A new chapter is underway in Kansas City’s ever-evolving landscape and women are at its forefront. At the future Kansas City Current stadium, which will be home to the region’s National Women’s Soccer League team, the first of 11,500 seats are ready to be installed, and the city pulses with life, driven by the women leaders who infuse it with creativity, determination, and unwavering spirit.
The upcoming sporting venue in downtown Kansas City is more than a place to watch soccer—it’s a testament to women’s empowerment and perseverance. And every corner of the city bears the mark of inventive women who’ve transformed their passions into must-see destinations. Here are the stories of eight remarkable Kansas City women and insights into the distinctive spaces they’ve created, from dynamic cafes to cultural landmarks.
1. The college athlete building the world’s best women’s soccer team
An impressive innovator and champion of gender equality, Kansas City native Angie Long played a pivotal role in securing the Kansas City Current as one of the team’s cofounders and co-owners. She continues to advocate for women’s participation in sports and many other domains—the new stadium is reportedly the first to be purpose-built for a women’s professional sports team.
Long herself has excelled in various sports like soccer and rugby. She achieved All-American status at Princeton University and captained two National Championship Teams. After completing her economics degree, the go-getter has been equally pioneering in credit-related asset management, attaining JPMorgan Chase’s Managing Director post by 29, then assuming the Chief Investment Officer role at Palmer Square Capital Management, overseeing investment strategies.
2. The first-generation immigrant who introduced Kansas City’s first (and only) Vietnamese coffee shop
Café Cà Phê, a café specializing in Vietnamese coffee drinks, appeared first on a pop-up basis, then as a mobile coffee trailer, and most recently as a brilliant brick-and-mortar shop that blends nonstop enthusiasm with vintage and modern style in the Columbus Park neighborhood. Hailing from San Diego, the coffee shop’s owner Jackie Nguyen is a first-generation daughter of a Vietnamese refugee.
After graduating with a BFA in Musical Theatre from California State University, Fullerton, she moved to New York City for an acting career that included stints on Broadway. However, a profound connection to coffee, cultivated over eight years as a barista and a transformative trip to Vietnam, led Nguyen to shift careers and open Café Cà Phê following her move to Kansas City.
3. The Latinx entrepreneur bringing a café with heart to the city
Café Corazón is a Latinx coffeehouse, specializing in yerba mate and Latinx coffee drinks like horchata and dulce de leche lattes, with locations in the Crossroads Arts District and Westport. But it’s more than a mere coffee shop. Embracing sustainability and inclusiveness, co-owner Miel Castagna-Herrera has curated a space where individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to savor artisanal brews and partake in discussions that foster connection.
The café also radiates the vibrancy of all the owners’ Latinx heritage. Castagna-Herrera’s father, Alberto José Castagna, an accomplished artist and devoted yerba mate enthusiast, immigrated from Buenos Aires to the U.S. at 16. And inspiration stems from co-owner Curtis Herrera’s grandparents, Felipa and Aniseto Herrera, who came to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1930s to work on the railroads and the farms of Western Kansas.
4. The professional chef who founded a culinary social enterprise
In 2019, Kansas City native Shanita McAfee-Bryant established The Prospect KC, a nonprofit that tackles systemic inequalities from food apartheid, including food insecurity, unemployment, and housing instability. It addresses these issues by offering comprehensive workforce development encompassing case management, skills, finance, nutrition education, childcare, and job training to uplift Eastside community members.
Plus, The Prospect KC repurposed a former public works building in the 18th & Vine Jazz District, transforming it into The Spot, a vibrant hub that includes a 12,000-square-foot culinary space, café, and grocery store. There, students can participate in a 16-week culinary training program to learn skills in food preparation, food safety, and business entrepreneurship.
McAfee-Bryant’s own gastronomic career began in her teens with professional training at Johnson County Community College and culminated in restaurant ownership, awards, and winning The Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. Today, the chef-turned-founder serves on boards like Harvesters, the Greater KC Food Policy Coalition, and Lazarus Ministries KC.
5. The hospitality expert behind some of Kansas City’s best bars
Dedicated to crafting exquisite cocktails, Swordfish Tom’s is an intimate bar in the Crossroads Arts District that transports patrons to the elegance of the Prohibition era. Its limited capacity and cash-only policy create an environment reminiscent of the golden age of the speakeasy—down to its location in an underground former boiler room. The bar, along with Chartreuse Saloon, is the brainchild of Jill Cockson, one of Kansas City’s most celebrated bartenders. She’s also a TEDx speaker and a partner at Drastic Measures, a bar in Shawnee that recently earned a James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Bar.
With more than 20 years of bartending experience, Cockson’s expertise comes through in the distinctive cocktail menu featuring spirits that she hand-picks based on quality, as well as the brand’s business practices, including her laser-focus on hospitality. If you provide a spirit or ingredient preference, she’ll warmly create an off-menu libation just for you.
6. The musician who’s ensuring that the jazz scene continues to flourish
As a highly sought-after vocalist, prominent bandleader, and host of the radio show 12th Street Jump, Eboni Fondren carries the mantle of Kansas City jazz and the city’s storied musical heritage. Born in Chicago, Fondren emerged as a gifted singer and actor, inheriting her talents from a family of accomplished artists and finding inspiration in classic R&B, old-school soul, and contemporary jazz. After earning a dual degree in Business Communications and Broadcast Management, the chanteuse relocated to Kansas City, establishing herself as a force in the local jazz scene. Her musical ventures include Eboni and the Ivories, as well as collaborations with esteemed musicians and the Lost Wax Band. Fondren’s performances fuse jazz standards with a sprinkle of R&B, captivating audiences with her magnetic stage presence.
7. The native reinventing the Kansas City Museum
Shifting toward interactive exhibits and community involvement, the Kansas City Museum has transformed into an engaging storyteller that mirrors the diverse fabric of Kansas City’s history and contemporary landscape. The museum’s executive director Anna Marie Tutera, a second-generation Italian and Croatian from Kansas City, is guiding the revitalization of this institution that preserves and celebrates the city’s history, culture, and spirit through collections, exhibitions, and programs.
Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Northwestern University and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University, focusing on integrating hip-hop into youth education through museums. With more than 25 years of experience working in nonprofits and at museums like the Chicago Children’s Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tutera and her family finally returned to her hometown in 2012 to advocate for the city’s arts and culture.
8. The craftsperson making handmade goods more accessible
In 2011, a group of Etsy sellers local to Kansas City decided to organize their own craft fair after seeing similar events bypass their hometown for larger cities. The result was The Strawberry Swing, one of the world’s top indie craft fairs. As a staple of Kansas City’s artisanal scene, these gatherings vibrantly celebrate boundless creativity that fosters entrepreneurship and community in an ecosystem of markets and monthly pop-ups at iconic local venues.
Katie Mabry van Dieren, the driving force behind Strawberry Swing, also supports local artisans with Shop Local KC. Three retail locations (Crown Center, Brookside, and Leawood, Kansas) and an online marketplace showcase more than 300 local artisans, and every product proudly hails from Kansas City and fosters entrepreneurship and community involvement.