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 as to 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 other women will also be inspired to look at themselves from a place of strength and ability instead of lack thereof. 

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. Kimmee explained that having “clearly defined roles” between her and her spouse is what makes the business successful. She commented on her love of cooking which started the business, and especially her love of hand-packed spices you can find in the retail store. 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 Bridget asked a question about how she came into the business, she shared how she “fell” into it fairly quickly – within months. 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. She turned lemons into lemonade – or delicious “crack cookies”, rather. Now, she is aiming for her “crack cookie” 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, and decided to switch over to coffee. She found Nobletree and worked in the production facility. Just like the traditional American Dream, she 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 – a concept that we need to have in this industry, especially with concerns of environmental impact.

Last but not least, we heard from Sam Arthur of 112 Glass House Studio, who is probably the only person I now know who stuck with 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. Someone asked her if she plans to stay in this field for the rest of her life. Sam responded by saying she would like to spend more of her time in the future doing design, but also confessed to having “other hobbies” she wants to explore – 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. Sam 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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