Its hard enough to start and build a company. Its nearly impossible if you have to battle chronic illness everyday - unless you have amazing Superpowers.
Meet Emily Levy, the founder of Mighty Well. And chronic Lyme Disease patient. Her daily treatment needs required a PICC line in her arm that needs constant protection, leading her to start a company to make better, more stylish apparel and accessories for patients. And to help them feel like regular people - not patients:
"Just because I am sick doesn't mean I have to live a sick life. I can fulfill a higher purpose through inspiring others."
I first came in contact with Emily through our Babson Breakaway Challenge program for female entrepreneurs. Not only did Emily and team win the competition (its rare a week goes by that they don't win one!) they have become a Breakaway portfolio company who inspires me every time I'm with them.
Here's her story - turning Lyme Disease into LemonAid. Try not to be amazed and inspired.
What are you doing now? Tell us a bit about it?
I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Mighty Well Inc., a social for profit company whose mission is to turn sickness into strength. We create apparel and accessories for patients and their support networks.
What led you down the path that you’re on now?
My cofounders and I started this business while we were studying at Babson College. I had a PICC Line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) my sophomore year for Chronic Lyme disease and I was told by my doctor to wear a cut sock on my arm! My team and I knew that there had to be a better solution for patients, and we have since branched out into helping the loved ones and caregivers as well.
We’re writing your biography. What’s its title and the line that goes with it that sums you up?
"Turning Lyme into LemonAid: The Story of How One Young Woman Used Entrepreneurship to Overcome Lyme Disease by Giving Back To Others"
What are your superpowers?
Public speaking, openness, empathy, being confident in choosing a different path than my peers.
How / When did you discover them? Have you had to work to develop them? How?
I think that I have discovered them along the way of growing up. My parents divorced when I was young and I was the only child between them. Because I moved around many times, I always had to be comfortable being by myself. I always had to speak up for what I wanted and saw very different versions of the world at a young age. I believe that while this was often difficult for me when I was younger, but has made me unique amongst my peers.
Are you able to use your superpowers in your career?
Yes, I am the face of the company and I spend a lot of time telling our brand’s story. I have never been afraid to speak up for what I believe is right, and I think this has allowed me to push on, even when people doubted my nontraditional career choices. I have found that because of my superpowers, I have been able to traverse what may have been setbacks for others and turn them into personal strengths.
What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about Lyme disease awareness because Lyme can happen to anyone almost anywhere in the world, from Sweden to China, with a growing problem here in the United States and Latin America. It is my personal goal to educate others on Lyme disease prevention, awareness, and treatment so that others do not have to experience the medical setbacks that I have faced since I was twelve.
If you could choose any career, what would you do? Why?
Exactly what I am doing right now - because I chose this path for myself and I have been able to help so many people from it!
What keeps you up at night?
The daily struggles that come with being a CEO of your own company.
What gets you going in the morning?
The reason that I wake up in the morning is because of the strength that I draw from helping others who are going through medical setbacks. Whenever I get tagged in an Instagram post or receive an email of thanks, it motivates me to keep working hard and pushing forward in the face of adversity.
Who inspires you most in work + life?
The friends that I have made online with other chronic illnesses have inspired me to push on in life and in work. They have far fewer resources that I do at times, yet they still push on with seeking answers to their health and managing to want to live a life with purpose and passion.
What superpower(s) do you wish you had?
I wish I never felt tired/could get by with only 4 hours of sleep, so I could do more with the hours in the day. I also wish that I could be strong at computational and analytical skills.
What is your kryptonite?
I would say Lyme disease because I still am being treated for it and one day I can feel great and other days I really struggle with it and I never know when those bad days are going to creep in.
What was your career plan when you were young(er)?
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a makeup artist who was also Britney Spears' choreographer.
Have you had to change your career path?
I was offered a full time job working for The Commercial Observer, owned by Jared Kushner, in NYC working directly for his brother-in-law. It was high paying and an exciting job in media. I even signed the contract to say I was coming in the fall after my graduation. I decided not to take the job a few months before I was supposed to start once the company started to take off.
What is your greatest career regret?
I am still only 23 and while I have been working since the 8th grade in various jobs, I have never had a career per say, yet. I would say the closest thing is that I didn’t do a formal study abroad program or take a gap year in college to travel.
What are your life + career goals right now?
My life goal is to beat Lyme and my career goal is to grow Mighty Well into a billion dollar business while helping as many people as possible through social entrepreneurship.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement to date is getting a scholarship for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership from Babson College.
Who is your hero in real life?
My little sister, Tess. She was born with a Hemangioma, a blood tumor, on her right eye. By the time she was 2, she had 16 surgeries to save her vision. She is now 11 and she has a scar under her eye. Kids on the playground ask her about it, but she just tells them she was born with it and goes back to being The Queen of the Fifth Grade (as I like to call her). She is a future Girl Boss...I can already tell!
Which companies do you admire the most?
I really admire what Patagonia has been able to do with their corporate responsibility. The apparel industry is one of the most wasteful and harmful to the planet, yet they have been able to create a corporate culture and brand on responsibility to the planet. Some of my favorite companies for their marketing include Moo and Benefit Cosmetics.
To read about other "Superpowered" individuals, make sure to check out Dave Knies's blog.