It’s a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society.
As they honor and celebrate Women’s History Month — while embracing its true meaning — these self-made, Made in Queens (MiQ) makers were eager to share what this special moment means to them.
Lizzy Klein, founder of mazi + zo
“I see Women’s History Month as a way to spotlight and honor amazing women entrepreneurs, particularly those who preceded us in much less woman-friendly times,” said Klein, whose creative team designs and handcrafts delicate fine jewelry “that you’ll want to wear every day.”
Klein is an NYC-based digital entrepreneur who caught the startup bug early. This self-made businesswoman and maker launched mazi + zo in 2019 and hasn’t looked back. Klein said she always loved startups and fashion.
“Both make me feel like my best self and that’s the vibe I hope to share with my customers,” Klein said.
She added, “I’m proud of our thoughtful collection that’s made in Long Island City with the highest quality, reclaimed, solid 14 karat gold and .925 sterling silver.”
The workshop, which specializes in lost wax casting — a traditional way to handcraft fine jewelry — is where the magic happens.
Check out mazi + zo’s one-of-a-kind necklaces, stud earrings and threader earrings — designed to layer and stack. Their most popular items are the double star necklace, classic gold star earrings and kite threaders, along with their zodiac signs and initial necklaces. They also design a line of licensed sorority jewelry for 18 National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPC) organizations.
Klein said she’s thrilled to offer designs for any customer who values style and sustainability.
“The best part is seeing how our customers rock mazi + zo pieces in their own unique ways,” she added.
Mazi + zo has been featured in Vogue ITALIA, HuffPost, Entertainment Weekly, Fashionista and more. In Greek, mazi (pronounced mah-zee) means “together” and zo (zoë) means “life.”
Starting her career as a PR intern for Marc Jacobs, Klein moved to merchandising at Guess Jeans. After three years in fashion, she was ready for a new challenge and landed at Time Warner’s very first e-commerce venture. She said she’s proud of her 25-plus years of experience as a team member, founder, investor and adviser.
Inspired by the stories of Madam C. J. Walker, Brownie Wise, Estee Lauder and others, Klein said she plans to develop a collection of charms that celebrate women’s accomplishments across all aspects of their lives.
“I’m thinking of achievements, like earning an MBA, buying a house, receiving a first paycheck, raising money for a favorite cause, running a marathon and more,” she said. “We still have work to do: clearing the paths for women to have the same opportunities as men, in funding [and] on board seats. And it’s important to celebrate those women who started impressive businesses when it was illegal for a woman to open a credit card account without her husband’s signature, never mind [getting] a meeting with a top venture capitalist!”
Susan Varo, owner, visual artist at My Works of Art, LLC
This busy entrepreneur has been celebrating women’s achievements all month long and said she’s proud of her own success, as well.
Following her heart’s desire to fulfill her dream of creating art from life, the self-taught artist and published author launched her “eclectic” company in 2006 and works from her Corona studio.
Varo, who noted that “being an artist is all-encompassing, but painting sets you free,” also believes that “art should tell a story.”
She said her inspiration comes from personal experiences, her travels and the people she meets. The result is realistic oil paintings of landscapes, portraits, pets and more, which reflect special moments in time. She also offers an array of products, like hand-painted holiday cards, mugs, T-shirts, tote bags of the five boroughs, playing cards, books and petite burlap bags.
The proud MiQ maker attributes her talents to her grandmother, a crafter, who created her own clothes and quilts. She said her mother is still a crafter at nearly 90 years old.
“Women’s History Month means a lot to me. It is an amazing feeling to see how so many women are being recognized by who they are and what they do,” Varo said. “I am so grateful just to be recognized by what I do, and it’s even more extraordinary to know I am a part of this historical moment as a Queens maker! I feel I’m part of something much larger than I could’ve imagined.”
Deborah Chusid, founder of Tembo NYC
This MiQ maker is a native New Yorker and very proud of it. Her wonderful products are handmade in Queens by creative sewing ladies.
“New York has a lot of economic opportunities if you make it inclusive and that is what Tembo NYC does. Through economic opportunity, Tembo empowers women,” Chusid said.
A graphic designer with a BFA from The School of Visual Arts, Chusid spent over a decade volunteering around the globe for elephants and wildlife conservation. When this adventure-seeker wasn’t in the wild, “enjoying nature’s beauty and saving God’s creatures,” she was creating campaigns for Fortune 500 companies at large New York ad agencies.
With 20-plus years of experience in the field of “mad men,” Chusid had worked her way up the ranks of advertising to become a creative director when only 2% were women.
She said she fully understands what it takes to be successful against all odds.
“With a sincere desire to put my work [and] life skills to use, creating real-life solutions, I took a leap of faith and left the advertising world to create Tembo NYC — where all my loves, values and talents could come together to effect change.”
With an eye toward sustainability, Tembo launched in 2019, with a fabric tote — with a desire to make bringing your own bag fashionable and easy.
“Needing to find a way to sew my totes was top of mind. I just returned from visiting a friend in Zimbabwe, who heads up a weaving and sewing ‘women’s cooperative.’ So, I just Googled that and miraculously found The Artisan Sewing Cooperative — created by Wishwas — a nonprofit in Queens that offers sewing and pattern-making classes to low-income immigrant women,” Chusid explained.
During the early days of the pandemic, the co-op sewed over 20,000 masks for Tembo. Today, they sew all their cotton goods, pouches, cocktail napkins and totes.
Chusid lives in Manhattan and works from home. The women who sew Tembo’s cotton goods live in Queens and work from home as well. She usually picks up goods from the two women who head up the co-op; one lives in Sunnyside, the other in Woodside.
“Every day, Tembo walks in the footsteps of the brave women who carved a path for us to be treated equally. Our business model is based on empowering our sisters. As females are sorely underrepresented in the arts, Tembo collaborates with female artists around the globe, to turn our passion for causes into statement pieces,” Chusid noted. “Our bestselling ‘Queen RBeeG’ print, honoring women’s empowerment, combines symbols of leadership — RBG’s dissent collar and Queen Bee — with strength — gladiolus flower and Joan of Arc’s shield — as a reminder to be fearless and feminine. A portion of our proceeds goes to the Malala Fund, a nonprofit creating a more equal world by making sure all girls can go to school.”
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