About This Episode:
Beau Wangtrakuldee, Ph.D., is a scientist, entrepreneur, and founder of AmorSui, a modern protective apparel company redesigning personal protective equipment (PPE) to empower women with greater function and protection in laboratory and medical settings.
She’s tackling two massive problems: one that traditional PPE hasn’t taken into account diversity and the needs of women and marginalized groups, and two, that an enormous amount of waste is generated by an industry that has traditionally used single-use and ineffective options.
Beau has been named to Forbes Next 1000, Forbes 2021 Female Founder to Watch, and Top 10 Women Leading Healthcare Startups.
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2:07 – “My background is Ph.D. material scientist/chemist, and I see first-hand that when you say personal protective equipment, the protection is not set up to protect anyone because I was in a chemical spill accident while I was still working in a lab where I was hurt because my own PPE, my lab coat, did not protect me. So the chemicals came right onto my body, burned right through my lab coat. And so I was hurt as a result because it did not do the job.”
9:17 – “It came from all the conversation I have with women scientists at the time, which are that they said they got hurt in the lab because the lab coat did not protect them, is too big, is not fitted, and they wish that there was a way they could wear more professional clothes under the lab that don’t have to be scared of getting it burn or destroyed while doing work. So it’s kind of a bench to boardroom outfit under a lab coat in case a lab coat wouldn’t work.”
12:31 – “We separate our product line into fluid repellent and also more like a flame-retardant chemical protection. So when you think about the industry that used PPE, the big guys are research and development labs, pharmaceutical manufacturing, oil and gas refineries – so that is fire resistant and chemical retardant clothing. And then the fluid repellent is something that all the health care professionals would wear.”
13:22 – “From the fire resistant, chemical resistant process, if there were something that’s supposed to caught on fire, our clothing will self-extinguish themselves, meaning that it would not caught on fire and continue to burn. It would stop. And from the chemical resistant perspective, you can withstand spill for, I think, 60 to 75 seconds. So you actually could wipe it off before it get into your body.”
14:34 – “Our product does deal with, not minority because women is not minority, but deal with race and gender gap of the workforce in the market. Things like PPE for women sizing or PPE for a specific race like Muslim, like hijab. So one of our best-selling items that we do really little marketing and people come back and buy it again and again is a fire resistant hijab because it’s the only place in the market where they could find and buy it. So of course the feedback has been ‘I have never seen this before. Thank you for developing it.’ You see people buy again and again and said, if you area professor and you buy it for student, they said, ‘My student loves it.’”
18:09 – (Beau): “This is kind of like my competitors’ products. And I’m putting, like, a napkin behind this gown because these gowns are supposed to protect if someone spit or there’s a bodily fluid. So you don’t take it and screw it up and take it home or spread it throughout a hospital. And I have a water bottle. And what you see, I’m just going to do a couple…”
[Beau squirts water on the medical gown]
(Ross): “I love this.”
(Beau): “All right. I’m just going to do a couple of squirt. And you will see this soaked completely through.”
(Ross): “Unbelievable. So it doesn’t do its primary function?”
(Beau): “No, it doesn’t do. And you pay for it. And we throw it in landfill.”
(Ross): “Incredible. That seems like negligence-”
(Beau): “Do you think that that’s a problem?”
(Ross): “Yeah, that’s that seems like almost criminal negligence.”
23:27 – (Ross) “I want to be clear here, because we’ve talked on this show a lot about single-use plastics and about how bad they are in general. But obviously in the health care industry, a lot of health advancements have been made thanks to single use-plastic and plastic in general. I think one industry that has benefited the most from this technology over the last decade is the medical industry, because it’s so mission critical. You can’t be reusing syringes. There are so many items in treatment of patients that need to be protected. So if there’s one area that it’s justified, you could say that it is medicine. However, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be revisiting these things and asking ourselves if it’s really necessary on every component.”
32:31 – “I have a really funny story to share. So when we were testing our fire-resistant clothing products, so these are like size, extra-extra-small to large, right? Because we’re making it in women’s sizing. And so we sent a size medium to our third-party testing facility and they emailed me back, ‘The clothing does not fit,’ the mannequin they use for fire blasting to test that it works. And they sent me a picture of the mannequin. It was this huge, muscular, big mannequin because that’s what they used to test. There weren’t like a female body-testing product, like the mannequin to test for this type. So we actually have to make like an extra-extra-extra-large size to test our product in order to sell our product into the market.”
37:48 – “So I can share with you, as an entrepreneur, what I ask myself when I think if the business is worth pursuing or not: Am I learning something today? Am I feeling fulfilled with the mission that I’m doing today? And do I think that the progression of the business are still aligning with the mission I care about? And those are the three things that I use as my KPI. And it’s really not number-driven or value-driven by any way, but those are the three things I really care about.”
39:32 – (Ross) “My business is a marketing agency and building websites and all of those kinds of things for clients. And there are very, very tough moments. But then I think back to the alternative, which is working for somebody from 9 to 5 and having no potential for growth other than that.”
(Beau): “Yeah or not working on something that you care about and have to be forced to work on something you don’t care about.”
(Ross): “Right. And having someone yell at you. As hard as it is dealing with taxes and employees and all of that stuff, I just think about the time when I worked at Best Buy in high school and I showed up one minute late and I had three different managers yelling at me because I punched in at 9:01 instead of 9:00. And I think ‘Never again!’”
42:06 – (Ross) “I have no interest in talking to people for whom money is the only goal, and that’s not what this show has ever been about. From day one, it’s redefining success to be something else and a mission is part of that and envisioning a better future in some way, whatever that might mean, whether that’s talking about climate change or science or A.I.. There are many different ways that we can envision a better future than today. But that’s the part that I’m interested in. I’d rather talk to somebody who has their heart in the right place doing something interesting than talk to a billionaire or somebody who just got wealthy. Who cares how they did it? It’s a nuance, but it’s important to me.”
46:36 – “We work on the things that will create impact with the consumer, even if it’s the most boring thing. So those are my mindset. For me personally. I make sure that I have my space to do the things that I want to do in life. I love playing tennis, and tennis is like my break time, so I block my time to schedule those as a part of my life. And I always protected those things. Because this keeps me fulfilled and being the best I can be.”
48:46 – “My advice is, if you have something you’re passionate about, just write down one or two things that you can do today to validate your ideas or moving it forward. Again, for me, those little steps add up over time and it gets me to where I need to be.”