Nantale Muwonge Black Girl PR
Nantale Muwonge saw how Black-owned small businesses were especially hard hit during the pandemic and started Black Girl PR to help. (Credit: Nantale Muwonge)

The last two years have been anything but easy for small business owners. In-person events have been routinely canceled. Lockdown measures have been unpredictably lifted — and then put back into place. And that’s not to mention a global supply chain disruption which has tested the patience and profits of even the most established brands.. But some courageous women decided, “if not now, when?” and started up their business during the pandemic. 

Here’s a round up of some particularly inspiring women who have participated in our 1,000 + Stories Project, who took the leap of faith in the least stable of times and found a way to pursue their entrepreneurial goals. 

1

Ana Martins, Pantree

Like many consumers, Ana Martins and her husband were looking for more ethical ways to shop in 2020. As two foodies they couldn’t seem to find an all-in-one marketplace that sold small batch products with the convenience online shoppers are used to today. So, they decided to start it themselves. Today the London-based entrepreneur runs Pantree, an online marketplace for the kitchen featuring a curated selection of kitchenware and specialty foods.

2

Reem Jazzi, Yesterday Wellness

Technically, Reem Jazzi launched Yesterday Wellness, a company specializing in CBD products, right before lockdowns started. “Our timing was unfortunate,” she says. “It’s been really tough trying to grow a brand during a worldwide pandemic.”. But Jazzi isn’t just selling CBD, she wants her customers to really understand how it works within the human body. She made it a top priority to provide as much information to customers as possible, so they too could fully understand how CBD works and the health benefits it could provide them.  Against the odds, Jazzi successfully launched and is continuing to educate consumers about CBD. 

3

Rosa Li, Wild Wonder

Rosa Li grew up drinking her grandmother’s home-brewed herbal tonics that kept her and her family healthy and thriving. When Li graduated from business school, she knew she wanted to explore entrepreneurship but in a way that was close to her heart. And so Wildwonder was born. Today the San Francisco entrepreneur runs her sparkling pro-biotic beverage company made out of real fruit and herbs in a variety of flavors familiar to the American consumer. And while Li may have launched her company during a global Pandemic, by March 2020 she already had her Wildwonder drinks in all Northern California Whole Foods.

4

Sarulatha Gajapathy is the founder of Bohozena.

Sarulatha Gajapathy, Bohozena

The mother of a young toddler, Sarulatha Gajapathy was working long hours in the corporate world and dreaming of doing something of her own. In her spare time she started sketching out clothing designs with positive messages embroidered onto them. In 2020, as the pandemic was raging, she knew it was her moment to take the leap and start her business. Gajapathy launched Bohozena and has expanded the company’s growth immensely in just over a year. Her online store offers a wide range of T-shirts, yoga apparel and accessories all sporting positive sayings and inspirational quotes. 

5

Sriya Tallapragada, Girls Who Steam

Sriya Tallapragada was a middle schooler passionate about coding and STEM when the pandemic shut down her school. She decided to make use of her time in quarantine by starting a 501(c)3 non-profit, no small feat for a teenager, not to mention during lockdown. The fruit of all her hard work is Girls Who STEAM, a student-run organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Tallapragada oversees the global conferences, workshops and mentorships as well as the network of other teenagers from around the world who are teaching and learning from each other about STEM. She believes that the future of entrepreneurship should be, “A perfect combination of activism and hard work that will eventually force difficult conversations and change the world.”

6

Nantale Muwonge is the founder of Black Girl PR.

Nantale Muwonge, Black Girl PR

Last year, as Nantale Muwonge watched the pandemic unfold before her eyes, she saw how Covid-19 ripped through Black communities with particular force, with Black businesses being especially hard hit. Muwonge decided she had to do something to help and realized she could use her experience in online content creation and PR to help Black-owned businesses increase their online sales – and so, Black Girl PR was born. Today the Phoenix  entrepreneur says she is learning how to “unlearn” corporate hustle culture, whilebuilding a mission-based business with integrity and enjoying her clients’ successes.

7

Dr. Alaina Rajagopal, The Emergency Docs Podcast

When the pandemic began, ER doctor Alaina Rajagopal was shocked at how much misinformation abounded. She decided to take it upon herself to share her knowledge as a doctor, public health specialist and virologist to share scientific but easy-to-understand information about the pandemic and emergency care. Her mission to educate and inform took shape as a podcast, The Emergency Docs, where Dr. Rajagopal interviews top experts to help pull back the curtain on controversies and myths surrounding health and medicine.

8

Loni Paige, Mixology Mixer

Loni Paige had been working in the event production space for decades when the pandemic hit. When she found all her work had dried up overnight she knew she had to find a way to keep herself afloat. Paige decided to translate her hospitality skill set into a Covid-19 friendly iteration, and thus Mixology Mixer was born. Her company began shipping at-home cocktail kits, with all the mixers, garnishes and bar tools needed, to create unique libations with the help of expert mixologists through virtual cocktail making classes. The Miami entrepreneur’s business obviously hit a pandemic niche, but a huge plus side of the whole endeavor for Paige has been being able to give work to her fellow hospitality industry friends through her company’s mixology classes and cooking classes.

9

Rhonda Sharp, Moon Rae Media

Despite over 25 years of sales and marketing experience under her belt, Rhonda Sharp  was one of the millions who lost their job when the pandemic hit.. She spent some time thinking about what her next move should be. Should she look for a new gig? Retire? Ultimately, she decided she wasn’t done working, and thus Moon Rae Media, a social media and digital marketing agency, was born. The Oakville, Canada-based entrepreneur teamed up with her son’s girlfriend (who also holds a degree in communications) and started to slowly build up their client roster, successfully growing throughout the last two years.

10

Kristin Ferrie, Pure Pilates Ilkey

Kristin Ferrie has been teaching pilates since 1997, running a successful studio in Northern England for over a decade. But in March 2020 Ferrie remembers watching as email after email came into her inbox canceling classes and memberships. She felt completely helpless. But instead of closing up shop permanently, Ferrie was able to pull off the successful pandemic pivot. She set out to open a new studio and started carrying fitness apparel brand Lululemon to help with income. Today, Ferrie is thrilled to be back to teaching and training in person at her Pure Pilates studio and to have not only survived during the pandemic – but to have found a way to thrive.

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