Women-owned business strive for success despite challenges


Maureen Linzaga

Lily Ngo, owner of Salon 310-IIIX, eagerly awaits customers at the front kiosk of her salon in Carson while wearing a mask and a styling apron on Sunday, March 14. She is one of many female business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that have stayed determined to keep their businesses afloat. (Maureen Linzaga/ The Union)

Vacant styling chairs and idleness, the view beyond the salon’s glass doors is a representation of how the pandemic has stirred businesses around Torrance and yet the women behind the shop stood their ground and offered a smile.

Experiencing scarceness of customers for a year of COVID-19, female entrepreneurs like Lily Ngo, owner of Salon 310-IIIX, have had their fair share of challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, yet remain determined to carve their mark in the industry and keep satisfying customers.

“I have experience of 15 years working with hair,” Ngo said. “When I started the shop, the business, I really had to dip my feet in.”

Being a woman in the field of business, Ngo said that it’s not about the career that’s hard, rather the responsibility of building all her relationships at home and at work where partnership is essential to flourish.

“I sacrifice time with family because I want to have successful business,” she said. “That’s the one good advantage of the virus, I can be with my kids Mindy and Jacob at home while the business is still slow for now.”

One of her earliest struggles as a woman of color was finding fellow Asian customers to whom her services catered to, since she specializes in Asian hair and beauty after gaining experience in Vietnam.

“It’s good Carson and Torrance is a [diverse] area that I can get Asian customers and build a living for my family,” Ngo said.

Like Ngo, Baby Bubbles Infant Care owner and early childhood educator Patrica Cecchi took a leap of faith when immigrating from Peru to study child development at the University of Miami in 1995.

Cecchi initially opened the doors to her own home in order to provide care for babies in the community, and officially established a daycare in Torrance in 2011.

“I am a single mother with three children so I have that innate nurturing side,” Cecchi said.

As parents began to work from home due to the COVID-19 shutdown, she has noticed a decline in customers since mothers like her no longer felt the need to send their children to daycare.

“I did struggle financially, unfortunately,” Cecchi said. “I wasn’t able to receive grants because my business wasn’t big enough or wasn’t small enough to qualify for the aid.”

With the help of her team at work, which consists entirely of women, she is able to continue lending a hand to parents who need assistance.

“I have my daughter and two assistants that help me every day, we’re girls, so we understand with one another when troubles come,” Cecchi said.

Megan Fernando, 18-year-old owner of a small business called The Dripberry, found a silver lining to the pandemic despite the negatives it has brought.

She started her small business of chocolate-decorated strawberries and treats in May 2020, taking advantage of social media’s prevalence by promoting her products on Instagram.

“I think without COVID, my business wouldn’t be here,” Fernando said. “Especially since I can just produce out of my house so it’s not that much of a hassle.”

Each order from The Dripberry supports a cause, and Fernando recently got a chance to work with the Kinesiology Student Association of California State University, Dominguez Hills for a fundraising event.

“Back in June for Black Lives Matter, I was able to raise about $100 going towards 70 separate charities,” Fernando said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to help others during this time.”

Now a young entrepreneur, she took a gap year before starting college in order to focus on her growing number of customers.

Fernando had her first pop-up store on Nov. 14, 2020 behind Carson Mall for For The People Market after gaining support from fellow women-owned businesses.

“The years 2020 and 2021, women are really getting more empowered, people started selling their own art, their own products,” Fernando said. “Being a woman isn’t hindering, it’s actually empowering.”