After a traumatic chemical spill, Beau Wangtrakuldee sought to create PPE designed for women that was size inclusive, so this wouldn’t happen again. Here’s how she used credit cards to fill a gap in the STEM field.
Beau Wangtrakuldee, a Philadelphia-based PhD chemist, is the founder and CEO of AmorSui, a company that provides size-inclusive personal protective equipment (PPE) for women in STEM fields.
It all started when the Thailand-born scientist was dealing with a traumatic chemical spill. Although Wangtrakuldee was following safety dress codes, the toxic chemicals penetrated her lab coat, soaked through her jeans and burned her leg. After that experience, she searched for protective products designed for women to wear under lab coats – but they didn’t exist.
Wangtrakuldee then spoke with hundreds of other female scientists, and they, too, were looking for PPE that would fit their form. So, in 2018, she launched AmorSui. Her mission: to make safety inclusive to all.
The launch wasn’t easy, though. “During AmorSui’s first year, there was a steep learning curve for me, having no background in textile engineering, garment design or production,” says Wangtrakuldee. “I had to communicate and engage with vendors and manufacturers without coming across as inexperienced.”
However, just two years later, her products are worn by women at leading research and development institutions – including Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and in the University of California system.
All of AmorSui’s products are reusable and made from sustainable textiles. Moreover, Wangtrakuldee is a strong proponent of supporting women- and minority-led businesses, so she deliberately contracts them to ensure diversity.
When COVID-19 hit, she sprang into action again. Wangtrakuldee has introduced mobile-managed, gender-inclusive medical PPE to support those on the frontline of the pandemic.
From the start, Wangtrakuldee has used a credit card, making sure her business is protected and powerful.
See related: Keeping employees safe around the world
You didn’t begin in the garment world, so what did you do?
I surrounded myself with a team of fashion designers who I could call or text to ask any questions or join important calls with me to make sure things got done correctly.
I became comfortable leaning on others and their expertise in areas that I didn’t have, allowing me to focus on growing the business to align with our vision and strategies.
Did you have any surprise expenses?
Yes, and because of them, I learned to pad 15%-20% cost and time to any production. Something unexpected always happens.
A great example happened this past March, where we were completing production for one of our academic pilot partners. Our label supplier from China canceled our order due to COVID-19. To complete the production, we had to look for U.S. vendors as an alternative.
Although the overall cost is greater, it allows us to build a strong relationship with a local supplier to control the quantity and quality of the garment more easily.
How have you been using credit cards for AmorSui?
I’ve been using a credit card for the business since day one. Using it for business expenses was advised as an unfavorable thing to do, but I have to disagree.
If the business has a constant revenue stream, credit cards could be a great way to fund unanticipated costs, build your credit and collect cash back rewards to put back into the business without giving any equity away.
I use the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card. I chose it because there is no annual fee, it provides 2% cash back on all eligible purchases (on up to $50,000 in purchases annually, then 1%) and 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months. (Editor’s note: After the introductory period, the card has a variable APR of 13.24%-19.24%.) In addition, I’ve been a customer of American Express for three years and they have great customer service with quick responses. I put many recurring monthly subscriptions and materials orders on the card.
Is the company leveraged or debt-free?
We are financially leveraged and managing our debts on an ongoing basis. I value equity more than debt. I believe in the mission of AmorSui. We are providing a unique innovative solution that will fill in a really big gap in shortages and surges in cost of PPE, and I believe we will acquire enough sales to pay off our debts in the long-run.
Where is the business now – and where is it going?
We are definitely in a growth stage. In the current ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, over 6 million frontline workers and healthcare professionals are putting their lives at risk every day due to PPE shortages and surges in the costs of these products.
AmorSui provides a simple and efficient approach to implement reusable PPE. It cuts their costs in half and reduces waste by up to 65%. Our value proposition is so attractive that we are able to align pilot programs with established healthcare systems and are projected to reach over $1 million in revenue by the end of 2020.
We’re excited to be kicking off our sustainable medical PPE management solution with several large healthcare systems later this year, and starting the pre-seed round funding with strategic partners to continue to accelerate our growth.
Now looking back, do you have any regrets?
I wish I had started my business earlier. I could have learned a lot of valuable lessons and met with incredible founders and mentors I have got to know while growing AmorSui at a younger age – which I think would have opened me up to more opportunities I have missed until recently.
What is your advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
From the business and financial perspective, I would say making sure that you lay out a solid foundation of starting a business before pursuing it. This process includes researching the market, understanding your competitors, knowing your advantages, identifying your target customers and positioning your brand among the existing businesses.
From a personal perspective, before starting your business, I would set a clear ultimate goal of what you want to get out of the business. The milestones for a $100 million private company and $1 billion public company look much different from each other, and you will save so much time and effort aligning all of your actions towards your goal from day one.
As for my suggestions about using credit, it is probably common sense. I do believe in a “don’t bite off more than you can chew” mentality when it comes to borrowing money. This means don’t borrow too much money if you are not sure how you are going to pay it back!