Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mitchella (Mitch) Gilbert, CEO of Oya Femtech Apparel, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We're a doctor-tested technology and athlete-approved performance-wear brand. At Oya Femtech Apparel, we engineer innovative performance wear for feminine health. Our line of leggings features vagina-friendly features that have been approved by gynecologists, such as ventilation, sweat absorption technology, and bacteria reduction. Our leggings are twice as ventilated and four times more absorbent than other leading brands because of our unique and innovative fabrics. Our target customers are Wellness Warriors, Matriarchs on the Move, and Collegiate Athletes.
Tell us about yourself
I've always been obsessed with women's health and sportswear apparel. While attending the University of Chicago to earn my bachelor's in public policy, I was a state-ranking rugby player. I also have 6+ years of experience in tech/innovation/retail across Deloitte, Nike, and Lululemon. After earning a full scholarship, I attended the UCLA Anderson School of Management to build my startup, Oya Femtech Apparel. I started Oya because I loved exercise and suffered from recurring feminine health issues. My OB/GYN told me my issues were because of my tight, non-breathable, non-moisture absorbent leggings. Research has shown that leggings and other spandex-based women's sportswear create environments for pathogens to thrive. After seeing that no sportswear company was addressing this issue, I went to work on a solution: a new legging that had a breathable, replaceable pad and panels that promotes ventilation around the inner thigh. Once we gathered all of our information together, we entered business competitions. Once we had funds, we created prototypes, and Oya was on its way to becoming a femtech apparel brand.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am overwhelmed by the positive response that Oya has received and the goals we have achieved. Upon Oya's launch in 2021, we earned a 12x return on our CAC and sold out within four weeks. In addition, I am one of the first 200 Black women to have ever raised over $1 million in venture capital. I'm proud of all that Oya has achieved, and I'm excited to see how we will continue to grow in the future.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I got into this industry because I am the customer. I am an athlete, and I live in activewear. I experienced adverse health complications (i.e., yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and UTIs) from sweating. My OB/GYN mentioned that many other women who loved working out experienced the same issues. She believed her patients' leggings were causing the problem by creating environments for pathogens to thrive. I broke into this industry because I saw that no apparel companies were addressing this issue, and I wanted to make the change. It certainly hasn't been an easy industry to get into, and I constantly face challenges. However, we have some passionate fans who have made it worthwhile.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Always find allies. Co-founders are so important.
- Articulate your minimal value proposition and tell your story.
- Work hard, focus on whatever's happening around you, and remember to continue putting your goals on the board.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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