King's Pepper Owner Gail Jennings created an award-winning dry spice blend, made from a centuries-old West African recipe. (Image from King's Pepper) King's Pepper
King's Pepper Owner Gail Jennings created an award-winning dry spice blend, made from a centuries-old West African recipe. (Image from King's Pepper)

We talked to some of our favorite women-owned businesses about what’s inspiring them, what they’re listening to, and where they’re shopping.

In my younger days, I never gave thought to where I purchased an item. It was just an exchange of money for a product. 

But my purchasing patterns have changed over time. I consider the shop’s ownership–women or person of color? What is supported within it–local makers or fair trade? Why did they become an entrepreneur–family tradition or second career?

I also appreciate knowing the story behind what I’m buying. When I found a coconut fiber toilet brush at Fill-More, an eco general store in Burnsville, North Carolina, I learned why it’s so much better than a big box store item (and it truly is).

Thinking about spreading your dollars within North Carolina? Start here with these eight women-owned businesses in Durham:

Hamilton Hill Jewelry

For more than 20 years, Sarah Hill has been selling fine jewelry designed by local, national and international artists. Eighty percent of the pieces are handmade. 

Memorable moment: “On opening day when the first customer came through the door, I knew it was right.”

Last book read: “Not long enough vacations lately to read a whole book! Articles in The New Yorker are great every week. And skimming ‘Born to Kvetch’ to learn a little Yiddish has been a blast.”

Favorite quote: “‘Things always look better in the morning.’” 

Community involvement: “We’ve supported local performing arts, college radio, theater, Planned Parenthood, and more.” 

Where to shop: Brightleaf Square, 905 West Main St., Durham

Honeygirl Meadery

Diane Currier opened Honeygirl Meadery, an award-winning urban meadery, in 2014. The business specializes in small-batch seasonal meads: wines made from honey. “We source local fruits, flowers, and herbs from small North Carolina farms,” Currier says. “We hand-select the best honey from local apiaries and from around the world to create our meads.”

Where she finds inspiration: By taking hikes in nature 

Surprising fact: “I started my business when I was 50.”

Go-to podcast: “I am absolutely in love with ‘We Can Do Hard Things.’”

Where to shop: 105 Hood St., Unit # 6, Durham

Honeygirl Meadery
Diane Currier’s Honeygirl Meadery specializes in small-batch seasonal meads: wines made from honey. (Image via Honeygirl Meadery)

Indio

Indio opened in 2015 with locally made and imported jewelry, home goods, stationery, and apothecary items. “Locally made goods sit beside products imported from Mexico, Tunisia and India creating an exciting retail experience that tempts all the senses,” says Indio owner Wendy Sease.

Favorite app: Tie between Shazam and Blinkist

Go-to podcast: Mr. Ballen

Local recommendation: Plum Southern Kitchen and Bar 

Philosophy: “Thoughtful commerce. Less quantity and more quality. Bigger and faster is not better.”

Secret power: “One foot in front of the other: I’m always surprised when I look back and realize where I’ve come from and it was simply one foot in front of the other, taking the next little step, that got me where I am.”

Store Vibe: Chill

Shop: 905 W. Main St., Suite 20G, Durham

Indio in Durham
Wendy Sease, who opened Durham jewelry and home goods shop Indio in 2015, says her philosophy is “one foot in front of the other.” (Image via Indio)

King’s Pepper

Gail Jennings founded King’s Pepper in 2018. She’s created an award-winning dry spice blend, made from a centuries-old West African recipe. “It’s the key ingredient in our African Taco kit which uses black-eyed peas to make vegan patties,” Jennings says. “I’m very proud of the 2022 Scovie Award we won for it. It’s a sweet reward for hanging on through the ups and downs.” 

Memorable moment: “A young man I met last year in Raleigh at the State Fair tasted the pepper and said that he liked it.  He said, ‘Usually, I come out here and I only support my kind, you know,’ and he tilted his head toward the white couple in the booth next to me. ‘But I’m trying to change. And today, I’m going to support you.’”

Advice: “Take advantage of the resources and support systems in your area. I’m indebted to WE Power Food, a group of women in the food business.”

Surprising fact: “I taught myself to make earrings from 35mm film trailers when I worked in the film department at ABC-TV in Hollywood.” 

Where to shop: Shop online or at one of these retailers.

Little Barb’s Bakery 

Barbara Nigro started Little Barb’s Bakery in 2021 from her home. A year later, she opened a storefront in the downtown Durham Food Hall with homemade chocolate chip cookies, cake slices, and cheesecake.

Where she finds inspiration: “My parents. I helped them open a pizzeria in Cookeville, Tennessee. Without them, I would not have had the courage to open a bakery on my own.” 

Surprising fact: “I am the youngest of nine.”

Achievement: “After spending the last 10 years pursuing a career in the health field, I am finally doing what I am passionate about. This bakery is a dream come true.” 

Where to shop: 530 Foster St., Suite 1, Durham

Melanated Wine and Spirits

Lashonda Modest founded Melanated Wine almost a year ago. She wanted to de-complicate wine and “uncork the culture,” the company’s motto. 

“The minority community has been overlooked in the area of wine,” Modest says. “I often felt that when I went grocery shopping or occasionally visited a wine shop or explored a vineyard, there was nothing that spoke to people like me.” 

Where she finds inspiration: “I’m a researcher by trade, and I’m constantly doing a deep dive into why certain wines taste the way they do and which grapes can and cannot be combined during the blending session.” 

Favorite quote: “‘Your life is what you decide it to be.’”

Philosophy: “It’s great that you want to support a minority-owned business but the goal of Melanated Wine is to earn your business with exceptional customer service and an experience you cannot get anywhere else.”

Where to shop: 4608 Industry Lane, Suite F, Durham

Melanated Wine
LaShonda Modest of Durham’s Melanated Wine says people of color have been overlooked in the wine community. (Image via Melanated Wine)

Two Sisters Adventure Company

Last year, sisters Natasha Teasley and Rainbow Teasley opened an outdoor recreation company offering trips for individuals and groups. “Two Sisters Adventure Co. was born out of the desire to create a more respectful and inviting environment for all people,” Natasha says. “We are committed to removing boundaries to the outdoors.” 

How she unwinds: “Relaxing with my dog. She is a 13-year-old pitbull rescue.” 

Biggest hurdle: “I had to find the courage to step off the edge. I had wanted to start my own business for years but I was very low-income and came from a low-income family and had no idea how I could afford it.” 

Advice: “Trust yourself but also find other women that you can talk to and trust.” 

Local recommendation: Bright Black Candles in Durham

Trips: Book online

The ZEN Succulent

Megan Cain opened The ZEN Succulent in 2012 to provide life, joy, and inspiration with plants and thoughtfully made gifts from local and regional makers throughout the United States. “We source and craft all of our products with care,” she says, “ensuring that any treasures you find at the ZEN Succulent are special,  just like you.”

First job: “I was a milkshake maker at Cheeburger Cheeburger.” 

Local recommendation: Parker & Otis  

Where to shop: 123 Market St., Suite B, Durham and 208 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh