From Dancer to Diabetes Fashionista
Kyrra Richards was pursuing a career as a professional dancer, choreographer, and model when she was diagnosed with diabetes. She had just returned from a performance for the troops in Afghanistan when she got the news as well as direction from her doctors to slow down.
This was a totally unexpected turn of events that grounded Kyrra in Los Angeles as she tried to figure out what would come next for her. She started to look for something she could take ownership of, something she could do mentally while dealing with, and adjusting to, her new physical situation.
She had loved being in business since she was little and now she contemplated going back for a business degree. In some ways she was excited about the idea of doing something that was more in her control rather than getting through a series of dance auditions only to be told ” you’re 2 inches too short” or “your Asian, but not Asian enough”.
That’s when her big idea came to her and she started on her road to building her company Myabetic, fashion accessories for diabetecs.
Bright Girls: How did you come up with the idea?
Kyrra Richards: I was 24 when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was trying to go out on the town, get on with my life, and I was carrying around this “thing” (case with all the diabetes equipment). My physical capabilities were compromised and I was in denial, and then there I was holding something that was a physical representation of it.
I am very type A and organized. I came up with the idea of transforming diabetes through fashion and style. I put it this idea of giving diabetes a makover in my file cabinet. It’s like I thought my entire business would fit in this one manila folder. I was clueless how involved it would be.
BG: : You actually took this idea and have brought it to life. What happened next that got it out of your file cabinet?
KR: I had gone to college at UCLA. Shortly after I came up with the idea I went on a road trip to visit a friend from college who was now going to Harvard.
On this trip I was with three of my other friends from UCLA; one was working in finance, one in law, and the other was in New York doing marketing. I shared my idea with them and they were looking for an entrepreenurial business idea. The four of us started the business. Now my partner Lauren works with me in Santa Monica and the other two work remotely in New York and Asia.
BG: You’ve got four engaged friends with different skill areas, which is great but nobody had started a business before or done anything in the fashion accessory sector. How did you make your idea a real product?
KR: The first step was to design them . I am an arts and crafting kind of person. I sketched out the design and I walked door to door to different L.A. factories. They laughed at me and said you won’t be able to make any money manufacturing this in the U.S.
I was at a party telling a friend what I’d been told by the local factories. Unbelievabley, her friend who was also listening, shared that her father owned a handbag factory in China. Shortly after that I traveled to China to meet with him. I had to describe my concept with the language barrier. I’d point to fabrics, then draw. There were a few people who came in to translate a little bit.
It certainly didn’t all go perfectly. For example, the first iteration of the heart shaped case (it was my favorite) was totally wrong when it a arrived. It was a big red box! Not at all what I envisioned. We had to iterate, it was a learning process.
BG: I would imagine you had to continue to focus on networking to get the information and connections you needed. Can you tell me some more about that?
KR: I looked for mentors in the L.A. area – friends of friends, I searched on Google, etc.
There were so many details; customs, tariffs, HPS codes, what??? Google was my best friend. I would reach out and contact people out of the blue.
Naturally I am an introvert, but I forced myself to get out there. In entertaining, one of the toughest things is being judged in an audition. But my perfomances had been nonverbal (dance), I didn’t have to speak. To this day, it still is uncomfortable for me. I speak at conferences, I do it, my heart starts pounding just like a big performance or audition, but I force myself. My personality is more to sit on the couch and watch Netflix, but I chose the entertainment industry. Now I’ve chosen to grow Myabetic and all these things that are hard, they feel good afterwards!
This creative girlpreneur has injected fashion and positivity into the daily diabetes regimen for the 29 million Americans living with this chronic condition. She is also a great role model for other girlpreneurs in her ability to push through her discomfort with public speaking and networking in order to create her wonderful vision. Go Girlpreneurs!
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