Meet Our Founder

Gizem Şalcıgil White

A cup of coffee is much more than a way to kickstart the morning. It’s a way to “bridgecultures” – Gizem Salcigil White, Founder of Turkish Coffee Lady.

I am a Turkish American entrepreneur with a passion for bridging cultures through
coffee. Since 2012, I have been traveling the world with a Turkish coffee truck to bring
societies closer together one coffee at a time.

During my travels, I realized that there was a very strong link between Turkey and the
U.S. Americans love their morning coffee, and Turks has a 500-year-old coffee culture.
Turks introduced the world’s first brewing technique to Europe in the 16th century, and
the first coffeehouse ever was opened in Istanbul in 1554. In the past, Turkish coffee
houses were the anchors of a community where science, religion, government, and
philosophy were discussed; thus, I wanted to continue this proud tradition into the 21st
century and highlight our common history with other societies.

After becoming a mother, I wanted to build something for my baby girl, so I decided to
start a small business. I was able to open the first and only authentic Turkish coffee
shop in the U.S. with my partner Ahmet Serif Izgoren in 2017 and we called it ‘Turkish
Coffee Lady’ – a name given to me by the Washington Post.

It truly was a miracle that with personal budgets and support from the community, I was
able to launch my own coffee first brick and mortar store. After many challenges and roadblocks, I thought myself finally my dream came true. However, one month after the opening, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage 2 and had to have my treatment in my home country including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and many surgeries. When I was in the recovery process, the store was severely impacted by covid-19 and we had to close down our location permanently after three years.

Because female-owned businesses were one of the most impacted during the worldwide pandemic, I decided to keep my mission going despite the uncertainty and established the Turkish Coffee Lady Foundation to empower other women entrepreneurs in 2020. I believe that if you empower a woman, she empowers her family, her community and her country like a pebble creating ripples. While the foundation has been launching local chapters in the US and beyond, we continue to spread kindness and promote cross-cultural communication.

On January 22, 2022, I was able to start a new Turkish coffee & culture house in the heart of Old Town, Alexandria with the support of SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund & Rebuild VA grant. At the Turkish Coffee Lady, we opened up our coffee & culture house as a testament to our passion for creating a warm and inviting space where patrons can experience authentic Turkish flavors.

For me, it's not just about breaking barriers; it's about shattering limitations and creating
a world where every woman is free to soar and inspire.