One of the constant challenges of living with a long-term illness, such as Crohn’s disease, diabetes, or cancer, actually has nothing to do with what is happening inside the body, says Emily Levy ’16. It’s the struggle to look beyond the unwelcome reminders of an illness and prioritize what makes people feel “normal” and well.
Levy would know. She had a PICC line, used for delivery of intravenous medicine needed to treat her chronic neurological Lyme disease. Diagnosed during her second year at Babson, her illness derailed any hopes of studying abroad at the time. Instead, Levy went west for spring semester, taking part in Babson’s San Francisco program. She took a class taught by Bigbelly founder Jim Poss, MBA’03, in which students had to create a business. Levy and classmate Maria del Mar Gomez ’16 used the course to refine an idea for stylish and functional PICC line protectors that they had begun prototyping several months earlier. “PICC line protectors on the market at the time were ugly,” says Levy, “and if it looked good, it didn’t function well.”
What started as just one product has grown into Mighty Well, a full-time startup for which Levy is CEO. Together with del Mar Gomez and co-founder and CFO Yousef Al-Humaidhi ’15, Levy is on a mission to make Mighty Well the Under Armour of the health-care industry. It now sells a variety of PICC line covers, T-shirts, and other items (right, Levy is wearing the Mighty Wrap) for those with chronic conditions. “Larger fashion brands have ignored this population,” says Al-Humaidhi. “Now, people are so much more open to patients and consumers. We’re pulling from what’s been done both in health care and athletic apparel to create a new segment of the market.”
Mighty Well isn’t stopping at medical apparel. “We know our audience is starved for content that goes beyond what they’re reading on WebMD,” says Levy, who recognizes that managing a diagnosis and adjusting to a new normal can be confusing. Ongoing conversations with patients led her to focus on growing Mighty Well’s digital presence as well, curating patient and caregiver stories and hiring team members who can help bring this digital vision to life.
As the company grows, Levy is leading fundraising for its seed round and already has garnered funding from Breakaway Ventures and a personal investment from Tim Draper of Draper Associates. “We’ve been motivated to help as many people as possible since the beginning, and we knew we’d need external capital to do that,” she says. “Babson and the WIN Lab especially have been instrumental in giving us connections and opening doors along the way.”
With all of Mighty Well’s success, Levy hasn’t lost sight of how she started. “In some ways, I’m still a professional patient,” she says, and she appreciates the window into her customers’ lives. “It feels great when I’m at the hospital for meetings and see people who are visibly better off by wearing our products. Even better is seeing people go from chemo to Starbucks without anybody knowing they’re a patient.”—Elizabeth Atwater