Alumna creates protective STEM gear for women

Courtesy+of+Beau+Wangtrakuldee

Courtesy of Beau Wangtrakuldee

Parker Otto, Reporter

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become more important than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are a number of women in science who lack the necessary PPE that is made for women. With the high demand for PPE, one company named AmorSui, founded by NIU alumna Beau Wangtrakuldee, has been creating products geared towards women.

During an internship, a sample of chemicals landed on Wangtrakuldee’s lab coat and pants. She was able to remove it quickly and only sustained minor burns on her legs for two weeks, she said.

After the accident, she realized that there were very few options of PPE for women because the equipment she was wearing was ill-fitting, Wangtrakuldee said. After graduating with a doctorate, she moved to Philadelphia to do research at the University of Pennsylvania, serving as a postdoctoral fellow. She was also able to learn entrepreneurial skills from students at the University of Pennsylvania and met with other start up companies to learn how to make a business from the ground up, Wangtrakuldee said. 

In January 2018, AmorSui was founded, Wangtrakuldee said. The company has created and sold America-made products for their primary audience, women, due to the lack of options for properly fitting PPE. The main goal of AmorSui is to make safety available for everyone as well as to continue making sustainable, eco-friendly and reusable products, Wangtrakuldee said. 

“I love working for AmorSui because not only does it give me a creative outlet, but I feel like I am making a difference by helping women in healthcare to be stylish and protected,” Victoria Wright, AmorSui product development and production manager, said. 

Among its fire-resistant, anti-microbial and machine washable products are pants, tops, dresses, facemasks, medical gowns and hijabs, all of which are designed with the input from scientists and physicians in the field, Wangtrakuldee said. 

The products are also named after famous female scientists from history. Among these names are Marie Curie, a Nobel Prize winning physicist , Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female American doctor, and the first Muslim nurse Rufaida Al-Aslamia. These products can be found on AmorSui’s website.

Other objectives are to work on reducing waste and cost by creating reusable products and commence further research into kinds of PPE and their effectiveness, Wangtrakuldee said.

However, running a business isn’t without challenge.

“Running a business means putting out a lot of fires,” Wangtrakuldee said. 

As a start-up company, AmorSui has had to work hard at forging relationships with high quality vendors and building a brand. 

“The most challenging part is vetting our suppliers and vendors; making sure they are the right fit for our company and share the same values as we do,” Wright said. “We particularly love working with local women or minority-owned businesses. Sometimes it isn’t always easy to find suppliers to match our specific needs but we are always up for the challenge and have been doing a pretty great job thus far.”

All of the vendors AmorSui works with are owned by women and minorities, Wangtrakuldee said.

“Historically, there is a big gap in funding for women-founded companies,” Wangtrakuldee said. “We understand how important it is for us to support women-founded businesses to help close this gap.”

This relationship has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic and additional vendors are being sought by AmorSui, Wangtrakuldee said. 

“This is because up to 90% of these types of owners are shut out of the paycheck protection program,” Wangtrakuldee said. “We are helping the economy by supporting companies that need our business the most.”

When COVID-19 struck the U.S., AmorSui had to pivot in March to adapt to the circumstances the company was placed in.

“It was hard in the beginning,” Wangtrakuldee said. “But we regrouped and we followed trends to create reusable equipment.” 

Starting in May, sales increased and AmorSui focused production on new products that were lacking in the field, Wangtrakuldee said. Among these were a fire-resistant face mask, antimicrobial masks with filters and the first fire-resistant hijab. 2020 sales have increased to over one million dollars, Wangtrakuldee said.

“Today, when you’re running a business, you have to be cutting edge and bring a fresh perspective,” Wangtrakuldee said.

In the future, AmorSui hopes to continue research in PPE, expand products to men as well and be able to supply hospitals, Wangtrakuldee said.

“[Beau] Wangtrakuldee is extremely dedicated and motivated, with a keen sense for the needs of women in STEM careers,” Wright said. “She identified a niche in the market that was underserved and created a vision and a team with the necessary skill set to accomplish it, which is quite the endeavor.”