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The Women of Oakland Ave.

You may have noticed an influx of business on Oakland as of late, but what you may have missed is something else — that many of these new shops are owned by women. Coincidence? Perhaps not, because while these women all have different stories to tell, they all have on thing in common — a will to succeed. Pamela Cavadias of Cari Amici opened her shop just over a year ago, and her specialty is vegan goods, specifically beauty and household products. A former UW-Milwaukee student, Cavadias had “taken quite a few business classes,” almost finishing her master’s degree. She says that it’s a great feeling seeing so many women-owned businesses in the area, adding that three out of five on her particular strip fall into that category. “A woman has to fight a lot harder to get the same as what a man would get, but we’re just used to it now. We just fight twice as hard,” she explains. The owner of 9 Point Star, Emily Ware, has a completely different background. Ware, however, is a relative anomaly, having started selling her patchwork clothes on-line at 15, then opening her store when she was only 18 years old. “I’ve been open for three years,” she explains, “and the Internet cafe (which occupies the adjacent space) has been open for about a year and a half.” Even through the hassles of starting and running two businesses, however, Ware has never felt discriminated against due to her age or gender. “I haven’t experienced that all. Definitely not,” she adds. Yet another good example of females running the show are the ladies of Rainbow Pets. Eileen Whitmarsh says she is surprised at the new business trend, but thinks it’s great. She and partner Pat Simmons have been moving their shop around the East Side for seven years now, and feel good about the location of their latest, and hopefully permanent, location. “I haven’t felt any intimidation at all. I think for people it’s a little bit refreshing to see a lot more women-owned businesses open up,” Whitmarsh explains, “We came from nothing and worked our way up, with a lot of hours, and lot of hard work. We’ve always done this because we love the animals.” Even in spite of personal problems, a missed high school diploma, a struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, these two women are a great example of what persistence and hard work can achieve. Whitmarsh adds, “People can, if they work hard enough, and do things by experience, do whatever they love to do.”