For many women in business, their springboard to success was a setback. Maybe it was a sheer determination to prove wrong that guy who told them it couldn’t be done.

In some respects, the coronavirus represented the same kick in the pants. Determined to survive the pandemic, these six entrepreneurs fought through the downturn to save their businesses for themselves, their employees, customers and community.     

Unexpected Growth During an Uncertain Time   

Kathy Lill and Nicole Dull were friends long before they became business partners. Growing up in the same neighborhood, their families lived a few houses away from one another and often vacationed together.

In 2010, when the friends-turned-business partners saw a need for licensed, bonded and insured cleaning companies on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, they started Tidewater Cleaning Service (tidewatercleaningservice.com), primarily focused on residential cleaning. As word spread, the business quickly grew.

Enter the pandemic. In March 2020, when states mandated closures, Kathy and Nicole paused their residential business while they educated themselves about COVID-19, retrained their employees on proper cleaning methods and protocols, and as an essential service, were able to keep the commercial side of their business open until their residential customers were ready to welcome them back.

As customers began requesting daily cleanings instead of their normal once a week appointment, their commercial cleaning business boomed. Prior to the pandemic, Tidewater’s business was 80% residential; today, it’s 40% commercial.

“The pandemic changed the face of cleaning. Instead of it being something that was a luxury, it quickly turned into a true necessity,” Kathy said.    

Kathy Lill and Nicole Dull were friends long before they became business partners. Growing up in the same neighborhood, their families lived a few houses away from one another and often vacationed together.

In 2010, when the friends-turned-business partners saw a need for licensed, bonded and insured cleaning companies on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, they started Tidewater Cleaning Service (tidewatercleaningservice.com), primarily focused on residential cleaning. As word spread, the business quickly grew.

Enter the pandemic. In March 2020, when states mandated closures, Kathy and Nicole paused their residential business while they educated themselves about COVID-19, retrained their employees on proper cleaning methods and protocols, and as an essential service, were able to keep the commercial side of their business open until their residential customers were ready to welcome them back.

As customers began requesting daily cleanings instead of their normal once a week appointment, their commercial cleaning business boomed. Prior to the pandemic, Tidewater’s business was 80% residential; today, it’s 40% commercial.

“The pandemic changed the face of cleaning. Instead of it being something that was a luxury, it quickly turned into a true necessity,” Kathy said.

 

Pandemic Pivot Provides Comfort and Growth

When she was tasked with making centerpieces for a friend’s baby shower, Shari Verrone had no idea it would lead to a multimillion-dollar business. Stackable Sensations (StackableSensations.com) was born from the enthusiasm of baby shower-goers impressed with Shari’s three-tiered “baby cakes” made of beautiful burp cloths, diapers and other unique baby items. Today, this 16-employee, WBENC-certified business has matured into a global promotional solutions provider specializing in creative logo-branded giveaways for events, trade shows, corporate gift-giving and recognition events.

When the pandemic struck, Stackable’s phones and email went quiet. “With the majority of our businesses focused on events and trade shows, which had been canceled, I knew we needed to pivot immediately to support our clients as well as our own viability,” Shari recounted.

Thinking strategically, Shari and her team worked around-the-clock to source products their customers desperately needed: everything from reusable masks to thermometers and touchless hand sanitizer dispensers. Her quick action enabled Stackable Sensations to become an approved vendor for many larger corporations and led to a 55% increase in year-over-year sales.

“We put our agility to the test,” Shari said.

Shari also leaned on her trusted banking relationship. “Our PNC banker has a way of making things happen,” she said. “During this very stressful time, he guided us through the Paycheck Protection Program so we could help our employees continue to provide for their families. PNC’s support has helped enable us to remain strong.”

 

Looking to the Future While Giving Back

Rachel Rothenberg had been working in the New York fashion industry for 16 years when the pandemic struck. When the Governor made a public call to New York designers and manufacturers to come up with creative solutions in response to PPE (personal protective equipment) shortages, Rachel and two colleagues, Alexandra Baylis and Amy Tiefermann, quickly sprang into action.

Horrified by images in the news of nurses wearing garbage bags as protection, the women started a GoFundMe page and got to work in a vacant gym with a couple of folding tables and fabric donated from local manufacturers. In just one week’s time, they made their first batch of 300 hospital gowns under their new non-profit, Garment District for Gowns (garmentdistrictforgowns.com).

Through an influx of generous donations and as the first recipients of the Empire State Development’s Pandemic Supply Grant, this small but mighty team of fashion professionals has been able to substantially scale their operations by addressing a void in American-made PPE. Under their for-profit company, GoldaTech (goldatech.com), they’ve manufactured over half a million reusable, app-trackable medical gowns made of recycled materials; their nonprofit arm has donated more than 11,000 gowns to help facilities in need.

“I was guided every step of the way as we built the business,” said Rachel. “It’s so encouraging to have your bank and banker believe in your future and support women business owners. It’s been a steep learning curve, and PNC has been there to guide and support me.”

The circumstances under which they started their journey remain as important as ever, which is why GoldaTech donates 10% of its profits back to Garment District for Gowns. Driven to help when help was urgently needed, they continue to amplify their charitable work in underserved communities while keeping sustainability and the environmental impact of PPE manufacturing top of mind.

Learn more about these three businesses and additional Women Who Achieve stories.