Local Women Entrepreneurs Brave the Pandemic to Start Anew

Sandy Olivas

Sandy Olivas was wearing a necklace that read “fearless” the day I met her.
That should be the slogan for the four women who have opened their own businesses in South Pasadena over the past year or so.
They have taken a chance — to offer something different or better in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m a fearless person. Sometimes there are obstacles in life. Either you are fearless, or you hold back,” said Olivas, who moved to town and recently opened Waverly at 1010 1/2 Fair Oaks Ave. “You have to take a chance. Besides, life is one big lesson.”

It’s an eclectic mix of bookstore, cooking school (thanks to the plethora of culinary books), art gallery, café and place that Olivas hopes students and their parents will use to relax or study. It even has a piano.
All four women happen to be part of a national trend with the return of start-up businesses opening around the country. Americans filed paperwork to start 4.3 million businesses last year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s a 24% increase from the year before, and the most in a decade-and-a-half.
“The people who are opening now are offering a unique kind of service or product. It’s an ‘experiential’ experience that is different than what you might get on Amazon,” said Laurie Wheeler, CEO of the city’s chamber of commerce. “They are unique, and they know that South Pasadena is a great place to put that kind of business.”
Olivas said she wants Waverly to be a “cozy place” where students can hang out after school. That’s why she’s open until 8 p.m.
If you don’t want to play the piano in the corner of her store, she can offer Fosselman’s ice cream and all sorts of coffees, teas and baked goods. She used to work in Sierra Madre but has fallen in love with this city.
“It’s literally the perfect space on the perfect street,” she said. “I want to give back to the community. I want this to be a café where everyone knows everyone. That’s what I’ve envisioned for us.”

Diana March

It was interesting that in most of my conversations, people talked about either moving to town, about the town’s reputation for supporting smaller businesses or how much they liked the concept of the Al Fresco and Arts Crawl — both events that encourage people to come out and shop.
Diane March was a singer, dancer and jewelry maker — not the kind of jobs that flourished for her and friends during the pandemic. So she too took a chance when she saw an empty storefront at 1017 Mission St., Unit B. She grabbed it, and Jeweled Universe came into being.
“I wanted to create a space which supports local and regional artists. A lot of them are my friends,” March said. “Plus, I’ve got a place where people can come and enjoy good entertainment from some of my artist friends.”
Thursday nights in the back of the space are open mic night, while Fridays are Broadway night and Saturday is reserved for professional entertainment of all kinds, from indie rock to opera. You can get dizzy looking at the variety in March’s store — from clothes, art, fossils, handbags, clothes and, in the back, a cabaret-type set up for entertainment.
“I want a place where people feel comfortable,” she said. “I want a place that puts a smile on people’s faces.”
Christina Segura was already running an eyelash extension business when the spot next to her now-neighbor Jeweled Universe became available for rent. I was immediately struck by all the colors, the light and how the clerk enthusiastically told me that the place is constantly changing its collection.
“My varied experience and distinct style definitely contribute to my vision of the store,” Segura said. “I love my clients to find fresh items that won’t be found in other places. I source pieces from various vendors based on how they make me feel, not necessarily their price tag.

Christina Segura

“The name of my shop” — Pretty Is Contagious — “draws on the concept that energy is contagious,” she continued, “so when you come in to visit, my goal is to elevate your mood with all of the fun things you will encounter: dresses, candles, jewelry. Nothing takes itself too seriously but are all pieces you didn’t know you need in your life.”
Segura, who recently moved with her family to South Pasadena, has a degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) as well as many years of experience in both retail and cosmetic management and nonprofit event planning. She is balancing her new shop with the eyelash extension business, which is located around the back of the store.
“The pandemic taught me that I need to embrace life and chase my dreams regardless of my own fears or circumstances,” Segura said, “because life goes by before you know it. I took a huge risk opening my second business.”
The artful flower shop Moss & Meadow Designs, meanwhile, is located in the historic Fremont Center Theater building on Fremont Avenue and El Centro Street. Stepping inside reminded me of a florist shop I once visited in England. There were wildflowers and also dried flowers — the kind you probably wouldn’t find in many tele-commercial florists. In typical South Pasadena fashion, I was led to the newer shop by the owner of the florist across the street.
“It’s been a fortunate, but unexpected journey,” said owner Arielle Daxon. “I was nervous, but I thought I’d give it a try.”
When things were shut down, Daxon lost weddings as a revenue source, but gained a lot of business from delivering bouquets.
Now, to pardon the pun, the wedding business is blooming, with postponed events from last year happening alongside the recently planned ones. She said she is booked nearly every weekend for the rest of the year. Daxon’s style is based on more loose, eclectic designs, she noted.
“With florists, everyone has their own style,” said Daxon, while showing me a bunch of what is called a “Toffee Rose.”
She’s still doing deliveries — even to the L.A.’s Westside.

Arielle Daxon

“There’s a big uptick in intimate weddings — with candlelight and flowers,” Daxon said. “And then there are more people who are looking for flower installations such as arches covered with flowers.”
(I figured that the Waverly might be a way to get people to the altar; it offers a date night cooking lesson for two — where a couple can learn to make a special dinner — or you can just take cooking lessons on your own.)
These are just a few of the sprouts of new business growth in the city. I’ve already written about Maribel Valadez, who sells soaps from her native city of Zinacantepec, Mexico, at her shop Raíces (906 Meridian Ave.). It’s great that South Pasadena has some new businesses run by “fearless women.” Go see them. (Apologies to you “fearless men” out there; you’re noticed too.)
And don’t forget other new businesses and those longtime hometown stalwarts who have survived the pandemic.

Waverly cafe
1010 ½ Fair Oaks Ave.
(626) 460-6027
Hours: 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
For information about arranging special nights or events call 626-460-6027.

Moss & Meadow Design
1000 Fremont Ave. #110
(626) 460-6111
Hours: 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday-Friday or call 626-460-6111
For more information, please visit https://www.bestprosintown.com/ca/south-pasadena/moss-and-meadow-designs-/

Pretty Is Contagious
1017 Mission St. Unit A
(626) 818-1724
For information on eyelash extension business located behind the store, contact @christinabeautyprofile

Jeweled Universe
1017 Mission St. Unit B
(626) 399-0066
Hours: Noon-6 p.m. Wednesday, Noon-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Call for entertainment information.