International Women’s Day

Celebrate International Women’s Day by visiting one of our women-owned vendors at Armature Works!

Cheers to International Women’s Day! In honor of the holiday, we sat down with three of our women-owned business vendors in the Heights Public Market at Armature Works to talk shop. Check out their Q&A below where you will learn a little bit of their backstory, what motivates them and the thing you MUST try on their menu.


Stephanie Swanz, Founder & Owner of Empamamas & Muchachas


Q. When did you start your business?

A. I started Empamamas in 2016 as a food truck. Muchachas started right in the middle of the pandemic: November of 2020. It’s crazy to think that I almost lost my business but instead ended up opening another concept shortly after.


Q. What inspired you to open a storefront? 

A. That’s a pretty loaded question! I think it’s twofold – with Empamamas, I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired of my regular day job. I was working hard making other people successful and I figured if I could do this for everyone else, then I could do that for myself with something I was passionate about.

Empamamas kind of started as a side hustle and one thing led to another. Something inside of me told me that it was time. Muchachas was not planned whatsoever. I had big goals for expanding Empamamas and during the pandemic Armature Works had closed and we had moved over to King of the Coop temporarily, where we were open on Uber Eats. I think we were one of the only vendors doing that at the time. It was hard for me to pay my rent and still manage to survive. However, I had a feeling that there was going be an opportunity coming from the changes in the market. So, I approached the owners with my interest and from there it all just sort of happened. One of the owners mentioned they wanted tacos. So, I said, “All right, let’s do tacos!”


Q. What keeps you motivated during difficult times?

A. I’ve always been the type of person who thrives in chaos. I get bored when things become mundane; the normal day in, day out does not excite me. With my businesses I’ve been forced to pivot and shift which I find pushes me to prosper.


Q. Who is your biggest inspiration?

A. Oh you’re going to make me cry…as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to value and appreciate my parents more and more. I think my parents are an inspiration to me for all that they’ve done and accomplished in their lives. A lot of my friends and family have been by my side for this journey, but my dad has been my right hand on a daily basis. He’s been with me since day one. I have a closer relationship with him now than I’ve ever had in my life. He is one of my best friends, if not my best friend. I am so thankful to be able to work with him. He actually works with me full time as of recently. On the day he “retired” I convinced him to come work with me full time and he started the next day. I am extremely thankful for our relationship and couldn’t do what I do without him.


Q. Do you have any advice for young women starting their career journeys?

A. There’s a lot of different things I’ve learned over the years. For starters, I would say that having a plan is crucial. You really need to understand what you’re getting into. I would recommend testing the waters and understanding the industry first. Also, remember that the hardest part is making the jump to leave your full-time job and to really go for it. If you tell yourself that failure is not an option, then you won’t fail; you must believe in what you’re doing, and it will happen for you. I strongly believe that.

The other piece of advice, I would say, is that it’s important to make sure that as a business owner you find ways to take care of your mental health. Your business never stops. For instance, mine, we are open 363 days out of the year. I have staff on site from 7:00 AM to 11:30 PM every day. It is super important to make sure you find ways to really decompress. Whether it’s through exercise or taking a bubble bath or going to the beach or shopping. It can quickly get away from you if you’re not careful. At the end of the day work is work, but who you are is more important than anything. Because without you, none of it is possible.


Q. What’s your favorite thing on the menu? 

A. So at Empamamas I would have to go with Cheeseburger in Paradise and at Muchachas it is the Quesatacos hands down.


Jennifer Bingham, Founder & Owner of Cru Cellars


Q. When did you start your business?

A. I started Cru Cellars and opened our first location off of MacDill in the summer of 2010. I was 28 at the time.


Q. What inspired you to open a storefront? 

A. I was in the wine business in Chicago before I opened Cru in Tampa. I worked at a wine shop and a wine bar separately. I started thinking that a storefront and wine bar would fit well together. At the time, I worked at a big hotel with a lot of red tape and thought if I could do this myself, it would be a lot easier. I had the idea early on and was given the opportunity to open Cru Cellars when I moved to Tampa.


Q. What keeps you motivated during difficult times?

A. Tampa in particular is motivating because there are so many possibilities and opportunities for growth. Having watched it grow over the last 12 years has been exciting. Having a real and measurable impact in the community is very inspiring as a small business owner.


Q. Who is your biggest inspiration?

A. My father-in-law. He has always been supportive and I guess you could say inspirational in starting and growing our business. He’s a business owner himself which has been helpful as a sounding board for ideas. He has always encouraged us to grow. His encouragement has provided us a lot of confidence and support as we’ve grown our business over the years.


Q. Do you have any advice for young women starting their career journeys?

A. I think getting out there and meeting people in your industry or other business owners is important. It also helps motivate you. If you’re surrounding yourself with other people who are in the same boat or also trying to grow something, it puts you in the right mindset. One of the best things I’ve done for myself and my business, was joining Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Everyone is in my same shoes, they’re around my age, and are all tackling the challenges of growing their businesses. The value that they bring, and their perspectives are amazing.


Q. What’s your favorite thing on the menu? 

A. I love the steak sandwich at Cru, and of course all the wine!  Most people who know me know I love Beaujolais, and the Vallette Gamay from Beaujolais on the menu right now is an incredible light, chillable red that is perfect for the sunny weather right now!


Julie Curry, Founder & Owner of Bake’n Babes


Q. When did you start your business?

A. Officially I started the business in 2013 doing small pop up shops in Hyde Park & Ybor and then launched a physical location in 2017.


Q. What inspired you to open a storefront? 

A. I had an overwhelming response and had so many requests for desserts. I really enjoyed seeing customers become regulars and seeing the excitement on the faces of those trying the treats we were making.


Q. What keeps you motivated during difficult times?

A. The love from my family and my friends; they are always my number one fans and biggest supporters in everything I do.


Q. What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

A. While being recognized nationally for some of the specials we have done like the Lizzo Freak Shake and Super Bowl Works was amazing; being recognized locally throughout the community for our work with various local non-profits like Beat Childhood Cancer, Mary Lee’s House, and The Heart Gallery has been the true highlight.


Q. Who is your biggest inspiration?

A. My grandfather inspired me to have such a hard work ethic. From a young age I would help him with various scheduling and work tasks for the small business he owned, and that stuck with me my entire life.


Q. Do you have any advice for young women starting their career journeys?

A. Always apply yourself the best you know how and know that it isn’t always easy, but find a passion and stick to it. In the end it is so rewarding to know you worked hard and accomplished something great.


Q. What’s your favorite thing on the menu?

A. It’s newer, but I love our Tampa Trio! It has two each of our Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie, Nutella Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie and our Fruity Pebbles Cookie. Perfect for sharing!

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