Beau Wangtrakuldee on discovering the gap in PPE for women in STEM and launching AmorSui
Describe your business in a few words?
At AmorSui, we provide the simplest way for hospitals and clinics to adapt zero waste PPE solutions towards greener health care.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I experienced firsthand the importance of having functional personal protective equipment (PPE) in protecting the health and wellbeing of the user. I am a trained PhD organic chemist, and had a chemical spill accident where my lab coat did not protect me when it should have. After the incident, I was looking for protective clothing to provide additional protection for myself and found that there are limited options for functional and size inclusive products, especially for women. This discovery drove me to start AmorSui, which means “self-love” in Latin, to provide PPE for everyone and offer more options especially in smaller sizes.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I am a scientist at heart. I have spent the majority of my career developing drugs for incurable diseases in hopes for bringing my discoveries to market one day. I had an epiphany during my last year of graduate school that the chances for my work to make it to the market could be slim due to lengthy product development and regulatory timelines, which pushed me to explore other translational careers related to science. This led me on a journey to gain experience in business strategy, operations, and entrepreneurship, all of which I fell in love with and allowed me to start my own business.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs who run successful businesses. I learned at a young age that hard work pays off if you make good business decisions. I knew that I wanted to start my own venture one day, I just didn’t know in what area my business would be. It was not until I discovered the gap in PPE for women in STEM that my business dream came into clearer focus.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Even before developing our first product, I spoke with over 100 women scientists to identify the ideal features. Many of these women became the first group of customers who purchased products during a crowdfunding campaign that funded our first production. In the first year, our e-commerce sales relied heavily on my own network of women in STEM and word of mouth. As more people engaged with our products, they talked and shared their experiences with their networks, which not only helped us to gain customers, but also built brand awareness through press features as well. Now that our product offerings have expanded, we utilize different combinations of influencer marketing, targeted advertising, warm introductions, and press activities to acquire new customers.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
In the earlier days of AmorSui, I was not very good at delegating work and hiring the right talent for the business. Because we didn’t build enough expertise around design and manufacturing of garments, we overlook quality control of the fabric in our first large production run. All garments of that lot were not safe to sell to customers, which caused significant credibility and financial loss to our business. What I took away from my experience is that you need to invest in the talent and necessary steps to deliver on the products you envision. The brand is nothing without good products to stand behind. After the incident, I hired a fashion designer who is highly experienced to oversee the production and establish standard operating procedures around quality control. I am happy to report that we have not had a big hiccup like the one I described ever since!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
We have launched the first zero-waste PPE platform to help hospitals and clinics reduce the health care’s environmental impact in celebration of Earth Day 2021!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
To be honest, I don’t have a go-to interview question. The most important thing to me is that I have good chemistry with the person and sense that they can be trusted. I found it is especially important while everyone is working virtually during the pandemic that the person can be trusted to get the job done remotely, and would be comfortable enough to come to you with any questions or concerns if they are not able to move things forward.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
It is no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic has caused many businesses to pivot in order to survive. We were set to launch a safety pilot program with Harvard University in March of 2020. A week before we were scheduled to ship products for this program, we learned that Harvard’s campus was planning to shut down for safety concerns. It was devastating for myself and everyone in the company, and we hit a wall for a month as we figured out what to do next. It was a silver lining story because this crazy situation actually drove us to a great pivot into the sustainable PPE market. After looking further into this, we found opportunities in addressing the disposable PPE shortage and have identified our reusable PPE solution, aligning us for a major pilot with a large healthcare system set to launch in Spring 2021.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We are launching our first zero-waste PPE platform with measurable environmental impact at a large health care system in celebration of Earth Day 2021! One in every six hospitals are seeking solutions to reduce their climate footprint and become more carbon neutral, so we are excited to provide turnkey solutions for the healthcare industry.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
As a business, I would say to stay nimble and be ready to pivot with evolving industry trends. Personally, I found joy in spending most of the time with my husband Craig and our Corgi, Butters, even just the three of us hanging out on a couch in our little apartment. It is the little things that matter with the people that matter to you the most.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I learned the hard way that I cannot do everything alone. My company is not just me, but my team.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I think of many unfortunate events that occurred in 2020 and that are still ongoing in 2021, where many people are sick, have lost loved ones, have gone to work in unsafe conditions, etc., and it fuels me to think of ways I could contribute positively to the public so we can all move past the pandemic together.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes, I am a true believer in work/life balance although I am not perfect at it. I try to unplug fully at least one day a week where I barely look at my phone for business. I also block off my calendar for exercise and other life activities outside of work that are important to me.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I feel like the pandemic has brought out more of the introvert in me. Does anyone else relate? I need more alone time than ever to recharge. Perhaps it is due to having too many Zoom calls back-to-back.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Make a to-do list, block your calendar to actually do it, and find ways to reward yourself once you check things off your list.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
A badass female entrepreneur who always stays true to herself!
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