Paca Girlfriends Celebrate Women Entrepreneurs

By Mary Ann Treger | Photography by Heather Crowder


Mary Petersen, Founder and President of CAFÉ (Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education) and Paca Girlfriends Committee Member

What’s rule number one for a successful entrepreneur? Find a need and fill it. That’s exactly what Mary Petersen did in the food industry.

In 2002 she launched, CAFÉ, an organization that helps professional chefs stay connected. The company links the food service industry with food service classrooms across the country so instructors stay up to date with food trends and best educational practices. Petersen offers culinary, baking, pastry, and hospitality programs to high schools and colleges that are staffed by professional instructors and chefs. She also oversees an interactive web site and organizes regional and national meetings that share best practices among food service instructors. (Petersen is also Editor-in-Chief of CAFÉ’s online magazine, The Gold Medal Classroom.)

So how did this unique idea happen?

After running an Annapolis-based secretarial school from 1973-1984, Petersen volunteered to help the Baltimore International College get nationally accredited. She accomplished that goal and was soon hired by the American Culinary Federation (ACF)—the largest chef’s organization in the U.S.—to set up an accreditation commission. Petersen served as Director of Accreditation and was responsible for overseeing the accreditation of 100 programs.

She realized that the existing professional organizations were focused on chefs. “I was interested in helping chef instructors stay up to date with their skills and practice educational best practices,” says Petersen.

The idea for CAFÉ—the organization and magazine—was born.

Petersen has received many prestigious awards and degrees including an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Art Institute of Colorado. But perhaps the most impressive one is being inducted into the Honorable Order of the Golden Toque (Golden Chefs Hat) as a lifetime honorary member. This is the highest recognition a Chef can receive in America. There are only 100 members plus a handful of honorary members, even fewer women. Julia Child and Mary Petersen are two of them. Need we say more?

Visit the CAFÉ website at



Sheilah Ruppert, Founder of Spunkwear

In 2009, long time Kent Island resident Sheilah Ruppert was selling just three Spunkwear items—colorful spandex compression shorts, sports bras for girl athletes, and the original Spunkwear dress for their moms. They were sold primarily at Maryland’s girls summer Lacrosse tournaments. Spunkwear’s fan base grew as lacrosse moms from all over the country returned home wearing Spunkwear dresses.

Ruppert was one of the first sponsors of Paca Girlfriends. Each year her Paca “store” has become one of the shopping highlights of the event. Her clothing line has expanded to include an American-made collection of sporty apparel for girls and women, and includes over a dozen dress styles as well as separates and accessories made with machine-washable, wrinkle-free spandex fabric. The styles are designed for real women with a range of body types. Spunkwear fans love its grab and go comfort. Although Spunkwear has moved from Ruppert’s garage to the Chesapeake Business Park, Ruppert remains deeply rooted on Kent Island, where her clothes match the
local lifestyle.

To check out Ruppert’s Spunkwear go to



Carrie Olish, Founder, Blue Crab Cupcakes

While Olish’s Naval-Academy-grad husband served for 12 years as supply officer in the Navy, this stay-at-home mom of three made cupcakes for birthdays and other special occasions in her home oven, just for fun. Within a year and a half, her birthday, graduation and wedding business was booming. So much so, she applied for a license and rented a commercial kitchen. Business grew, thanks to social media and a successful Facebook page. A year and a half later she has over 1600 members and her following is growing. Olish introduced her cupcakes to Paca Girlfriends for the first time this year and shortly after announced plans to open a store in the Annapolis area.

“We think of our cupcakes as The Annapolis Cupcakes—nautical, whimsical and professional. We have over 20 flavors and each cupcake has a special filling topped with something appealing such as pink chocolate curls with glitter. Our mini cupcakes are the most popular. People like the idea of sampling different flavors.”

Visit her website at



Laura Moore, Founder, Laura Moore Designs

Getting laid off from her job at an advertising agency 15 years ago may have been the best thing that ever happened to Laura Moore. That year she decided to make her own Christmas gifts. “I had such a great response to my jewelry that people started placing orders for additional pieces. When I went back to work in marketing, I decided to start a jewelry business and run it on the side for a few years. After my first child was born it became my full time career.” Originally self taught, Moore has taken jewelry design courses to enhance her skills and she’s put her business degree from the University of Virginia to good use growing her business.

Moore has been a sponsor of Paca Girlfriends for several years and during that time she has developed a loyal local following. Moore was especially pleased to see Yumi Hogan, the wife of Maryland’s governor, wearing one of her vintage pieces in last month’s feature story in Looking Good magazine. “As a jewelry designer you can’t get a better compliment than that!” says Moore.

Moore’s business plan includes increasing website sales and growing her online presence. She’s recently launched a new product line—
a Burgee Collection for Yacht Clubs. The line is already in five
yacht clubs.

To view Moore’s jewelry designs go to