Surge in female entrepreneurship celebrated in New Milford photographs
Lupo Passero looked around the room and noticed something that struck her as unusual.
The owner of Twin Star Community Apothecary on Bank Street in New Milford was attending an informal meeting of Bank Street Investments tenants last year to discuss ways to collaborate and promote their businesses at the Village Fair Days event on the green.
“About 80 percent of the people in the room were women,” she said. “That was a big ‘a-ha’ moment for me. I thought, ‘we should be celebrating this.’ ”
Janet Taub, who opened a photography studio on the second floor of 53 Bank St. in 2016, noticed a similar trend and put her skills to use to highlight the cluster of female entrepreneurs in downtown New Milford.
Taub invited local women business owners to be photographed for the project. She said she was overwhelmed with the response, and 35 women will be featured in the exhibit. Taub hopes the black-and-white photographs capture the “strength, determination and certain amount of guts” it takes to start a business, but also shine a light on the feminine side of the entrepreneurs.
The exhibit will be launched at an event at 19Main from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 29. The event is free, but Taub encourages donations to the Literacy Volunteers on the Green.
“Many of the women who came to be photographed talked about the power of their network — friends and family who supported them in the early days of their business,” Taub said. “With everything that is happening with the ‘MeToo’ movement, the project really resonated with many of the women taking part.”
Only four of the women involved with the project have seen their portraits; the rest will see them for the first time at the event. The launch party will include a message from keynote speaker Crystal Girgenti, founder of G-Force Coaching. Girgenti works out of Makery Coworking Space on Bank Street. At 8 p.m., she will present “Harness Your Power: Live Your Potential.”
Girgenti said she is looking forward to the unveiling of the photographs.
“The photos are so powerful,” she said. “You can see something in them that the women don’t see in themselves.”
The photographs will be displayed at Makery Coworking at 20 Bank St. for several weeks following the reception event.
Karen Ross, of Joe’s Salon, has been operating a business on Bank Street for 35 years. She is part of the project and said the local business owners have created an informal support network.
“For Janet to recognize this will be enlightening for a lot of people. I’m so happy that it’s getting noticed,” she said. “The focus is on women in general right now, which is terrific — as long as it’s positive recognition.”
Taub flipped through the proofs of the 35 women and mentioned each subject by name and business. The project, she said, greatly increased her own networking circle.
“A great byproduct of the project was that I got to meet so many people. We talk a lot about collaboration. It really opened the door to work together and help each other,” she said. “I love that there are so many women entrepreneurs in New Milford. I’m literally surrounded by other female business owners. I really think women are better at this noncompetitive collaboration.”
Taub and Passero praised landlord Gary Goldring of Bank Street Investments for working with entrepreneurs and encouraging the growth of business in New Milford. Goldring owns several buildings in the downtown area.
Passero appreciates the new vibe in downtown New Milford and likens it “Sesame Street,” in that everybody knows and supports each other.
It is also a walkable downtown with shops and movie theater, she said.
“This town in general has gone through a rebirth in the last 10 years. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that there are so many females around, but I feel empowered to have the other women around,” she said. “It’s a sign of the times. Female empowerment is moving in the right direction. Women are paving the way to having success on their own terms instead of fitting into a box. I think we are setting a strong example for the next generation. I hope for men and women to be inspired to start their own business in the community.”
The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmedia