Jun. 26, 2021

PANDEMIC PURSUITS: How six entrepreneurs launched businesses during lockdown

Aaron Stewart

Aaron Stewart, Home Products Development ’00

The week before San Juan shut down, Aaron Stewart visited his local Walgreens to stock up on cleaning supplies. Inspiration struck as he grabbed a few bottles of hand sanitizer.

“I knew in my gut we’d be using this for a very long time,” says Stewart, former creative director at Sferra and vice president of product design at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “I was staring at the shelf just thinking, ‘Why is this so ugly? It looks it like came from a hospital supply closet.’”

That moment marked the beginning of Stewart’s quest to create chic hand sanitizer. As the pandemic curtailed activity on the island, Stewart immersed himself in the project, sourcing supplies, scouring Pinterest for packaging ideas, and quizzing his nieces about their preference between spritz and gel. (Spritz prevailed.)

Portococo products.

In November, Stewart launched Portococo, a wellness and lifestyle company offering “sanitizing items disguised as fashion accessories.” He designed the company’s first featured product—a sleek, reusable bottle of hand sanitizer available in vivid orange and blue hues—to be mistaken for something more glamorous: “I want people to see someone using our product and say, “Oh my God, what is that? Is it perfume?”