Female Business Owners Succeed & Inspire in Kent County

Photos by Maria Deforrest

Three pillars of their Kent County communities discuss their journeys to success as female business owners.

At the Ice House: Wellness & Community, everyone who walks through the doors is greeted with a sign proclaiming the Five G Mindset. The five Gs are gratitude, generosity, growth, grit and grace. If you use all five of those gifts every day, says Ice House owner Jessica Moyer, your life will be purposeful. And Moyer knows plenty about finding her purpose—she went through a journey of heartache and loss to find her own as a female business owner.

At 28, Moyer lost her 9-month-old son, Steven, to a genetic disease. Afterward, she lost two pregnancies, followed by the death of her father. A wave of grief washed over her life, but with another child at home, she wouldn’t let herself falter. Moyer went on to have three more children, caring for them during the days and teaching night classes at the gym. Once her youngest went to school, she began intensifying her workload and soon reached out to an owner of a local warehouse. Her vision: to transform it into a holistic gym and community. The Ice House opened in 2019.

women wellness
Jessica Mayer, pictured here, channeled her grief from tremendous personal losses into her business, founding the Ice House: Wellness & Community in 2019.

Her wellness and community center didn’t begin as an all-female gym but moved in that direction organically as women began to spread the word. “This space gives women a place to feel vulnerable, to feel comfortable, to feel not judged, to better their lives holistically in a place where they all know they’re welcome and accepted for who they are,” Moyer says.

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Now, she teaches exercise classes and provides life-coaching sessions. She recently delivered her first TEDxWilmingtonSalon talk, discussing the importance of caring for yourself so you can care for others: “You look at the women around you, and a lot of times they’re doing things for everyone else—which is great—but in order to serve others, we have to be whole ourselves. If not, we’re giving broken pieces. …That’s really my mission, to help people realize the importance of their overall health.”

Moyer isn’t the only female business owner working to improve the health of her community. Anita Wheeler-Bezy, who co-owns La Baguette Bakery & Catering with her husband, French chef Ludovic Bezy, was the events director for Chefs Fight for Your Heart, an organization Bezy founded for the American Heart Association. After his brother died of a heart attack in 2011, Bezy jumped into action, creating the organization that would ensure every delicious morsel made in their bakery would be prepared with their customers’ health in mind. “We use non-GMO flour, European butter, no high-fructose corn syrup, and we also don’t use additives or preservatives in anything we do,” Wheeler-Bezy explains. “We care about people. Their happiness makes this worth it.”

bakery
Anita Wheeler-Bezy, who founded and owns La Baguette Bakery & Catering with her husband, Ludovic Buzy.

La Baguette also incorporates a slew of local businesses and products into their own: Local honey hails from Kerr Farms in Milton, a city that also produces the lavender they use; Rise Up Coffee comes from Maryland; fruits are sourced from nearby Fifer Orchards. They also supply other eateries with bread and pastries, such as the House of Coffi.

“Our products are authentic French. We actually make and bake everything ourselves,” Wheeler-Bezy notes. They also create specialty items such as the Cruffin, which is “basically a croissant shaped like a tower, with a different filling every day,” she explains. “We’ve gotta keep it fresh.”

La Baguette offers a unique experience known as the Chef’s Table, where 40 customers gather twice a month to dine on a four-course mystery menu crafted by Bezy. The program has been successful, selling out every month and earning them loyal patrons, as well as a symbiotic partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

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How did this bustling bakery and catering location come to be? Wheeler-Bezy’s mother is French, and her father is from Tennessee. Because of this, she attended schools in both countries, meeting Bezy in France in 1987 and then marrying there. During one of their journeys, they were introduced to the Dover Air Force Base (Wheeler-Bezy ended up volunteering for Civil Air Patrol from 2009 to 2016, after a 21-year career in ophthalmology). Other foodies and Francophiles in the area begged the couple to open their own place, so in 2017, they launched La Baguette Bakery and Catering.

Wheeler-Bezy’s advice for others looking to become female business owners: “You have to have know-how. If you want to open up a business like a restaurant, you have to know how to cook. You can’t depend on someone else.”

Kristin Stonesifer, owner of the House of Coffi, has that independent spirit, too. Born and raised in Dover, Stonesifer began by decorating cakes with her artistic flair, but soon her passion for the art of coffee took over.

business women
Kristin Stonesifer, founder and owner of the House of Coffi.

She wasn’t always in the coffee business, though. She worked as a medical device sales rep and specialist for 13 years. Stonesifer’s perspective on life changed when her daughter, then a freshman in high school, underwent a 10-hour life-threatening surgery. “I felt like I almost lost her,” Stonesifer says, “With my job, I was gone a lot, and I just didn’t feel like having a big corporate job like that was fair to my company or my child.”

That’s when Stonesifer decided to branch out and start her coffee business. “I was scared to death leaving that secure income, health insurance and financially fruitful career,” she says, but she took the risk anyway. When Stonesifer took over her current building, it was an overgrown, cobweb-strewn plot with few, if any, visitors. Now, it’s a tastefully decorated area frequented by coffee drinkers young and old. Inside, it’s a cozy brick-and-wood space bursting with works from local artists and foods and products from local businesses. Even her shirts and tumblers are printed at local presses.

“If you’re going to get into business, know that business inside and out and be passionate about it. If you’re not passionate about it, you’re going to waste your time, your money and all your resources.”
Kristin Stonesifer

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“I love all art forms,” Stonesifer says. “I never really got into it, because of the path that I chose, but I knew that people who made art worked so hard. They have so much energy and so much to give, and at some point in their life they chose to step out of the box. …They made a decision to stand on something that they’re passionate about, and I just respect that so much.”

The House of Coffi reflects her respect for artists in her community, as she often uses it for exhibitions for local artists, including those in art classes at local elementary schools. When selling art from her shop, Stonesifer doesn’t take commission. “It makes all the difference in the world and it keeps their flame lit,” she insists.

Stonesifer offers this advice on becoming a female business owner like her: “If you’re going to get into business, know that business inside and out and be passionate about it. If you’re not passionate about it, you’re going to waste your time, your money and all your resources.”

Her House of Coffi is meant to be a space where everyone is accepted for who they are. “I like giving back to the community, and I like that this is a safe place—to work, for customers—it’s a whole vibe,” Stonesifer says. “It lasts while you’re here, and it lasts after you leave.”

Related: Turning Downtown Dover Into a Trendy Destination

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