As a thank you to Pandia Health for including VINA flyers in their boxes for the month of May, we have a lovely Q&A with their founder, Sophia Yen, MD from Sunnyvale, California.
What is Pandia Health and why did you decide to launch it?
Pandia Health brings prescription birth control to women wherever they have internet and a mailbox. We are decreasing stress in women’s lives, increasing productivity, and increasing access to vital healthcare.
As a Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford Medical School, I was giving a talk to a bunch of doctors about “Why don’t women take their birth control?” The answer: they didn’t have time to go to the pharmacy or their prescription expired. My friend Perla Ni and I thought: “We can fix this. We’ll ship the medication to women and keep shipping it until they tell us to stop!” This is a great opportunity to disrupt the slow, monolithic pharmacy industry. We will make it a delightful, mobile, 20-something friendly experience. Then when we ran ads for “free birth control delivery,” 60% of those that responded didn’t have a prescription. I’m a doctor, I can write subscriptions and thus, Pandia Health was born – the End to End Solution for birth control, from prescription to delivery to your home.
Why is your work through it meaningful to you, as well as important for all women?
Pandia Health makes women’s lives easier and helps women prevent unplanned pregnancies by providing the “one-stop shop” for birth control.
1. We free up time for women: On average, women spend 20-30 years of their lives on contraception. They spend valuable time and money traveling to the pharmacy to get prescription birth control every month and going to the doctor’s office once a year. They have #BetterThingsToDo than run to the pharmacy each month.
2. We save women money also. Some women live hours away from the nearest pharmacy or doctor’s office. They have to spend time and money to go there.
3. We provide Confidentiality. Local pharmacies in small towns do not offer the privacy needed for women to get their prescription birth control. “Slut shaming” when you get your birth control. Women don’t need that.
4. We decrease stress. Women worry about running out of medications. It is a source of great stress.
5. We provide Access. 60% of women who respond to an advertisement for free birth control delivery, don’t have a valid prescription (it expired or they didn’t have one to begin with). We provide access.
6. We are providing Education. We have a youtube channel with 130k+ views with NO advertising/promotion. People want/need the information we are sharing/providing.
7. We Advocate for our customers. We fight insurance companies to get women the medication they want/need.
What was the hardest part of getting it up and running? Any “failures” or doubts along the way and if so, what did you learn from them?
Getting funded. Seeing guys before me get funded with no mention of # of customers and then with 50 customers, then I come along with 150 customers and have to beg for funding. We are the ONLY Women-Founded/Led, practicing reproductive health doctor founded/led company in this space. Keep knocking on doors and eventually you will find your people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Get everything in writing and don’t let people bully you into a decision. You can always stop, consult people, consult lawyers.
Where do you want to take it in 5 years? 10 years?
Pandia Health is building The Brand Women Trust with Their Health. Pandia is the greek goddess of healing, light, full moon. I also came up with: Pan = every, día – day, we have you covered everyday. Set it and forget it. Let Pandia worry so you don’t have to.
We are starting with birth control, but we will grow as our patients grow from birth control to acne, to prenatal vitamins, breast pumps, to menopause and wrinkle cream.
How do you balance your work with Pandia Health with your other roles (teaching, Board membership, etc.)?
I’m at Stanford 1 half-day a week and the rest of the time I’m 24/7 Pandia Health. With Pandia Health, I’ve had to cut down on other involvement (fighting for healthy school lunch, participation in my daughters’ girl scouts, attending daughters’ school events) but that’s ok. My daughters and other young women get to see a woman CEO and my husband gets to step up as a parent.
Pandia is not the the first venture you have founded/co-founded. How did you develop such an entrepreneurial spirit?
It’s in my blood. My grandfather had his own company – selling men’s clothing. My parents have lived the silicon Valley/American dream – from rags to riches. My mom had me learn accounting since 4th grade and I did the family finances! Junior Achievement in high school taught me how to run a company from selling stock, serious accounting, leading a team, paying back stockholders dividends, etc. Also, Future Business Leaders of America gave me skills as well. And being Treasurer of: my high school class for 2 years, sorority x 4 years, MIT class x 4 yrs, Homeowner’s Association x 15+ yrs? Being treasurer made me think about what to sell, how to price it, profit and labor.
What advice do you have for young women who want to launch their own initiative, big or small?
Do it. Build a tribe. Check out Springboard Enterprise, Women’s Startup Lab, StartX.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
I have several advisors. There are so many great women entrepreneurs out there that inspire me! Currently, I am inspired by Sarah Lacy of ChairmanMom, Kara Goldin of Hint Water, Lisa Fetterman of Nomiku in addition to the usual Sara Blakely of Spanx, Rent The Runway Jennifer Hyman, Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix, Shan-Lyn Ma of Zola, Emilly Weiss of Glossier.
For support, I’m thankful to my investors Matthew Gould of Allectus Capital and Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures and my tribes from: Springboard Enterprise, StartX, Women’s Startup Lab, female entrepreneur groups and feminist groups like the Feminist Majority Foundation, Center for Reproductive Rights, Ignite, and Emerge.
Any final words of wisdom to all the young women out their who are strategizing to reach their education, career, and wellness goals?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
You can do it!
If you are open to connecting with our readers, how can they reach you?
Twitter: @TeenMD or @pandiahealth
If you want to be a Pandia Health ambassador and help spread the word, email info at Pandiahealth.com