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Majority of businesses at NewBo City Market owned by women, contrary to national trend

Pinoy Cafe owner Blanche Vega, left, works with a customer at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids on March 8, 2020. (MARY GREEN/KCRG)
Pinoy Cafe owner Blanche Vega, left, works with a customer at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids on March 8, 2020. (MARY GREEN/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Mar. 8, 2020 at 8:03 PM CDT
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Sunday afternoons can be busy for Blanche Vega at Pinoy Café, a family business that serves up Filipino food at NewBo City Market.

“I work with my mother-in-law,” Vega said. “Yep, she’s the chef.”

Vega herself is the owner, but at NewBo City Market, a woman-owned business like Pinoy Café isn’t the exception — it’s the norm.

According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, which is commissioned by American Express using statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce, women own 42% of all businesses across the country.

But NewBo City Market is home to about 20 small businesses, and more than 70% of them are owned by women.

“Wow, that’s good!” said Vega, who didn’t realize how many businesses at the market were female-owned.

Right around the corner from Vega’s stand is Lori Ann’s Candies, owned by Lori Vislisel, who said she’s proud to see so many women-owned businesses around her.

“It’s very great to see everybody doing that instead of just the male, and now we get to be the ones who can do it,” Vislisel said.

She said there’s a supportive community among owners at the market, pointing to the “taste tests” she does before she debuts a new product, walking around the market and asking shopkeepers what they think of the candy.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Vislisel said. “You have to have fun with your business, and we do.”

Vega hopes their success will inspire more women, especially if they feel the itch to own their own business, even though taking on that venture can be a challenge.

“So being able to have a business and be successful in that, as a person, for me, I feel more worth of myself,” Vega said.

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