Sarah Paiji Yoo
Because it makes no sense to ship water -- a primary ingredient in cleaning products -- across the country
Sarah Paiji Yoo knew she was facing an uphill battle: Rather than selling customers something they already knew how to use – such as razors or tampons or liquid dish soap – Blueland would be selling them tablets. Customers would need to pop the tablets into glass bottles with a bit of water, wait for them to dissolve, and then use the resulting hand soap or window cleaner just as they would any other. Blueland’s tablets would mean less fuel and carbon emissions during shipping, and reusing the same bottle would keep disposable bottles from piling up in landfills. But would customers get it?
That question guided everything from which products the company launched first (cleaning sprays seemed the most intuitive way to introduce the concept, and easily illustrated that it didn’t make sense to ship water across the country when it’s already piped into homes), to the chemical composition of its cleaning tablets (the faster they dissolved, the better).
All that work paid off. When Paiji Yoo and co-founder John Mascari finally launched Blueland in 2018, there was only a smidge of work involved, and customers seemed happy to do it. When the team launched its hand soap a few months later, with a tablet that could take up to 20 minutes to fully dissolve, they got exactly zero complaints.
The experience reminded Paiji Yoo, a serial entrepreneur, that trying to anticipate every hurdle before the product is even launched is a fool’s game. “Things will never go according to plan,” she says. “And until you put your idea out there into the real world, you can’t know what people will have a problem with and what won’t be a big deal.” – Kate Rockwood
Scout & Cellar
Because wine doesn't need to be stuffed with chemicals and additives
Because disaster recovery demands big, accessible data
For offering women a new, non-hormonal choice in birth control
“It really is suggested to women that there is nobility in putting yourself second,” says Saundra Pelletier, CEO of Evofem Biosciences. Perhaps that’s why she took on the challenge of commercializing a new form of non-hormonal birth control. Evofem’s flagship product is a contraceptive gel called Phexxi. The gel was first developed in the 1990s. After a bruising application process that Pelletier took over midway through, Phexxi was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2020 and went to market in September. Pelletier has raised more than $400 million from many investors, most of them male, to bring Phexxi to market. –Gabrielle Bienasz
For taking Hollywood to task
Among the mementos Sharon Waxman has posted on her bulletin board in her Los Angeles offices is a quote: “That dame refuses to get on the team.” The quote is from Harvey Weinstein, the sinister movie producer later prosecuted for rampant abuse of women—crimes that were long enabled and covered up by the industry he led.
“That dame,” is Waxman herself. Weinstein’s gripe about her was allegedly uttered in a meeting years ago, in response to a tough story she wrote about his company while she was still a reporter at the New York Times. It exemplifies a motto she kept in both reporting and business as she built TheWrap, now a top Hollywood trade publication: Better to be stolid, rigorous, and trustworthy than coddling, callow and compliant.
“If you do something and I find out about it, you know that I won't be afraid to publish it.” She says. “But you also know that I’ll give you a chance to respond and take the time to say maybe there’s another way to look at this.”
Hollywood big shots, whether they knew her personally or simply by reputation, knew she was top-notch at her job, and true to her word—crucial when she picked up the phone to ask some of them to invest in her fledgling site, and others to sit for its first interviews. She believes that reputation continues to give her site a competitive edge in the notoriously slippery town.
I was able to leverage 15 years’ worth of relationships in the entertainment industry to [create TheWrap],” says Waxman. “But I didn't say everybody liked me.”
The words she repeats to her reporters: Be essential. “We have to remember, nobody has invited us to this party. Nobody is asking for us to be here,” Waxman says of TheWrap. “We have to prove our value pretty much every day.” –Burt Helm