Kitt Shapiro has lived in Westport for over 17 years and was unsatisfied with the clothing store options in the town. She finally found a store that she loved, but when she found out it was closing, she had to do something to save it. She recently acquired the women’s boutique clothing store West, and has been learning the ropes of the retail world.
“I know that retail has changed[…]but I truly believe that local business and local retailers are not going to go anywhere because we are the foundation,” Shapiro said.
She feels that human contact is the key to success and has worked to create an environment where people feel welcomed and embraced.
Jamie Camche, founder and owner of JL Rocks, took a leap of faith when she opened her jewelry store 18 years ago. Having never dealt with the financial aspect of business, owning a store seemed daunting at first. However, with the help of her husband and friends, she managed to find her way and become very successful. She finds the most rewarding part of her store to be “giving back to this town.”
Dana Noorily and Julie Levitt launched their flagship location of The Granola Bar in 2013 and have since opened six more restaurants. It all started when they met at a children’s birthday party and became friends, finding a hobby of making granola together. Eventually, it evolved into the idea of starting a restaurant. They discussed the many struggles they faced as women in the entrepreneurship world.
“We face certain challenges that men who run businesses just don’t, and that’s okay and it drives us,” Levitt said.
They also spoke about how having young kids posed its own struggles, but also how their kids drove them to succeed and be good role models.
“When you run your own business it’s 24/7… the line is blurred between work and home,” Noorily said.
There were many common themes expressed by all of the women, especially as related to balancing work and home, struggling in the business world and hoping to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs. However, overall they felt that Westport was a very supportive town and environment for female entrepreneurs. All of the women advised young entrepreneurs to seek out a mentor and get advice from more experienced adults and most importantly to follow their gut.
Photos by Ali Korn '21