Founder Profile

Zuleyka Strasner

Zero Grocery

For taking plastic out of the grocery supply chain.

Zuleyka Strasner did not set out to build a grocery delivery business. An Oxford graduate who studied politics, Strasner moved to Silicon Valley in 2016 to work as chief of staff at a venture firm. Soon she became interested in sustainability and, specifically, a better way to get stuff to people. Amazon had perfected shipping efficiency, but no company seemed focused on cutting out the mountains of plastic packaging that e-commerce generates. So she aimed to develop software that could help pack, route, and batch goods through the supply chain more sustainably. “Very quickly it became obvious that we had to build out not only the supply side but also the demand side, which meant becoming a single, monolithic platform,” Strasner says.

She launched Zero Grocery in 2019, and today it is a platform that offers next-day delivery on nearly 3,000 different items—from groceries to homewares—all packaged without any single-use plastics. Zero works with food suppliers at the point in the supply chain when the food is packed, making sure things like berries go into recycled cardboard containers and spices and shampoo go into reusable glass jars. The service, which is currently available in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, is available to both non-members and members (the latter pay a $25 monthly fee for discounted prices and free delivery).

Demand soared in 2020, and Strasner grew the team from six people in February of last year to 50. In 2022, the company, which has raised $4.7 million to date, plans to expand to San Diego, Sacramento, and Las Vegas. --Lindsay Blakely

Company Information
Industry
Software
Location
Richmond, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Addie Swartz

reacHIRE

For supporting women who want to re-enter the workforce.

Addie Swartz was on a break after starting her second company, a book series and brand for preteens called The Beacon Street Girls, when she was in a car crash that left her daughter with a serious concussion. “When I was taking care of her, which sidelined me, I saw all these women who were sidelined,” she says. So in 2013, she founded reacHIRE, which works with employers to create “returnship” programs for women who are re-entering the workforce after a break. With clients including T-Mobile, Wayfair, and Fidelity, the Concord, Massachusetts-based company brings women back to work in cohorts and trains them for jobs that might not even have existed in the first stage of their careers. In February 2020, it created Aurora, a platform to help companies build a bench of early-career female talent through leadership development. “The original vision was that the return-to-work business would replenish talent into the pipeline for companies, and that the Aurora platform would grow the early-career women into emerging leaders and managers,” says Swartz. But then the pandemic hit. Schools and daycare centers closed, and without the support they needed to stay at their jobs, women left the workforce in droves. Swartz moved quickly to bring them into the fold. “A crisis forces you to reorganize and reprioritize,” she says. “You could sit and be upset and frustrated, or you could say, wait a minute--what is happening, how are we addressing it, and how are we going to move to the needs that are here now?” ReacHIRE expanded the Aurora platform to include tracks for midcareer women, women of color, and women having children.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Industry
Human Resources
Location
Concord, Massachusetts
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

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