Girl Power! On October 11th, girls around the world will come together to celebrate International Day of the Girl. This international observance day was declared by the United Nations with hopes to raise awareness of the obstacles faced by girls all over the world and to celebrate their achievements. We are proud to highlight some of the amazing young women in Essex County who are doing incredible things and inspiring others along the way. Read on to learn more about them and their stories.
Founder of TheBlackMerchants.com
Khadie Parsley is an East Orange resident, a Junior at Montclair State University, and the Founder of TheBlackMerchants.com. TheBlackMerchants is a website Khadie created earlier this year to showcase local black-owned businesses. “I wanted to create a one-stop-shop for those who would like to support their local black businesses. I have added stores manually but businesses are also able to do so themselves and have the option to list products on my free marketplace” says Khadie.
Khadie added, “I created the site because I was tired of scrolling through Instagram trying to find the perfect place for me to get my hair done. I thought there should be an easier way to do this. I wanted to provide the lesser-known businesses a chance to shine by implementing a fair rating system. In order to rate you must create an account, so spamming is kept to a minimum” she continues.
The website is free for businesses to sign up as she is avoiding a ‘pay for exposure’ experience. She created the site by watching YouTube tutorials and receiving help from the website hosting a live chat to get up and running. To learn more or to have a black-owned business featured on her site, visit it here.
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Jada Bednar, Ava Tsettos, and Ellie Ghingo
Founders of JAÉ Candles & Co.
Jada Bednar, Ava Tsettos, and Ellie Ghingo are three Essex County middle school students and best friends who turned a passion project into a business. The trio launched JAÉ Candles & Co., a collection of hand-poured, all-natural soy wax candles that began in their parent’s kitchen during the pandemic. The girls’ goal was to spread love and light during the dark times. Now, a year later, they are celebrating their one-year business anniversary on October 11th which also happens to be International Day of the Girl.
Although they had no prior experience with candle making, the friends discovered how much they enjoyed crafting together, and began selling their candles door-to-door, through word of mouth and on social media. They realized that their newfound hobby had the potential to become a full-time business. One year later, the trio has an e-commerce site, products available in several local retail locations, have been featured in local magazines, on CBS and NBC, and are working on launching their Holiday 2021 Collection.
But the girls aren’t just passionate about candle-making; they are committed to giving back to their community. The brand’s motto, ‘spreading love and light one candle at a time,’ takes on new meaning upon learning of the girls’ commitment to giving back. The trio has partnered with Team Zoey, a New Jersey-based organization dedicated to raising money for the Progeria Research Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to find a cure and develop treatments for all the kids suffering from this disease, which is a rare progressive, genetic disorder. The brand recently announced a partnership with Greens Do Good, the first social enterprise vertical farm in New Jersey where all the profits support individuals with autism. JAÉ Candles and Co. created an exclusive scent for the partnership and all proceeds will benefit this organization.
To shop the candles click here.
Ginger Uhlfelder is a 16-year-old Junior at Montclair High School. In between being a hard-working student, Stage Manager and Treasurer for the SVPA, School of Visual and Performing Arts, she recently directed and produced a musical production of “Mamma Mia” in the Catskills, wrangling a cast of adults and children and a tech crew of teens to put on an incredible and noteworthy performance. Ginger took on the entire production, from ideation to creating a temporary semi-outdoor theater from scratch. But this isn’t Ginger’s first rodeo.
She started directing shows at Rosmarin’s Bungalow Colony, a summer community in a bucolic setting just over one hour from New York City at the age of 14. She wanted to create an opportunity for the talented adults vacationing there, the chance to star and be a part of a production. She used summer 2019 for planning, choosing “Grease” for the first show in hopes to stage it for summer 2020. At the time, Ginger couldn’t imagine what summer 2020 would bring due to the pandemic, but the community theater was excited and motivated and the cast was able to practice and perform outside with masks, safely. “Grease” was such a huge success that Ginger decided to do a second show, this time, “Mamma Mia”. It was performed in late August 2021, with a cast of all ages and a pop-up theater made in the pavilion on a stage built onto a tractor truck bed.
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Arabella Egan is a 10th-grade student at Montclair High School. She’s a straight A-student, in her second year of AP Spanish and is teaching herself Japanese. When she’s not exceeding expectations in the classroom, she’s making magic and inspiring others with her voice, creativity, and piano.
Arabella is a singer/songwriter and was featured on “The Today Show” in 2020 during quarantine as she performed the first song she ever wrote ‘Take it One Step at a Time.’ The song was written to comfort people during the pandemic and after the murder of George Floyd. Arabella has since written several more beautiful songs and plans to record an album. During quarantine, she also completed a 650-page manuscript for her own young adult novel that addresses many issues young adults are experiencing in the US.
You can listen to Arabella’s song here.