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
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
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
Ann Crady Weiss
For helping sleep-deprived kids and adults get a good night's rest.
Ann Crady Weiss is no stranger to long nights with no sleep. The entrepreneur’s sleepless nights with her first baby, along with her husband Dave’s insomnia, inspired the couple to launch Hatch, a line of smart sleep assistants for adults and babies.
The pandemic has taken an especially harsh toll on the sleep cycles of many Americans, especially parents. Weiss says she noticed particularly strong demand among parents, especially mothers of young kids, who needed help getting their own sleep. “Those people have had a particularly difficult time during the pandemic, because schools shut down and it was very difficult to wind down,” says Weiss.
The original Hatch product for babies and kids, Hatch Rest, already had strong word of mouth among parents. But when Hatch launched Restore, the sleep alarm clock for adults, in May 2020, the interest from exhausted parents and other sleep-deprived adults was overwhelming. The company had already cut short the testing period for Restore and launched it ahead of schedule because of the high degree of interest from customers. An added feature of Restore is a selection of “wind down” content, a series of meditations that help users relax and get mentally prepared for sleep.
“From a business perspective, it turns out even in a pandemic—and maybe especially so—people need to sleep,” Weiss says. “From a sales perspective, we’ve kept on with our very lovely growth."--Amrita Khalid
Laura Behrens Wu
For helping e-commerce companies ship their stuff faster.
Shippo founder and CEO Laura Behrens Wu set out to make shipping easier for independent e-commerce merchants. The pandemic has caused business to skyrocket at the eight-year-old shipping platform in a way that Wu had never experienced. The company has doubled head count year over year and is on track to do so again in the next 12 months. “Every day I am running the largest company that I have ever worked at,” says Wu.
Shippo raised over $50 million in funding back in June, which put it over the $1 billion valuation mark. It is now working with more than 100,000 e-commerce merchants, and is available in countries around the world, including the U.S, Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Wu describes Shippo as an “API-first” company in an industry dominated by traditional global shipping giants, and says its focus on technology helps distinguish it from competitors.
“E-commerce has evolved so fast, and shipping expectations today are vastly different from what they were even five to 10 years ago,” Wu says. “In our industry, we are going up against incumbents. Our API-first approach and a focus on reliability and scalability make us a great choice for fast scaling e-commerce companies.”--Amrita Khalid
When Laura Behrens Wu, now 28, was launching an online handbag store in 2013, she discovered that although technologies like Shopify or Stripe made e-commerce, sales, and billing easier, the one function that was still inefficient was shipping. “You either had to walk to the post office and do it yourself, or deal with outdated shipping providers,” says Behrens Wu. She and co-founder Simon Kreuz began building a platform that aggregates shipping options on an easy-to-use dashboard, letting customers select the best carrier for each package and fulfill their orders in the same place. Five years after launch, more than 35,000 companies use the site—including larger operators like Me Undies and Tuft & Needle, but also small and midsize businesses for which shipping is often a huge drag on time. Plus, Shippo’s scale lets it negotiate far better shipping rates than its smaller customers could ever get on their own. So far, the company has raised $29 million, and it is now handling upwards of $5 billion in merchandise a year. --Hannah Wallace