It’s safe to say that Covid-19 has disrupted all plans career-related and otherwise, but these women have taken that chaos and channelled it into positivity.
Talking about success stories at a time when many people have been forced to shut down their businesses can seem strange. Due to the shockwaves of the pandemic, founders have lost out on revenue and key networking opportunities. Unfortunately, women face the most significant disadvantages, with global data from the UN showing that the pandemic has impacted the way women work across the globe, pushing them into carrying out more unpaid care work and chores. The International Monetary Fund has even warned that the pandemic threatens to roll back many of the economic gains made towards dismantling the gender pay gap over the last 30 years. However, the uncertainty of 2020 also created opportunity for some female innovators. Whether it meant pivoting their strategy or continuing with their product lines against all the odds, they all managed to accomplish something remarkable. As we enter 2021 reflecting on the rollercoaster ride we’ve all had, it can be uplifting to celebrate the success of others in trying times. Here, 16 women share their stories.
Alexandra Pluthero, Founder, Wear My Freedom Biggest Achievement of 2020: Launching a company due to turnover £500,000 in just one year After spending 15 years struggling to find comfortable and stylish D+ bras, AllBright member Alexandra Pluthero decided to take matters into her own hands and launch her own lingerie business. However, timing wasn't on her side. "We originally planned to launch in March, but this got pushed back when our factory had to shut down right as they were about to start manufacturing," she tells AllBright. "Thankfully, we were able to restart production safely and launch in June. "We also had to get pretty creative in getting things ready to go. For example, we weren’t able to do the standard photoshoot with models in our bras due to social distance guidelines. Instead, we conducted a ' faux- to shoot' where we shipped our bras to our models who took self-timed images of themselves in their homes."
"Trying to grow revenue and keep positive cash flow whilst being beholden to huge swings in the global economy was hard – I had to learn quickly to be comfortable being uncomfortable"
Alexandra Pluthero, Founder Of Wear My Freedom
"The first 12 months of any business are the most financially uncertain, but trying to grow revenue and keep positive cash flow whilst being beholden to huge swings in the global economy was hard – I had to learn quickly to be comfortable being uncomfortable," she adds. Thankfully, the hard work paid off, and after six months of trading Pluthero's company is due to turn over £500,000 after it's first year of trading. "Demand for comfy bras to wear at home during lockdown was sky-high," she tells AllBright. "The amazing response from women across the world who felt the comfort and wire-free support of the Freedom Bra was the perfect bra for lockdown is my biggest highlight." Follow: @wearmyfreedom
Lucy Sambrook, Founder, PR for the People Biggest Achievement of 2020 : Launching a business during Covid-19 At the start of 2020, Sambrook had been made redundant, but soon realised that this gave her the opportunity to establish her own PR platform. Having worked in the industry for 10 years, she saw a gap in the market for affordable and inclusive PR for small business owners. Sambrook tells AllBright: “I’ve been flooded with people wanting me to help them with PR. Realising that I can build up a waiting list of PR clients has been my biggest accomplishment this year.” Her membership platform, PR for the People, champions diverse talent and will officially launch in January 2021. Follow: @prforthepeople
Sofia Lai, Stylist & Creative Director, Sofia Lai Biggest Achievement of 2020: Finding new outlets to express her creativity “I was in need of finding new ways to express my creativity, and realising that I wasn’t alone gave me strength to elevate my work during this uncertain time,” Lai tells AllBright. Merging her love of styling with analogue photography and mixed media, she adapted her aesthetic to showcase imperfections when the pandemic restricted her work.
“For me, fashion has always been a bridge to communicate concepts and identities”
Sofia Lai, Stylist & Creative Director, Sofia Lai
She now styles pre-existing items in clients’ closets on shoots, which enables her to keep the essence of their identities. “For me, fashion has always been a bridge to communicate concepts and identities,” she adds. On her latest projects, she’s been filming sets on Zoom with an old-school video camera and creating collages post-production. Follow: @sofialai
Jasmin Larian Hekmat, Founder, Cult Gaia Biggest Achievement of 2020 : Helping children reach their creative potential Cult Gaia disrupted the fashion industry by shaking up the handbag silhouette, with the brand managing to solidify its cult status shortly after launch. Thinking outside of the box landed founder Jasmin Larian Hekmat at the top of her game, and this was no different during the pandemic. Her primary aim was to help children in need with art kits, encouraging creativity at home by collaborating with illustrators around the US. “Growing up, knowing that I could create always gave me inner confidence beyond the standard education system and it’s an honour and duty for all creators to help inspire and give this chance to kids who don’t yet know their creative potential,” she says . Follow: @cultgaia
Arianna Radji-Lee, Founder, Pachamama Highlight of 2020: Growing an online community for new mothers When Radji-Lee launched Pachamama in 2019, her goal was simple: to create a physical location in London for new parents to meet. However, when the pandemic hit she quickly pivoted her strategy to unite her community digitally. “Early motherhood can be pretty isolating in the best of times, so experiencing those early months throughout lockdown with no support is extremely difficult for new mothers,” she tells AllBright. Through her online platform, she provides direct access to experts that support mothers and their little ones through this significant transition. Follow: @pachamama.london
Trishna Daswaney, Director, Kohl Kreatives Biggest Achievement of 2020: Growing a product line to help under-served communities Instead of holding back on her next launch when the pandemic hit, Hong Kong based entrepreneur Trishna Daswaney went ahead with her plan to create the world’s first make-up brushes for individuals with visual impairments. “Our motto is all about creating products that can be used by everyone without marginalising communities,” Daswaney tells AllBright. Overcoming production barriers, the brand’s Feast Your Eyes Collection came into fruition and launched last month. She adorns each brush with braille stickers and a raised numerical system that links to an audio guide – teaching people how to use the products. “A lot of research went into creating this collection, involving a collaboration with the Royal National Institute Of Blind People to truly understand their needs,” she explains. Follow: @kohlkreatives
Shiza Shahid, Co-Founder, Our Place Biggest Achievement of 2020: Bringing food traditions to the forefront Launching her kitchenware business a few months before the pandemic hit, Shahid planned to use cooking as a tool to connect with her roots. She was able to share this ethos with followers on social media and shed light on her own heritage by talking about traditional festivals.
"I am building a network with my partner as we find our place in America by cooking and sharing food with new communities and understanding how traditions evolve over time when you move 7,000 miles"
Shiza Shahid, Co-Founder, Our Place
She spoke about her Muslim identity and the festival Eid to reveal what it means for her as an immigrant to her followers. “I am building a network with my partner as we find our place in America by cooking and sharing food with new communities and understanding how traditions evolve over time when you move 7,000 miles,” she said . Follow: @ourplace
Tanisa Nahata, Founder, Tanisa Jewelry Biggest Achievement of 2020 : Remotely creating her first campaign Nahata’s jewelry brand is all about making women feel confident and empowered. Covid-19 hit whilst she was creating her first campaign video, and she ended up overseeing the production process remotely. “I organised the team to execute the project and in a month it all came together. There were many voice notes back and forth and several FedEx boxes later, we had our final edit,” she said on Instagram. Follow: @tanisajewelry
Nicole Cardoza, Founder, Anti Racism Daily Biggest Achievement of 2020: Spotlighting racial issues in a meaningful way Amid the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, Cardoza was prompted to educate some of her follows, family and friends about the events that were occurring. “We are committed to taking action everyday to dismantle white supremacy and fight against systemic oppression,” she says . Cardoza pools talent from other WOC journalists, who want to speak up about white supremacy, and alongside her they write newsletters based on different subjects – from understanding intergenerational trauma to supporting climate justice. Each time a newsletter is sent, a snippet is posted on her Instagram feed to keep the conversation going on a larger scale. Follow: @antiracismdaily
Fabienne Herbard, Presenter & DJ, Fabienne’s World Biggest Achievement of 2020: Introducing global audiences to new talent Previously used to DJing at New York Fashion Week and featuring as a resident across clubs in London, the pandemic certainly forced Herbard to adapt. “Live streaming and collaborating with brands has been exciting. The only downside is that I’m not able to share new artists’ work as often,” she explains to AllBright. Throughout 2020 Herbard noticed a lack of recognition for up-and-coming artists across the RnB, Soul, Hip Hop and Electronic genres. So, she launched an IGTV series and put her newfound video editing skills to work. Fabs Future Sounds introduces audiences to artists from around the world. Follow: @_fabiennesworld
Sushma Sagar, Founder & Energy Healer, The Calmery Biggest Achievement of 2020: Writing and publishing her first book For energy healer Sagar, life pre-pandemic was bustling with events to host and clients to care for in-person. When lockdown hit, it inspired her to think about what would be most useful in our new reality. This helped shape how her book, titled Find Your Flow: Essential Chakras , would be written. “I was sympathetic to the situations people would be going through and the sort of help they might need in these trying times,” she says to AllBright. Using simple language and everyday examples, she streamlines the way energy centres can positively impact daily life. She adds: “The book was a clear vehicle for me to achieve my personal mission – to make energy work and wisdom more accessible.” Follow: @thecalmery
Leila Kashani Manshoory, Founder & CEO, Alleyoop Biggest Achievement of 2020: Raising awareness about the right to vote “If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that it is each and every one of our responsibilities to protect the greater good,” Manshoory said on Instagram . Leading up to the US elections, her team discovered that 53% of non-voters were women. Her intention was to raise awareness about the right to vote and to help prepare for the election with the #wontbe53 campaign. The Alleyoop website included a link where visitors could confirm they had registered to vote and receive a free product of choice to showcase solidarity. Follow: @meetalleyoop
Natalie Holloway, Co-Founder, Bala Biggest Achievement of 2020: Increasing brand awareness After appearing on SharkTank before Covid-19 struck the US in full force, there was no slowing down for Holloway’s fitness equipment business. When countries went into lockdown the closest people could get to a gym was a livestream or on-demand workout. Sales of Bala’s resistance bangles sky-rocketed as they became the ‘must have’ product of quarantine, and influencers started to share the benefits of using them whilst working out from home. The brand also hosted bespoke bi-weekly Instagram workouts to keep customers entertained, and allow them to exercise alongside LA-based instructors. Read more about Natalie Holloway's journey to launching Bala on AllBright's EDIT here Follow : @bala
Jasmine Smith, Founder, Raven + Rose Biggest Achievement of 2020: Restabilising the brand in a new market Smith moved to Sydney right before the pandemic hit and managed to keep her existing customer base interested in her lingerie brand, while also establishing new contacts in a different market. “We were forced to shut down for some time, due to all stock being delayed by three months and most postal services not operating,” she tells AllBright. Smith kept the brand’s character alive via social media and kept motivated by seeing new and existing customers interacting with the brand. “I love the people that I connect and collaborate with on Raven + Rose. After taking a minute to pause, I was able to re-order my vision and priorities,” she adds. Follow: @raven+rose
Sarah Thomas, Founder & CEO, Bili Beauty Biggest Achievement of 2020: Growing the brand's fan base to generate sales Unable to attend events or host photo shoots to build up her presence among peers, Thomas figured out how to connect with her audience and grow it effectively via social media. “I started to create TikTok videos which got people beyond the US discovering our brand. Some of them even went viral and it really kept me going,” she explains to AllBright.
“Sales went down during the first few months of the pandemic. But this all changed when we started to find new way to engage with beauty lovers”
Sarah Thomas, Founder & CEO, Bili Beauty
Thomas kept her audience engaged and discovered new followers for her brand by curating educational videos about her product line and Indian culture. “Sales went down during the first few months of the pandemic. But this all changed when we started to find new way to engage with beauty lovers,” adds Thomas. Follow: @bilibeauty
Tina Hay, CEO, Napkin Finance Biggest Achievement of 2020: Her newly published book became a bestseller After struggling herself to learn about numbers in an accessible way, Hay’s mission is to give adults a basic understanding about money and finance. To help her gain a clearer perspective on how it all works, she drew these concepts out onto a napkin. This became the inspiration for her book, titled Napkin Finance: 30 Ways to Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less , which became a bestseller shortly after its release in December 2019. As she said on Instagram , “It is truly one of the hardest things to simplify complex topics like finance, but we have had a great response and hope to help people make more empowered decisions around money.”
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