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Her Story, Our Inspiration: Collaborating with women-led organizations in our Community


Back to Play is founded by women. Our director is a Nerinx Hall Alum (Go Markers! IYKYK) So this month especially, we are choosing to highlight others' stories and hard work, and reflect on our own.

Post-covid and among A LOT of political changes in women's rights, it is more critical now than ever to speak about the honor, respect, and challenges in being "woman-led" in 2024. Women, with their unwavering determination and entrepreneurial spirit, are creating their own leadership roles, founding businesses, and spearheading organizations that are making significant impacts within their communities.

These women are not just business owners, founders, and leaders; they are catalysts for change, breathing life into the local economy and fostering a sense of community pride. From bakeries, to innovative startups, their ventures are as diverse as our county we call home. But in Jefferson County Missouri, these women are not just entrepreneurs; they are neighbors, friends, and mentors. Their businesses serve as gathering places, villages, services for our well being, and most importantly, support for one another.

But it's not just about commerce is it? We could run the numbers by comparison for various marginalized groups. I'm certain these statistics could represent profit, employment, and even failures in their industries. But that doesn't show the behind the scenes. The long hours, the sacrificed social life, the impact on relationships and family, and the financial strain. These are the stories that won't be exhibited on graphs and financial projection plans. And yet can be the determining factor on what is labeled success.

Let's showcase some lovely people!


Meet the Owner of Junie B's Cookies, Terriel Bequette. "I am 35, a wife to my husband Shane and a mother to my 4 year old daughter June, who my company is named after. Ever since I was little I’ve always loved to bake for my family and friends. You better believe I wore out my easy bake oven! September of 2022 was my sisters 40th birthday and I wanted to buy her decorated sugar cookies since we were having a surprise party at an outdoor festival. I looked at local bakeries and was flabbergasted at the price of them!

I knew I could make them myself so I scoured the internet and watched a million videos. Got all the necessary ingredients and tried it out. They looked pretty good for my first go and I loved doing it, so I tried again for a family get together and my sister in law talked me into selling them. I officially opened my business in November 2022 and haven’t looked back since. I’m excited to see what the future will bring and I enjoy helping people make their special days even more special with my cookies."

"Success for me is just a fed and happy family. If I can provide for my family and everyone is happy at the same time, then I’ve made it."


"Hi there! My name is Marisa and I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I am the face behind Deeply Latched LLC! I have always had a passion for babies for as long as I can remember, and that passion only increased when I started working in the NICU as a Registered Nurse. The complexities of patients in the NICU is something I never knew my heart longed for. In the NICU, I worked as a bedside nurse along side an amazing team of lactation consultants. Under their guidance, I was able to get my certification as an IBCLC in July 2022. Shortly after, I created Deeply Latched LLC! There are so many barriers to breastfeeding infants in the NICU, and a lot of those barriers don’t always resolve once a child is discharged. I knew these mommas and babies needed more support.

As a mother of 4 children myself, who lives in southern Jefferson County, I am very familiar with the daunting task of having to coordinate a babysitter for my other children, drive 30+ minutes to STL for any sort of lactation support, and do this for multiple weeks in a row. This is a huge barrier for a lot of families, and that’s when I decided I wanted to go the extra step with Deeply Latched LLC. My goal is to make lactation support as accessible as possible, which is why I come to you! Yes, you read that right. A lactation consultant who comes to YOU, in the comfort of your own home. For more information check out the Facebook page linked above or email me at"

"Success to me is when I can be apart of removing any doubt or discouragement a mother has about her situation. There is nothing I love more than serving mothers and their babies. It is my mission to make mommas feel well supported and encouraged, in however they decide to feed their baby, with whatever breastfeeding goals they have. Often times, mothers already know what they’re doing, but by the time they contact me for support they are ready to give up. I know I’ve made an impact when I can see momma hold her head a little bit higher, confidently take it one feeding at a time, and let the frustration they once had, ease into patience."


"My name is Aysha Korando and I have always loved art. I went to college to major in art, but that dream died off quickly by negative comments by others (the starving artists fear). I first started wanting to create murals back in 2016 when I was doing my oldest son’s nursery but didn’t see it as possible. Fast forward to 2023, as a stay at home mom with PPD, I decided to do another mural in my bathroom and that’s when I made the decision I needed to make a business out of it. Thanks to tHAIRapy and Back to Play my dreams of becoming a full time artist is becoming a reality."

"Success to me is doing something that you love and are passionate about. My 'I made it' moment is when I drive by a business where I have painted a window and my son yells out 'MOM, MOM, Look that's your painting!'"

You may recognize her work on our front windows here at the playroom! Her wonderful snowman winterland has captured everyone's attention (and she's working on a new masterpiece!)


Meet Lisa Naucke Winkelman, owner of The Jolly Bee Bookshop: "My dream of owning a children's bookstore began when I was attending college for a degree in Early Childhood Education. I realized quickly that all of my assignments and classes I loved the most revolved around children's books. I began doing research and created a binder of ideas and potential plans.

All of that was put on hold when I met my husband, and we started a family. Our family turned out to be the dream I never knew I wanted. We made the choice to homeschool our children, so that has been my main priority for years. Through all the years and changes, the thought of a bookstore has never left. I kept adding to the binder, and it eventually grew into multiple binders.

In early 2022, after lots of prayer time and conversations with my husband, I knew it was time to take a leap of faith. God was telling me to start putting the wheels in motion. He didn't promise me financial success, but He did promise that my family would be taken care of through this change. We decided to start the journey with a pop-up bookstore. This business model has allowed me to continue educating our children while still living out my dreams. We take hundreds and sometimes thousands of books to our pop-up events. We also carry sidelines that include unique stationery, pens, vinyl stickers, and stuffed animals that you can't find in any local big box stores.

We have been blessed with many small business owners who invite us into their space for the day. We also rent space at vendor fairs. We hold our own events like Grown Up Book Fairs in bars and Teacher Appreciation Discount Sales. One of our favorite events to hold is fundraising book fairs for non-profit organizations, schools, and home school organizations.

Although I still dream of owning a brick and mortar store one day that doesn't define my success. Right now, at this stage in my life, I feel as if The Jolly Bee Bookshop is already a success. We are able to provide books to people of all ages in a unique way."

"When I see a child so excited about their new book that they sit down on the floor in the middle of an event to start reading, or a soon to be new grandma finds the perfect baby shower gift or a customer shares her recent struggle with the loss of her husband as she holds a book on how to walk through grief...those are my "I've made it" moments."


Meet Ryleigh Ramey, manager of Tanglefoot Creamery:

"Tanglefoot Creamery was just an idea at first, until I turned 17! My grandfather helped a lot. He knew everything there is to know about business! I never would have guessed I’d have the opportunity to run a business with such amazing people. We thank everyone who supports us! 😊"

Back to Play's home school group recently had our first field trip to their shop and it was such a fun experience! The kids were able to make their own rolled ice cream and enjoy a yummy treat.

"Success for my business is the foot traffic for sure. Having people know where we are and coming to support us is definitely the most success we could ask for. My “I made it” moment was February 2023, which is when we opened! As soon as the doors opened, I knew I had made it!"


Meet Cieara Ruess, owner of Cieara Ruess Photography:

"I am a mama, wife & firm believer in God. I truly would not be who I am today without Jesus in my life. I started photography as a hobby when my husband was stationed on the east coast, and I purchased my first camera when I lived in Maryland. I remember charging it to my first credit card, and having a small panic attack over $200! Wild how times have changed. I would always take photos for my friends on the weekends when I wasn’t working or playing volleyball. I truly loved getting to explore and take pictures and it pretty much just stuck with me. We moved to Hawaii, where my husband then deployed, and I started to photograph more couples, people and families. I even photographed my first wedding there at sunrise, and the feeling I was left with when I would leave a session was magical. I just knew this was what I was supposed to be doing in life. It brought me so much happiness, and I loved photographing people from all walks of life. We eventually moved back to Missouri, and that’s where my business really flourished because I had the support from friends and family. I became an LLC in 2012, and since then I feel like I have been unstoppable. I truly love capturing love stories & legacies for people. In the 14 years of doing this, I have photographed pretty much everything: Weddings, families, seniors, funerals, animals, births, etc. Each time I pick up my camera I am telling a story, and it fills me with so much love.

Last year, I officially opened up my own studio in Hillsboro. It literally was a dream of mine for years, and I prayed about it and the perfect little spot opened up. It has opened so many doors for me and I’ve met more amazing families & people that I’ve added to my client family. I love that I have a space I can create art in, and hang out when I need to work. I am able to bring my kids with me too if need be. It’s a true blessing for my business, and I love having a space to call home for Cieara Ruess Photography. I opened the space so not only can I create magic in there, I am able to rent to other creatives

in the area when they need a space indoors to create as well!"

"I feel like the challenges I have had to face as a woman entrepreneur is not feeling good enough. Especially as a working stay at home mama. I was diagnosed with vestibular migraines in 2018, and then POTS in 2020, and my health has been a struggle for almost 5 years. I’ve had to reevaluate myself, and really focus on what’s important. Having a chronic illness, being a mom, and owning a business, I have had to stop comparing, and focus on myself and my family. I have had to realize that I am my own artist. I do not need to be doing what everyone else is doing, and everything in my life is on God's timing. I have to fully trust in the lord with my own heart, and just be “my own artist.” I’ve had a hard time balancing being a mom, wife and business owner. I feel like I can’t give enough attention to my business or my time with my family suffers and vise versa. I’ve just learned that taking one day at a time, and focusing on being the best version of a mom, wife and business owner as it comes is better for me."

"I think my “I’ve made it moment” was definitely when I signed the lease on my studio. I can say at the end of the day, that I dreamt about having the space for years, and I feel so proud and accomplished. I feel like I’ve worked so hard for 14 years, and now I can create on my terms, and still be a present mama and wife.

I love this little job of mine. I love the people I’ve met, and the ones who have trusted me year after year. It truly blessed me and fills me with love."

Check out more of her portfolio on her Facebook, Instagram, and website here!


Meet Ashley and Suzanne, owners of Pawsitive Principles Academy LLC:

"Suzanne and Ashley formed this business to help the community better understand their canine companions. Suzanne started her journey by volunteering in a shelter. As she worked with these dogs, she began to realize each of their potential and concluded that most of the dogs in the shelter were great dogs that just needed a little training, with some cases needing some behavior modification. When her job was outsourced, she decided to become a professional dog trainer to have the ability to make a difference in the pet industry. As she started researching the profession, she learned that there was much more to dog training than just making a dog sit. Therefore, she delved into educating herself and learning about dogs, their behavior, how they learn, and how they think. This has made Suzanne a successful trainer for eight years, with multiple certifications ranging from her Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed Certification to her Atlas Certified Service Dog Trainer Certification.

Ashley started her journey after her service in the military. She served in the United States Army from 2010 to 2018, with one deployment to Afghanistan. Ashley was medically retired after eight years of service due to PTSD. She sought comfort from her own dog, Rusty, through difficult times and transitions using psychiatric service dog skills. Ashley chose to become a dog trainer to show others just how amazing dogs can be. She has been professionally training dogs for three years, with certifications: Professional Dog Trainer, Veterinary Assistant, Bather/Brusher, Fear Free, and Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. Suzanne and Ashley founded Pawsitive Principles Academy, LLC in 2023 to educate humans and enrich the lives of their canine companions.

We look forward to collaborating with Pawsitive Principles for our therapy dog program at Back to Play, hopefully known as Bark to Play! These lovely ladies and our director have been working on some great ideas behind the scenes and can't wait to share!


Our very own organization and playroom is founded by women. A social worker and stay at home parent, myself (Nicole!) loved the idea of creating a safe space for kids to play and parents to relax, feel connected, and also decompress. As my research continued and goals came to light, my plans quickly changed from providing a space to providing a resource. Joined by my sister Brianne, a pivotal person in public health, Back to Play became a vision. Many ideas continue to add to our fire and we still have so much growth opportunity to share!

"Success for our mission is when all forms of play are available to all families; when we can provide help and support for the village that every family deserves no matter their dynamics."

As we celebrate International Women's Day and reflect on the progress made towards gender equality, let us shine a spotlight on any of these unsung heroes—the women who are making a difference, one small town service at a time. Their stories remind us that change begins at home and that when women succeed, we all thrive.


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