Woman-Owned, Woman-Strong

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Woman-Owned, Woman-Strong

I can remember when my mom opened her first business. It was a food trailer that she painted white with red trim – we called it The Chuck Wagon. She would take me with her to serve hamburgers, hot dogs, and other greasy spoon fare to the lunch crowd in the parking lot of the phosphate mine near our house. I could smell french fries sizzling in the deep fryer as I practiced my letters on a small dry erase board on the trailer step. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, my mom owns this. This is hers. She runs it. I think I could do that one day.’ How powerful, how wonderful. The Chuck Wagon came and went and Mom navigated what made her happy through a few different careers and entrepreneurial endeavors. She owns her own store now.

That twenty-something flipping burgers in an unairconditioned food truck became my power, my inspiration. If not to start my own business, then to contribute to the world what I could with any talents I may have, to do what I want and above all else, encourage other women in their pursuits. I have since met many other women with the same strength. I’ve learned that I have that power and that you do too.

Winter Haven is fortunate to have a diverse business community. Many of the businesses downtown and beyond are women-owned and run. Women in general, but especially in business are go-getters, put-it-all-on-the-liners, make-it-happeners. They struggle, they succeed, they carry on. We asked a few female business owners in the community a set of questions:


1. What advice do you have for other women who want to open a business?

2. What has been your biggest obstacle as a woman entrepreneur?

3. Who has been your biggest supporter/ mentor or what has been your go-to        resource for your business?

May you read their answers and find something useful. May you feel a fire in your belly to do something great, something you’ve always wanted to. Start that online store or that coffee truck or that law firm or that makeup line, girl! If you don’t already have a ‘Chuck Wagon mom’ in your life, take a trip to downtown Winter Haven – you’ll find her.

Marilyn Lacey 

Home Remedy Winter Haven

I would advise women to do their research, on EVERYTHING! Expect anything that can go wrong, to go wrong. Know your worth, your value and your strengths. Stay in your lane. Don’t expect to please everyone, you won’t. ASK for help from friends, family, and other women business owners. Find a networking group or 12 to share your business with. Believe in yourself.

The biggest obstacle I have faced as a business owner is not being taken seriously at times. Also, when you open your business, have emergency funds put aside. I would recommend at least 3 months worth of bills. You never know what may happen.

My biggest mentor throughout my life was my father. My fiance is my biggest supporter. He has come up with some great ideas and does a LOT of the leg work for me and the business.

Carissa Hughes

Gourmet Goodies

Definitely do something you’re passionate about and really enjoy. Owning your own business is a 24/7 job, you do not get to turn it off and on… while rewarding, it takes commitment, tenacity and a lot of sacrifice to create, build and sustain your own business.

Actually, I think it’s just the opposite… I found many more obstacles as a woman working for other companies. When you work for yourself, you create your own opportunities.

My family and our community! Every step in our growth, God connected us with people who helped us…  we would not be here today without the kindness and generosity of so many people.

Courtney McCrystal

Posh Salon Suites

To women who want to open a business one day, I say take the leap its worth it! It seems cliche but life IS short and we only have one go at it. You just have to know your business, show up and work hard every day, and treat people right!

My biggest obstacle as a woman entrepreneur… fixing things around the office. When you’re the owner/boss you also become the janitor, a plumber, the handy “woman” all around problem solver, peace keeper. As a business owner you wear many hats.

My biggest supporter has always been my husband. As a business owner himself, it helps because through the highs and lows of business he understands the pressures. Also in my specific industry, Sally Smith has been my mentor for 20 years. I began working for her at 16 and she started me out on the right path to be successful in my career.

Sarah Powers

Top Buttons

Do it. Women have the unique ability to multitask which allows them the opportunity to pursue their professional goals and their passions simultaneously. But try not to take things personally or let circumstances impact your emotions. Be willing to hear the word “no” or the phrase “that’s nice” with a pat on the back long before you see the success you are working towards. It takes grit, sticktuitiveness and faith in yourself in order to see your dream come to fruition.

Women can run businesses and take care of their families! The greatest obstacle I have faced as a female entrepreneur is breaking down the concept that I became a  business owner because I wanted an outlet or a hobby.  I’ve started Top Buttons because I am passionate about running a business that empowers women who benefit from our programs and who work for our company. My hobby is running, but Top Buttons is my calling. I believe people now understand, I’m in this for the long haul and Top Buttons is a great resource for our community.  

My husband has been my biggest supporter.  From the beginning he saw the need Top Buttons would fill and believed I could do exactly what I set out to do with God at the center. He has offered input when I ask and has been a solid encouragement all along the way. As a wife and mom of 4, balancing my time has been an ongoing challenge. But my husband is a business owner as well and understands the challenges that go with starting your own business. He is full of wisdom when it comes to business, financials and he is not afraid of taking a leap of faith with me.

Ivy Horn


When you state that you desire to open your own business or when you open your own business you will begin to get advice from voices all around you. So many people will come to you and the sentence will begin with, “You know what you should do...” or “If you were smart you would do...”  I believe this happens to everyone who opens a business but I know that if you identify as a woman you will hear these sentences perhaps twice as much. I’ll go ahead and triple that if you happen to be a young woman. Now, I do believe that this comes from a place of good intentions most of the time, though it can leave you feeling entirely patronized. I have always felt that I should reply with a smile and a gracious attitude despite how it truly makes me feel. I’m coming up on my first year of owning my own business and my advice is to not leave your manners at home when responding to these helpful suggestions but you don’t have to thank the person who just spent 5 minutes in your business and just told you what you should do with it.

My biggest obstacle has been keeping my dreams in line. My dreams for my business are all over the place and ever-changing. Prioritizing what I want for the store based on finances and time is something I’m learning to do. I want to create a small place of wonder for people of all backgrounds and age groups as well as a place that people with varying levels of disposable income can enjoy. I have gotten ahead of myself on a few and then fallen short because I couldn’t match my reality with my dream.

I don’t want anyone to suffer the illusion that my business is not what it is without the incredible support system I have. My family and my friends are a vital part of my business. Growing up, I watched my mother own multiple small businesses. She is the first person I call when I get an idea and I want advice as to how to make it happen. We have an incredible business community in Downtown Winter Haven and I am massively grateful to own a business surrounded by people who are willing to chip in so that a small business can succeed.

Cathrine Kincaid

417 By Cate

If you are willing to work hard, it is 100% possible no matter how impossible it may seem.

Staying true to myself no matter what.

My parents/family, they have all 100% supported every decision I have made. I would not be where I am today without their support.

Lynn Giddings

Spa G & Boutique

Opening a business can be daunting yet very rewarding. One must have the confidence in their abilities to successfully run the business while taking care of a family. You have to believe in yourself and go for it!

The challenges I have faced are moving locations and preparing them for clients furthermore when equipment fails it presents the obstacle of performing booked services. But the recent outbreak of Covid19 has presented the greatest obstacle for my business as I’m a service industry. I look forward to getting back to taking care of my clients and doing what I enjoy. This makes me appreciate my clients even more.

My biggest supporters are my husband and my family.  My mentor is Valerie Carnes who has been a dear friend of mine for 35 years, she is just like family. She has always been inspiration and because of her I opened my spa business. She has been continually supportive of me throughout this 7-year journey. She supports through her charity, Culinary Skills for Women.

Meg Carnley

Meg’s Medical Scrubs

Definitely, if you are sure it’s your passion, then go for it. Life is short and if it’s really something you want then you have to do it.  Do not let the time pass you by or someone else will open and the opportunity will pass.

My biggest obstacle has probably been the start-up capital and now going forward it’s been the fact that I am raising my family and trying to juggle my business and three small children along with being a wife as well. The days are never long enough!  Also finding good and reliable employees is sometimes a challenge.

My family has definitely been my biggest supporter!  My sister works full time at the store and gives it all she has.  My mom helps with our children, and my husband is our handyman and go-to guy around the shop! Without them it would not be possible.  It’s a family operation for sure.

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