Once Upon a Time soHza sister Began…
SoHza sister has been connecting and empowering women since its creation, and now we are celebrating our two-year anniversary as a storefront in Covington, Kentucky! Three sisters started this ten-year journey with the mission to uplift women by sharing their stories and connecting women around the world. The founders of soHza sister, Melissa, Debbie, and Vicki, are the hearts of the mission and brand you see today.
Our story begins with the sisters discovering their intertwined love for storytelling and making a difference in women’s lives.
“We bought my mom a bracelet at a farmers market, and it was made from paper beads from women in Africa…and we were so engrossed about the bracelet’s story and how it was making a difference in these women’s lives,” Melissa, soHza Merchandiser, said. “My mom went on and on about how she loved the bracelet, but her connection to the bracelet was really the story behind it.”
With “what if” statements, the idea of creating a business selling clothes and jewelry made by different artisans around the world began. Struggling to pick a name that envelops the brand’s mission and the sisters’ strengths, Debbie, Chief Financial Officer, dreamt of the name soHza. Since they were unable to find a word that truly embodied their values and mission, they created their own; soHza means that women are the same no matter where they are from, little things that you do make a difference, and when a woman’s at the center of change anything is possible.
“We started with Ecuador and Vietnam as our first two partners, Faire Collection was the organization that we first worked with, ” Melissa said. “When we started, we didn’t have a brick and mortar, it was the local women helping the global women. We were event oriented, so we would do events with the local nonprofits, and they would help us market and share the stories with their community. Then, they would get a percentage of the profits but in doing that they were also helping these women that were making the pieces in another country. So that’s when we came up with our original tagline, the whole concept of helping women here by helping women there.”
Debbie reflects on soHza’s impact over the years, and how she has seen their co-op in Ecuador grow.
“Our co-op in Ecuador was like 35 women when we started, and now they employ the entire town. Almost everyone works for this organization,” Debbie said. “We’ve watched the impact of that, personally. And that’s just a glimpse of our global partners, we keep the same global partners as much as possible so that we can have maximum impact on them. But we also value our relationships with our local nonprofit partners. We have real deep relationships with them and lasting ones. And that has been one of the most powerful parts of what we do because we can see the impact on a local level.”
SoHza sister magazine is another storytelling tool we use to connect and grow with our co-ops. We started with a printed magazine and launched a new issue twice a year; we threw launch parties where we invited our local ChangeMakers and our nonprofit partners. When the pandemic hit we had to pivot towards a more accessible feature, turning it into a digital magazine. With the magazine online, we did not host events, which then prompted the decision to open our store in Covington. Now we host our events in store, allowing us to kindle these connections. Bringing these stories to life, the magazine reflects what being a soHza sister is, connecting with other women through their hearts.
The dragonfly is a strong symbol of soHza sister, representing hope and growth. Vicki picked the dragonfly as an icon for soHza because of all the meanings it holds. Dragonflies are about transformation, and growing into a better self. Its perseverance traveling miles to achieve its goal and love for change embodies soHza’s culture.
Starting this business meant new beginnings for all three of the sisters.
“The thing that’s cool about the business is that it brought all of our strengths to the forefront,” Vicki, Princess Creative Director said. “So I’m a creative person, so I love doing the creative part of it. Debbie is a personality, she’s a saleswoman and a visionary. Missy is a buyer, she’s got a good eye, she’s the one that picks the vendors, the jewelry and the clothes. So yeah, all of our three strengths came together.”
Vicki has spent a lot of her career in “the man’s world,” working in advertising. When soHza started, Vicki became the client and she had the creative freedom of branding and creative beliefs.
“I’ve designed all of our touch points, our color palette, website, and most of the materials for social media,” Vicki said. “I make sure the brand is strongly represented and stays with its identity.”
Growing up with a working mom inspired the sisters, she balanced a full time career while raising three kids. Their dad owned an insurance company, he was the salesman, but their mom ran the machine of the business. This became a source of inspiration for the sisters as they hold the roles of mothers, business owners of soHza, and role models for their family and community.
“I would say that it’s exciting to kind of be a role model for my kids,” Debbie said. “For years, I spent a lot of my time as a stay at home mom, and being a business owner, being a successful business owner is one of the most important things that I want my kids to see.”
Being a part of the greater Cincinnati small-business community has brought an abundance of support. With a sense of relatability, the community is a family built on the same struggles and wins with all aspects of the small-business culture. Learning from other business owners has helped soHza sister grow, and we are all about win-win relationships.
“We love being a part of the Covington, Kentucky and Findlay Market community,” Melissa said. “Both of these communities have embraced our business. They have celebrated with us during the good times and supported us during the difficult times. We are so grateful for our incredible community.”
As soHza grows, the sisters have exciting goals for the future of the shop and its storyline. With hopes of expanding and opening a second store in the northern part of Cincinnati, they are excited to reach more people with their mission.
“Our main goal for this next year is getting in a position so that in a year from now we can open a second store,” Melissa said. “And then I would also say growing our community events. So right now we do Circle Arounds with our local nonprofits. But we also want to help local artisans, start their businesses and collaborate with them in the store, and more collaboration with local women owned businesses.”
A Circle Around is a social event with the nonprofits we are partnered with. We invite all of their communities to come to the shop and give them 20% of all of the sales for that day during the event. The local nonprofits always get a part of our sales, but during these events they receive even more. A representative from the organization will speak about their cause and how you can make an impact.
Our local nonprofits are a major part of soHza’s mission and we collaborate on events and sales to give back to the community. With over seven years in business, we have built a community of local women, and we have given over $40,000 to our non-profit partners. Our current nonprofits you can support are Girls on the Run, Women Helping Women, YWCA Greater Cincinnati, and Women’s Fund.
SoHza will continue to advocate for freedom and equality for women by connecting women here with the ethically-sourced pieces by women there. With this, our tale of soHza sister concludes, Meet us at the center of change as we continue to grow and empower women, and remember your sisters always have your back.
“The thing about women is that if you raise women, you can raise the world. Women will use the money for the right things, education, clothes and food. So by helping women in these countries, you’re actually helping the countries because women will do the right things with the money,” Vicki said.