Startup Spotlight: PICCPerfectAugust 7, 2016
This week we meet with Emily Levy, the “Professional Patient and Boss Lady” aka CEO and Co-Founder of PICCPerfect. Her own experience of having a chronic decease and having to covering her PICC line with a cut sock on her arm lead to the mission of creating medical fashion – so that patients can look and feel their best.
GH: What is PICCPerfect?
Emily: PICCPerfect is the process of rebranding into Mighty Well; a line of stylish and functional medical accessories that help patients through treatment by looking and feeling their best. PICCPerfect will remain our PICC line cover’s name, but now we are working on expanding the product line to include PortPerfect, a port shirt for cancer patients, cute pill bags, and a PICC line shower sleeve. PICCPerfect is antimicrobial, moisture wicking, machine washable, 4-way stretch, and proudly made in the Providence, RI!.
Emily: I have chronic neurological Lyme disease and co-infections and I have been sick for the past 10 years. I was only diagnosed after my freshmen year at Babson College. I had to get a PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) for 6 long-term antibiotics. My doctors and nurses told me to wear a cut sock on my arm to protect my extension tubing. Going to class and campus events with a cut sock was embarrassing and I knew that I could (make something that just looked better and was more comfortable) do something about it. We have been selling for the past year, and patients, doctors, and nurses, are asking us for a whole line of product.
PICCPerfect was just the start for a college girl trying not it go to finance class with a ugly PICC line on her arm-now with the transition to Mighty Well we can help even more people feel better with their chronic illness, thus the rebrand into Mighty Well, the umbrella company.
GH: How did you build your team?
Emily: When I got really sick my sophomore year of college, all of these people who were my “friends” started to fade away when I could no longer go out and party, or do much else besides my treatment and go to class. My co-founders, Yousef, and Maria, stuck by my side. From that, I knew I could launch a business with them.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
Emily: We believe that people are more than just patients. When you leave the hospital or doctor’s office, you need to go back to your normal life. We want patients to lead a life of dignity and confidence while going through treatment. So many people look up to my story and I am becoming a role model for other people with chronic illness. We are all about making people just feel a little bit better, and with chronic illness a little bit goes a long ways. Just because you are sick, or life throws you curveballs, doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about it and help other people in the process.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Emily: I had grown up in apparel industry, but I didn’t know anything about creating my own line. My team and I got the fit of our first production run totally wrong, so bad in fact, we had to tell people to order their PICC line covers 2 sizes smaller than their t-shirt sizes. This caused for a lot of headaches, returns, and explaining to people that we were working on fixing the issue. We made it work by having some covers taken in to be the correct size and having excellent customer service. At the end of the day, all you can do to to push through and quickly find a new option. We have since fixed this issue and moved to a new production partner in Rhode Island.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
Emily: We learned that other people besides myself had the need for our PICC line covers too. Our first customer wanted our product so badly that she bought a prototype from us. We learned to include the patient in our decision process because this is just as much their story as it is mine.
Emily: We are really fortunate to have the support of Babson behind us. They got us connected with so many events and startup competitions, and that is how we won most of our seed funding. We are also very thankful to have been a part of the Babson Summer Venture Program, The WIN Lab, and now MassChallenge.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Emily: While they are working on it, I still think it is hard to be a woman in the startup space, especially in the medical industry. Men would often tell me that I should be a non-profit because I am a woman wanting to help people who are sick. Sorry boys, but I am making money, so there is no need for us to be a non-profit!
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Emily: Worst piece of advice: That we should become a non-profit because we help people.
Best piece of advice: Just because you hear no the first time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Emily: When we flew to LA on vacation we got to meet 3 year old Carmen who and has Leukemia. We gave her our first PICC’d Up Kids prototype after meeting her mom on Instagram. It touched us so much that something so small could make Carmen and her family so much more confident. Carmen could run around on the playground like a little girl. I will never forget the moment when her mom cried to tell us how much it meant to her.
GH: What does the future hold for PICCPerfect?
Emily: As we rebrand into Mighty Well, we are excited to expand our product line to include more products that will help patients look and feel their best. We are working on a port shirt for chemo patients, a cute pill case, a shower sleeve, and have designs in the works for more. We want to create the medical fashion industry and we are excited to continue to be an advocate for the patient perspective to the healthcare industry to #LiveMightyWell