Did you know that more than 60% of women experience intimate health problems and symptoms at some time in their life. Even with such a high percentage, we are embarrassed to seek help and talk about these symptoms. This is the problem B-wom is working hard to solve by creating personalized care plans that work to prevent or reverse problematic symptoms to improve physical and emotional wellbeing.
To learn more about B-wom’s story we interviewed one of the founding team members and Head of Business Development, Estrella Jaramillo. B-wom has offices in Barcelona and NYC, where Estrella is based. Her story highlights the authentic journey of becoming an entrepreneur, building an international health tech company and why it’s never too early to start building an entrepreneurial support network.
(Kelly): When did you start to call yourself an entrepreneur?
(Estrella): That’s a very interesting question. I think that over time, I became more comfortable with the concept. Although originally, I was raised, trained and educated to be an employee, and I think that now that is changing a lot. The education system in Spain is geared towards you becoming an employee, a very effective and cost appropriate employee, so my generation and all of the previous ones were educated to be just that. Our education system doesn’t focus on you having critical thinking, taking the initiative or producing things yourself.
So after various jobs and studying a Masters, I started doing a coaching process, where we started unpacking where my thoughts and beliefs about work were coming from. And I had a brain explosion, it was like you were raised to believe that work was hard, you were raised to believe that work is something you perform for someone else. Through this coaching, I exited the last job I had as an employee, and I had my own consulting business for a while. I did not call myself an entrepreneur then, but it was entrepreneurial. I was doing projects for others, but I was bringing in other people when I needed support and actually started working with my co-founders for B-wom before there was even a company. It was all of these overlaps that made me start to feel like an entrepreneur. It’s not that I started calling myself an entrepreneur, but there was a shift in me.
(Kelly): So, where did the idea for B-wom initiate? What was the process of turning that idea into a product and company?
(Estrella): One of the founders wanted to do something related to pelvic floor, and since there were apps to train external muscles, the idea was to do an app to train to internal muscles. I liked the idea to train our bodies from a healthy perspective and not only from a esthetic point of view, and I joined as a co-founder since early beginning.
At the same time, I was working for a start-up, which had a product for new moms and babies, so I became very acquainted with all the health problems and intimate health issues that women experience after birth.
“There’s literally no actual support after giving birth, you leave the hospital you are on your own. A lot of women just hope for the best, and hope to bounce back.”
We started working on that issue, focusing at first on pelvic health for issues such as incontinence, sexual pain, pelvic pain, etc. Once we obtained user feedback we realized there was a bigger need going into areas such as endometriosis symptoms, cancer prevention and more.
There was really no product out there that helps women to know what they need to do at every stage of their lives, so we amplified the product to cover all of these areas, turning a small problem into a huge solution.
(Kelly): B-wom has become international very quickly, opening an office in NYC after being founded in Barcelona. What are the benefits and challenges of this move?
(Estrella): By becoming an international company so quickly we discovered a ton of opportunities. I really like the US as a market, specifically New York. I think things move really quickly here. If you have a good idea, and a good product, you’re going to get very successful quickly. You’re going to get a lot of visibility, you’re going to get partnerships, that’s one of the biggest things.
I feel like in Europe I had to fight more to build partnerships, to collaborate, and move forward. Here everybody is looking for the same. So, everybody is very collaborative, everybody has the mindset of, “let’s lift each other up”, “let’s help each other get introductions”, whether it’s investors or other people who might help you with your business. It’s the mentality. It’s the prevailing mentality, so it’s very exciting to be here in the US market.
Like I was saying, because of how the healthcare system works, women are so open to having tools to help themselves, because a lot of them don’t even get access to care, because they don’t have money for it. So, as a market, specifically in healthcare, to say a second aspect of it, the opportunity is huge. The US knows that their healthcare system is very broken, and it’s open to getting funding and supporting new technologies and ideas and seeing all the ways of doing things and providing care.
On the flip side I would say there are two main challenges we are facing.
“One, understanding the cultures of every different country is a very big challenge.”
I’ve done this before, I’ve always been in international business development and communication for marketing, and you need to gain an understanding for how people make decisions, which is a learning process. I am constantly trying to dig deeper and find out more, and it’s going to be like that all the time.
“My opinion is that if you want to really succeed in one market, you need to have someone with a lot of skin in the game there; in this case, it needs to be a co-founder.”
That is the way that you ensure that the team is aligned. The immigration challenge is what happens along with that. It’s been a journey, yeah, that’s one of our biggest challenges and sources of money drain.
(Kelly): What would you say are the top challenges that you see either you face, or other entrepreneurs that you’ve seen face?
(Estrella): I think entrepreneurs are usually intrinsically motivated. They have such a big mission that usually motivation is not a problem. And that’s one of the biggest things that I notice in myself. When I was working for someone else, I had to motivate myself, when I was working for a project that I really believed in and wanted to build, and had a mission; I did not need anyone to tell me anything. I did not need to tell myself anything to be motivated.
There’s been difficult moments, where I’ve had to kick my butt a little bit. But in the sense of you just have to make it through this so you can continue working on your mission. I don’t think it’s motivation. I think usually, a lot of founders and from what I’ve discussed with other female founders one on one, balance and mental health is a big one.
We’re so motivated, we put so many hours, we put so much energy and love in our hearts, in our guts and everything into it, that when things don’t go well, or when you’re being slapped in the face one time after the other, it is really hard. It’s really hard emotionally, it’s really hard mentally.
“You might also barely see your friends, it all becomes work. You don’t have time for yourself, you don’t have time to do other things you love.”
And some people even completely stop working out, that’s something that I took very seriously, to never stop working out, even if I was stressed, I’m like, yes, I might get to the office today at 9:30, because I want to work out. But I need to do this two or three times a week, because otherwise, I’m just going to lose my mind. So, I think that the balance and the mental health aspect.
And like I said, a lot of people don’t say it, because that creates concerns in investors, that creates concerns in people. And we need to get rid of that idea, if I’m going to leave a message here for this question it is that we need to get rid of the idea that entrepreneurs opening up about their challenges regarding work/life balance or mental and physical and emotional health is something that raises concerns.
We are humans, not robots, and therefore those things are going to happen, and you’re going to have to re-evaluate the way you work. And a person that is able to admit that they’ve been anxious about things, or that you have so much responsibility, how are you not going to be anxious sometimes? The opposite would really be concerning.
If you’re aware of the responsibility, if you care about your stakeholders and your investors, if you know how important the decisions you make are, and you are really taking your business seriously then you are going to have anxiety, you are going to come across challenges, and you’re going to have to re-evaluate how you design your life, so that you can have balance, so that you can be mentally strong, to really push the company forward.
(Kelly): If you could go back to before you started this journey, what would you tell yourself?
(Estrella): Looking back, I would have built a network of mentors earlier on. I’ve been very self-sufficient and always helped myself. I think that a lot of entrepreneurs are like that. I came from a communication and strategy standpoint, so it would have been beneficial to have more mentorship on the digital health business space.
Although, that’s why we have cofounders, too! Each one of us has a different area of expertise. Now I do have people around me in the sector and it’s comforting to have people to reach out to and share best practices with.
“The more time you spend being an entrepreneur the more you realize that you need each other, you need mentors, you need people that have gone through what you’ve gone through before, you need to meet people that are going to help you problem solve, when you get entrepreneur’s block and you get stuck.”
Get mentors early on and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback all the time. Ask for feedback all the time. I think that’s the core, I think the most successful entrepreneurs have known how to surround themselves with the right people.
(Kelly): That’s a perfect piece of advice. Okay, so last question for our audience, where did you find your current mentors that you have now? Or the network that you’ve surrounded yourself with?
(Estrella): Different places. Some of them in women’s programs, but it’s been hard, I’m going to be honest. It’s been hard for me to specifically to find mentorship for the enterprise sales for B-wom. There’s not that many people that do it, and there’s not that many people that do it for women employees, specifically, because it’s different.
For the most part I’ve met my mentors through just doing a lot of networking, just going to relevant events in the field, where experts are going to be speaking. And trying to go in there and introducing myself, and being like, “My name is Estrella, this is what I’m doing. I’d love to have your take on it.” So, I’ve tried to build relationships with some of the people that I went to see speak. Sometimes, I’ve also met them even through other entrepreneurs, said, “Hey, this person helped me with this.”
Just share with other entrepreneurs your struggles. Having the mindset that this is the person who’s going to help me with this struggle. All that networking, putting out there what it is that you need help with, is important, and help is going to come, it’s going to be through connections, through events and through organizations.
Thank you Estrella for sharing your inspiring journey and advice with Women With Ambition.
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