KAILUA-KONA — For many women on the Big Island looking for business opportunities, female empowerment and support from friends, Ladies Artisan Market has been the solution.
Aesha Shapiro, creator and producer of LAM, said the group came together after she found herself suddenly a single, stay-at-home mom without a support system. She had the desire to set up a pop-up shop for refinishing furniture as a way to make money, and 14 other women ended up joining her to promote their businesses and sell products.
What started as a pop-up shop in Shapiro’s backyard has turned into a large networking group of Big Island women coming together to assist each other in their goals and endeavors.
“It’s definitely evolved so much more than a year ago,” Shapiro said. “A year ago, I was just trying to find a place to have a market, and I couldn’t find a space big enough. I decided to just one day start the group, never imagining that we would have almost 800 members in one year — all female Big Island businesswomen, entrepreneurs, artists, performers and any ladies aspiring to be those things.”
LAM is celebrating its one year anniversary from 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the Waikoloa Marriott Resort. The event, which costs $20 online and $25 at the door, will have live entertainment, art, fashion shows and vendors, all from women on the Big Island. The first LAM event consisted of 60 women at Island Lava Java last year and Shapiro said, as of last week, 70 women have already registered for this year’s celebration.
Raffle giveaways at the event will be made up of gifts donated from the women in attendance, which Shapiro said is just one way members of LAM show their generous spirit.
“Everyone’s sharing with each other and which I think is really powerful as well,” Shapiro said. “And that’s the whole intention behind this group is to create a sharing, gifting and supportive economy of family and sisterhood together so we can all grow together.”
One of Shapiro’s goals for LAM is for women to have a network of other women who understand what they are going through in their lives.
“Most women are struggling with the exact same things together, but they feel really alone in it,” Shapiro said. “But really we’re not, we’re all going through it together. There’s so much expected of us, and we’re all supposed to just hold it together. Without other women, I don’t think we can do that.”
Other than networking events, the group has smaller ways to continue their vision of empowering Big Island women, such as Ladypreneur of the Week every Monday, where their Facebook page features a local woman to help promote their business, and monthly Face-to-Face Friday coffee dates.
“Just yesterday, I posted something about an entertainer, and within an hour, someone was calling to book her band for a gig,” Shapiro said. “It’s just a really powerful, magical situation that happens.
“One woman in particular, she fell in love with one of the vendors at an event, and now she’s literally brought over 40 women to purchase stuff from her because she loved her products so much. So there’s just all these stories like that, all the time, that we hear.”