Small Business Spotlight: Local Women Entrepreneurs in Chesapeake

Read the stories of four local women small business owners in the Chesapeake VA area

By Diana Ditty March 26, 2024

March is Women's History Month, but let's not forget that history is being made every day. Meet four of the local women entrepreneurs making history in their own way, creating businesses that benefit the Chesapeake, VA community and beyond. From tech startups to seasoned small business owners, these women all have one thing in common: a passion for helping others.

In the following paragraphs, my questions are in bold, and the entrepreneurs' answers follow.

Amy Johns, co-owner and co-founder of Clipt technologies LLC, which is a tech startup company. Clipt is an app that serves as a double-sided marketplace connecting hairstylists and barbers to people needing in-home haircuts. 

What is the most important lesson you've learned on your journey to entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is 90% GRIT. Most people possess the skills to learn, and find advisors and partnerships to pave a path to success. The people who succeed have an intense passion for their customers and will not quit, no matter how many times they've been led down the wrong road. They show up every day, regardless of set-backs or slow progress. No one will hold your hand to teach you GRIT and perseverance, it's something you have to find within yourself. Learning to be driven by self-motivation has been quite a learning experience for me.

What is your WHY?

We started this company because I have four young boys, and making appointments and getting to the salon has been a huge pain point for me. When I take my boys to get their hair cut everyone is miserable. I've been stuck trying to wrangle twin toddlers while trying to talk-down my six year old from a melt-down, all while my four year old is crawling underneath the salon chair. The experience was unpleasant for me, the salon patrons, and the stylists. I also had trouble getting a babysitter for appointments to get MY hair done. I thought "There HAS to be a better way" and "I can't be the only one who needs a solution to this problem." 

Since then, we've discovered there are people with more difficult issues than just having 'too many toddlers'. Some people care for their elderly parents, or children/ adults with special needs that experience that frustration on a much larger scale. These people spend the majority of their time finding resources to make their loved ones comfortable and cared for. These people deserve a solution. Hairstylists and barbers have the power to make people feel human and take pride in their appearance. Every individual, regardless of their capabilities, deserves that. 

What advice would you give to other women who have a dream to start their own business?

Just Start. Everything is figure-out-able. Discover your "why" and if you have a great passion for it, then just start. Read as much as you can, talk to as many prospective customers as you can, and get involved with other people who are driven.  Create a circle of people who will cheer you on and be that for others.  

Angela Johnson owner and founder of Diverse Hampton Roads, which helps local small and micro businesses network and gain visibility.

What is the most important lesson you've learned on your journey to entrepreneurship?

The important lesson I learned is to be resilient. The entrepreneurship journey can be a rollercoaster. There are periods of highs where everything is going great. Then, there are the lows that can come unexpectedly. Like many others; I've faced setbacks, failures, and other challenging situations. However, resilience helped me to weather the storms, pivot when needed, learn from the setbacks and failures, and never throw in the towel.

What is your WHY?

Being of service to others is what truly drives me each day. It's a fundamental principle that influences every aspect of my life, whether in business or personal endeavors. I wholeheartedly believe that when we help others with genuine sincerity and compassion, we not only enrich their lives; we also ignite a chain reaction of positivity that benefits us all. Seeing the positive change, however big or small, in someone's life is incredibly rewarding.  

What advice would you give to other women who have a dream to start their own business?

My advice is to learn about your potential customers (where they buy from, demographics, what types of goods or services they are looking for, etc.), your competition, and what's happening currently in the industry.  If your industry has a lot of existing businesses, seek out ways, you can stand out from everyone else. 

Also, create a business plan that details your goals, strategies, and how you plan to finance the business. It's okay to review and update as needed.  

Lastly, make meaningful and genuine connections with other business owners, mentors, and your competition. They can be valuable assets to have, as you are building and growing your business. They can provide resources, advice, and information about opportunities that can benefit your business.

Sarah Pratt, owner and founder of The Town Square Play Cafe in Chesapeake, VA, an indoor playground for children 0-6 designed to encourage imagination, play, and discovery learning.

What is the important lesson you've learned on your journey to entrepreneurship?

I have learned to trust myself and to stop limiting myself.  I have learned that I am capable of doing amazing things!  I have also learned the value of networking with positive people.  While I spent a lot of time studying business operations and researching my industry in preparation of business ownership, the most incredible lessons I have learned were about my relationship with myself.

What is your WHY?

I am determined to provide a place for children to unapologetically and creatively play in a safe, clean, and exciting environment. When children are happy and engaged, caregivers experience the ability to connect with themselves and other adults. I want this place to be where you find connection, and get your "cup filled" with positivity! 

What advice would you give to other women who have a dream to start their own business?

Continuously pursue knowledge, and be open to receiving it in a multitude of forms. You can gain a lot of knowledge by reading, researching, and observing but these are not the only ways! Building connections with the people around you or experiencing something new can give you a new perspective that you hadn't considered before. It's all valuable!

Christal Marshall, owner of Virginia Marketing and Media LLC, Virginia Photos and Films, and Nomad Earth Design

What is the most important lesson you've learned on your journey through entrepreneurship?
I can't fight separation from the kids being a homeschool mom and running businesses for the last 13 years (full time self-employed since 2020) .. So to me- there is no work-life balance. It has to be work-life integration. What does that look like on a normal basis? Kids are shopping with me, cleaning with me, in marketing/ planning meetings with me. I edit photos and update websites in front of them- explaining the process and software. They help on job site, throwing away trash and organizing vehicles. We just see it as a part of their entrepreneurial education experience.

What is your WHY?
Being a business owner and homeschool mom is a whole nother level of patience and endurance. 90% of the work is unseen and unappreciated. But my goal is  to continue to have a strong family tie and marriage 25+ down the road. I hope that our whole family are still working together, loving each other and have a great relationship even to the next generation. We are already buying up small homes to have for our kids so that they can have a place to stay in town with their family as a starter place.

What advice would you give to other women who have a dream to start their own business?
Get a good partner/ spouse/ family connection. That makes  a huge difference. If the other half of your family doesn't see your vision and don't want to support you by watching kids, social media help or even monetary assistance, you will feel all alone.  Also, start diversifying your skill set EARLY- take as many classes online to learn more about other aspects of your business. Overhead to hire out many creative services is SO expensive. Lastly, don't go crazy on overhead expenses early on- take your time adding equipment or renting a space. This will eat up your bottom line very quickly!

Thanks once again to these four enterprising women for sharing your knowledge and creating something new to share with Chesapeake and the world!

If you are a small business owner in Chesapeake, VA please claim your FREE business directory listing HERE.

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