September 21, 2018

A Healthy Crop of ‘Mompreneurs’

While the term “mompreneur” may be less than a decade old, working mothers who own or share a family business have been doing so for far longer than that.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the Journal spoke with several Jewish mothers who own and/or operate businesses at Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. We also asked them what advice they would give aspiring mompreneurs.

Rita Davidson, T & Y Bakery
“I come from Russia and everything is natural there,” said 58-year-old Rita Davidson, who co-owns T & Y Bakery, which stands for Tbilisi and Yerevan, the capital cities of Georgia and Armenia. The bakery specializes in original recipes from Davidson’s childhood in Russia, such as peroskis (a bun stuffed with potato, cabbage or meat, and various spices) and khachapuris (a traditional Georgian dish of a light dough bread with cream and four different cheeses).

Davidson recalled baking for the Jewish holidays in Russia. Her grandfather in Georgia had a mill where he ground flour, baked bread and made matzo. “Holidays were very important but difficult,” she said. “Here, we can express ourselves.”

T & Y Bakery came to Farmers Market in 2005. However, Davidson and her father started this family business, the first Russian bakery in Los Angeles, in 1989.

They began with a small bakery in West Hollywood before moving to a larger space on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1994. They now have three locations in addition to the main bakery.

“I love Farmers Market,” Davidson said. “It’s like a home. Everything is fresh. And it’s family oriented.” When her three children were kids, they would come to the bakery after school. Her oldest son joined the family business four years ago, while her daughter lives in New York. Her youngest son, although still in college, frequently bakes cookies for her.

While being a working mom may have its challenges, Davidson said it’s worth it. “When your kids see you working hard, they work hard to help out.”

Davidson’s advice for aspiring mompreneurs: “Jewish mothers, it’s worth it to have a career and raise the kids at the same time. If you love the job that you are doing, you are always happy in the house. It’s easier for the kids, too.”

Selma Kraft, Sticker Planet

Hilary, Selma and Richard Kraft.

Selma Kraft, 87, and her late husband, Bernie, started their store, Sticker Planet, at Farmers Market in 1992. Their first store, B.A. Stamper, which sold rubber stamps and stickers in the old Santa Monica enclosed mall, opened in 1991 and closed in 2002. Some of their regulars, who came to Sticker Planet as kids, now bring their own children to the sticker paradise.

“I love that our store is such a fun place for tourists from all over the world,” Kraft said. “The Market is such a unique place because people can get out of their cars and experience Los Angeles like it was years ago.”

These days, the family business is run by her children Hilary and Richard. Selma still makes items they sell in-store, including decorative placemats and grab bags, and doorknob hangers.

“When we started our store, my children were already adults and working on their own. When they decided to change careers and join the family business, it was a real joy to all work together,” she said. “We were lucky that we all got along and respected the unique perspectives and talents we each brought to the business.”

Kraft’s grandfather owned a butcher shop in Brooklyn, so running a business is in her family blood, she said.

“I remember he would have me deliver chickens on Shabbat that my bubbe had prepared to give to families who could not afford to buy them,” Kraft said. “So the concept of giving back and supporting charity has always been an important value in our business practice.”

Kraft’s husband died from ALS in 2003 and the family hosts regular fundraisers for the ALS Association Golden West Chapter. “We keep [the association’s] donation can on our store counter and I love when customers drop in their spare coins,” she said. “It makes me proud to have a business that gives people an opportunity to help others.”

Her advice for aspiring mompreneurs: “Follow your passion and also find good partners to help bring your vision to life. I was fortunate to have had my husband and children be part of this journey with me, and I think we made a pretty good team.”

Helga Weiss, Weiss Jewelry

Sara, Daniel and Helga Weiss.

Helga Weiss, 80, manages the family business, which has been at the Market for almost 22 years. Weiss, a German immigrant, founded Weiss Jewelry with her late husband, Leo, a Holocaust survivor.

“My husband started this business in the early 1950s and had 32 stores around Europe,” Weiss said. In 1982, they decided to leave it all behind and come to America with their then 4-year-old son, Daniel.

Weiss Jewelry first opened its doors at the Beverly Center in 1983 and started looking for another venue shortly thereafter. “I was so impressed with Farmers Market,” Weiss said.

Together with Daniel and his wife, Sara, the Weisses create and sell hand-crafted jewelry. “I like to make every woman happy with our merchandise,” Helga said.

Her advice for aspiring mompreneurs: “Success comes from the inside. You must be happy and your family must be good. Keep yourself busy, get up in the morning, put on your makeup, smile and be happy.”