Women-owned businesses making a mark in Dayton

A cat at the Gem City Catfe shows off for the camera. Photo courtesy of Sydney Vanhorn.

Kaitlin Lewis & Tori Miller
News EditorContributing Writer

In honor of Women’s History Month, Flyer News wanted to highlight the story of a few women-owned businesses nearby campus. The two businesses we spoke to are only a small fraction of the amazing impact that women entrepreneurs have had on the Dayton community. 

Gem City Catfe

With the idea starting at the end of 2016 and finally opening in 2018, the Gem City Catfe is a proud women-owned business in Dayton. The primary focus of this coffeehouse and cat corral combination is to not only get kitties adopted, but to address a niche that wasn’t being filled. The head Cat Care Manager, Sydney Vanhorn shared that educating the Dayton community on proper animal healthcare and well-being was the main inspiration for starting the Gem City Catfe.

“When people go to a coffee shop, they’re not expecting to get a coffee sleeve that has animal information on it, or they’re not expecting, if they start a conversation with us about the cats and stuff to kind of learn about local laws and things that we can do to change them” Vanhorn said.

Photo courtesy of Vanhorn

The catfe had a few minor bumps in the road along the process of opening, such as some customers not understanding how the business works. 

“There’s been a lot of little challenges along the way, you know, here and there, things pop up just like with any business you know you’re gonna have all the little things, but we’ve overcome them pretty well,” Vanhorn said. “I think one thing was the very beginning of this is explaining to everybody what we were, you know, most people they didn’t really understand cats plus coffee.” 

The Gem City Catfe represents more than just cats and coffee. Vanhorn talks about how it’s important to show that women running a business can be done and that it can be done well. She emphasizes that just because somebody is a woman doesn’t mean their business is doomed to fail from the start. Vanhorn also shares that because of her experience, she learned more about entrepreneurship and that women can do anything they want with the right mentality.

“My favorite part of being a part of the team is it’s just that this is a really nice close knit team, and I’m just really glad to be a part of a healthy work environment that really puts employees first,” Vanhorn said.

The Gem City Catfe is still up and running while following COVID-19 guidelines. This is one of many women-owned businesses in Dayton that empowers future businesswomen to follow in their footsteps.

Check out the Cats at: 1513 E 5th St, Dayton, OH 45403 or see more pictures on their Instagram page.

St. Anne the Tart

Inspired by the historical neighborhood St. Anne’s Hill, St. Anne the Tart stands for something more than coffee and pastries. 

Owner Megan Smith started the Tart in March 2019. Smith had previously worked an array of jobs, from owning a bakery and a 100-year-old post office on a cattle farm in Kentucky to pursuing a career in publishing. Smith said that after moving to Dayton and “discovering the charm” of St. Anne’s Hill, she decided to “set publishing aside and pick up my apron once again.”

“I loved the idea of opening a space on the hill for good coffee, handmade pastries and a community-center giveback,” Smith said. 

The 150-year-old building Smith chose in St. Anne’s Hill was previously a violin shop, and it took two years to turn the space into a functional coffee shop. Smith said that on top of setting up plumbing and electric, she also spent those two years interviewing candidates and finding the right team of people. While some of her previous experience came in handy for the Tart, Smith called most of her business strategy “a little unconventional.”

“I didn’t have the chance to go to college so much of my business acumen is from years of learning from mentors,” Smith said. “So, with St. Anne the Tart, like any of my other ventures, the process definitely wasn’t all that linear.”

Now going on three years, the Tart has seen its fair share of success, and challenges. Only two months after it’s grand opening, May 2019 brought a tornado outbreak in Dayton, and in August 2019, nine people were killed in a mass shooting in the Oregon District. Just after the Tart turned a year old, COVID-19 hit, and many businesses had to close for weeks. Smith said that the Tart was fortunate from the start to have a loyal following, and even through these challenges, the coffee shop has been able to endure.

“This [was] a devastating hit for such a young business,” Smith said. “Yet, we were never without our customer base. Now we look to pivot and spread our wings a bit more into the city.”

Ontop of learning from mentors through her years of work, Smith also learned how to be an entrepreneur through watching her mother. Smith said that while she has owned businesses for over 20 years, she has never thought of herself as a “women-owned business;” rather, she thinks of herself as a hard worker.

“I grew up with a single mom who worked in mortgage banking with all men and, for good or bad, our dinner conversations never were about gender in the workplace,” Smith said. “I have only known to just work hard, work diligently and work ethically.”

Smith said that she is excited to continue to watch St. Anne the Tart grow, thrive and change as it spreads further into the community.

You can visit St. Anne the Tart at 1500 E 5th St, Dayton, OH 45403, or you can check out more of what they’re about by following them on Instagram

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Here are some other Dayton women-owned businesses to check out:

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