Owning It: 9 Women Business Owners Who Are Breaking the Industry Mold

By Alice Laussade with Amelia Schwartz | Geoffrey Hauschild

By

Alice Laussade with Amelia Schwartz
Geoffrey Hauschild
Chefs Sarah Rañola and Denise Apigo of Bahay plating their adobo-glazed baby back ribs
Chefs Sarah Rañola and Denise Apigo of Bahay plating their adobo-glazed baby back ribs

The hospitality industry in Dallas-Fort Worth is progressing, but for some, change cannot come fast enough. These individuals are stepping away from established restaurants, large-scale F&B groups that open outlets on every corner, and male-dominated hierarchical structures. And this movement—the urge to break from the industry mold—is led by women. “Quarantine showed us how much we loved the industry, but hated how it was run,” says Paloma Hinahon, co-owner of the pop-up, Bahay. “Why can’t we have our dream job? As women, be our own bosses and make our own schedule?” The next wave of DFW business owners are not going to hide in a restaurant where they are unable to have a voice. With the strong influence of heritage and heart, these six up-and-coming small businesses are determined to set the new standard for hospitality. 

 

Denise Apigo, Paloma Hinahon, and Sarah Rañola of Bahay
In March of 2020, Denise Apigo, Paloma Hinahon, and Sarah Rañola connected while scrambling to serve the thousands of attendees at the first annual Dallas Filipino Food Festival. “We immediately saw the hunger and need for [Filipinx] food,” says Apigo. When the coronavirus pandemic left them all furloughed, their two Filipinx pop-ups (Hello Lumpia and Bilao) joined forces to launch Bahay, meaning “home” in Tagalog. The “Titas of Dallas'' host monthly pop-ups across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where they serve quirky plays on traditional Filipinx cuisine. Think fried chicken and ube Belgian waffles with spicy banana ketchup. Recently they’ve expanded into serving communal, Kamayan-style feasts. They have very strong ideas about what they want Bahay to be, and maybe stronger ideas of what they don’t want it to be. “We don’t want to put pressure on each other. We want to stay true to ourselves. Remove the toxicity that is known to be in the restaurant industry.”

 

Minji and Jahee Son of Teasom
Growing up, sisters Minji and Jahee Son drank herbal and barley tea in place of tap water or juice. So when Minji was living in Korea as a young adult, she decided to become a tea sommelier. “Because we didn’t grow up in Korea, she wanted to learn Korean culture through tea,” says Jahee. Minji moved to Dallas in 2018, recruited her hospitality-savvy sister, and opened Teasom in the West Village neighborhood one year later. “We want to be the gateway into the tea world.” While their brick and mortar, featuring house-blended hot tea, iced teas, and frozen teas on tap, closed in 2021, their online business remains strong. With flavors ranging from hibiscus punch with berries and a slight hint of licorice to their white-tea-based “Piña Colacha,” boxes of Teasom tea bags are sold on their website and at coffee shops and hotels around the city.

 

Ace Gonzalez of Maravilla Cacao
While working 8-hour shifts at FT33 as a cook, Acenette “Ace” Gonzalez was anxious to fill her days with a gig on the side. She found a spot as a chocolate-maker at Kate Weiser Chocolate, and quickly fell in love with the art of bon bons. Gonzalez went full-time at Kate Weiser before becoming the chocolatier for The Joule hotel. By 2018, she went solo, hand-making Mexican-inspired bon bons and confections to be sold online under the name, Maravilla Cacao. “I always wanted to do Mexican-inspired chocolate,” says Gonzalez. “I love my culture.” She draws on seasonally-related memories to select flavors for her quarterly boxes—autumn means spiced candied pumpkin with a pepita crunch bottom. Armed with a $10,000 grant from PepsiCo Juntos Crecemos, Gonzalez is gearing up to open the chocolate shop of her dreams.

 

Diana Zamora of Nena Postreria
Diana Zamora is the renaissance woman of the Dallas-Fort Worth pastry world. After cutting her teeth at José, Thunderbird Station, Encina, and the Second Floor at The Exchange Hall, she started her own pastry company from the ground up. Nena Postreria, named after Zamora’s mother, boasts gorgeous, flower-covered pastries available for wholesale, custom orders, and at pop-ups at Cultivar Coffee and CocoAndré Chocolatier & Horchateria. Zamora leans into her Latin American heritage with many of her desserts, like “Fresas con Crema” strawberry cake and almond mazapán cookies. On top of Nena Postreria, Zamora is the head chef of Harvest Project Food Rescue and the founder of one of their pop-ups, Project La Familia.  Using 100 percent rescued produce, she prepares a plant-based, zero-waste menu with proceeds going directly to Harvest, which works to combat food insecurity and food waste in the city of Dallas. 

 

 

 

 

Jinny Cho of Detour Doughnuts
“Detour is quite literally a detour I took in my life,” says Jinny Cho, baker and owner of Detour Doughnuts. When her father was sick and she was pregnant, Cho returned home to open a doughnut shop in Frisco, Texas. Though her parents had several “run-of-the-mill” doughnut shops across DFW, Cho wanted her concept to be more radical. “[My parents] thought I was crazy to sell a doughnut over three dollars,” she says. “But with smartphones and social, I knew I could draw a crowd.” She opened shop in 2018 at the age of 24, serving whimsical yeasted, gourmet doughnuts—always with at least one Korean-inspired flavor a month, such as injeolmi with soy bean powder, toasted almonds, and mochi. “What I hold onto from my parents is the work ethic and grit that it takes to show up every day,” says Cho. “We actually aren’t open every day anymore because I had to set a work/life balance for myself and my kid. I want people to know what it takes to run a business and I want to heal the owner-customer relationship.”

 

 

 

 

Olivia Lopez of Molino Olōyō
After years cooking at some of Dallas’s top restaurants like Craft, Charlie Palmer, and CBD Provisions, Olivia Lopez returned to her hometown of Colima, Mexico to study corn. “I realized that the area I’m from has at least 20 different types of heirloom corn,” says Lopez. “I went and got to know the farmers—getting to know heirloom corn.” In 2021, Lopez and her boyfriend, Chef Jonathan Percival, locked down a commissary space and debuted Molino Olōyō. Her nixtamalized corn tortillas, tamales, and fresh-ground masa are sold direct to consumer, through Instagram, and to restaurants around the metroplex. Lopez and Percival also host multi-course, private dinners, using local ingredients to serve classic Mexican dishes such as mushroom tamales with white mole and bayo beans and pinole (dried corn) ice cream garnished with oxalis and lemon balm.

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