Founder Profile

Noura Sakkijha

Mejuri

For redesigning the jewelry business with women in mind.

It makes sense that jewelry companies have traditionally marketed their products to men: They were the ones with the money, after all. While that is clearly no longer the case, jewelry companies have been slow to reorient their messaging. At jewelry maker Mejuri, founder Noura Sakkijha says: “Buy yourself the damn diamond.” Thanks in part to this message of women’s empowerment, which is built into the very structure of the company as women make up the majority of the ranks, Sakkijha says 70 percent of Mejuri’s clients buy jewelry for themselves.

Its empowered message has also struck a chord with investors. Sakkijha raised $23 million in funding when she was seven months pregnant with twin girls. She says investors questioned her ability at first, but she never lost her confidence. The effort, she says, gave her the fire, passion, and resilience for what could have been a difficult deal to seal. Today, the six-year-old company operates physical stores in select cities across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.--Alicia Doniger

Company Information
Location
Toronto, Ontario
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Natalie Gordon

Babylist

For giving expectant parents ways to celebrate remotely.

While Covid-19 ended in-person baby showers, Natalie Gordon of Babylist helped ensure expecting parents could still celebrate their little bundles of joy. The gift registry founder says the pandemic forced her to reimagine the baby shower experience, which, one, ensured parents could still celebrate with friends and family, and, two, solidified her company’s survival. “My fear was that in a world with Covid-19, [baby showers] would be one of the things that are hardest hit, and [change] the celebration and your village supporting you,” says Gordon.

Gordon created “how-to” guides for her customers to follow to revive the joyous occasion, virtually. She developed different Zoom backgrounds for virtual baby showers, and she crafted virtual baby shower etiquette tips, among other useful content. To her delight, parents bought in and so did everyone else, she says. “Because of Covid, [friends and family] wanted to be more helpful,” and that ensured the company’s bottom line wouldn’t fall off a cliff, Gordon says. The company actually grew its sales over 150 percent in 2020, and has doubled its revenue every year for the past three years, she says. “I am more excited about the next decade than I am about the past decade,” she adds. “We are a beloved and trusted brand for families going through this stage of life that extends in a lot of ways that we’re really excited about.”--Alicia Doniger

Company Information
Location
Oakland, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Samantha Long

Eli Directional Drilling, Inc.

For laying the groundwork that helped people stay connected through Covid.

When the economy tanks, small firms are usually the first to suffer. During the early, uncertain days of the pandemic, Samantha Long knew that ELI Directional Drilling, the small utility construction firm she co-founded with her husband, would likely be outbid by larger companies with the resources to weather the storm.

But the nationwide 5G rollout kept rolling, and there were still plenty of new projects under way. So in February 2020, Long and her team sprung into action, revamping their bidding strategy to lower prices. She credits her employees’ willingness to “listen and take realistic action” as vital to the company’s survival over the past 18 months. The work ended up paying off. ELI Directional Drilling finished 2020 with $5.1 million in revenue.

“We beat out some really big regional competitors on a few substantial projects,” Long says. “Ultimately, the successful completion of that work has translated into stronger customer relationships and has solidified us as a reliable partner in our region.”

Long and her husband, David Long, launched ELI in 2016, with a two-man crew and a single drill. One of their first projects was helping VA hospitals build out infrastructure to transition to solar energy. Since then, the St. Louis-based company has served dozens of clients in the utilities, telecom, and energy sectors across the Midwest and Southwest.

As the company hits the five-year mark, Long credits the company’s solid financials and strong client relationships as key to its growth. These days, ELI is able to successfully bid, finance, and complete much larger construction projects than it did in the past.--Amrita Khalid

Company Information
Location
Eureka, Missouri
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Megan Glover

120water

For helping consumers know what's in their drinking water.

Turns out testing the quality of public water isn’t a job that can be halted during a pandemic. Since its founding in 2016, Indiana-based 120Water had established itself as a reliable service for municipalities to test their drinking water for toxins like lead, copper, and arsenic. But how do you do that safely during a pandemic? Utility workers sent to collect water samples would knock on residents’ doors and receive no response.

The solution: getting residents to test the water themselves. The company launched a contactless water testing kit, complete with clearly labeled instructions and educational materials for residents, according to CEO and co-founder Megan Glover.

Now, the water testing company has added sampling for SARS-CoV-2 in public wastewater to its list of services. According to Glover, clients wanted another way to track the trajectory of the virus in their cities. Such wastewater monitoring, which detects the virus in sewage, allows communities to identify emerging Covid-19 hot spots.

“Last year was again focused on continuing to grow our core business, which became even more of a necessity, but also what more could we be doing as part of the pandemic to help our customer base protect public health,” says Glover.

At present, 120Water’s future appears to be very bright. Pending legislation at the federal level that requires all utilities to remove lead pipes has resulted in a rush of business for 120Water. Which is why the firm has grown its client base by 400 percent since the beginning of January.

“All 52,000 utilities and regulators across the country are trying to figure out if they have to [replace] all of these pipes and where they are. And that's what we're helping our customers do with predictive analytics and data management through our platform,” says Glover.--Amrita Khalid

Company Information
Location
Zionsville, Indiana, Indiana
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Krystle Mobayeni

BentoBox

For giving restaurants the tools to digitize their businesses.

The pandemic delivered Krystle Mobayeni, CEO of the restaurant tech startup BentoBox, a very unexpected opportunity and she pounced. The company creates websites for restaurants and sets them up with online ordering. When quarantine orders forced restaurants to pivot overnight to delivery and takeout, BentoBox got a surge of new clients.

To address the many needs of its expanding client roster, BentoBox decided to offer its products unbundled. Restaurants could pick how much support they needed with online ordering and offer options like digital gift cards. BentoBox sped up the development time to go live, with many restaurants launching in less than a week. During the crunch, the company evolved from a service provider of website design to a full technology partner, working with restaurants to centralize their digital storefront—website, e-commerce, and marketing.

To enable the shift, Mobayeni empowered BentoBox’s teams with the autonomy to meet the needs of its restaurant customers. And she made it clear that perfection wasn’t the goal. “We knew that we could always go back and refine our work, but with the uncertainty of the situation, time was of the essence,” says Mobayeni.

Nearly 80 percent of BentoBox employees have some restaurant industry experience, from pastry chefs to line cooks to waiters. “We never lose sight of our commitment to restaurants,” Mobayeni says. “Our focus on culture, speed, and restaurant-first operations has allowed us to maintain a 98 percent customer retention rate and create a strong reputation in the marketplace.”--Amrita Khalid

Company Information
Location
New York, New York
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021