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Women in Manufacturing: Falling Up!

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Meet the Makers bi-monthly panel, featuring women in manufacturing. The panel took place at the Noble Experiment and speakers included business leaders from Nobletree, 112 Glass House Studio, Legally Addictive Foods and Greenpoint Trading Co.

As a woman myself in manufacturing, it was extraordinarily empowering to hear perspectives, challenges and solutions from women in manufacturing. The moderator, Bridget Firtle, founder of the Noble Experiment, offered her insight on what it was like running a rum distillery in Brooklyn. She commented on how being a woman in the rum industry was more of a benefit than a challenge in her experience. This leaves me hopeful that more women will also be inspired to look at themselves from a place of strength and ability as they move through their careers. 

Kimmee Hoffman, co-owner of Greenpoint Trading Co., echoed this sentiment. She shared the differences in roles she and her husband have in their spice business. She prefers retail aspect, while he prefers the wholesale side of things. Hoffman explained that having clearly defined roles between her and her spouse makes the business successful. She commented on her love of cooking which started the business, and how hand-packed spices you can find in the retail store excites her. There is something so personal about handpacking your product, and I hope this is something they continue to do.

Laura Shafferman, founder of Legally Addictive Foods, is a retailer as well. When Firtle asked a question about how she came into the business, Shafferman shared how she “fell” into it fairly quickly. She developed her business after getting laid off from her job in real estate, and found an opportunity amongst what appeared to be just a hobby within a few months. She turned lemons into lemonade – or delicious Crack Cookies, rather. Now, she is aiming for her "part-cookie part-cracker" to be marketed as a luxury snack found in upscale hotels and the like.

Nina Nathel, Operations Manager of Nobletree also had a similar experience in regards to “falling”. Nina was originally in the construction industry, but decided to switch over to coffee. She found Nobletree through a friend and worked in the production facility. Nathel worked her way up and took on more work until she was promoted to Operations Manager. Nobletree had a very specific impact on me, as it’s a sustainable, vertically-integrated company that is able to source their coffee from their own farms in Brazil. Nobletrees’ business model allows employees to understand their product from start to finish, which is unique to the manufacturing industry, where parts can come and go through production without much thought. I would imagine Nobletrees’ employees have a good understanding of the whole company and product. When employees are more aware of company processes, it can greatly benefit all aspects of business and the environment goals they set out to achieve.

Last but not least, we heard from Sam Arthur of 112 Glass House Studio, who was the only person on the panel that pursued a career in what they majored in at university. She is an expert in her field of glass blowing artistry. It was comforting to hear that it is possible to refine your craft so early in your career. An audience member asked her if she planned to stay in this field for the rest of her life. Arthur chuckled, and confessed to having other hobbies she wants to explore outside of design, which made the whole room light up with laughter. She is currently enrolled in a guide dog trainer program, so who knows what will happen next. Arthur showed us that it is important to have humor in all of this – whether you are switching fields or maintaining focus and expertise on what you’ve learned.

All of these women reminded me of a quote from Lean In author, Sheryl Sandberg: “the metaphor for career is no longer a ladder, it’s a jungle gym.” In their own ways, the panelists shared how climbing this jungle gym is not only achieved through skill, but through adaptability, creativity and confidence.

A special thanks to Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for providing this platform to the Brooklyn community. We are looking forward to more.


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