The economic impact of the pandemic has been disproportionately hard on women entrepreneurs, according to research published by Tatiana S Manolova, Candida G Brush, Linda F Edelman, and Amanda Elam in SAGE Journals. This extra impact comes from more than one direction, including the fact that women-run businesses tend to be younger and smaller, and therefore more vulnerable. The industries women are more likely to work in, such as retail, education, and social services, have also been harder hit.
However, some women entrepreneurs have found success by discovering the needs they can meet in this new climate. It’s National Women’s Month, so let’s celebrate these stories of women who launched tech startups during the pandemic.
Namrata Parikh, Sanitab: Based in Mumbai, Aniket and Namrata Parikh have launched a multipurpose, non-alcohol based effervescent disinfectant tablet – Sanitab. With its easy and multipurpose usage, the entrepreneurs explain that the product can be used to disinfect fruits and vegetables, and surfaces in homes and offices. The product can also disinfect untreated water without affecting its smell, taste, or colour. The duo claims that Sanitab is also recommended for use by WHO, UNICEF, the UK Department of Health, and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India.
Shanel Fields — MD Ally: The New York Times reports that just as businesses were shutting their doors last March, Fields launched a new company called MD Ally. The innovative service enables 911 dispatchers to send non-emergency calls to virtual doctors. According to Fields, over half of the calls that come into 911 are not emergencies, and they create a burden on emergency response systems, hospitals, and medical workers. Rerouting non-emergency calls to other resources eases this burden.
Although this has been a problem for emergency services for some time, the timing was perfect as the medical system prepared to meet an unprecedented challenge.
Lucie Halley-Trotter – EYO (eye-o): This year Lucie Halley launched her first company, an ethical, sustainable fashion brand, EYO (eye-o), that takes recycled ocean and landfill waste and remakes it into sportswear. Originally from South Wales, she moved to New York in her early twenties to begin her career as a fashion designer.
Lily Liu — Piñata: During the pandemic, renters have struggled to meet their payments because they have lost wages due to illness, had their hours cut due to Covid restrictions, or lost their jobs entirely. Even eviction moratoriums don’t eliminate this problem, because past-due rent continues to accumulate, and landlords still have bills to pay. Liu created Piñata, a lease-management and rent-payment rewards company, and she launched it with a program to help fill that gap.
“We provide renters with rewards and pinata cash back for paying rent. We also provide the option to have those payments reported to the credit bureaus to build credit. We believe that renters should be getting credit for the biggest expense they’re paying every month. For property management companies and landlords, we give them access to provide more and better rewards and the ability to provide custom incentives to their renters. Property management companies now have a mechanism to give something back to renters, focus on retention and reduce costly turnover,” Liu explains.
Keeping people in their homes is important, Liu says. “People’s homes are literally their safe havens right now,” she points out. The system helps ease the burden on renters as well as landlords.
Lori Mihalich-Levin — Mindful Return: For some entrepreneurs, the pandemic meant that they had to figure out how to pivot their existing businesses to meet new needs. According to Business Insider, Mindful Return was an online resource designed to support new parents as they transitioned back to work after parental leave. Covid quarantine created an entirely new set of needs for working parents, as many struggled to work from home, support children during remote schooling, and navigate all the changes at once.
Mihalich-Levin shifted her company’s focus, offering employers workshops and coaching sessions to support working parents
The pandemic has created a new set of challenges for entrepreneurs everywhere. These women demonstrate that the best response is to find the needs that aren’t being met, and provide the answers people are seeking. While launching a startup is never easy, the problems of doing business in the Covid era can complicate things even more. However, these problems also offer new opportunities, as visionaries recognize and react to what people need.
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