Industry: Femtech, Athleisurewear, CPG
Founding Student Name(s): Mitchella Gilbert and Patrick Ayers
Brief Description of Solution: OYA Femtech Apparel is building a multi-million-dollar business with high-tech apparel designs that create happy, healthy bodies by using natural ventilation to help prevent bacteria growth and skin irritation. OYA’s signature legging with a removable insert is the first gynecologist-tested, athlete-approved, patent-pending legging for all kinds of moisture and leakages. We are also prototyping patentable tops that will provide industry-leading ventilation and moisture absorption. We are empowering women to be healthy because healthy women are powerful women.
Funding Dollars: $125,000
What led you to launch this venture? I started OYA because I lived in sportswear as an athlete and I was constantly having sweat related health issues. They included chest rashes from too much chest sweat and repeated yeast infections because I lived in leggings. I had no idea that wearing leggings makes you two times more likely to develop health complications like yeast infections because leggings trap sweat and they do not let vaginas breathe. Even worse, I did not learn about the link between feminine health and leggings until two years ago, when I took yet another frustrating trip to the OB’s office.
After some internet and academic digging, it was clear how many millions of women were secretly dealing with sweat and moisture-related health issues, either out of shame or because there were few solutions. I became equal parts determined to fix sweat-related health issues and enraged. Why was no athleisure brand stepping up to help women be healthy AND look and feel beautiful at the same time?
Over the past two years, I have drawn on my own experiences as a woman, athlete, a former Nike employee, and an inclusive product designer to create a legging that was designed with a woman’s style and health in mind. And BOOM, the concept for OYA was born.
Our mission is to create healthy, beautiful goddesses with stylish designs that accentuate curves.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Selling out of our first batch of leggings in four weeks!
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? First, Anderson allowed us to make our startup into a capstone project. This gave us precious time to work on OYA in a risk-free environment while earning course credit! Second, the faculty and staff gave us plenty of one-on-one time to practice pitching in front of them and fine-tune our decks. Finally, they helped us meet other entrepreneurs and mentors who have been helping us as we grow.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Bee Dixon (the CEO of The HoneyPot Company). The HoneyPot is the first complete feminine care system that cleanses and balances your vagina. Dixon is a black woman founder who created her own category of scalable, natural feminine care. She is gritty, intelligent, humble, and passionate about women’s health. I admire how she tenaciously built her company brick-by-brick. I also admire how quickly her product flies off of shelves. She is a true model for how to grow a company in the femtech space.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? I chose UCLA Anderson because of the BCO (Business Creation Option) Capstone Project. With BCO, I launched my startup while still in school. I built a team of fellow Anderson classmates, we took prerequisite courses to develop a business plan, and then we applied to the BCO during our first year. We were selected to begin fall of our second year and the project spans two academic quarters.
Before starting the BCO process, I had no idea how much the program would come to mean to me. I knew that it was an amazing opportunity to identify a viable business opportunity while being surrounded by amazing resources from across UCLA. However, I had no idea that my team and ecosystem of UCLA advisors would become my family. I am also so appreciative of how much the project has helped me grow as a teammate and leader.
What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Robert McCann! A good pitch is crucial for a startup. While we were in the weeds with market sizing, modeling, and strategic planning, he reminded us to pitch with personality, clarity, and authenticity.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? The current management team plans to continue to own and operate OYA for the foreseeable future. Potential exit strategies for OYA include being acquired by one of a number of strategic or institutional buyers within the next three-five years, including direct competitors such as Under Armour and Lululemon or retailers like Amazon, Target, or Macy’s to be an in-house brand, or alternatively licensing OYA’s brand, product, and technology to another company.
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