New Leaf Biofuel
For getting used cooking oil out of restaurants and into your gas tank
When you think of energy sources, perhaps used French fry oil from a nearby restaurant isn't top of mind. But it is for Jennifer Case, co-founder and CEO of San Diego-based company New Leaf Biofuel, an energy manufacturer that takes used cooking oil from hotels, casinos, restaurants and more and cleans it before turning it into biodiesel fuel. Founded in 2006, Case helped her budding energy company weather the 2008 financial crisis and has over the years stayed resilient in the face of fossil fuel providers and varying political parties influencing alternative energy production opportunities. In the tremulous year of 2020, when shipping equipment from China earlier in the year was made difficult and French fry oil wasn't being produced among restaurant closures, Case's company is using this time to expand their small plant that produces 5 million gallons of oil per year to a plant that makes 12 million gallons per year, and Case says the company is now expanding into producing other types of renewable fuel. Amid all the pivots and scrappy thinking over the years, Case says she's learned to find balance in her leadership. "Communicate early, often and with honestly and intelligence," she says. "You want to communicate, but not vent. You want to be vulnerable, but not terrifying. You want to inspire trust, not have people jump ship." –Anna Meyer
The Honest Company
For building a brand parents can trust
Twenty-seven and pregnant with her first child, Jessica Alba had an allergic reaction to a product her mother recommended and that was marketed for use on babies. The reaction sparked memories of a childhood plagued by illnesses that included allergies, asthma, and several bouts of pneumonia. "It sort of dawned on me that I was going to bring a little person into the world, and what if she was going to have the same health issues as I did? That was terrifying to me," says Alba.
She began her research into the ingredients of everyday products that could cause reactions, and how these products could be linked to health problems.
After an attempt at lobbying for regulatory reform, and after three years of people telling her that there was no way she could create this business, Alba started Honest Company, inspired by her daughter Honor. Honest began with 17 products including home cleaning products, personal care products, and baby products. Now the company has close to a hundred products in various categories and is sold through large chains such as Target, Walgreens, CVS, and Kroger.
A subscription book club company that provides a try-before-you-buy book club service to kids 12 and under.
For taking the shame out of menopause
Jill Angelo co-founded digital health startup Gennev in 2016 to break taboos around menopause. The company started with personal care products and an online platform with discussion boards and educational resources, and in 2018, developed a so-called menopause assessment to help women understand where they are in the process. About 70,000 women had taken the survey as of August, Angelo says--a valuable data set in a woefully understudied field.
Now, users can also book individual telemedicine appointments with doctors and health coaches who specialize in women’s health, or get a monthly membership for continued access to providers. (While Gennev doesn’t yet accept insurance, patients can pay for appointments with FSA and HSA plans.)
With $5.3 million in funding, the company is looking to expand its services to mental and sexual health, and to use machine learning to help women predict and manage their symptoms. “Our vision is to be the women's health platform for the second half of life,” Angelo says, “starting with menopause.” -- Sophie Downes
Because there are too many podcasts, and not enough time
JJ Ramberg was annoyed: The serial entrepreneur and former MSNBC host would throw on workout clothes, grab her phone, and have no idea what podcast to choose for her run. Apple’s podcast reviews were useless--she didn’t know whether the reviewers shared her taste--and individual recommendations from friends only got her so far.
Late last year, she took the complaint to her brother--and together, they came up with the idea for Goodpods, a podcast-centric social network that Ramberg defines as a mix between Goodreads and Instagram. The siblings initially planned to launch in late March, until Covid-19 presented an existential crisis: Is it appropriate to launch a company right now? After some soul-searching, Ramberg says, they decided the answer was “yes.”
The app had already been beta tested, so lieu of an in-person launch, Ramberg worked to garner attention by recruiting celebrities as users--leveraging her TV connections to enlist names such as Kim Kardashian West, Simon Sinek, Katie Couric and Malcolm Gladwell. “The most gratifying thing is seeing that it works,” Ramberg says. “When you have an idea for something, you think it’s great--but you never actually know if anyone’s going to use it until you really put it out there.” – Cameron Albert-Deitch