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“The experience of losing myself in my own business taught me a big lesson.”: Katerina Rydlova on running her own femtech business

Written by
Femme Palette
Published on
February 15, 2024

Katerina Rydlova is an industrial healthcare designer and founder of Body Moody. Her company entered the Czech femtech industry with a heated bodysuit offering relief from menstrual pain. In this interview, we talked about her journey from designer to founder, how Body Moody’s product works, but also about her struggles and difficult times in her business and how she overcame them.

Please begin by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do. 

My name is Katka. I am a designer specializing in healthcare and founder of Body Moody. I have mostly experience with wearable medical devices, but this year working on the first big device for a hospital. When health meets textiles, I am really happy to explore and get into it! 

My work is blending into my personal life, because it's not easy to work for companies and at the same time build my own business. But to be fair, I think even if I had one job, it would be blended together with free time anyway.  

To keep me going, I do love a good coffee (maybe not one) and every day a long walk with my dog Asia is a must.  

What led you to become an industrial healthcare designer, and how did you acquire the necessary skills? 

I did not plan to be an industrial designer. I moved to Prague when I was 15 to study at art school, but my older friend was already at the Czech Technical University studying architecture and when I saw the building, and then the 4th floor with the design, I felt how it resonated with me.  

So from painting I went to learn how to design. Because even while painting I was always picturing for whom I am painting, where the painting will be, in what kind of space…I wanted to paint for someone, not for a gallery not knowing where it will end up. So I think this was the beginning of having a mindset of a designer. 

And do I like challenges, so in my first year at university, I applied to the industrial atelier, the biggest contrast to art, and I loved it. The second year in that studio, one of the topics was a medical device, and from then on I stuck to that. 

To become an industrial designer you need skills of 3D modeling, know the technologies of production so you can design in an efficient way, and the gift of feeling the composition and colors, what works or what does not. This can be of course very much trained.  

But for industrial design in healthcare you might need one more thing, and that's empathy. Not every designer needs that, because someone barely meets the users or communicates with patients, some designers mostly enjoy sculpting the surfaces and the overall visual appearance, but for me it's very important to understand the needs of the people, the journey towards them needing the device, and why. As my chef design in BTL said about empathy and research techniques, it's a combination of soft skill and hard skill. To be honest, I am not the best in 3D modeling, but I am strong in empathy. I think I have always been driven by empathy and also my personal experiences facing a loss just made it even stronger to get better in it. What I am learning now is to find balance between business and empathy — that's something I want to be equipped with as a designer and small business owner. 

How was Body Moody born? What kinds of needs did you want to address when founding the company and designing the product? 

Body Moody was born out of my personal needs and experiences. It was never part of my initial plan to start a company. I suffered from menstrual pain and frequent bladder infections.  

I discovered that using a simple bottle filled with warm water helped me relieve the pain. It was a comforting alternative to painkillers, offering immediate comfort and relieving the need to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes. However, as a busy student working at the same time, carrying around a hot water bottle or electric blanket was not a practical solution for me on the go. 

So I designed clothing which you can wear to school or work without feeling limited.  

Heat can do magic. Not only for the body physically but also psychologically. It provides overall comfort.

When I started, I designed it so I could go to school even when I was starting to feel pain, because back then I did not have the option to stay home… 

Now the bodysuit is also reminding me that even during days when I am going to the office, I need to slow down. It's ok if I am not 100% productive. Your body is working hard and you need to give your body support.  

photo credit: Body Moody

How does your heat-integrated bodysuit work? 

The bodysuit is made of two fabric layers, so it really nicely shapes the body and supports the silhouette. Heating layers are laminated in the between of those layers so they are invisible. The layer provides heat by a conductive yarn in the shape of a snake. You can imagine it as a wire, but thinner and more flexible. To power the yarn, you have to connect to powerpacks. It's very easy, for each heating layer there is a magnetic connector in the hidden pocket. After connecting the powerpack and pressing the on button, it heats up immediately. You can control the heat on the powerpacks with 3 temperature levels via an app where there are 10 levels and a boost option for even higher temperature for 5 minutes.  

All these electronics in the textiles are washable in the washing machine for a minimum of 200 washes. So this product can serve you for many years.  

It might sound complicated, but it's very simple. We also have a short video on our website which demonstrates this very well.  

Which accomplishments are you most proud of as the founder of Body Moody? 

First — that I had the courage to actually start, even though I did not see 10 steps ahead of me. I took the first step and here I am, walking for 6 years since.  

Second — I did not give up at the time when I was very close to giving up. I kept the mindset of a problem solver and faced it. 

Lastly I am grateful for every single person helping me in the stage when I was down and the project was kind of frozen. For me it's an accomplishment, because that means the project is very important for not just me, but for other people…working late hours, working for free, really rolling the sleeves up when it's needed.  

What have been some business or design struggles you’ve had to deal with? Both and many.  

When it comes to design struggles, I think it was something I had expected. Because there is no product like this at the market, it means it's not so easy to develop it and handle the serial production. I faced that as a designer and with a problem solving attitude we made it! This is of course connected to business, because some things became more expensive, the final price got higher and that brought some pressure and stress, but I think I handled it much better than I expected, and for the second series, I knew what to improve. This taught me such a lesson not only in terms of skills in Body Moody, but also for me as a designer working for healthcare companies. So I really appreciate every struggle in a way. 

For me it was much more difficult to face relationships. I started my company to help people with problems I have and had, but also to have the freedom of my own project, do things transparently, and build my own values. And for some time, I did not feel good in my own company.  

I had two options. Stop it and leave it or redesign it and face the difficult conversations and actions after. I have chosen to face it, thankfully I was alone. I am again the full owner of Body Moody, recreating the values, the experience of losing myself in my own business taught me a big lesson, and hopefully I will never repeat this mistake.  

To be fair, I had a really hard time even in my personal life and relationships. I lost a lot of confidence. I kind of disconnected with being an industrial designer, even though this was always something I was so sure about. For a period of time I took a break and went to do home care assistance. This was a really decision I do not regret. I did not bring a laptop to work, time spent with old people goes by much slower and this was part of my healing, because I was still broken from losing my mum. 

Once I faced who I am now, how I changed and that things will ever be the same, and it was not from overnight (it's still a process), I needed to adjust the company as well, so we could again fit and benefit from each other. We are testing new business models with a new team, we changed the branding a bit, and I am planning a product no. 2. The company needs fresh energy again, and with the changes I made, I know it's now possible. 

photo credit: Body Moody

Give us your insider view of the femtech industry. What are the current topics being discussed within the industry? 

I see apps tracking the cycle and fertility devices. 

Is there anything you would like to say to aspiring female founders? 

I would really like to encourage all women to go for it! When they have an idea, when they have this feeling of changing something for the better…please, start!  

But what’s important along the way is that while you work hard and it takes most of your time, don't make it the only thing you feel proud of. 

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