Shop Talk: Business for Brunch


On a brilliant summer morning, 400 business-minded women arrived at Rina and Eli Cohen’s stately beach side home for Women Exceed Network’s annual event celebrating female entrepreneurs. This year’s 10th annual Shoptalk event, was introduced by Norma Cohen, founder of Norma Cohen Productions, as her “favorite day of the summer,” and featured a dynamic conversation between moderator Nicole Cohen, founder of Sketch42 and keynote speaker, Leandra Medine, the founder of Man Repeller. The keynote was then followed by a panel Q&A between community influencer and author, Sophia Franco, and six female entrepreneurs. The panel comprised Joyce Betesh Abady, founder of The Juice Theory, Heather Jemal Fallas, owner of Modern Interiors, Steli Miller, founder of Steli’s salon, Sara and Barbara Bibi, founders of Baked by Bibis and Nancy Sutton, founder of both SBH Medstar and Morris Franco Cancer Center.

Irwin Dayan, the Executive Director, began the event by sharing success stories of businesses run by women that Women Exceed Network had helped grow. “Our process is simple,” said Dayan, “you connect with our staff and we talk about your plans and your dreams”. Women Exceed President Kim Dabah followed with an inspirational welcome to the attendees, “Women Exceed Network aligns around a common goal – financial success – and we help women get there with advice that targets their business’s needs.”

Leandra Medine took the stage wearing an ensemble that reflected the original ethos of her site Man Repeller: trends that women love and men hate. Led by moderator Nicole Cohen of Sketch42, Medine spoke candidly about the experience of building her fashion site from a creative journal into a luxury media brand.

“When I launched in 2010 I did not mean for myself to be the Man Repeller,” she admitted. “At the time, the Internet was living through a very voyeuristic era, and so I funneled it into a personal style blog.” Man Repeller felt like an actual person back then, a woman who dressed for herself and not for men. In the last two years, however, the site became a substantial business, and Medine evolved ‘Man Repeller’ into an attitude as her business savvy taught her that it is quite hard to scale an individual.

Being able to monetize was also essential to the growth of Man Repeller. Medine explained how the site generates revenue. “Man Repeller operates on an integrated editorial basis, which is essentially native advertising: It looks, feels and sounds like a regular post, but it is sponsored by a brand.” This type of advertising is proving more effective than simple banner ads and it makes up 80 percent of the site’s revenue. Man Repeller also does brand collaborations – Superga shoes, LoveGold jewelry, Etre Cecile t-shirts and recently, branded hats.

Even with a successful site and a published book at the age of 27, Medine acknowledges that running a business is constant work. “The thing about ‘making it’ is that it never ends. There is no such thing as: I’ve made it. There is no past tense,” she says. “If you can come to terms with the fact that just like happiness, it’s a consistent journey, it makes doing the work a lot easier.”

Following the conversation with Medine, community influencer and author, Sophia Franco, led the panelists in a Q&A on their experience in business. These are some of the many business lessons the panelists shared during the event:

Cultivate a Community
Steli Miller, who has been in the beauty business for 28 years, said that when it comes to building a community, honesty is best. “If you are honest with your clients, they will trust you.” Her genuine warmth and quality services make her loyal client base feel like family. Miller’s mantra was simple, “Start with great customer service and from there, business just snowballs.”


Believe in Yourself
“Starting a business is a battle of confidence, every day,” says Joyce Betesh Abady, founder of The Juice Theory, a juicing and healthy lifestyle brand. “But when you sell something you believe in, people gravitate to that.” She encourages anyone starting out, “If you trust your gut it will put you in the right direction.”

The same goes for Nancy Sutton, the founder of two medical non-profit organizations. “When we first started SBH MedStar, which is a medical service for patients, someone called me to come visit a patient, and at the time I knew nothing, but when we went to the hospital, we saw that we could make such a difference in medicine just by hiring the right people and we made it happen.”

Know Your Goals
Joyce’s personal goals, “to live a healthier, cleaner lifestyle, and to be more conscious of what to put into my body,” influence her business goals of helping women nurture their bodies with good, clean foods. “Focus on what makes you feel passionate,” advises Abady.

Personal and professional goals vary from person to person, which Sutton reflected on with clarity. “What we want in life is to feel fulfilled, whether it is voluntary, paid or running the home,” says Sutton, who has spent the past 23 years fundraising and acting as a leader for the two medical non-profit organizations she founded.

Empower Other Women
Baked by Bibis, founded by a mother and daughter duo, found that their individual talents balanced each other and contributed to the success of their bakery business. When speaking of the value of teamwork, Bibi says, “I am the type that is nervous about everything so it is good that we are working together, she [her mother] is always relaxed and calm.”

Heather Jemal Fallas, who creates custom furnishings as the co-owner of Modern Interiors, echoes this emphasis on women supporting one another. “We are more powerful when we empower each other,” she says. “Be open to learning, whatever it takes to be true to your dream

At the end of the Q&A, Kim Dabah left the attendees with parting words of encouragement to never feel intimidated and to surround themselves with a great team. The event concluded with opportunities to speak one-on-one with the panelists and offered women to visit Women Exceed Network’s new Tech Lab booth with Duane Street Digital, which offers educational resources on growing a business through e-commerce, social media, web development and SEO.

Women Exceed Network and its ever-growing community of entrepreneurs continue to cascade their knowledge and support to women pursuing all types of business ventures. Please join us at our next event. For updates or inquiries please email


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