In Her Own Words: Sharing the Stories of Women Entrepreneurs in Loudoun During Women’s History Month

In March 2023, Loudoun Economic Development celebrated Women’s History Month by launching a social media campaign, “In Her Own Words,” highlighting local women entrepreneurs in Loudoun. The stories are told in their own voices, using their own words to share how they got inspired and why it is important for others to follow their #LoudounPossible dreams.

Natasha Magrath

“I came to the U.S. in 1999. I was in finance and accounting as a Controller in hospitality and commercial real estate but yearned to open my open business. Years later, I found the You’ve Got Maids franchise opportunity and decided it was a great fit for me. I started my “You’ve Got Maids of Northern Virginia” franchise in 2017 and we’ll be celebrating our sixth anniversary this April. Just two years after starting our business, the pandemic hit. While our industry was one that was hit hard during the pandemic, I am proud that we kept our office open, stayed positive, and continued to move forward. We were able to keep our employees working and growing throughout.

Community is everything to me. When I started You’ve Got Maids in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, I knew this business would be bigger than me. I prayed I would be in a position to give back and I am beyond thrilled that I have been able to do just that. I love this community and I believe in doing good.

I find joy in being involved, which is why I serve on the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and at Stone Springs Hospital on the Board of Trustees. Something that is close to my heart as an immigrant and a member of the Loudoun Literacy Board of Directors is helping my employees learn English. For the past two and a half years, I have sponsored English classes for any of my employees who would like to take them. Giving the gift of knowledge and upward mobility to my employees is important to me – even if it means they will ultimately move on to other employment opportunities.

People should strive every day to give back to the community that has done so much for them. Don’t give it quick! Have a vision and pursue it. Building a business takes time, hard work, and long hours but nothing is impossible as long you love what to do!”

Daniela Williams

“I opened Cucinamore on February 28, 2014. As a first-generation immigrant to the U.S., I was looking for a way to express myself, my identity, and my culture in a way that made me proud of who I am and where I come from. This is still a strong drive for me. I love the level of involvement that Cucinamore has in the community we live and work in.

My husband’s job brought our family here in 2013. While doing my homework to write a business plan, it turned out that what I had in mind was potentially going to fill a niche that had not been served yet in this part of the country. It worked out wonderfully for Cucinamore.

I came up with the idea because the general perception of “authentic Italian food” here did not match what my experience was back at home. This country was so welcoming, and I decided to use my professional skills as a native chef in a way that allowed my clients to truly experience an Italian dinner the way they would if they were to take a trip to Italy, only from the comfort of their own home! Our catering style is different from most catering companies. The food you eat at a Cucinamore party is prepared and cooked right before your eyes and exclusively for you. Witnessing the cooking process is part of the experience we offer!

For anyone out there that is thinking of starting their own business, please remember that no matter how scarce your initial resources might be (mine were almost non-existent), be honest with yourself in identifying what you can (or can quickly learn to) do proficiently. Figure out if you should outsource some start-up tasks or not. For me, the financial aspect of the business was so different from what I was familiar with in Italy, so I paid for someone help put me on the right track, and I think that choice greatly benefited my business and my peace of mind.”

Lisa Geraci Rigoni

“I started ‘Leave it to Lisa’ in 2008 but rebranded to The Organizing Mentors in 2015. I came up with the idea from helping friends in their garages, basements, and kitchens and a friend suggested I make it a business. I didn’t think it was a business idea until I started doing some research! The Organizing Mentors is a certified company with The National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers (NASMM) that specializes in home organization and move management.

My proudest accomplishment professionally is writing and getting my first book published! It just launched on Kindle and in print. My proudest accomplishment in life is raising a smart, beautiful, and kind young woman. She was a major factor in the move to Loudoun from Fairfax. I liked the schools here and it was great for my daughter and my business.

People should know they are special and have something that no one else can give in the world. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. We are all unique and people will gravitate to you because of who you are. For me, I am just trying to help people find their calm within their chaos.”

Alyssa Sobecki

“I opened The Difference Baker on November 7, 2019. I joked about opening a gluten-free bakery for years, but things changed once my son was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies; I had to start baking to keep him safe. It was during a transitional period in my life when God put this concept into my heart. This wasn’t something that I’d originally wanted to do (I actually hated baking but loved cooking) but I knew this was my mission and I am so happy that I followed through because so many are blessed from this decision! In fact, The Difference Baker was awarded the Commending Resolution Award before Congress within the first two months of opening!

I chose Loudoun because this is where we live, and we love the community here! The community was the reason that I got certified; I felt a need to cater to the food allergies, intolerances, and diets that affected them. The allergen community wasn’t fully served so this was my way of giving back and blessing as many lives as possible, one bite at a time.

People should choose something that feeds them and gives them energy. The closer you can be to your mission and passion, the less resistance you’ll meet in the aspects of creating, starting, and maintaining a beautiful business. Rumi the poet said it best in one of my favorite quotes from him: When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; if I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me and is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret here for anyone who can grasp it.”

Kelsey Mitchell

“I opened Escape Room LoCo in July 2016. I got the idea from going to an escape room in New Jersey and fell in love with the concept! After deciding that I wanted to open one of my own, I traveled and participated in many rooms to see how they work so that I could come up with a plan. We change our rooms about every two years so there is always something new and exciting to come back to.

I chose to build my business in Loudoun because I was already living and working in the county and at the time, the nearest escape room was in DC. I wanted to bring this concept home. I love to challenge people and make them think outside the box in a fun and exciting way. I also love to travel and being a business owner allows me the freedom to do so often. We were named a Loudoun Chamber’s Small Business Award finalist in 2021 and 2022 and I couldn’t be happier! For those of you out there with a vision for your own business, I recommend you come up with a solid plan and find the right people to help you along the way.”

Yasmeen Shields

Yasmeen’s Sassy Wreaths launched in the fall of 2015, offering unique DIY wreath-making workshops throughout Loudoun at wineries, breweries, and event spaces. Living in the east coast wine county was a bonus! I’ve always had a passion for home décor and beautifying spaces. One of my favorite things to do is change the wreaths on the front doors for every season and holiday.

Before launching my business, my family and I chose Loudoun because of the schools, beautiful homes, and community. When considering the market for my business, I thought Loudoun aligned perfectly for Sassy Wreaths. People here embrace the concept, “live, work, and play.” The small business community here is nurtured, there are opportunities for growth, and the support networks help businesses thrive. Sassy Wreaths won the Best of Loudoun for “Art Instruction” and I was inducted into the Loudoun 40 Under 40 class. I was so proud to represent small, Black- and women-owned business in Loudoun!

Building a business takes dedication. If you’re on your own journey, be sure to create your list of achievable goals for each quarter so that when the end of the year comes, you can see your growth in all areas. As business owners, life will present us with obstacles but we must stay relentless with our aspirations and remember to have some fun. My two children are my reason why. Work hard, play harder!”

Chequena Morris-Hall

“I founded Elite Formation Studio of Dance in 2017. We are an African American/Latino dance studio that offers hip hop, ballet, tap, and jazz classes. We currently serve 140 students and have nine dance instructors. I am passionate about various dance genres and wanted a place for minority children to cultivate their inner being. The self-confidence that my children have is my proudest accomplishment!

I chose Loudoun because my family and I are native to the area and there is a beautiful, welcoming, and diverse community of families across Northern Virginia. To me, empowering students through the transformational world of dance within a safe and nurturing environment is the cornerstone to their success, well-being, and overall happiness both in and out of the studio. My goal for Elite Formation Studio of Dance is to become a premier performing arts school like the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts in D.C.

I am also an author of two children’s books: “The Brown Ballerina, Look at Me!” and “I Love My Tutu.” I founded my studio with just $40 and a pivotal idea so to those that are trying to make something happen, remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “You don’t have to see the whole staircase in order to take the first step.”

Caroline O’Neill

“I opened the doors to the The Body, Birth and Baby Center in July 2022. This business had been on my mind for several years; I wanted to bring my teaching and massage therapy practices together in one place but then the dream grew bigger than that. I have been working with expectant parents for over a decade but saw the community and connection piece was missing. Parents would come to class but then as soon as it was over, they were off to find other classes or head to their next appointment. I wanted to bring everything together in one place to help take the guesswork out of what classes to sign up for and what providers offer for what services. The Body, Birth and Baby Center brings it all full circle.

I’ve been in Leesburg since I was 12 and still live here with my husband and four kids. Before opening the center, both my teaching and massage therapy practices had gotten to a point where expansion felt like the only path. Having a solid foundation to build upon gave me the confidence to take the leap And, when the time was right both personally and professionally, I took it one step at a time. I am a huge believer in connecting in-person and providing support to people that are embarking on the most transformational time in their lives. We support families through preconception, pregnancy, postpartum, and into parenthood.

Opening The Body, Birth and Baby Center is by far my greatest career accomplishment. I am still pinching myself! To be able to come to work and be surrounded by amazing providers that are giving top notch care and know that our clients and patients are being supported in this unique way is what it is all about. Typically, you have to seek out these types of services individually but now families can find them all in one place.”