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Close your eyes and picture a hog farmer, a restaurateur and a brewer. Did the images tend to be male? There is no question that the food and beverage industry is still primarily led by men, but women are making huge strides in the industry. Meet some of the local women proving these stereotypes are meant to be sliced and diced.
As a Latin American woman, Angela Salamanca is well aware that discrimination and stereotypes exist but, for her, the focus remains on the positive and the possibilities.
“There are a good number of women running very successful restaurants. I am honored and proud to be part of this group,” says the owner of Centro Mexican Restaurant and Gallo Pelon Mezcaleria in Raleigh.
Her Uncle Carlos took Salamanca in when she was young, and he taught her what she knows about both Mexican food and the restaurant business. He inspired her and helped her open Centro. However, she is quick to note that she is Colombian.
“I love Mexican food and culture but never set out to be a representative of that culture,” she says. “I am humbled and honored to do so to the best of my abilities. I am also happy to have an opportunity to have a voice that can contribute to the development of this lovely city that is now my home.”
In opening Centro, she hoped to create a stable living for her family but, just as importantly, she wanted to make a difference in her community. “Changing the narrative of my family to grant my children with opportunities I never even dreamed of is my daily prayer,” she adds.
She is cognizant that her role as a woman, an immigrant, a Latin American and a business owner can provide inspiration and hope for others. And she wants to be sure Centro continues to be a place for the community, a place where people can come together and feel loved and accepted. It is a lofty goal for a business, but one that seems realized from the moment you walk into the cozy restaurant and see the word “Comunidad,” Spanish for community, printed on the bright walls.
The Hog Farmer
Megan Sutton Spence is used to the surprise in people’s eyes when she tells them what she does for a living because when people envision a hog farmer, they don’t normally envision, well, a her. Recently serving as the face of the North Carolina Pork Council, Spence is single-handedly shattering this stereotype. Serving as the farm manager at Sutton Family Farms in Goldsboro, Spence is proud to be part of a movement that shows women are ready and capable to begin taking leadership roles on the farm, but her goal wasn’t to be part of a movement.
A college graduate in recreational therapy, Megan went home to her family farm while waiting for her licensure to come through. However, after jumping back into the same jobs she had done her whole life, she decided simply to stay. “The farm felt like home and where I was supposed to be,” she says.
Though it felt right, she had her doubts:
“At first when I became full time on the farm, I was thinking, do women really do this? Is it possible? Am I setting myself up for failure? But then I noticed more women were doing it, and I thought, if they can do it, I can too.”
She credits that grit to her grandmother, Margaret Sutton. “She helped my granddaddy run his businesses. She wasn’t scared to work and taught me that if you had to take on a more ‘masculine’ role, so be it! You’ve got to get the job done,” she adds. Guided by both these women, the farm has flourished, and thanks to a partnership with Smithfield Foods, you can purchase their pork at most Raleigh grocery stores.
For centuries, men have dominated the brewing industry but that’s changing now. Locally, Raleigh Brewing Company CEO Kristie Nystedt infused her passion for home brewing with her 20-year business career to start the only woman-led brewery in Raleigh. Along the way, she was inspired by Teri Fahrendorf, the Founder of the Pink Boots Society, an organization created to encourage women in the beer industry, and Kim Jordan, the original Founder and President of New Belgium Brewing.
But she credits her experience in corporate America as laying the best foundation for working in the male-centric industry. “The leaders were a strong mix of both male and females. [They] inspired me to overcome large barriers to success,” she says. “Stereotyping is just one barrier to overcome when heading toward your goal in the brewery biz. But if you keep focused on the end product, to create a great craft beer experience for your customer and gain respect by your peers, the stereotypes don’t create a problem.”
Nystedt, however, is clear that passion can only get you so far. You have to be committed to producing a superior product and correcting your path when necessary. “Move forward passionately and aggressively,” she says. “Be accountable for your actions and commit to quality. Never let your gender be an excuse for not obtaining your goals.”
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