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Mustafa Nuur was born in Somalia but fled after terrorists killed his entrepreneurial father. He eventually settled in Lancaster, Pa., where he launched a startup called Bridge. It hosts cross-cultural experiences — dinners, gatherings, and so on — so that immigrants, refugees, and locals can better understand each other. “There’s nothing that can replace sitting across from someone who’s different from you and hearing their story,” he tells me.
But something would have to replace it, of course. When COVID-19 swept through America, sitting across from someone wasn’t an option. Nuur was scared. Then he had an idea. The immigrants and refugees he works with could become essential workers, helping homebound residents. For example, he has a Syrian refugee family who, just days before the lockdown, hosted a dinner in their home. One attendee was an elderly woman who lives alone. When the lockdown began, the family began delivering this woman’s groceries, running her errands, and calling daily at 6 p.m. to check in.
Related: 5 Tips to Leading Your Company Through the Chaos
“It really made me think about how life should be every day,” Nuur says. “We should be having these relationships.”
I agree. And I think we can get there.
I have the privilege of meeting many entrepreneurs, which means I also witness their great collective irony. Even during good times, entrepreneurship feels lonely. We have chosen a path of self-determination, which can be maddening and isolating. And yet, here’s the crazy thing: We all deal with the same problems. Everyone has impostor syndrome. Everyone wrestles with management, or finances, or plans gone awry. We are alone together.
Now our barriers are coming down. We are all, for the first time in our lives, openly wrestling with the same problems at the same time. Confidence isn’t expected; clarity is impossible. We felt isolation and then doubled down on connectivity. We came to share openly with others and rely more heavily on them, too.
That’s what we wanted to honor in this issue, which has been a long time in the making. To understand it, here’s the backstory.
In March, as lockdowns began, the team here was preparing for our June issue. (We work months in advance.) Then June was canceled, a victim of uncertain economics. Our next issue would be in July — a time that seemed impossibly far away, in a world we couldn’t envision. We didn’t know where to begin, so we started with a question: Who should be on the cover? In normal times, our covers feature a celebrity…but that seemed like the wrong tone.
“Nobody wants to be the face of a pandemic,” someone on our team said.
Related: How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed During the Coronavirus Pandemic
What could we predict about the future? We agreed on this: Entrepreneurs would not give up. They’d join together and shift from panic to adaptation. By July, we figured, people would have plans. They’d find opportunity. They’d collectively carry the world forward.
So who should be on the cover? Entrepreneurs should be on the cover. “Let’s fit as many people as we can,” I said, which turned out to be 137. We wanted them to be a representative sample of entrepreneurial ingenuity — people who work at every scale, at every experience level, running solo businesses to international powerhouses. Our sole filter: They had to have done something adaptive during the pandemic, whether it was helping their team, their community, their customers, or others. We’d include everyone who was quoted in the magazine, as well as people we’d simply heard about and admired. One day, for example, I read a local news story about Maya Gilliam, who saw no future in the spa she’d run for years — so she transformed it into a boutique farm and upscale hemp dispensary called Hempress Farms. I loved that. On the cover!
Does this sound messy and haphazard to you? I agree — but what else is there, really? Entrepreneurship is also messy and haphazard, the product of envisioning a destination and then improvising your way there. We’d all prefer perfection, but we must settle for this instead: When we have an idea, and join with others to make it happen, we have a chance to create something meaningful. On any given day, that’s the best we can do.
Related: How to Make the Most of Your Ambition
The world we couldn’t imagine in March has now come into focus. New businesses are launching. Old ones pivoted. Just as we are sending this issue to the printer, many people are leaving their homes and joining a movement for racial equality — another seismic event that could pull us apart or create togetherness and hope for a better future.
I do not know what comes next. But I sure know this: We won’t get there without each other. We were never alone, even when we felt we were. Now we know it.
These 137 people represent the wide range of entrepreneurs adapting to COVID-19. Those interviewed in our July/August issue are linked to their corresponding stories; others are explained here, with more on Entrepreneur.com and @Entrepreneur on Instagram.
1/ Maghan Morin
2/ Jeanine Suah
3/ Eric Yuan, founder and CEO, Zoom
The videoconference platform became a social lifeline during the crisis, and Yuan formed a new advisory council to improve security and privacy.
4/ Tom Colicchio, chef/owner, Crafted Hospitality
The Top Chef judge and restaurateur helped found the Independent Restaurant Coalition to advocate for the industry.
5/ Rebecca Minkoff, founder, Female Founder Collective
The designer launched a virtual training program to help entrepreneurs prep to raise capital.
6/ Sean “Diddy” Combs, founder, Our Fair Share
The rapper created a platform to help minority entrepreneurs access relief capital during the pandemic.
7/ Adam Contos
8/ Pierre Laguerre, founder and CEO, Fleeting
Fleeting connects commercial drivers with on-demand jobs; once COVID-19 hit, it focused on getting supplies deployed, fast.
9/ Deepti Sharma, founder and CEO, FoodtoEat
The catering service helps minority-owned food vendors grow their businesses. Lately, Sharma’s robust network has helped feed folks in need.
10/ Vanessa Braxton, CEO, Black Momma Brands
Braxton shifted her vodka distillery to produce hand sanitizer.
11/ Matthew Herman
12/ David Kien
13/ Afton Vechery and 14/ Carly Leahy, cofounders, Modern Fertility
The fertility startup collected and shared data on how the crisis is impacting women’s plans to have children.
15/ Sara Blakely
1/ Rob Price
2/ Christina Perla, cofounder and CEO, Makelab
The 3D-printing company pivoted from consumer products to face shields and custom-fit PPE.
3/ Michael Lastoria, cofounder and CEO, &Pizza
The brand donated “hero pies” to local hospital workers and partnered with Citi to expand the program.
4/ Natalie Madeira Cofield, founder and CEO, Walker’s Legacy
The entrepreneurship collective for women of color launched an emergency grant to help students displaced by the crisis.
5/ Javier Garcia Del Moral and 6/ Paco Vique, cofounders, The Wild Detectives
The Dallas bookstore said it was becoming a travel agency, but searches on its site for destinations returned related book suggestions. The prank saw sales jump 200 percent.
7/ Reshma Shetty, cofounder, Ginkgo Bioworks
The biotech company offered $25 million worth of no-cost work on its platform to projects fighting the virus.
8/ Andy Hunter
9/ Ben Parsa, CEO, Inside Weather
The furniture company shifted to make face shields and masks, and made their designs open-source.
10/ Marie Kondo
11/ Guy Fieri, chef, Knuckle Sandwich
Fieri raised more than $20 million for the struggling restaurant industry.
12/ Jasmine Crowe, founder and CEO, Goodr
The food-waste management company launched free grocery pop-ups in communities of need.
13/ Kent Yoshimura and 14/ Ryan Chen, cofounders, Neuro
The wellness-focused gum brand had relied on in-person fitness events to drum up business. To stay top of mind, the founders started creating at-home workouts to keep people healthy.
15/ Taraji P. Henson, founder, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
The actress launched a campaign to provide free tele-therapy to African American communities.
1/ Paul Carrick Brunson, founder, Knowledge Share
The serial entrepreneur has attracted thousands of viewers to his twice-weekly livestreams about navigating business challenges.
2/ Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO, Minted
The stationery and wedding invitation company launched “Change the Date” products.
3/ Eric Yaverbaum
4/ Magic Johnson, CEO, Magic Johnson Enterprises
He provided $100 million in loans to minority- and women-owned businesses.
5/ Rick Stollmeyer, cofounder and CEO, Mindbody
The management platform for fitness brands launched a free product to help clients easily shift to offer online classes.
6/ Cheryl Leung
7/ Ethan Bechtel, CEO, OhMD
The platform lets doctors send HIPAA-encrypted texts to patients, and it was made free during the crisis.
8/ Alexandra Fine
9/ Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO, Beautycounter
The business saw a threefold increase in new independent makeup consultants at the brand, helping laid-off industry workers find new income.
10/ Pitbull, rapper
The Grammy-winning artist helped launch the Hispanic Small Business Center to provide support to Latino entrepreneurs.
11/ Ava Duvernay, founder, Array Alliance
The filmmaker launched Array Grants to help crisis-impacted festivals and screening series that focus on narrative change by people of color and women.
12/ Levi Fried
13/ Harmony Sage
14/ Ryan Roslansky, CEO, LinkedIn
The social network made job postings free for hospitals, disaster relief nonprofits, and medical device companies.
15/ Todd Heiser
1/ Achal Patel, cofounder and CEO, Cabinet
The medicine startup launched in March and quickly started offering a “kit” with hand cleansers and drugs to manage COVID symptoms.
2/ Sudheesh Nair
14/ Stan Khlevner
15/ Christina Stembel
1/ Shaan Sethi and 2/ Neela Sethi Young, cofounders, Jaanuu
The medical apparel brand pledged to donate 200,000 masks to Baby2Baby, a nonprofit that helps children in poverty.
14/ Mary Spio, founder and CEO, CEEK VR
The virtual reality company is working with entertainers to create live-performance experiences.
15/ Ross Kramer
1/ Ariela Safira
2/ Garry Cooper, CEO, Rheaply
The asset-sharing platform provided its technology to help Illinois medical facilities share ventilators and supplies.
14/ Frank Yang, founder and CEO, Simplehuman
Sales soared for the brand’s touch-free garbage cans and soap dispensers, and the company distributed free products to caregivers.
15/ Anna Whiteman
1/ Pasha Chikosh
2/ Miki Agrawal
14/ Jon Taffer
15/ Tommey Walker, founder, Detroit VS Everybody
Walker launched “everybody vs covid-19” T-shirts; proceeds benefited Detroit businesses.
1/ Brian Smith
2/ Nate Checketts
14/ Lillian Chan
15/ Mike Whatley
1/ Katie Sturino, founder, Megababe
Demand for the brand’s hand sanitizer soared; the company prioritized donations to those most in need.
2/ Irina Logra
14/ John foley, founder and CEO, Peloton
Sales spiked when people panic-bought at-home bikes, and Peloton shifted production to its instructors’ homes.
15/ Jamie Schmidt, cofounder, Schmidt’s Naturals
Schmidt launched The Entrepreneurial Dream Project, a grant and mentorship program for new businesses building during the crisis.
1/ Jaqi Wright
2/ Nikki Howard
14/ Michelle Kennedy, cofounder and CEO, Peanut
The social app for women launched new features to help users with pandemic fatigue and anxiety avoid COVID-19 conversations.
15/ Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer, Lyft
After recovering from COVID-19, Kapoor helped launch WorldWithoutCovid.org to connect interested citizens to clinical trials for vaccine discovery.
1/ Ken Giddon
2/ Leslie Voorhees Means
14/ Yancey Spruill, CEO, DigitalOcean
The cloud provider launched the Hub for Good to help developers share tools and build projects to aid the crisis.
15/ Troy Parker, CEO, Innovative Labor and Cleaning Services
Some people with criminal records, including Parker, are ineligible for relief loans. Now he’s working with senators to advocate to the SBA.
1/ Jacquelyn De jesu Center, founder and CEO, Shhhowercap
The founder donated the brand’s waterproof, washable, antibacterial shower caps to labor and delivery units as PPE.
2/ Matt Ridley
14/ Muhssin El-Yacoubi
15/ Bary El-Yacoubi
1/ Jennifer Perkins
2/ Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO, LifeBank
The medical-delivery company launched drive-through mobile COVID-19 testing centers in Nigeria.
14/ Michelle Ng, founder, Vancouver Foodie Tours
Ng pivoted to create a platform to help small businesses sell their products online, building a digital destination for artisanal goods.
15/ Randy Dewitt, founder, Front Burner Restaurants
DeWitt created Furlough Kitchen to distribute free meals out of his shut-down restaurants, and shared branding and operations info to encourage other restaurateurs to do the same.
1/ Dave Hunt
2/ Patty Clisham
14/ Lisa Price
15/ Mustafa Nuur, founder, Bridge
Bridge helps refugees and immigrants connect with local communities. During the crisis, they’re helping care for local senior citizens.
1/ Regal Patel
2/ Nishant Patel
3/ Sahil Patel
4/ Lori Coulter and 5/ Reshma Chamberlin, cofounders, Summersalt
The swimwear brand launched Joycast, a text hotline that sends heartwarming videos or funny memes to people.
6/ Heather Hopkins
7/ Shan-Lyn Ma, founder and CEO, Zola
The wedding-planning site helped users navigate postponements with guidance, expert advice, and support initiatives.
8/ Andrey Lunev
9/ Emily L’ami
10/ Deepak Rao
11/ Siddharth Batra
12/ Romy Newman and 13/ Georgene Huang, cofounders, Fairygodboss
The online career community for women offered free résumé reviews during the crisis.
14/ Jennifer Mazzanti
15/ Carl Mazzanti
5/ Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google
Google launched features to help small businesses easily communicate new hours and preferred delivery partners, and promote gift card sales.
6/ Meghana Patel
7/ Jerry Orans, founder, Hack the Pandemic
The 16-year-old created a network of makers to 3D-print face shields for hospitals.
8/ Hamza Mudassir
9/ Kelly Mcculloch, chief people officer, Taco Bell
The brand committed to hiring 30,000 new team members during the summer months.
10/ Mahi de Silva, cofounder and CEO, Amplify.ai
The AI chatbot was deployed pro bono to government health organizations to help them share vital information.
11/ Matt Higgins
12/ Daniel Lubetzky, founder, KIND
The snack-bar brand has committed $1 million and helped launch the Frontline Impact Project to donate food to frontline workers.
13/ Larry Connor
14/ Keba Konte, founder, Red Bay Coffee
When the coffee roaster closed its stores, its mobile coffee van grabbed attention — and helped boost e-com sales 350 percent.
15/ Francis Davidson
5/ Pina Ciotoli and 6/ Adriano Ciotoli, co-owners, WindsorEats
The events business pivoted to create specialty deliveries (like boxes of local beer and wine) that support community businesses.
7/ Mike Ziegenbalg
8/ Alina Mikhaleva
9/ Peter Demarzo
10/ Alex Howland
11/ Aziz Hashim
12/ Karen Akunowicz
13/ Kulveer Taggar, CEO, Zeus
The company previously arranged long-term housing for business travelers; it pivoted to help displaced college students find housing.
14/ Chriselle Lim and 15/ Joan Nguyen, cofounders, Bümo
The education-based childcare center found a long-term opportunity as it shifted to digital amid the crisis. The interactive preschool now has a 2,000-person waitlist.
5/ Ashley Huffman
6/ Salomon Mishaan
7/ Laura Spaulding
8/ Danny Cattan
9/ James Vitrano
10/ Alexandre Lazarow
11/ Maya Gilliam, founder, Hempress Farms
When her spa had to close, Gilliam pivoted and rebranded to become a hemp dispensary and remain open for business.
12/ Tariq Farid, founder and CEO, Edible Arrangements
The company started offering fresh produce deliveries in addition to their signature bouquets and saw sales soar.
13/ Meena Harris
14/ Paul Wolfe
15/ Alfonso Olvera, cofounder, Aries
The organization helped redesign an anti-aerosol box to keep doctors safe from contaminated air during intubations.