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Five Female Entrepreneurs Who Made it Big in the COVID Economy

While 2020 was a difficult year for many, in some ways it was also a global reset. The “pandemic pause” gave rise to #BLM, lockdown exercise trends, clearer skies and an opportunity for businesses to reflect on their strategies. In particular, when the whole world came to a sudden halt, several bawse women outshone their capabilities and managed to make it huge in their industries. In recognition of their triumph, I have decided to compile the top five female entrepreneurs who made it big in the Covid-19 economy.

payroll clerk counting money while sitting at table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

1.   Sarah Paiji Yoo 

Co Founder and CEO of Blueland

Sarah Paiji Yoo is a start-up veteran who started her first company, a shopping app called Snapette, in 2010 and sold it in 2013. Paiji Yoo’s creation of Blueland was certainly an out of the blue idea (pun intended), as she first thought of it in 2017 whilst on a break after having a baby. Her vision was an eco-friendly household cleaning tablet that functions as a combination of Lysol and Alka-Seltzer. The arduous process of finding the right chemical substances and speaking to potential manufacturers meant it took about a year to create her product. This process even included consulting candy manufacturers to make the non-toxic cleaning tablet – something that had never been done before. Paiji Yoo tells Marie Claire that the rise of Blueland during the early stages of the pandemic is credited to the rapid selling-out of conventional cleaning products in stores, and the general shift in consumer preferences since 2019 towards eco-friendly alternatives. Blueland saw a 300 percent surge in demand during the pandemic and now it is a million-dollar business. Paiji Yoo has expressed hope that her venture is simply the start of something new. 

2.   Kathrin Hamm 

Founder and CEO of Bearaby

With work related stress always on our minds, particularly now that we’re working from home, we often compromise on our sleep schedules. This is exactly what Kathrin Hamm experienced when she worked at the World Bank. Hamm found herself constantly conceding sleep to squeeze in extra work hours until one day, when she realized that it was significantly impacting her decision-making abilities and patience levels. In addition, she had difficulties falling asleep, and was looking for natural solutions that didn’t involve medication. It was then that she came across a weighted blanket that, for the first time, provided her with a comfortable night’s sleep. From there, Hamm researched into the concept of weighted bedding and developed her prototype with German manufacturers. After four weeks of crowdfunding, the product was shipped out to 37 countries during its first month. The breathable and bulky blankets sold out in two days — but that was nothing compared to the sales Bearaby made in 2020. With the whole world working from home, sales for Bearaby exceeded $20 million as it rushed towards a second manufacturer. Hamm’s company continues to grow in the coronavirus economy, bucking the trend of recession. 

3.   Gloria Lau 

Founder and CEO of Alpha Medical

In 2019, a simple rash led Gloria Lau, a Silicon Valley Engineer, to create Alpha Medical, a women’s telehealth company. Lau’s rash caused her to spend numerous hours at the doctors, only to later find out that all she needed was a topical steroid. This is when she decided to find a way for healthcare to be more affordable and accessible to women. For an annual fee of $99, Alpha Medical provides patients with affordable, convenient, and discreet healthcare online. Importantly, Alpha Medical has been especially keen to promote mental health awareness, and in February 2020, the firm introduced mental healthcare provision. Lau says, “since COVID-19, we have more than doubled our volume month over month”, as an increasing number of women have been experiencing anxiety and depression over the pandemic. Alpha Medical is the perfect example of advocates for women’s health; they describe their team as consisting of mothers, daughters, and sisters who are supported by sons, fathers, and brothers – all advocating for women’s health.

4.   Crystal Evuleocha 

Cofounder of Kiira

Crystal Evuleocha, 27, moved to the US from Nigeria in her teens and started Kliit Health in 2019, after she almost died from misdiagnosing her stomach pain on Google. The telemedicine company focuses on providing a safe healthcare platform for women at universities and colleges, modeled after Evuleocha’s own experience as an undergrad. The 24/7 operating platform offers phone, video, and chat facilities for $10 per secure chat with health clinicians through a mobile app. Evuleocha initially launched it with almost $100,000 as a part of her ambition to improve access to healthcare among young females and women of color. Since the start of the pandemic, Evuleocha got married, raised funding, and held a #FemHealthTech Conference. Kliit Health was later rebranded to Kiira and has gained an increasing amount of popularity among college students during the pandemic as besides providing chats with clinicians, it also collects data on STDs and COVID-19 outbreaks. 

5.   Flori Marquez

Cofounder of BlockFi

Flori Marquez co-founded the New York based wealth management firm, BlockFi in 2017 as a medium for allowing crypto holders to lend out cryptocurrency at high rates. Due to her copious family connections in Argentina, a country with extreme hyperinflation, Marquez has firsthand knowledge of how volatile an economic crisis can be. “How can I give my cousins the ability to have savings and earn interest on it, which is a right that we have as Americans, but that a lot of other people don’t?” she asked Entrepreneur. This question served as motivation for her to co-found BlockFi, which has raised over $160 million since its establishment. BlockFi capitalized early-on in the COVID pandemic, which Marquez believes happened because during times of economic uncertainties, people start to actively look towards putting their assets to work more. BlockFi saw an exponential growth during the COVID economy, as its interest rates are what attracted new customers who previously did not consider investing in digital assets. 

I hope that reading about these empowered women has been as much of an inspiration to you as it has been for me. These female entrepreneurs serve as role-models for all young females who aspire to be CEOs of their own companies, as these women break the glass-ceiling and smash stereotypes associated with women in the workplace. It is important to support women-led start-ups, as women account for a significant percent of the workforce, and supporting female start-ups creates new models of leadership for the future. Throughout history, women have been treated as second-class citizens and it is high time that we, as a society, set the record straight in order for more women in the future to achieve their dreams.

Syna Singh

St Andrews '24

Syna Singh is a second year at St Andrews majoring in Economics and Management. She is originally from India but has lived her whole life in sunny Dubai. Photography, traveling, tennis and blogging are some of her interests. In addition to that, she hates being unproductive but also loves binge-watching true crime series, kdramas, rom-coms and of course, The Office!
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