Meet the women business owners of Minnesota Avenue

Meet the women business owners of Minnesota Avenue

ST. PETER, Minn. (KEYC) — Minnesota Avenue is a popular shopping spot in St. Peter, but what’s more is that over 15 of the shops and businesses along the road are owned and operated by women.

Carol Hayes runs two shops on the street, including Contents, a gift and home store, and Cooks and Company, which is a kitchen shop.

“I started retail when I was in high school. My mother got cancer and encouraged me to start my own business," she said.

Hayes said the women on Minnesota Avenue have each other’s backs.

We have special events in St. Peter, and it’s just a girlfriend kind of street.
Carol Hayes

Sara Nett, who has a love for design, opened floral shop Sweet Alice in 2018.

“Being a woman business owner means that I am highly aware of the way I am serving my customers, and I want to make sure that my employees are able to get what they need while still working here," she said.

She added that she’s never experienced anything like the supportive atmosphere of Minnesota Avenue.

“We build each other up. We help each other out. We patronize one another’s businesses because that’s important," she said.

Megan Willette built St. Peter Laundry Company with her husband.

The two managed it together before he passed away.

“Being a woman-owned business is interesting because sometimes I think contractors or repair people are going to treat me differently. The answer is they don’t. The nice thing about it is I do have kind of a special bond with the other women owners," she said.

Willette said it’s exciting to watch her business see success.

“It’s a really fun thing to watch it grow, watch me get slowly busier and be an established business in the city," she said.

That is exciting. It is good to be part of that. It feels so natural.
Sonja Swenson

Clothing store Sticks and Stones owner Sonja Swenson said women looking to start their own business should reach out to other women.

“Know that so many women are willing to answer questions," she said.

With Small Business Saturday this weekend, many of the shops are selling products that support women, too.

For Swenson, her products are more than just fashion.

Sonja Swenson admires a piece of jewelry from Seeds Jewelry.
Sonja Swenson admires a piece of jewelry from Seeds Jewelry. (Source: Holly Bernstein)

“It’s about our means of being able to help women both here and in Haiti through making socially conscious choices in what we carry for women also," she said.

Swenson also runs another business, called Seeds Jewelry, and sells some of the items at Sticks and Stones.

“We make about two-thirds of it ourselves, and about a third of it is made by our friends in Haiti. It is both men and women, and it’s just our way of working alongside of them in being able to bring their product to the market,” Swenson said. “We also are big believers in doing things right in everything we do. We believe in the movement of slow fashion and just really making sure that people are taken care of.”

Nett will be selling a vanilla sugar scrub from a Chicago-based company that helps provide women who have had rough lives receive job training and the ability to make money.

She will also be selling candles from Prosperity Candle, an organization that helps women refugees establish a way to make a living.

Willette said shopping small is important.

“We want our mainstream businesses to be here. We want to be able to run out and get a new outfit. We want to be able to run out and get our groceries. We want to be able to run out and get special items, do our laundry, all without leaving town," she said.

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