Voices by Viv highlighting Jessica Lubahn
ONDRwear is a new sustainable leakage underwear brand. Tell us about ONDRwear and what it means to you.
ONDRwear has definitely become my passion project. In my professional life as a physician, I see a lot of pain and suffering. Much of my day is spent talking about cancer and diseases. It is definitely rewarding when patients recover and get better. What I love about ONDRwear is that it is founded with the goal of de-stigmatizing. Rather than discussing your “problem,” it offers a solution that allows you to feel good about yourself again and regain that confidence. Personally, this company really is for certain members of my family who suffered from incontinence after surgery. Watching the emotional impact up close really caused me to internalize the suffering and made me feel compelled to do something beyond what can be offered medically. I think that starts with being able to speak openly about these issues, and not just with your physician.
On another level, there are many societal issues, this of which I feel is one way I can make a difference. The fashion industry has a major impact on global pollution. I read one astounding statistic that the fashion industry produces 10% of the worlds’ carbon emissions. ONDRwear is non disposable and the plant based liner is actually biodegradable. In the future, I hope to have a completely carbon neutral product. Another problem that we see in medicine is antibiotic resistance, or the rise of the superbugs. This is driven by the overuse of antibiotics, which is often the basis of “odor-free” or “antimicrobial” treatment. Our liner is naturally odor resistant and antimicrobial.
Where did you find your passion to create a sustainable option for those struggling with leakage?
As a young woman, I was frustrated each month by the slipping and chaffing from my menstrual pads. I used to wear a girdle over my underwear to remedy this, which was hot and always made me feel like an old lady. Inopportune leaking never ends. As a surgeon, I used to prepare for long operations by doubling up with a tampon as well as a pad. Despite that, I would still have to explain that it was not the “patient’s blood” on my scrubs.
As a full-time urologist , I directly witness the impact of bladder leakage on my patients as well as my family members. Incontinence can drive isolation and depression. I treat women and men with medications, nerve stimulators, botox, and even surgery. The bother may be great even when the leakage is “mild” from a medical standpoint.
While I was pregnant with my first daughter, I tried a variety of cloth diapering systems in an attempt to lower our family’s carbon footprint. It occurred to me that this would be translatable to adults -- Create undergarments that could lock away smell and moisture, but look and feel like high end underwear. Ideally, it would be made as sustainably as possible and minimize the use of chemical and antibiotic treatments. In the end, this is better for the planet and I hope that it puts confidence and a sense of beauty back into our lives, body fluids and all.
As I started prototyping styles, I sent them to all of my friends to try out as a proof-of-concept. It was a strange idea in the beginning, but in the end, there was wide enthusiasm for it. My friends started sending me pictures of their work out clothes with and without my underwear. My sister told me it was her favorite pair. Friends were asking me to send more because they were washing them everyday so they could wear them as much as possible. One of my friends even told me it did not stink after she wore the sample two days in a row straight!
To see the available styles, click here.
ONDR looks like it is just getting up and running! Can you share a little insight to the future goals you have with ONDR and other aspects of your career?
I have so many goals! In the immediate term, I would like to broaden my line with more colors, styles, and sizes. I would like to increase the absorption capacity and also introduce a lighter coverage. I have started on a men’s line, which I am waiting on funding to launch. There is a need for the product with children as well. Eventually, I hope to expand beyond underwear.
The entrepreneurial world can be a scary and uncertain place to dive into. What advice would you give someone thinking about entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is difficult because there is no playbook. In many ways, medicine was a lot easier, because I always knew what my next steps were going to be. In order to survive as an entrepreneur, I think you have to be crazy enough to keep going even when it is tough. I also think it is important to talk to people within your next work and beyond. This has opened up doors to me. I am an introvert by nature, so it is easy for me to talk myself out of making a call, or introduction. However, I realize that there is not much to lose by trying. Worst case scenario, the person, or factory, or whatever you may be reaching will say “no”. But more often than you think, people are kind and willing to help. This is what helps you take the next step.
Looking back, what advice would you give to your 16 year old self?
At 16, I was quite insecure, which reflected in everything I did and how I perceived myself. I would tell myself to reflect on what is important and how to measure worth in yourself. I would tell her to not be afraid of failure. When I was 16, the fear of failure prevented me from trying anything new. It has taken me a long time to realize that failure is necessary for growth.
At Viv, we love to have a conquer more mentality- it pushes and encourages us. What does conquering even more mean to you?
I love this idea. Conquering more means dreaming bigger, taking on what you didn’t think was possible, taking risk. You never know what you can achieve if you don’t try.