Conscious Consumption

MAIA gives “light and love” to women-owned businesses.
Jennifer Jundt (left), owner of Piper's, and Kateri Ruiz at Piper's Coffee and Burger Bar, 7942 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie. Jundt is a MAIA member.

Energetic and impassioned, Kateri Ruiz is founder and CEO of MAIA, an online directory that connects consumers with women-owned businesses. She’s quick with facts about what might happen if we all tried a little harder to buy products and services from companies owned by women.

“If every female in the U.S. bought tampons from women-owned companies LOLA or L. for one year, the females of the U.S. would spend $2.7 billion more with women-owned companies than all venture capital funding did with women-owned companies in 2017,” she says. And she follows it up with practical information, too: “L. is sold at Target, and it's the same price as the leading name brand. Oh, and both companies will ship right to your door.”

MAIA Is Born

Intrigued? Want to find other women-owned businesses for your day-to-day purchases? Thanks to Ruiz and MAIA co-owner Angel Rowell, now you can. Since MAIA’s conception in 2018, Ruiz has identified and listed nearly 700,000 women-owned businesses from around the country. MAIA’s “conscientious consumers” now have access to tailors, dog and cat food producers, window cleaners, house sitters and tax return preparers and much, much more—all in women-owned businesses. (The name MAIA is an acronym made up of Ruiz’s four daughters’ names.)

“There are about 11 million women-owned businesses across the country,” Ruiz says, with businesses owned by women of color being the fastest-growing sector. Motivating Ruiz’s labor of building a directory giving light and love to as many of these 11 million women as she can are two principles, she says. Women need opportunities for financial independence, and we all need to realize how under-represented women are at the highest levels of business leadership. Progress onto the Forbes 500 list, now featuring only five percent women-owned businesses, says Ruiz, starts with consumers practicing the “values-based purchasing” that raises up women entrepreneurs.

Common Endeavor, Unique Goals

MAIA co-owner Rowell’s title includes COO, but she is quick to say that while she does a lot of its content writing and computer work, and Ruiz handles the public speaking, both pretty much “do it all." Rowell’s background is in project management and technology; Ruiz’s is in business management. “Kateri had the idea,” says Rowell. “Angel has the technological skills,” says Ruiz. “Affordable website development is key” to their business and the businesses of other women.

Rowell’s current efforts are aimed at maximizing the searchability of any of their current 700,000 listings, including advanced search capabilities documenting a business’ environmental responsibility, for example, or its dedication to employing minorities. She’s also working to link the business listings with their websites and social media outlets. Ruiz’s goal is to make MAIA’s 700,000 listings approach the 11 million women-owned businesses out there, and to have every one of the 165 million female consumers in the U.S. on the site, as well.

Values-based Purchasing

People want to spend their money in alignment with their values, Ruiz says. “We want women to understand the power of their purchasing dollars and what impact we’d have if we were more conscientious consumers,” she says.

To get started, consumers can create a free account at maia.community. Women, who own businesses, can list their companies on the MAIA directory, free of charge. For as little as $100/year, business owners can add a photo and/or logo, back up the listing with a full page of business information and make the listing multiply-searchable in the MAIA online directory.