“(Entrepreneurship and) taking an idea to the world and trying to get customers to connect with it is hard, but don’t give up,” Di Simone said. “I think that it’s wonderful that we’re seeing more and more entrepreneurial women, because it allows other women to know that if they have an idea, it’s possible. Don’t give up.”