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Entrepreneurship

Meet Three Female Entrepreneurs Slaying the COVID-19 Dragon

As COVID-19 upends life as we know it, three of Forté’s featured female entrepreneurs – Mavens in the Marketplace – are pivoting their businesses to provide relief.

EVERLYWELL: DEVELOPING A COVID-19 TEST KIT IN 13 DAYS

Julia Cheek, founder and CEO of Everlywell, has been at the forefront of lab testing since launching the business in 2015. A producer of more than 30 physician-reviewed and authorized home health lab kits, Everlywell recently announced that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its COVID-19 test kit for use at home – the first emergency use authorization (EUA) the FDA has granted to a digital health startup. A potential game-changer for the company, the test allows individuals to safely get diagnosed for COVID-19 using a short nasal swab that they mail to a certified lab for results in 24-48 hours. It will be available before the end of May.

But Julia didn’t initially see an opportunity for Everlywell to help when the company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Frank Ong, said he thought COVID-19 would be a global pandemic. “As a 90-person startup, I didn’t have any reason to believe Everlywell would be involved in responding to the pandemic – it seemed testing should come from federal agencies, public health departments, and so forth,” she says.

Then it became clear the U.S. was short on tests, and the FDA issued its emergency use authorization to increase the availability of diagnostic testing for COVID-19. “That is when it hit home for me that we could make a difference,” Julia explains.

After Everlywell’s board approved a request to offer a $1 million grant to solicit labs to develop a COVID-19 test that met FDA requirements, “the total time it took to develop the test was about 13 days,” she says.

Since then, Everlywell has supplied enough COVID-19 testing to help get tens of thousands of frontline healthcare workers and their patients tested for the virus.

“Widespread access to convenient testing will play a crucial role in this country’s ability to address the pandemic and prevent overburdening our healthcare facilities. As the national leader in connecting people with high-quality laboratory testing, we are committed to preventing the spread of this virus in America,” Julia says.

TO THE MARKET: LEVERAGING ETHICAL SUPPLY CHAINS TO DELIVER PPE

Jane Mosbacher Morris’ commitment to public service is nothing new. After getting a degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown, she worked for the US Department of State and the McCain Institute for International Leadership. Now, as the founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET, Jane is on a mission to help big brand apparel and home goods retailers establish more ethical supply chains.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit in early March and there was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Jane says the company decided to pivot its focus after receiving funding from a female investor. “We’re now using our technology platform to work with our network of suppliers to source, manufacture, and distribute direly-needed, compliant PPE,” Jane explains.

It’s a win-win for both healthcare workers and non-traditional suppliers. “This ensures healthcare workers have access to compliant supplies while using eco-friendly materials, where possible, and creating work for ethical suppliers,” she says.

TO THE MARKET has, as of mid-May, shipped more than 1.4 million ethically manufactured units to hospitals throughout the U.S., with orders for many more.

While TO THE MARKET has always been a mission-driven organization, its success is the result of concerned individuals committing to a shared goal. “Our network is really coming together and contributing to help protect healthcare workers who are focused on taking care of our communities,” Jane says.

THIRDLOVE: GIVING THE GIFT OF COMFORT TO THE FRONTLINE

Heidi Zak – co-founder & co-CEO of ThirdLove – believes one key to entrepreneurial success is to “keep your mission at the front of your mind for every decision you make.” She has certainly followed that wisdom since COVID-19 struck. ThirdLove, which is known for producing well-fitting, comfortable bras, has donated bras to healthcare workers on the front lines, donated its high-quality elastic for the production of masks, and coordinated with manufacturers to donate surgical masks to hospitals.

Additionally, ThirdLove is driving awareness of the pandemic by amplifying messages from the front line through its social channels and offering an exclusive 15% discount to military, veterans, medical professionals, first responders, and teachers.

ThirdLove has leveraged its existing philanthropy team to create a specific strategy to support its relief efforts and partnered with other like-minded organizations. “We were realistic in understanding what we could and could not achieve by ourselves. Joining up with other companies has helped us be able to devote our raw materials – in particular, elastics – to the cause without stretching our team too thin since we’re working alongside other incredible companies all dedicated to helping,” Heidi explains.

The response to ThirdLove’s efforts has been overwhelmingly positive. After its initial bra donation, for example, Heidi says, “In less than 48 hours, we received almost 6000 inquiries from all over the U.S. The heartfelt stories they shared of gratitude, struggle, and perseverance have been inspirational and affirmational.”

Even though the call for COVID-19 relief was unexpected, Heidi says ThirdLove’s response is in line with its long-term goal: “to help women feel confident and supported, so they can go run the world.”

Women running the world, indeed.

Meet all our Mavens in the Marketplace.

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