Mother of Invention
Local entrepreneur launches MyPeriodPal
“I’ve always enjoyed finding simple solutions to everyday problems. I have a knack to do very much with very little,” says AIRLIE WEDEMEYER, a Wilmington-based entrepreneur who has developed MyPeriodPal, acupressure bands that relieve dysmenorrhea known more commonly as menstrual cramps.
Wedemeyer vividly recalls the day the idea for MyPeriodPal came to her.
“I gave birth to my son in the Philippines while I was working at a Korean boarding school. I was still breastfeeding him, but having menstrual cramps, so I couldn’t take pain medicine,” she says. “One of my Korean colleagues bent down to my ankle and told me to press. Immediately my cramps went away. I was floored! The next day I bought some elastic, Velcro, and a rubber ball to keep the pressure applied. It worked!”
It was her first prototype.
Over time, Wedemeyer perfected the design of the acupressure bands. Her proof-of-concept design used hand-sewn bands and a cut-up rubber ball attached with a tack.
“Slowly, the shape of the knob and the materials changed, and it came together as a more professional, commercial-ready product,” she says.
Wedemeyer recognizes that the dangers of pain medications are driving women to seek cost-effective portable alternatives. MyPeriodPal works using acupressure and reflexology, forms of pain relief that have been used in Eastern medicine for over 5000 years. The knob applies pressure to a point inside the ankle and relaxes the uterus, naturally relieving cramping.
Wedemeyer has degrees in film studies, photography, and education. But it is her parents who inspired her entrepreneurial mindset.
“My mom is a painter, my dad a master potter. Both are self-employed, so I grew up seeing talent as a means of income. It made a huge impact,” Wedemeyer says. “I knew if I had an idea worth sharing with the world, I could do it.” She laughs as she recalls her first invention. “When I was ten, I made an extendable fly swatter. Does that count as an invention?”
Wedemeyer is a member of University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) which offers programs, services, and activities to promote and support entrepreneurship and the creation of innovative new ventures in southeastern North Carolina. Its strategic focus is education, health and IT technologies, coastal and marine sciences, and digital arts and media production.
Wedemeyer credits CIE for her “you can” mindset as well as with connections, support, and mentorship.
“CIE is an amazing community of people who are motivated, helpful, active, and kind. They always lift me up.”
In October 2019, Wedemeyer received an NC IDEA MICRO grant from NC IDEA, a private foundation with a mission to maximize the economic potential of the people of North Carolina by supporting the formation and fruition of high-growth entrepreneurial endeavors.
NC IDEA MICRO is a small, project-based grant awarded to young companies to validate and advance ideas. She is currently a finalist for an NC IDEA SEED grant which awards critical funding to enable early-stage companies to scale faster.
Wedemeyer intends to use the funding for raw materials; manufacturing; packaging; quality assurance; advertising; inventory; warehousing; shipping; and logistics. Winners will be announced in May.
This summer will begin a 500-person trial now that Wedemeyer has completed several years of user studies
“Numerous women go completely off medication, over the counter as well as prescription,” she says.
While she already sees a 90% success rate with the product, she is expecting to gather precise statistics from this trial.
MyPeriodPal, currently patent-pending, will be available online on Wedemeyer’s website and through Amazon this fall.
“The goal is to manufacture, advertise, sell. And then repeat.”
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