Even in today’s world, start-ups that are for women, by women are surprisingly rare. So when I heard about 4Women, which is competing in this year’s NVC, I had to learn more. Co-founded by my friend Arshiya Fazal, this start-up is going to take on the big world of healthcare and its taboos.
What’s more they’re a true Booth love-story! The co-founders found each other on-campus in their first year, drawn together by their passion for healthcare. They’ve also worked together as co-chairs for Booth’s HealthCare Group.
Here’s their story, and as you can tell, they’re excited and full of passion for their work. Read on to find out more about these inspiring women and their work.
Tell me a little bit about your start up.
We’re 4women, and we’re looking to change health care! We’re developing an at-home, self-collection device for cervical cancer screening, hoping one day to replace the dreaded pap smear. The cool part is that we each have a different perspective on healthcare, having worked in different sectors within the industry.
What was the inspiration for this company?
To be honest, we sometimes feel like a Booth love story! The four of us met our first year, and worked together as HealthCare Group co-chairs. We’re all interested in entrepreneurship, and we knew we wanted to innovate in the women’s health space. We got together and thought about all of the things that really suck for women in healthcare… it didn’t take long to start talking about pap smears!
After some discussions, we focused in on a company idea – our end goal is to not only make the pap smear process easier and more comfortable, but to reduce barriers and increase screening.
Once we realized this is something we wanted to do, things happened quickly. We conceptualized the design based on scientific literature and our own experience and preferences. We’ve gone through numerous iterations of the design, improving it each time we discover new literature or talk with experts or customers. We now have a full prototype! With each step of process, we’re learning, growing and continue to be very enthusiastic about the business and cause.
What have you learned in your entrepreneurial journey thus far?
Starting a business is hard! It takes a certain kind of person and you have to want it really bad. However, it is incredibly rewarding, especially if you are passionate about the cause. We have all learned so much, and the Booth community has been incredibly supportive and helpful to us. Within Booth, we’ve been able to leverage the ready wisdom and advice from Entrepreneurs in Residence, and the NVC judges (who seem to know everybody!). We also have the greater UChicago resources like the Fab Lab for 3D prototyping, the Polsky Exchange’s resources, and legal help from the Law school. Booth’s relationship with the healthcare incubator, MATTER, has been immensely helpful in getting access to people who understand the complexities of what we’re attempting to do. The entrepreneurship community at Booth and in Chicago is fantastic. People have been so kind and generous with their time!
What has the NVC process been like?
Honestly, NVC is a lot of work but it’s been so rewarding! We had heard horror stories about the perils of first pitching your business. But we get to work with fantastic professors, such as Waverly Deutsch, who are amazing storytellers and are able to help us convey our idea, credibility, and future vision in a crisp and clear manner. Imagine explaining pap smears to a room of people and not having them cringe? Or the difference between PCR and Cytology and not having them yawn? Oh yeah, there is a way… and the coaches have helped us a lot along the way. We’ve had a lot of fun, including some very humorous moments (think: prototyping tampon designs in a public coffee shop) throughout this journey, and we are looking forward to continuing with this business and team post-Booth.