When Emily Levy arrived in Israel for a summer internship, she expected to learn valuable skills, get some real-world experience, and see what life in Israel is all about. She did not expect the weeks she spent in Israel in the summer of 2014 to inspire her to start her own business, much less an award-winning venture.
Today, Emily, 23, is the founder and CEO of Mighty Well, a company that offers fashionable solutions to meet the medical needs of people suffering from chronic illnesses.
The Boston-based business, which she founded in January of 2015, originally focused on designing, manufacturing, and selling armbands that discreetly cover a medical PICC line on the wearer’s arm. Following its initial success, Mighty Well is now expanding its product catalog to address the needs of patients with a wider variety of medical needs.
An Eye-Opening Internship
Less than a year before she started Mighty Well, Emily, who herself suffers from Lyme Disease, had been worlds away from opening a business. With her sophomore year at Babson College in Boston drawing to a close, she had made the decision to spend a summer living in Israel. So, in June of 2014, she traveled to Haifa as a participant in Onward Israel.
“I chose to go to Haifa because I knew it was more of a mixed society, and I’m very culturally Jewish but not religious,” she says. “So I thought, this is a better fit for me than being in Jerusalem.”
Three weeks later, when rockets from Gaza started falling, living in northern Israel kept Emily at a more comfortable distance from the summer’s events.
“My plan was to travel throughout the country, and then I was limited to the north – which was still beautiful, and I still explored, but I wanted to [also] go to Eilat and camp in the desert, and I didn’t get to do those things,” she recalls.
Although she ultimately decided to cut her internship short due to the security situation, she credits her Israel experience with showing her what it takes to succeed in business – and for inspiring her to start her own.
“What really inspired me was even though they were facing a direct threat and people that I worked with were being called up [to serve in the IDF], people kept working. And they showed me that work ethic, that grit, that hustle,” she explains. “I learned so much just by observing, and I really brought that back with me to my own business today.”
From Student to CEO
Back in Boston after her internship, Emily returned to the life of a student. She continued to be affected by her Lyme Disease, with which she had been diagnosed during her first year of college. But now, she saw an opportunity in her illness – specifically, in her PICC line, the medical tubing attached to her arm, providing her with a constant supply of antibiotics.
“The first time I had my PICC line, I was told to wear a cut sock on my arm. And I was like, ‘Really? A cut sock?” she recalls. “When I had the sock on my arm, I felt like people were looking at my arm and not at me.”
She set out to come up with a solution that would allow her – and others who needed PICC lines – to receive the necessary medical care without attracting unwanted attention. She began pursuing this idea as a class project, but it quickly blossomed into a full-fledged business. Over time, her idea expanded to providing stylish solutions for people suffering from a variety of chronic illnesses. With its focus broadening, the company changed its name from PICCPerfect to Mighty Well.
“My senior year of college was when it started to transform into Mighty Well, because we realized that the real market opportunity was to create a whole line of what we’re calling ‘wellness wear’ – things like medical fashion, medical care, medical accessories,” she recounts.
With that expanded focus in mind, Mighty Well is currently working on new products including a port shirt for patients undergoing chemo therapy and a stylish pill bag. It is also participating in MassChallenge, an exclusive business accelerator that gives it access to mentors and resources for faster growth. Mighty Well has won numerous awards for entrepreneurship.
With her company developing and expanding its product line all the time, what does Emily say it takes to make it as a CEO?
“I think being able to be flexible and nimble,” she states. “Really what Israel taught me was to be flexible, to be able to just keep going through the rollercoaster. To keep going in a straight line when you’re faced with things that are trying to knock you off course.”
Continuing Engagement with Israel
Today, as Mighty Well continues to develop fashionable solutions for those suffering from chronic illnesses, Emily maintains her connection to Israel. She takes pride in being involved with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the sister-city relationship between Boston and Haifa. At the time she recently spoke to The Jewish Agency for Israel, she was even hosting a friend from Haifa who had traveled to meet her in Boston.
And her future plans?
“I would love to go back,” Emily says of Israel, adding that after starting Mighty Well she spoke at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, discussing overcoming challenges. “I would love to continue going to Israel. I have so many friends there – and any way I can be a part of it, I want to. So far, I’ve gotten to go every two years, but if I could go once a year, I’d be even happier.”
This article was written by Daniel Temkin.