Stronger together: Your Local Girl Gang highlights and unites Cleveland's woman-owned businesses

While browsing The Wandering Wardrobe's online boutique last spring, Maria LeFebre stumbled upon a shirt screen-printed with the slogan “Support Your Local Girl Gang.” The second-grade teacher for Cleveland Municipal School District had never heard the phrase before, but it resonated with her and she promptly purchased the garment.

More than just a style statement, LeFebre took her shirt’s message as a call to action, and a personal mantra that prompted her to create Cleveland’s first online hub of women-owned businesses: Your Local Girl Gang, officially launched last August.

YLGG founder Maria LeFebreDriven by the motto, "Her success is our success,” LeFebre aims to empower these businesses and the women who run them through conscious patronage and promotion. Her meticulously detailed, categorized directory makes it easy to locate local ladies taking care of everyday items like your morning cup of coffee, large-scale acquisitions like your automobile, and everything in between.

“It amazed me how such a simple idea took off so well,” she says. The online guide quickly grew beyond the confines of the web to include City Series, a series of monthly pop-up events. These pow-wows of empowerment are women-only gatherings that combine networking with an intimate look inside YLGG businesses.

Last month, the Gang descended on Forest City Shuffleboard decked out in denim for a group photo shoot with Cleveland clothier Emily Roggenburk and access to her recently launched "girl power" collection. A business blogging workshop; macarons, mini-makeovers, and mingling at Oceanne; and a stretch and goal-setting session at Cleveland Yoga are among the other programs that have graced the YLGG calendar this year.

Along with creating in-person networking opportunities, YLGG also helps local entrepreneurs launch their ideas. LeFebre recalls one member who attended the November YLGG event with an idea for a fortune cookie company.

“We all told her we loved the idea and that we could see so many different opportunities for gift baskets, bakeries, [and] marketing for companies,” says LeFebre. “She came to the next event in December with a fortune cookie for everyone at the event to try—we were shocked that she had done it so quickly. She said that we gave her the confidence to go for it. That was an awesome moment.”

LeFebre says the member is now working on finding a commercial kitchen in order to sell her fortune cookies at events and bakeries.

The next installment of City Series is this Friday, May 11, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Dress No Evil studio, where attendees will have the chance to meet partners Magan McLaughlin and Anna Rencz and peruse their vintage apparel and accessories in a mini-market. Attendees can also get makeovers from Ruby Martinez Beauty Co. and Sexy Hair by Sabi, and Caroline Dengel of The Wandering Wardrobe and artist Deanna Dionne of Cleveland Street Glass will also be in attendance with their wares.

Want to support Your Local Girl Gang? Have a look at The List for your next purchase, or suggest a woman-owned business here.

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Read more articles by Tricia Chaves.

Tricia Chaves is a 'hair raising reporter' who splits her time between writing and and her Thousand Locks Charity project to increase awareness about hair donation among stylists and improve the availability of free wigs for women and kids with cancer. A former style and beauty editor, these days she's more likely to be wearing her toddler on her back than makeup on her face. You can follow the adventures of her foodie family at Planes, Trains and All of Our Meals.
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