From Victims to Fighters

This CEO turned her personal struggles into a business – while tapping into the future of healthcare.

Editor’s Note: We’re putting the focus on entrepreneurs who are getting big results out of their upstart companies. This article is part of an ongoing series of interviews with women small business owners – you can read all the interviews here

Emily Levy, the CEO and co-founder of Mighty Well, believes wellness is something you can wear. She creates the products she wishes she had when diagnosed in college with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease.

That’s because something as small as what you wear can give you the confidence to turn sickness into strength, she argues.

Learn more about how Emily and her company are leading the charge to change our perception of patients – from victims to fighters.

Mighty Well wants to be a consumer-facing brand for those with chronic conditions. [Link to Video]

Longitudes: Why did you start your business?

Emily: As a sophomore in college, I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease – and co-infections. Because it had been undiagnosed for seven years, a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC line) was inserted into my arm for treatment.

To protect the tubing, my doctors recommended I wear a cutup sock on my arm to protect the medical device. It served as a constant physical reminder of my illness. All of the sudden I went from a student to a sick girl with a medical device in my arm.

But I didn’t let the diagnosis, or the sock, slow me down. Instead, I turned illness into opportunity. I wanted to create something better than a sock.

I shared my idea with a professor and classmates, and everyone told me the same thing: Just go for it. And that’s what we did!

With the help of my boyfriend, Yousef Al-Humaidhi, and my best friend, Maria del Mar Gomez, I developed the PICCPerfect PICC line cover, a stylish, functional alternative to traditional options such as cutup socks.

I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, developed a prototype, found a manufacturer and made 1,000 PICCPerfect units.

Longitudes: How did you take your business to the next level?

Emily: After graduating, we rebranded as Mighty Well, and our team began pioneering the wearable wellness industry – using our company to empower patients and their caregivers to turn sickness into strength. Our team has since gone on to expand our product line, including apparel for patients undergoing chemotherapy and those who need to carry around medical supplies.

Our vision is to be the Under Armour of the healthcare industry and become first in mind for apparel, gear and community for millions of Americans with chronic health conditions, as well as their loved ones. Patients are people too, and they deserve dignity, strength and confidence.

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Patients are finally being recognized as consumers, not just a name on a chart.

Longitudes: Did you have any growing pains? What surprised you the most about owning your own business?​      

Emily: Of course! When I began working on the company full time at age 22, I thought it would be as easy as you see in Forbes and TechCrunch. No one ever tells you all of the work that it takes to get there.

I was surprised to learn about the length of new production lead times, the cost of doing business and the lack of personal time. Despite all of the challenges, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Longitudes: Any advice for other Millennials who want to launch a business?

Emily: Now is the best time in your life to start a business. You still have the support of your university and parents, you don’t have a mortgage or daycare bills and best of all, you are already used to living like a college student.

So what’s a few more years of Ramen noodles and mac and cheese?

Longitudes: What is your message to the millions of people facing similar healthcare challenges?

Emily: When I was first diagnosed, I felt that people looked at me as a patient and not the strong and confident woman I am. I noticed what was available on the market looked like medical wear, or what was out there looked very mom and pop.

There are millions of Americans with a chronic condition, yet there is not an established consumer-facing brand out there. Mighty Well is changing that.

Longitudes:At-home healthcare is on the rise around the world – do you think this is the future of the industry?

Emily: Absolutely. Patients are finally being recognized as consumers, not just a name on a chart. We pay for our healthcare one way or another so we should have purchasing power.

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No one ever tells you all of the work that it takes to run your own business.

Longitudes:Can you talk about the importance of overcoming logistics challenges?

Emily: Mighty Well recently moved our manufacturing operations, and we had no idea how much work there was related to tariffs, import and export codes and shipping.

A big thank you to UPS for helping us work through those growing pains and finding all of the answers we needed. I would advise startups who are looking to move production overseas to do all of that work ahead of time and weigh the pros and cons before relocating.

You can learn more about UPS small business solutions here and also begin saving now on your shipping.

Emily Levy is CEO and co-founder of Mighty Well, which helps patients and their caregivers turn sickness into strength. She is also an award-winning social impact entrepreneur and keynote speaker who is passionate about advocating for the patient perspective in healthcare.

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