Melanie Strasser-King was just about ready to give up on her baking business when celebrity chef and entrepreneur Ayesha Curry paid her a visit.
“I had all of these orders, my daughter wasn’t sleeping through the night and I would break down and be in tears,” says the Melanie’s Bakeshop founder. Curry wasn’t there to place an order, she was there to make an offer—the opportunity to appear in the first episode of her new series Fempire.
In the first season of Fempire, which premiered on ellentube last month, Curry provides up-and-coming female entrepreneurs with the advice and tools they need to build their businesses. Each episode sees her meet with different founders—among them a 10-year-old running a kid-friendly hygiene brand and a single mom leading a teen-focused nonprofit—determining their greatest weaknesses before sharing the guidance and resources they need to get their companies off the ground.
“Fempire is women helping women turn their passions into a livelihood,” Curry says. “A great idea unfortunately doesn’t always equate to a successful business, so I am thrilled to be able to pay it forward and give these deserving women that nudge to take their companies to the next level.”
Strasser-King needed a nudge to build a website. Curry set up a consultation with a Web designer, and before long Melanie’s Bakeshop was online, the site receiving 10,000 views the day it launched and requests for international orders. She also arranged a meeting with Lorissa Link—the founder of all-natural snack company Lorissa’s Kitchen, who shared lessons learned from her own entrepreneurial journey—not to mention 100 hours in a commercial kitchen, a branding photo shoot and and five appointments with local brick-and-mortar shops interested in stocking her goods.
For Curry, Strasser-King’s story hit close to home. Not only are both working moms, but they’re in the business of food. “It took me a long time to realize I could turn my love of food into a career,” Curry says. The meal-kit entrepreneur and restaurateur attributes much of her success to the support she sought from friends in the business world, including actress Jessica Alba, founder of The Honest Company.
She wasn’t afraid to ask for help, but many of her fellow female founders aren’t as inclined to do so. Studies show that women are often less likely than men to ask for help. Curry believes their fear may be holding them back.
“I think it’s a common insecurity among women in general,” she says. “But it’s an important one to tackle. Empowering yourself to tell people what you need is the hardest part, but the only way to manifest it.”
It certainly wasn’t easy for Carlissa and Laken King, the cofounders of inclusive doll company Worldgirls and Curry’s mentees in the second episode of Fempire. After having invested $100,000 in manufacturing 3,000 dolls, of which they had not even sold 100, the twins knew they needed help, but admitting it was a challenge in and of itself. Once they did, Curry set them up with Lauren Auslander, CEO of public relations firm LUNA, who helped the sisters define their audience and refine their brand. Then she secured them a booth at the NYC 2020 American International Toy Fair, an appearance on QVC and meetings with five toy stores. But there’s still much work to be done.
“Even after all of the exposure, it’s been really hard to gain that visibility,” Laken says. “It’s not a miracle, it’s not a magic pill. But some of the best advice Ayesha gave was to keep going—it takes time to build your business and to build that brand awareness.”
Strasser-King has a similar mentality. For all those female entrepreneurs who find themselves wanting to give up as she once did, she offers this piece of advice: “They say if you do what you love, you’ll be successful at it and you’ll figure it out. Obviously, Ayesha can’t come into everybody’s life, but there are opportunities out there if you’re putting your all toward your business.”