April 19, 2021

2020 has dramatically transformed almost every aspect of work and life. But in every crisis, lies opportunity. Adversity breeds innovation, and from the other side emerges a new legion of young entrepreneurs that are determined to surmount the challenges (food security, mental health, sustainability) that Covid-19 poses. These self-starters have not only established profitable businesses even before the pandemic, but are also driven to create solutions for a world in flux. Here are seven of them making a positive impact on society and the environment.

Paul Suhey and Frank Reig

Social distancing mandates have caused public transportation in big cities to slow down. In response to the lack of transport, 29-year-old Paul Suhey and Frank Reig, co-founders of Revel, offer a convenient transport solution for commuters with their system of shareable mopeds.

Revel started in 2018 with just 68 mopeds in New York City and has since expanded to five major cities (Miami, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Washington D.C.). They now have a total of 6,000 electric mopeds. “We’ve grown into the largest shared electric vehicle operator in the United States,” said Suhey. When the pandemic escalated last March, they started offering free rides for all healthcare workers and increased its service areas to allow them easier access to major hospitals and medical centres while abiding by social distancing rules. “We were inspired to create the programme after seeing health care workers naturally gravitate to our service,” added Suhey. In New York City, they expanded their transport network into Manhattan and the Bronx to cover more hospitals. Eventually, 3,000 health care workers signed up and were given 10 weeks of free rides. Many see Revel as a way to support a city’s climate goals and meet America’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Alyssa Petersel

Covid-19 has taken a toll on our collective mental wellbeing. Many experience anxiety that stems from financial woes, fear of falling ill and never recovering, or losing a loved one to the virus. To help address these issues, 29-year-old Alyssa Petersel offers MyWellbeing, a platform that matches people to the ideal therapist or coach for their needs. The app also supports these therapists in establishing their business and professional contacts.

2020 saw a surge in the number of companies eager to collaborate with MyWellbeing and sponsor workshops for employees on topics like burnout, grief and layoffs. Since then, the company has supported over 28 million people through Instagram to help them gain more access to improved mental health.

Ben Pasternak

Australian entrepreneur Ben Pasternak, who founded SIMULATE, is offering Australia (and the world) a more sustainable version of chicken nuggets. His creation made out of texturised wheat protein has raised a total of US$15 million in funding with the backing of investors such as Lerer Hippeau, Alexis Ohanian, and McCain Foods.

According to Pasternak’s observations, the pandemic has caused a disruption of the meat supply chain, which has resulted in an uptick in sales of plant-based meat options. As environmental and health concerns drive consumers to meat facsimiles, the 21-year-old entrepreneur is looking to launch more products like “hot dogs” and “tenders” soon.

Mimi Tran Zambetti, Benjamin Stanfield and Landon Brand

If anything, the crisis has made us even more conscious about environmental issues like global warming and climate change. And while melting ice caps, forest fires and rising temperatures remain a pressing concern, most people are clueless about how they can contribute positively.

22-year-old Mimi Tran Zambetti, 23-year-old Benjamin Stanfield and 23-year-old Landon Brand, the creators of Project Wren, are attempting to address this issue. “We realised there are several people like us, who want to do something, but aren’t sure how. We decided to encourage people to take the first step by making it as simple as possible—a monthly subscription that funds projects reversing climate change,” said Brand.

What Wren does is to make this process as straightforward and transparent as possible. The website calculates your carbon footprint and allows you to equilibrise it through donations to environmental non-profit organisations. Simply visit the website and answer some questions (how much do you drive? How often do you eat meat?) to determine your carbon cost and a list of projects that you can fund (based on your personal emissions) will be displayed. Even though the climate change movement has been gaining traction, more remains to be done. Wren will help companies and individuals to find suitable projects that they can help support like planting more trees or using less water and energy to cull livestock.