Founder Profile

Vicky Tsai

Tatcha

For using her platform to fight hate crimes.

When Vicky Tsai returned in January 2021 to her CEO role at Tatcha, the San Francisco-based, Japanese-inspired skin care brand she’d founded more than a decade earlier, she had her work cut out for her. The company’s growth and culture had faltered in the two years since she’d stepped down, she says: “My job was to not just right the ship, but to imagine a completely new future for the company that takes into account how much the world has changed.” Then, when harassment and hate crimes targeting Asian Americans surged, Tsai knew she had to speak out. “It affected us as a brand, it affected our clients, and it affected each of us at a very individual and personal level,” she says, noting that the employees and customers of her brand are largely Asian American women, which made serving that community her first priority. “We took care of them by taking very public and early stances on what we would do to support change.” Tsai donated to anti-hate groups and is mentoring other AAPI entrepreneurs through Gold House, a leadership organization. Tatcha also worked with Room to Read, a children’s literacy and girls’ education nonprofit, to gather lists of books and resources to help teachers improve Asian American representation in their classroom libraries. “What I’m most personally proud of,” Tsai says, “is something that’s hard to measure but easy to feel, which is the change in my company--now that we’ve put purpose and culture back into the heart of the brand.”--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Industry
Manufacturing
Location
San Francisco, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Teresa Tsou

Pipsnacks

For feeding America's snack addiction with bettter-for-you products.

Teresa Tsou, co-founded Pipsnacks with her husband, Jeff Martin, and her best friend and sister-in-law, Jennifer Martin. And she says the company, which reimagines snacks using heirloom corn and upcycled ingredients, owes much of its success to the fact that it is a family business. "What has been so tremendous is we're family, we're best friends, we know one another, we know one another's skills,” Tsou says.

Figuring out how to work together well has paid off. In 2020 Pipsnacks’ revenue grew from $2.3 million to $6.1 million and the company expanded its offerings to five product lines, all with fewer than four ingredients that are whole grain, gluten-free, and non-GMO. When Covid shut down in-store sampling, Pipsnacks partnered with Ibotta, a cashback app, to allow consumers to send a free product to their friends. Last year also made the founders focus on e-commerce offerings—with highly successful results. Pipsnacks’ direct-to-consumer sales went up 520 percent. In 2020, Pipsnacks also committed to mission-driven initiatives, including Pipcorn Grants, which offers support and mentoring to Black and minority-founded brands.

“[The pandemic] was a shock to the system, affecting not only how we get in front of our customers, but also supply chains,” Tsou says. “We positioned our products as a cleaner and nostalgic snack, which helped spike our sales."--Teneshia Carr

Company Information
Industry
Food & Beverage
Location
Brooklyn, New York
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Sarah Gibson Tuttle

Olive and June

For giving consumers the tools for salon-quality manicures at home.

Like many business owners during the pandemic, Sarah Gibson Tuttle was facing devastating circumstances for her business, a chain of affordable nail salons in Los Angeles. But a quick pivot into at-home manicure sets for customers was every bit the saving grace for the business--and, as it turns out, a key catalyst for growth. Gibson Tuttle recognized the white space in the at-home manicure experience. “We realized that there were no consumer products for nails. There were professional products on the shelf, and the consumer was just lost,” Gibson Tuttle says.

Beginning with her first product, Poppy, a patented polish bottle handle that helps the user stabilize their nondominant hand, the manicure set grew from there, eventually including pedicure tools and even tutorials users could watch to become their own nail professional. “We taught over a million people [virtually] how to paint their nails,” says Gibson Tuttle, whose revenue has grown 16 times what it was in 2019--despite having to shutter her three physical locations in Los Angeles. “What’s even more exciting than the revenue has always been the fact that we make people really happy. We give them this bit of self-care that they can do every week and really feel good about themselves.”--Alicia Doniger

Company Information
Industry
Consumer Products
Location
Beverly Hills, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Afton Vechery

Modern Fertility

For giving women better tools to track their reproductive health.

When Afton Vechery walks through the pregnancy test aisle, she sees an industry seriously out of touch with what women need. “The majority of leading brands are pink and talk about babies,” she says. “When you think about the reality of infertility—one in six couples deal with infertility—and unplanned pregnancies … we don’t need to assume the intentions of women as part of the testing process. We’re reimagining these products in the context of the modern woman.”

Twenty-twenty was a big year for working on that particular plan. When Vechery initially co-founded Modern Fertility, along with Carly Leahy, in 2017, her startup launched with a $159 at-home hormone testing kit aimed at democratizing fertility data that can otherwise be expensive to obtain if your insurance doesn’t cover it. Last year, Modern Fertility expanded its product lineup to include prenatal vitamins, a pregnancy test, an ovulation test, and a companion app to keep track of all test results. While the products are all available via the startup’s website, Modern Fertility’s pregnancy and ovulation tests also sell through Amazon and in more than 1,000 Walmart stores.

The biggest milestone Modern Fertility hit recently, however, wasn’t in Vechery’s near-term plan for the company: She sold the company in May 2021 for more than a reported $225 million to telehealth company Ro. The deal represents one of the biggest investments in a women’s health care tech startup to date. What sealed the deal for her was Ro’s established telehealth infrastructure and distribution network. “Instead of building those capabilities and customizing them for women, we could inherit them overnight,” says Vechery, who is staying on as president of Ro’s women’s health vertical. “There is so much more to do, we don’t have time to lose.”--Lindsay Blakely

Company Information
Industry
Health Products
Location
San Francisco, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Ann Crady Weiss

Hatch

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

Company Information
Industry
Consumer Products
Location
Menlo Park, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021