Black-owned femtech apparel brand Oya Femtech Apparel has recently announced that it has raised $1.3 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed round.
The round is led by the Sixers Innovation Lab, with additional investors including REI Path Ahead Ventures, R/GA Ventures, an SPV managed by Union Heritage Venture Partners and Techstars Sports.
Oya performance wear is engineered for feminine health and comfort using innovative fabrics and sweat absorption technology. The company’s leggings are twice as absorbent as leading brands, and the unique designs provide discrete natural ventilation, significantly improving over current options.
Intersecting science and style, Oya’s antimicrobial fabrics and patent-pending leggings are designed with doctors to combat the $43.3 billion that U.S. women spent last year dealing with feminine health issues. Common feminine health issues include urinary incontinence, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections. In fact, the CDC reports that 75% of women will struggle with yeast infections in their lifetimes.
Women athletes and performance wear enthusiasts may even be more prone to feminine health issues because of the hours they spend training in workout clothes that retain moisture and don’t allow the body to dry out.
“As a collegiate female athlete, I found myself struggling with recurrent vaginal health hurdles and in the dark about why. Then, many years later, I discovered the leggings I had been wearing were the culprit. Unfortunately, most performance wear is made with spandex blends, which trap moisture and do not breathe. This is not good for women athletes who need ventilation and moisture control,” said Mitchella Gilbert, Co-founder, and CEO of Oya Femtech Apparel. “I took it upon myself to solve the issue by creating a line of performance wear designed with women’s health in mind.”
This funding round is a significant milestone for Oya Femtech Apparel and for Mitchella Gilbert as a Black woman founder. The statistics on funding for women and Black women in particular, are not favorable. According to a 2020 report by All Raise, only 2% of venture capital funding is allocated to women, and of that, roughly 0.05% goes to Black women. Investors Sophia and Nia from Union Heritage Venture Partners acknowledged this in a statement, saying “When we find underrepresented, passionate founders with great ideas, it is a privilege to invest in them and work alongside them”.
Startups focused on women’s health have become a growing priority for investors since the term “femtech” was coined in 2016. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has increased momentum around developing innovative women’s healthcare products.
Oya Femtech Apparel was founded at the Venture Accelerator at UCLA Anderson by Mitchella (Mitch) Gilbert and Patrick Ayers. The company creates highly functional, quality athletic apparel designed to support feminine health. Oya leggings are the first of their kind to be physician-tested and athlete approved, with over 60 medical professionals and 200 product testers supporting product development. In an athletic apparel industry dominated by men, Oya advocates for a more inclusive approach to athletic wear and the recognition of the specific needs of women’s bodies.
Beyond fighting for women’s health, Oya is developing an ethical supply chain. The line is designed and primarily manufactured in Los Angeles. Oya’s fabrics are BPA, PFA, and PFO.