We spoke with Olivia Orchowski to learn more about her startup, Femtek, hear about her business adventure to date, and how BlueRock has helped her navigate it.
Passion (and a glaring gap in the market) spurs Femtek's founding
Driven by a passion for health and a deep understanding of women's wellness needs, Olivia recognised a glaring gap in the fitness and wellness industry – a lack of appropriate information and knowledge surrounding women's health, particularly menstrual health.
This spurred the creation of , a groundbreaking innovation in the form of a basal body ring (BBRing). Representing the first-ever smart ring dedicated to menstrual health, Femtek is designed to enhance women's lives by providing them with a newfound level of cycle literacy.
In a landscape where wearable devices often overlook menstrual health due to their male-centric research origins, Olivia's visionary product tackles the issue head on, offering women the opportunity to regain control over their menstrual health and overall wellbeing.
Olivia, can you share your process in designing and developing the Basal Body Ring?
OO: In hindsight, the process I went through compared with the process I would’ve gone through knowing what I know now, are two very different things. Many founders find themselves securing investment early in their startup journey. I didn’t even realise this was a possibility until much further on in mine.
The process from initial concept to market was wrought with challenges such as incorrect hires, bad development teams, and decisions that ultimately cost more to fix. That said, after continuous development, persistence, and determination, we eventually ended up with a working prototype (7 versions later) and have now created a smart ring built for women. Everything we have created from the ground up is with women in mind – the design, the usage, the fact that it’s only worn at night.
Innovating a way to return body literacy to girls and women became my big pursuit, so I turned the struggles that I faced into a strength that motivates me every single day to help other women know themselves.
That’s interesting and inspiring! How does the BBRing work?
OO: The BBRing collects information overnight like basal body temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability – all while you sleep.
When you wake up, all your data is ready for you in the Femtek Cycle Tracker app. You’re provided with insights and suggestions based on your own cycle so that you can better understand your cycle and how lifestyle or health conditions may be impacting your body.
Developing a new product and launching your own business is no mean feat. Tell us about your startup adventure and the challenges you’ve had to tackle.
OO: When I first started Femtek, I think it was pure naivety driving the creation of this company. If I had known, and I mean ACTUALLY known how hard, costly, and time-consuming this would be, I’m not sure I would do it all over again!
I funded the creation of the business personally, drawing on my house deposit in the first year of development, and almost my entire salary from my full-time job went into bootstrapping. Not only was I working on Femtek with no pay for 3.5 years, I was also working as a coach and consultant full-time, with part-time jobs on top of this to keep the business moving.
A big challenge we faced was the expenses incurred before our mass-manufacturing run, which resulted in a prototype that did not work as planned. We had to rebuild from the ground up, and this was all navigated with bootstrapping and very minor investment.
So, in short, the journey to where we are now has been insanely difficult, but we’re close to hitting the official “yay we survived our first year and didn’t go bankrupt” year.
Wow. We respect the hustle! You recently started working with BlueRock as the winner of the Startup Network’s Female Founder pitch night. How was your experience pitching and what was uncovered through your half-day strategy workshop with our advisors?
OO: Applying for The Startup Network Female Founders Pitch Night was definitely a spur-of-the-moment decision. I had never pitched in this environment before and to be honest I wasn’t involved in the ecosystem at all. I really had no idea what I was doing or the prize that was involved, so to be the winner was a great surprise.
The BlueRock half-day strategy workshop was the first time that it truly felt like I could nerd out with people on my level. The founder journey is a lonely one, and even more so for female founders. Also, being so early in the journey with little resources (and funds), made it challenging for us to hire someone to assist in business strategy and growth, or to make sense of what was flying around in my head 24 hours a day. Spending time with and at BlueRock was truly a pivotal moment in uncovering the business strategy and moving us forward on our growth journey.
Two of our best right there! What advice and strategies did you discuss?
OO: The most valuable advice that came out of the strategy workshop was to restructure the company structures and ensure family assets are protected long term.
Since then, my discussions with Tien and Kudzai have been ongoing and I regularly touch base with BlueRock on important business decisions that have not only been beneficial for the business, but also helped me as a founder. Through regular conversations, I raised how bookkeeping has always been a painful part of the business for me because of the two dreaded R’s: reconciling and receipts.
The ability to outsource this work to BlueRock’s bookkeeping team has allowed me to offload this and focus more on other aspects of the business. There’s something to be said for hating part of a business but knowing it needs to be done, while also knowing it’s not being done as well as it should be, so having BlueRock look after this gives me that peace of mind.
Great to hear we could help! What are your plans and goals for Femtek over the next 12 months?
OO: Looking ahead, the product roadmap that we’re building out will be game-changing for women’s health. Both with hardware and software products, we’re focused on giving women what they need to succeed.
Brilliant! Thanks for chatting with us, Olivia. We’ll be cheering on Femtek’s success.
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