International Women's Month Feature | Elaine Tso

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from?), and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

My family is from China and the Philippines. I have lived in Cleveland for 21 years. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

It has been a challenge to change the perceptions of others. Sometimes people think that they know who you are or what you represent because of what they believe about your background or heritage. My own personal success has been achieved by overcoming barriers from inaccurate perceptions of others. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

Believe in yourself and do not let anyone set limits on what you can achieve. You deserve to have dreams and to pursue them. 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?  

Each time an international woman achieves a goal, she can help another international woman achieve her goals. Mentorship circles help support future successful international women. 

 


International Women's Month Feature | Chinenye “ChiChi” Nkemere

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

My name is Chinenyenwa Adanma Nkemere (Igbo Kwenu!) and I was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  For a short part of my childhood, my mother and I lived in Nigeria but eventually came back to the States.   

I describe myself as an Igbo person raised by Cleveland; I am equally influenced by Black American Midwest culture as well as being raised in a Nigerian household.  

What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

The biggest challenge is pervasive imposter syndrome; when you consistently doubt and second-guess your abilities, even to the extent of feeling like a fraud in professional and personal settings. 

As a Black and Nigerian woman, society mandates we “work twice as hard to get half as far” within the realm of professional pursuits, relationships, financial stability, and healthcare access.  We are told that much of our success is dependent on the good graces and “sponsorship” of well-meaning white allies.  It gives you a sense of inferiority about your skills – even when confronted with the reality of Black Women’s collective and individual excellence.   

Breaking free of that cycle, and consistently working to amplifying the voices of other Black Women, at all intersections, truly helps to keep imposter syndrome at bay. 

What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world? 

If you find community in Black Women, you will find community and peace within yourself.  In Beloved, Toni Morrison writes: “The pieces I am, she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.” 

That’s how I feel about Black Women; if you find a group(s) where you can be your most authentic self; vulnerable to strong, nerdy to vain, bright, and funny – you have found a good thing.  You have found a healing thing.  You have found your home. 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

There is an Igbo proverb, “He who lives in the attic, knows where the roof leaks.”  Black women, the most marginalized in this city, intimately know where the deep-seated structural inequities are and are best equipped to fix them. 

As an economic sustainability issue for our region, Northeast Ohio MUST empower Black Women with unencumbered financial resources and cross-curricular positions of influence.  Non-profits, business, academic institutions, and healthcare facilities MUST leverage their platforms and silently learn from the lived experiences of Black Women year-round; not just during Black History Month or Women’s History Month. 

Black Women are deeper, more thoughtful, more resilient than you could imagine – now is time for Cleveland to prove they value these traits in tangible and meaningful ways, or be left behind. 


Small Business Feature | Belle Ursa of Amplio Fitness

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from?), and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

I was born in Vietnam and I have been living in Cleveland for about three and a half years.  

Tell me about the inception of your business! Why did you choose to open this type of business? Is this part of your culture? Take me through your creative process.   

I opened up Amplio Fitness because, through personal experience and shared ones from community members, I realized there was a giant gap in care when it came to Queer Wellness. Public resources (like gyms) were severely undereducated to unique Queer experiences, which created an unsafe and anxiety-provoking experience. Many folks didn’t even attempt to engage with wellness/fitness because of the fear of how they would be treated. Personally, my own gender journey inspired my interest in wellness. I wanted to take care of myself and my body and the utter lack of resources and information guided me to get my certification in Health Coaching and fill in the gap of care. 

Culturally, Jikiden Reiki was inspired by my desire to reclaim parts of my identity and culture and become more in tune with my spiritual health. I chose Jikiden Reiki specifically because it is an Asian (specifically Japanese) holistic healing method. When it was brought to the Americas, it was extremely Westernized and white-washed due to anti-Asian sentiment from World War 2. Jikiden is a specific branch of teaching, intentionally using methods and intentions from the founder of Reiki to preserve its original meaning. Being able to provide comfort and restoration to my clients while also intentionally honoring the authentic intentions of Reiki has been a blessing.  

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in building your business?  

The largest challenge so far has been COVID-19. We’ve been in business for a little less than three years, and in 2020 we were set to break even. With the arrival of COVID and the shutdown proceeding, our client base and source of income were erased. In 2021, we are still trying to recover from that damage. 

How does your business enhance your community? What does it introduce to people, or what can people learn from it?  

Access to wellness is a right. There are so many systemic mechanisms that prevent Queer folks from accessing wellness resources, from public gyms to medical services. We as a community should not have to fear physical danger, social isolation, ineffective programming, and other forms of violence based upon our identity. Specifically, the Transgender and Nonbinary communities are subject to elevated levels of violence and persecution, while arguably being the group that needs these resources the most. 

Amplio Fitness recognizes these gaps of care and begins to remedy them. From preferred names and gender pronouns on our intake forms to specific Gender Affirmation Fitness and Nutrition Programming, we seek to reclaim wellness spaces for our community. We are a queer founded and led organization working to dismantle the systemic inaccessibility to wellness that we face. 

For more information, please visit our website: https://www.ampliofitness.com/ 

My business is called Amplio Fitness, located in Rocky River, Ohio. We are a wellness studio dedicated to increasing accessibility for the LGBTQ+ community. Currently, we are able to provide personal training, nutrition coaching, and Jikiden Reiki sessions (both online via. Zoom and in-person). Our mission is to reclaim wellness accessibility for marginalized communities by providing a safe space for clients to explore what wellness means to them and receive guidance and support to achieve their goals.  

Amplio Fitness 

FB: https://www.facebook.com/ampliofitness 

IG: @ampliofitness 

Belle Ursa 

IG: @truepersuasian 


Small Business Feature | Valerie Mayen of Yellowcake Shop

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from?), and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Corpus Christi Texas in the United States, but my father is an immigrant from Guatemala City in Central America. He came to this country when he was 14 and became naturalized in the 80s under the amnesty act. My mother is of Mexican and Spanish origin. Though she is fair-skinned with auburn hair and freckles she is a full-blooded Latina.

I moved to Cleveland in 2002 from Corpus Christi Texas when I was 21. I’ve lived here for almost 19 years and counting.

Tell me about the inception of your business! Why did you choose to start Yellowcake Shop? Is this part of your culture? Take me through your creative process. 

I chose to start my business, Yellowcake Shop out of desire, necessity, and a craving to contribute in some small way to the greater good. I wanted to make my mark on the world but in a positive and impactful way. I wasn’t sure how to do that through fashion and I fought it for a very long time. I was always taught that in order to contribute to society you had to be a doctor, a lawyer, a missionary, or some other “noble” vocation. Fashion to me, though I loved it, seemed so self-serving and frivolous. when I learned about the slow fashion industry, which is a thoughtful and responsible approach to fashion, as it compares to fast fashion; which typically marginalizes women and children of color, I quickly saw how I could help be a part of the solution.

By starting my own ethical and sustainable handmade clothing company that focused on garments built to last a lifetime, while also hiring local women, paying a fair living wage, I realized that I could be part of a movement that was working to change the landscape of fashion one small business at a time.

Sewing in general was not something that I learned growing up from my mother or grandparents. Cooking and working with my hands outside and with building materials was more of what I learned from my parents. My father is a carpenter and a home builder, and my mother is a world-class cook and craftsperson. Attention to detail, tenacity for color, shape and form are all part of the creative DNA that Latin American people often arrive at naturally. Textiles, weaving, painting, creating, have been prevalent and widely sought after in Hispanic culture for ages.

My creative process is fairly simple. I rely heavily on function and necessity. But function and necessity cannot thrive without color and form. At the end of the day, I do my best to marry function, silhouette, style, and color to arrive at the most practical and flattering timeless piece possible that will serve our clients best.

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in building your business? 

The largest challenge in building my business has been adaptation. The fashion industry changes by the minute. We often have to be very nimble and swift to change consumer trends, selling platforms, and movements happening within the world that affect our industry. When you have such large equipment, systems, and processes to create and produce your garments from start to finish- it takes a lot of effort, engineering, and infrastructure building to shift your operation to meet the demands of the ever-changing landscape.

There is a lot of competition in the fashion industry. And unfortunately, a lot of cheaply made knock-offs and garments that most consumers are unaware of are made irresponsibly and dangerously contribute in a negative way to society. One of our biggest challenges is educating clients on the difference between slow fashion and fast fashion and why slow fashion goods like ours require the price that we ask. We don’t sell our goods at premium prices to be greedy or to get rich. We require those prices to pay our staff well, to pay for our time, to pay for costly overhead and to invest back in the business so that we can grow and continue providing the garments and services that we provide.

Educating our clients on the benefits of purchasing goods that will last much longer than disposable fashion takes a lot of time, effort, and money. But we’ve been lucky to grow our brand slowly and confidently overtime to gain the trust of our clients and a healthy following of consumers that understand our processes and pricing.  

Website: yellowcakeshop.com 

Instagram: yellowcakeshop
Facebook: yellowcakeshopcle
Linked In: Valerie Mayen 

Business Name: Yellowcake Shop 

Location: 78th St. Studios, 1300 W. 78th St., Cleveland, OH ( currently open by appointment – 1 pm-7 pm Tuesday and Thursday
Email: hello@yellowcakeshop.com
Brief description: Yellowcake is the signature line of women’s outerwear and accessories designed and crafted by artist and Project Runway alumna Valerie Mayén. Her garments are handmade in the United States with keen attention to detail, superior construction, and timeless design. 


Small Business Feature | Anne Harrill of Océanne Studio & Boutique

www.oceanne.net
6519 Detroit Ave. Cleveland, OH 44102

What is your full name, where you are from and how long you have lived in Cleveland, and the name (and correct pronunciation!) of your business? 

My name is Anne Harrill, and I have lived in Cleveland for 18 years! I am originally from France. I grew up near Avignon, and most of my family leaves in Cannes now (Cote d’Azur) 

Océanne is pronounced O-say-Ahne Tell me about the inception of your business! How do your background and culture influence the work that you do? Were there any that experiences inspired you to start this business, or how did you gain this passion?  

I moved from France to Cleveland in my early 20’s, after meeting my husband. I was so culture-shocked! I had just finished school and was trying to connect with people and my community. I started making jewelry as a hobby, started selling at local shows, and slowly was getting to know people in the artist community and my neighborhood. It became my full-time job in 2010. In 2015, I moved out of my house, after taking over 2 spare bedrooms of my house, to a warehouse. I opened the store in 2017, and that is when I added apparel to our brand. Our apparel is screen-printed by the non-profit organizations my husband runs, a few blocks down the street! Refresh Collective



The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your life that influenced you to build your business, and how does this continue to fuel you?  

After moving to Cleveland from France, I was really struggling! I was in my early twenties and I was not only trying to figure out who I was but also trying to find my voice as a young woman, new wife in a new country. Starting Océanne really helped me become who I am today! I did not know I was creative until then and did not call myself an artist for years! But I remember the fire and the pride I felt when I made my first pieces! I think years later, Océanne is still a much-needed creative outlet. We all evolved as humans, and I think we are always looking for ways to reach out to others! I changed a lot since I started Océanne! And it really shows in my work!

How does your business enhance your community? What does it introduce to people, or what can people learn from it? 

I started working out of my house and loved doing local shows. Throughout the years, I loved building friendships with people in Cleveland, customers, and other artists! They literally saw my kids grow up. When we opened the store in 2017, I was really excited to be part of Gordon square! We have been able to offer custom jewelry, curated gifts, but also workshops! I love being part of people’s milestones. Whether it is to welcome a new baby, a friend’s birthday, or a new job. 

 


International Women's Month Feature | Adriana Sabath

How long have you lived in Cleveland?  

I am originally from Mexico.  Cleveland has been my home for the last 23 years.  

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

The largest challenges when arriving in a different country are mainly language barriers and learning about a new culture and customs.  I am the only member of my family who lives away from Mexico. I am the youngest of a family of 11 children sdefinitely being by myself in a new country was a big challenge. Even though my family is in Mexico, I have always felt their support throughout all these years. But mainly my husband Todd, who has been my rock and has always been there every step of the way supporting me in every new adventure or project. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?  

My advice for women in the community and all over the world will be to see themselves where they would like to be. I would tell them to be curious, to look for opportunities, to educate themselves and always be proud of who they are. 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?  

When I came to Cleveland 23 years ago there were very few people who spoke Spanish. It was rare to hear Spanish in any suburb of Cleveland. I have seen the Spanish population grow and with that the need for more opportunities.  Greater Cleveland should focus on the success of International women with different backgrounds and experiences.  This project from Global Cleveland is an example of a platform to highlight the hard work of many women in the community. Support Groups for International Women would also be beneficial as iwould create a community where professionals like many of us could mentor younger generations in their personal journey.  I know I would not be here without the support of so many. My journey had holes and bumps, but there was always a helping hand or word along the way.  

I am grateful and humbled about this opportunity. It is an honor to be able to be part of this event.  


International Women's Month Feature | Ka-Pi Hoh

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from), and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

 My family is from China; my parents left Guangdong province right before the Cultural Revolution in pursuit of a better future. 

was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and have lived in Cleveland since I was 3 years old. I grew up on the west side of Cleveland but moved to the east side after attending Case Western Reserve University and then working at The Lubrizol Corporation. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

I firmly believe that success is achieved by following your passions and your personal definition of success. In many cases, you may need to overcome how others define success for you and their expectations of what they believe is right for you. 

When I was a sophomore in college, I realized that a career in medicine was not the right path for me; and, so I followed my desire in pursuing my Ph.D. in polymer engineering. I believe that following my passion, helped me overcome the different challenges that I encountered along the way. Over the years, I have discovered additional passions which have guided my different leadership roles at Lubrizol and in the community. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

 My advice is to take risksbe resilient and flexible, and give back to the community. 

  • Take risks: Choose to challenge yourself by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. 
  • Be resilient and flexible: With our ever-changing environment, you need to be resilient and flexible in overcoming the challenges that you will encounter. 

Challenges are opportunities to learn, build new skills and be stronger. I have had wonderful opportunities to work overseas for Lubrizol, and those expatriate assignments definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone both personally and professionally. It was important to be resilient and flexible considering all the different challenges encountered from living and working in another country. 

  •  Give back to the community: I have been blessed and honored with the support from so many people. It is vital that we give back to the community and help others be successful. 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?  

The recognition by Global Cleveland is a great example of supporting and highlighting the success of international women. 

As individuals, we all have to challenge and overcome our own perceptions and biases; and, then we have to actively support and encourage the success of others. 

Organizations have to make a concerted effort to improve the number of women in key leadership roles and their representation on boards. 

The greater Cleveland community will benefit greatly by tapping the perspectives and contributions of international women. 


International Women's Month Feature | Sara Elaqad

What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from), and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

I was born in Croatia but lived mainly in Bosnia before coming to the US. I have lived in the US for 27 years and in Cleveland for 11 years. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

Navigating my professional path to a great extent on my own, as the eldest child of a family of transplants, has been one challenge. That experience spurred me to want to support others who may not have all of the built-in resources that success so often requires, through Minds Matter. Despite experiencing that challenge myself, as time has gone on, I’ve understood more how my parents in their own ways instilled in me resilience and the ability to adapt through challenges. My family also moved around a lot after we came to the US, and that experience was challenging but ultimately taught me how to thrive in different environments and how to relate to all kinds of people.  

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

Just go ahead and be your fullest, strongest self. I love seeing women owning who they are, owning the space they’re in, and not apologizing for being or for doing exactly what they should be doing to succeed in their own lives and to make an impact in our community and world.  

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?  

I believe in the innate potential of all people, and that applies to international women. I think we could all stand to view international women through the lens of their innate human uniqueness and potential, doing our best to set aside biases and assumptions inherent in each of our own worldviews.  

 


International Women's Month Feature | Maria Paula Bozoklian

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina living in the USA for the last 20 years. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

My large challenge when I moved to this county was to immerse myself in a new language, a new culture, and very far from my family and friends. My husband and I started a new life without any friends or family here in Cleveland. And with almost no savings, no jobs, and no place to live.  

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world? 

My advice for other women in my community is to work hard to reach their dreams. Don’t give up even when things look difficult or unfair. Believe in yourself, in your strengths and capabilities. We can do this! Even when it seems a hard goal to reach.  

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

The Greater Cleveland Community must encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women with inclusion and equal opportunities for all. With a place for them in the highest positions to value their skills and capabilities.   


International Women's Month Feature | Ingrida Bublys

What country were you born in, and how long you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Siauliai, Lithuania. Lived in Cleveland since my parents immigrated to the USA when I was 10 years old. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

My life’s journey in the USA started with a language barrier, a new environment, new traditions, and customs. The guidance of my parents through childhood years, high school, and college prepared me for challenges in this country while maintaining strong roots in the country of my birth, Lithuania. Being bilingual was not always well understood nor respected. Believing in myself and understanding the advantages of multiple perspectives continues to be a plus and offers support to daily crossroads which opened many doors to my success. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world? 

Women are as strong as they perceive themselves to be. Having role models is a big asset and a motivator. A life with a vision and an open mind will always be an asset down the road of success. 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

The Cleveland community will encourage and support the success of International Women when it will be open to diversity, knowledge of the world outside its borders, and leadership with a vision.