Welcome to our new Founder Spotlight series! In this series we’ll connect you with the founders of our company partners to give you an exclusive glimpse inside their cultures, current openings, and plans for the future.
Today’s spotlight is on Naya Health co-founder and CEO Janica Alvarez, who we caught up with to chat about fundraising, flexibility, and the future of work. Naya Health is a consumer health company that brings better health tech to modern moms and their babies. Since their launch in 2013, they’ve built a stronger, faster, smarter, and more comfortable breast pump because they believe that every mother deserves products that better enable her to provide for her child while taking care of herself.
Naya Health is currently hiring for the following roles with pre-negotiated flexibility: Director of Customer Success and Community, VP of Marketing and PR, Supply Chain Operations Project Coordinator, Senior Brand Designer
Werk: What inspired you to launch Naya Health?
Alvarez: My children and all the women around me. 100% of women have to decide how to nourish their babies, and the products that we have to use to do this are dreadful. It was my job to advocate for better technology and that's why I co-founded Naya. I get the product and the needs—finally a breast pump built by a mom for moms.
When you set out to revolutionize the breast pump, what specifically did you want to change and why?
Comfort. Millions of women complain about how painful pumping is and how it feels so barbaric. We changed this experience to feel more human. Our pump feels like nursing your baby, not a machine.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company and how did you overcome it?
We have re-engineered the breast pump, which required technical acumen and regulatory experience (we are FDA cleared). It was important to me very early on to surround myself with people who could fill the gaps the founding team had. I found a seasoned regulatory executive and hired a bunch of smart engineers.
The other challenge is hearing soooo many opinions. Everyone has one. You can't let this get in the way of your vision. Listen to your customers. You can't make everyone happy, but if you can make the majority of them happy, you're doing something right.
Despite Naya’s proven success, you’ve been outspoken about your challenges raising VC funds—like so many female founders, including our own. Why do you think women-led companies disproportionately face this struggle?
There is clearly a need and a demand. We have successfully raised over $6MM dollars from angels and small institutions; our investors were and remain excited about Naya's future. When it came to scaling the company and seeking funds to do so, we hit a wall. Our product is unique to women. Most of the people we are speaking to in our fundraising discussions are men. They aren't familiar with the category and why it matters because they will never use a pump. It's up to us to show them how amazing the tech is and the big business Naya will build. I tell the story of the problem and our solution, but more importantly I focus on the venture return and the economics of the deal. Numbers is something nobody can ignore, male or female. The right investor will see the total picture, and we'll be ready for her or him.
Why is it important for women-led/female-centric companies to receive funding, and what makes women's innovations so vital to our society right now?
Funding fuels innovation and growth. We are seeing more women building products unique to women because nobody else is doing it or doing it right. We are taking matters into our own hands and building products that we can relate to and feel passionate about changing. You build something amazing and unique and then you have to get it into every customer's hands. Both of these efforts require a lot of upfront capital. In order to close the gap on innovation, you have to invest in it and then prove that it's a big business by scaling the company.
When you first launched Naya, what kind of culture did you set out to establish?
Our culture encourages compassion, hard work, honesty, tenacity, and curiosity. We embrace failure. I openly share failures I have experienced and what I learned so that my team knows that it's OK to fail. It's more common to fail than not. We have invested in a learning culture and with that comes learning from failure.
Why is flexibility important to you on a personal level, and why is it important for your business?
Flexibility is key to attract a very untapped market of highly skilled professionals. There are so many talented women who want to work but need flexibility to accommodate their personal needs. Providing them flexibility allows them to succeed professionally and personally. I remember when I first started working at a large corporation, working remotely or job flexibility was a taboo topic. It wasn't fair for me to have to choose between caring for family or pursuing my professional aspirations. I'm so proud of Werk and the movement they are supporting—women should never be asked to choose between family and their careers. There is a way to effectively integrate both. We have been able to keep employees happy and are able to compete for talent because we encourage flexibility in the office.
Where do you see Naya going next?
I see Naya growing up to be a big business, developing products for both women and children, and creating healthier families.