Fortune may favor the bold, but in San Antonio, it also favors talented, young women who aren’t afraid to pour their heart and soul into following their own path.
Across the Alamo City, you can find stunning examples of women under 40 who are blazing their own trails with successful businesses they founded and nurtured with hard work — and a few tears— to bring their visions life.
These successful entrepreneurs bring a passion and commitment to their work, as well as a gratitude for San Antonio and its supportive business environment, which each of them credit for helping them succeed.
Whether it’s a voice they couldn’t ignore, or a niche that screamed to be filled, these women are contributing to San Antonio’s economy in new and different ways, offering products, experiences and guidance for the rest of us to follow.
Owner/Founder, In the Weeds Natural Skin Care
“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” is a saying that fits how Lika Torline founded In The Weeds Natural Skin Care. Or in her words, “When life hands you lemons, make Dollface,” her signature product. It’s made with organic lemons and began as a project when she was in esthetician school. Thanks to its popularity, she took the entrepreneur leap.
That wasn’t her initial career plan, but a severe back injury changed everything. One thing after another kept guiding her to what is now her successful business: The class project turned into a popular product, an Innovative Entrepreneur Grant from the Chamber of Commerce in her hometown of McAllen helped fund her website and the skincare line was recognized as “Best of City” in San Antonio. “When the universe keeps on telling you yes, trust it,” Torline says.
That said, she cautions that entrepreneurs have to be willing to sacrifice. “If someone had told me what this was going to entail, I don’t know if I would have done it. You have to ask, ‘How bad do you want it?’ Most small businesses fail. You have to have the mentality to do it.”
She’s quick to credit San Antonio for her growing success, which includes a larger distribution opportunity on the horizon.
“There’s so much support in this city for small business owners,” she explains, noting Launch SA, LiftFund and the Westside Development Corporation. “Take advantage of those resources.”
And like Torline, always see life’s lemons as opportunities.
Owner, Crib and Kids
You discover you’re pregnant, then have to tackle figuring out everything you need for your new arrival. For Courtney Santillano—and most mothers—that process was overwhelming. “The first time I tried to do my registry, I left in tears,” she recalls.
There wasn’t a store who could provide guidance, where she could ask questions and actually touch and feel the product. Fast forward 18 months after her first daughter was born and Santillano filled that void with Crib and Kids, offering quality baby and children’s furniture and accessories, coupled with knowledgeable staff.
Knowing the market—and her customers—has been key to Crib and Kids success. “Do your research. Don’t just jump into something. Know your customers. Have a solid plan and be adaptable because that whole plan is probably going to change a million times,” she advises other would-be entrepreneurs as Crib and Kids marks its fifth anniversary.
She also advises that start-ups find a support system to help them along the way. Before Santillano opened her doors, a group of store owners in Houston served as a sounding board and she’s now part of an online group of similar business owners who provide guidance, insight and support to each other. “Find those people—they’re out there. Everyone wants to help each other and see you be successful. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask as many questions as you can.”
And know you’ll never know everything. “There’s always something new. You’re always navigating new processes and new situations — and how to adapt and get better.”
Owner, Aquarius Boutique
When San Antonio native Sara Jessop returned home after college in Memphis, she missed the designers she knew and loved and thought, “Why aren’t you in San Antonio?” A graduate program in interior design and a return to a hobby of jewelry making spurred her own jewelry line. Then she decided to open a retail space.
“I wanted something different that was forward thinking, but still pretty traditional, which is what San Antonio teeters on a bit,” she explains.
And Aquarius Boutique was born. Based on her love of jewelry, the store is accessories driven, but over eight years has evolved to feature fashion and organic apothecary. “Retail is a really wonderful roller coaster. It definitely has its ebbs and flow and I’ve had to learn how to surf those waves,” she explains.
Jessop is not one to do anything slowly, jumping in when she feels the time is right for something, letting things happen organically.
“I’ve learned that if you just open a door, it’s amazing what happens from there.”
As for guidance to others thinking of jumping into business, Jessop stresses, “If you’re going to do it, then really do it and believe in it. The doubts will seep in, but really follow what you are passionate about. The passion behind it is what makes you different than anyone else. A lot of success comes out of passion for what you are doing.
“It’s how I’ve gotten to where I am — I’m adamantly passionate about what I’m doing.”
CEO and Founder, Forsite
“I thought I could have a little more balance in life, which is comical, because starting a business is anything but accommodating to your schedule,” she explains when asked how she decided to found her own commercial real estate firm. “But there are 14 of us now, it’s not all me anymore. It was lonely in the beginning.”
She does wish she’d understood how difficult it would be early on. “I thought starting a business, I’d be able to come in and solve problems and make things go better for everyone. But in the early years, you have to get comfortable with disappointing yourself and other people.”
It was the encouragement of everyone around her that spurred Babcock on. “They never made it seem like it was a crazy idea. It didn’t seem impossible,” she notes.
“I was naïve and didn’t know what I didn’t know. But isn’t that the case with anything we do in life? You can’t wait until you have all of the answers to get started. You’ll figure it out as you go.”
That said, she emphasizes that you have to maintain a long-term perspective, sacrificing in the short term to reach a bigger goal. “Delaying of gratification is a skill set that is lost for many. You can do a lot if you keep that long-term perspective.”
By Dawn Robinette
Photography by David Teran