For the final week of National Women’s History Month, we’re featuring an especially inspiring edition of StartupStories. When Emily Levy was diagnosed with a chronic illness that requires her to wear a visible piece of treatment equipment, she was motivated to develop “wellness wear” products to help patients like herself look and feel more comfortable and stylish. Her company Mighty Well provides healthcare patients with wellness wear products that help to normalize their treatment and equipment. Read on to find out how Emily turned a challenging situation into a beautiful opportunity for success both for her business and for clients around the world.
Why were you inspired to start Mighty Well?
Mighty Well was born of necessity…mine! During my sophomore year of college, I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. When I had my first PICC line put in, I was told to protect it by wearing a cut-off sock, sleeve-like, on my arm. I’m sorry…what? A sock? On my arm? In public? Like…on dates? A SOCK?! And I wondered: How was this ever going to fit into the carefree, collegiate lifestyle I’d imagined for myself? How could I be me this way? What had I become? And how would I possibly flirt with that adorable hockey player in my 8 am finance class?!
As soon as I had that sock on my arm, I saw the irony: Intended to protect and conceal this critical piece of my treatment, instead it fixated on my illness and disregarded what was left of my wellness. It silently urged me to define myself as sick and tempted me to hide instead of getting out there and doing the things that made me feel like me, the things that make a life. Like flirting with that adorable hockey player! In those days PICC nurses had little else to offer, so I became obsessed with finding a solution that looked and felt fabulous and wouldn’t come between me and my lifestyle.
Thus, the PICCPerfect PICC line protector was born — but we quickly realized we could improve so many more lives by creating additional products designed around the same set of values. So today, we are Mighty Well — a growing line of wellness wear that put strength, confidence, and mobility back into the toolkit for patients and anyone else coping with a health setback. It’s simple: Our dreams and ambitions are just as big as they were before our diagnoses. And if we’re going to conquer the world we need uncompromising style and comfort — and the power to do treatments easily, discreetly, and on the fly. Nothing powers physical healing like feeling like yourself, so get out there and do your thing. We believe that you are not a diagnosis — you are Mighty Well.
Nothing powers physical healing like feeling like yourself, so get out there & do your thing.Click to tweet
How did your business get started? From the good, bad and ugly, what was your startup process like?
I started this business with my best friend, Maria del Mar Gomez, and my boyfriend, Yousef Al-Humaidhi formally in our second semester of junior year when Maria and I were studying at the Babson satellite campus in San Francisco. Yousef and I had already made a prototype before I left for SF, but we got serious when took a hands-on entrepreneurship class out there and we were inspired by the energy that only the Bay Area can bring. We started by being very open with my story on social media, mainly Instagram, and we started to meet people online who had similar stories to mine. We then realized that there was a huge market opportunity for our first product, PICCPerfect, with 8 million PICC lines expected to be inserted in 2017, and a $40 billion medical fashion/accessories market internationally.
We started to take the business seriously during our senior year when we started winning business pitch competitions at prestigious institutions such as MIT, Purdue, Babson, and Smith College and we started to get a lot of press. Our process focused on being authentic and mission-driven. We wake up every day to work hard on this business because we know we are making a real difference in the lives of patients.
What niche or hole in the market are you filling with Mighty Well?
At Mighty Well, we believe that patients are so much more than their diagnoses. We are creating the Wellness Wear industry, which combines apparel and accessories with health benefits for patients—both long and short term, and eventually elderly care. While there are other brands creating medical apparel for patients, most of it looks like your grandmother would wear it, or that it was designed by someone who hasn’t actually been through the experience themselves. We bring patient authenticity, user design, and a business model that sets out to do good for more than just our bottom line.
How much has your business changed from day one until now?
We started out just thinking about being the biggest in the PICC line space, but as we talked to patients like me, we realized that patients need a whole line of medical apparel and accessories to help them feel like themselves during treatment.
What are your biggest challenges in marketing Mighty Well?
Our biggest challenge has been educating people about the market that we are setting out to build. In terms of our PICC cover, most PICC nurses and patients don’t even know PICC line protectors exist outside of the medical mesh that the hospital gives. So on that front, it has been a hurdle we are working on overcoming. As we branch out into building our brand of Wellness Wear, we anticipate a challenge to educate the market of this new segment.
What types of marketing are most effective for your business?
We have found that Instagram works really well for us. I often share my personal struggles with Lyme disease and we find that this gets us a lot of credibilities. Additionally, we have just started a Brand Ambassador Program to bring more people on board and to bring us brand loyalty.
What is the #1 lesson you learned since starting Mighty Well?
When someone says no, just find a way to get to YES!
If you won $50,000, how would you invest it in your business?
I would invest it into product development so that we can work towards launching our next three products.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
I would encourage them to get out there and to talk to as many potential customers as possible with their MVP or early mock-ups of their business idea because getting user and customer feedback during the early stages is invaluable.
What can we expect from Mighty Well in the next year?
You can expect us to be forming partnerships with large charities and companies, launching 3 new products, and getting my patient story with Chronic Lyme into the mainstream media.
To learn more about Mighty Well, please visit mighty-well.com.
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