Kartika Carr owns and operates Khari’s Café, a locally sourced coffee shop on the corner of Fargo and Jersey on Buffalo’s west side. The café is named after Kartika’s three-year old daughter. For Kartika, Khari’s Café is more than a coffee shop, it’s a legacy. Kartika, says being a woman who grew up poor in the projects, to be the person who breaks the cycle is rewarding. She goes on to say, to give her daughter a blueprint of what she can do is rewarding and fulfilling.
It was not an easy start, launching in October 2020 right in the middle of the pandemic. Carr says to start something is already scary, but to know that it could literally fail because everything can shut down the next day was the most difficult thing about becoming a business owner during a pandemic.
According to the Western New York Women’s Foundation the pandemic disproportionately affected women entrepreneurs. Andrea Vossler, WNY Women’s Foundation board chairwoman says generally women form the backbone of a lot of our small to midsize businesses in our communities and because of the challenges with the pandemic, particularly staying at home, remote purchasing in particular, it’s been very challenging for all businesses but for women in particular.
Carr says those first few weeks were uncertain but the community got her through it. She says when they lost their gift cards, people were just coming in and buying it and say I’m going to buy these and it’s my commitment to come back and she says she thinks people want them to succeed and it is extremely fulfilling and humbling.
Last year the WNY’s Women’s Foundation launched the Women Owned Business Directory at the start of the pandemic. One year later it has more than 230 businesses listed online, and new businesses are added every day. It is an easy place to search for anything from accessories to books and pet supplies. If it is a business owned by a woman, it can be listed there. Vossler says it’s great for customers because they can easily find a woman-owned business that they want to support. Business owners can easily add their information or if you know a business that you love and want to support you can add them yourself.