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Have you ever looked at a business beyond their visual branding and think about who they are, what they stand for, and who their owners are and what they stand for? Branding is more than an aesthetic, it's about connection. Ari Krizek is the CEO and Head of Strategy of see-ka-lo-fîa, a brand agency that helps femtech and women-led brands to solidify their 'why' so they can unlock business opportunities.

Join us as we speak about Ari's journey to creating her own brand agency, finding her niche in femtech, and why knowing your why can help you to succeed.

About Ari Krzyzek

CEO and Head of Strategy at Chykalophia (read: see-ka-lo-fia), Ari Krzyzek helps FemTech, DTC, and women-led brands transform their website into a platform that unlocks business opportunities. She is co-author of one of the Top 3 Best Sellers book in web design, Made to Sell: Creating Websites that Convert. She serves as a branding, UX consultant, and professional peer in support of fellow female entrepreneurs through the #1 ranked private business incubator in the world, 1871 Chicago, and Chicago’s global healthcare startup incubator, MATTER. She’s the co-host of Halo Femtech Podcast, a podcast that honors disruptive innovators and change-makers advancing women’s health.

Furthermore, she helps women in tech and design break into the industry and succeeds in it by mentoring them for personal branding, career advancement, and entrepreneurship through Interaction Design Foundation, Chicago Innovation and ADP list.

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  • [15:50:00] Ari's journey to visual communication design.
  • [02:00:00] The gap between design and business strategy.
  • [12:03:20] The superficial way in which we view branding.
  • [03:36:40] On your mission and culture.
  • [07:23:20] Ari's motivations for starting her agency.
  • [01:10:00] Business identity vs individual identity.
  • [04:16:40] Starting a business is a journey of self-discovery.
  • [20:23:20] Everyone should have a personal philosophy.
  • [22:46:40] What is your 'why'?
  • [19:03:20] Giving back because of the support she received.
  • [18:56:40] There's so much available to help you to succeed.
  • [00:56:40] How to find your niche.
  • [01:40:00] The focus on tech and FemTech.
  • [17:23:20] Trends in FemTech beyond medical.
  • [05:36:40] Awkward Essentials - Dripstick (Content Warning: Sexual health, may be TMI for some).
  • [17:50:00] The burgeoning space of FemTech in lifestyle and wellness.
  • [10:30:00] Solutions for quality of life as well as sustainability, because women's bodies and our needs are always changing.
  • [09:16:40] The point of connection.
  • [02:23:20] The significance of building connection in FemTech.
  • [07:50:00] The challenges of marketing FemTech begin with education (or a lack thereof).
  • [04:33:20] The potential scope of FemTech's role in public education.
  • [05:10:00] Women can thrive in tech.
  • [15:03:20] How to position yourself as the solution.
  • [06:46:40] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
  • [06:40:00] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
  • [15:16:40] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
Michele Ong

Have you ever looked at a business beyond their visual branding and thought about who they are and what they stand for, and who the owners are and what they stand for? Branding is more than just an aesthetic. It's about connection.

Ari Krzyzek is CEO and Head of Strategy is Chykalophia, a brand agency that helps FemTech and women-led brands solidify their 'why' so they can unlock business opportunities.

Join us as we speak about Ari's journey to creating her own brand agency, finding a niche in FemTech, and why knowing your 'why' can help you to succeed.

I'm Michele Ong and this is STEAM Powered.

Good evening, Ari. Thank you for joining me today on STEAM Powered I'm really looking forward to speaking with you today about your journey.

Ari Krzyzek

Thank you so much for having me in today, Michele. I'm excited to be here.

Ari's journey to visual communication design.

Michele Ong

Amazing. So if we get straight into it, you're currently the CEO of a branding agency, but your journey began in visual communication design. So what motivated you to enter the field of design?

Ari Krzyzek

That's really a good question, especially if you take account of me growing up in Bali, Indonesia surrounded by all things tourism, and to be honest with you, none in my family ever gone outside of tourism. I didn't even know what art school is all about, or design or branding, marketing, advertising, all those different stuff.

But I fell into it sort of accidentally, because I was in my last year of high school. And you know, it's almost like a critical time for a lot of us when we get to that point thinking about, oh, where do we wanna go for university or college, where we wanna be for our career and things like that.

And almost feels like everybody around me have it figured out where, whereas I didn't. And I thought was like, oh, I'm probably gonna fall into all things tourism where I'm gonna be working for perhaps like a tour agency or you know, a hotel, things like that.

But I got to hang around with some BMXers and skater boys and things like that, and they introduced me to this world of graphic design. And I felt really excited at that time to see all things that revolves around creative, around concepting ideas and also marketing advertising. It brought me back in terms of my journey when I was still growing up watching so many different commercials, and I remember when I was watching all of these different commercial, I keep asking myself, I wonder how they come up with those ideas. What make them decide this particular creative would work for people and compel them to, take specific action, go buy specific purchase.

The gap between design and business strategy.

Ari Krzyzek

And I finally put the two together. It feels like I wanted to jump into this creative world and I ended up doing so. But when I get into the real world of being a graphic designer, that was interesting simply because, you know, they didn't teach you things around business communication when it comes to design and advertisement, and I had to learn that the hard way.

So I thought that my skill as visual communication designer with all things graphic design will eventually help businesses, but I lack the knowledge of understanding what the purpose of the business, which essentially is to create more customers, without that, a business wouldn't thrive.

So what are some of these different activities that brand can really support towards that goal and how design and graphic design or anything else beyond that contribute to that goal. So, I felt like it has been quite an interesting journey. I felt like things that they don't teach you at school, you have to like, go out there and find the resources your own to kind of close that gap.

But when you did find the resources and closing that gap, it makes a lot more sense, and you finally have the resources that you needed to execute on certain project or even giving more value to specific project.

Michele Ong

So how did you fill that gap for yourself? Because a lot of people would either take a marketing route or a business school route, but were there any other avenues for you?

Ari Krzyzek

You know, looking back, I felt like, I was really hungry for knowledge, to be honest with you. I'm one of those people that if I can't find the answer from one person or from one institution, I'll go default to all things internet. I Google everything. So I felt like Google is my friend. And then I found different certification and programs that I felt really complete the ideas of like, how do you bridge the gap between understanding design and that connection to business, and then also like in building an actual brand that could really deliver its promise to the audience.

So for me it's really trying to find who are the people that I need to follow in order to gain that resources in which either certification or courses or the right teacher that could really share these amazing knowledge and gather all of those from them. So I felt like that was my journey, and in terms of like specific type of people that I could truly recommend, I'm not sure if you're familiar with, um, Marty Neumeier, he is the godfather of branding and he has work for Apple in the past, and I felt like that knowledge, there's just so much knowledge around how do you build such brand like Apple, and then you understand there's just so much more beyond the surface of branding that we see day-to-day.

Michele Ong

There's so much of it because people are unique beings and the way that they approach things, the way they think about things, what will attract them. Obviously when you have a global brand, you find that commonality that is able to draw that in, but you still have to kind of think about the different intersections, the different markets that you're trying to approach, and the psychology behind that, the human behavior, the way that the different cultures work.

There's so many layers to it and it's absolutely fascinating.

The superficial way in which we view branding.

Ari Krzyzek

It's honestly really fascinating once you get to it, right? And yeah, I often share this with a lot of people, including some of our clients as well, because I think the way we perceive brand, it's very sometimes even superficial, right? We only see the top part of the surface. We see the packaging, we see the brand colors. We see the, an

overall design and look and feel. We don't really see what goes. Towards building a brand, right? We're talking about

the brand purpose, what's the mission of the brand? Like how do we define this brand as its own character?

And beyond that too, like who are their, target audience? how are they delivering the value they want in creating impact towards those people? So, There's so much misconception sometimes when people say, yeah, my logo is my brand. It's like, no, no, no, no. Let's step back a little bit and then really understand what's the difference between the two.

On your mission and culture.

Michele Ong

And that's absolutely fascinating as well, because as you said, people think about it from a very superficial kind of perspective in terms of look and feel, but it is also about the organisational culture, the kind of people you want in your business, both as a customer and people contributing to your business and helping it to grow.

It, it's almost as though you kind of have to strip back to bare tacks when you approach people to speak about their brand, because it's like, right, but what's your purpose? Why are you here? What is it that you want to achieve, and how do you want to instill that in the people you hire so that they can share that vision of yours and still also be able to convey that to your customers?

It's just very complicated.

Ari Krzyzek

It's definitely not an easy task. And often people say that, yeah, we're gonna build a brand. Like, to a degree some people might be able to do that, you know naturally, maybe because they have a really deep knowledge about how to create culture, how to create, customers essentially, and how to deliver that message. But to some people, they don't even know where to start simply because there's just so many areas to look at.

It almost interesting to dig deeper into it simply because oftentimes people would say, I want to go test to the market right away, but. If you don't know your audience, how would you know who to target? It almost feels like everything

start from the pillars of your brand, and without knowing any of these, the other aspect of your business might not have a complete picture or even clarity of how to move forward.

Ari's motivations for starting her agency.

Michele Ong

So is this what kind of motivated you to start your own brand agency?

Ari Krzyzek

Yes. It's actually super fascinating for me because I get to really understand what kind of impact one company truly want to deliver, and then what really drives that? You see so many different entrepreneurs coming up with, you know, new ideas, innovative ideas, and product or solution.

And they truly are passionate because they believe this is gonna change somebody's life.

And for me to take part in terms of like building that brand for them and translating their vision into reality into something more tangible that people can interact with. To be honest, it's just priceless. It's just so fulfilling and yeah, that's basically why I'm still building it.

Michele Ong

Yeah, that, that's amazing. And it, it's always such an exciting time as well, when you're able to help clients figure out who they are and come into a very solid idea of what their company is meant to be. It's very exciting.

Ari Krzyzek


Business identity vs individual identity.

Michele Ong

So one of the things that's come up, a lot kind of in academia and in science and entrepreneurship and things like that is the brand stuff because it's not just about the business, but it's also about the individual.

And so often now it's about creating your own personal brand as soon you want to be visible in any kind of way. So it's not just about the company culture and what they stand for and who they are, it's about who the owners are, who the founders are, and what they stand for. And all the more recent right now, having conviction for what their ideas of how they want to contribute to society are.

It's, it's a very difficult thing because so many people in this space as well are also, they want to make a change, but they struggle to kind of put themselves out there, and I feel that that's probably like the beginning of that journey for them.

So when you're approaching, or when clients approach you about branding, how much of that comes back to taking it back to them and who they are and what they want individually as a person.

Ari Krzyzek

Hmm. That's such a good question. You know, this bring me back when I personally started my business. I'm one of those people in the beginning who are really comfortable behind the scenes and really hesitant to be out there and presenting myself out there.

It's really weird simply because if you choose this route, if you choose to build a company, you gonna have to put yourself out there. That's just part of the package. Unless you wanna hire that part out and then go for it. But oftentime, this is a business of people to people. Even though we are working with businesses, corporation and things like that, at the end of the day, it's about doing business from people to people.

We're building relationship with the people inside the brand, inside the company. So when you don't have this, in a personal brand or even like your own personality or as a founder or a business owner or entrepreneur, you might not get the right connection. You might not be able to build the right relationship with the target audience that you're after.

Maybe it is, you know, the end customer. Maybe it is the investors. Maybe it is your future employees or your current employees. There's just so many different types of audience that you are going to embrace as part of your brand, and that stems from you as well. From your own characteristic, from your own, values, what it is that you, are against and things that you stand for.

People are trying to find these, common grounds. Things that they feel like, oh yeah, I'm aligned because of so-and-so, or your purpose, speak to me because that's also something I strive for. We get connected by all these different things together and that's how you build part of the relationship and also eventually building your, the brand, creating the brand loyalty, and that's how it all began.

Starting a business is a journey of self-discovery.

Ari Krzyzek

So oftentime when we talk to different founders, they often hesitate, like, yeah, do we really have to go that route? I mean, I'm still figuring out. Like, that is okay though. I feel like all things related to brand strategy, whether it's for business or even for personal, it's almost like a self-discovery. We're trying to find out who are we really, without understanding that we're probably not gonna be able to show up to the world as authentic as we are. We probably don't know exactly like what mission it is that we're holding so dear to our heart, that might also present possibilities in the future for different collaborations.

So I think start from yourself. Try to understand like what is the value that you're trying to bring to the world, and understand like what memories or learnings that has shaped you into who you are today.

Everyone should have a personal philosophy.

Ari Krzyzek

You know, a good friend of mine walked me through how to find my personal brand philosophy and I thought to myself like, I don't need a personal philosophy. I'm not Gandhi and things like that. And she's like, whoa, wait. Hang on, Ari. Here's the thing. Gandhi is people, right? You are people. So, to be honest, like everybody needs their own personal philosophy so that you can hold on to that one thing. You can hold on to that purpose that drives your passion. So when you don't have that, it can be confusing in terms of, where do I go? Like what is it that is important for me that drives me to do what I wanna do? So, yeah. Honestly, I'm gonna stop there for now. So like I've been talking.

Michele Ong

No, but this is all so important, so valuable because we do get lost in it and for, I guess quite a few people because they're still trying to figure out who they are, it's such a difficult discussion for them as well, because it's about identity, it's about what you believe in and what hills you're gonna die on. It's knowing a lot of these things, which are very important and essential to who you are and why, why you doing the thing you're doing, how you came to be here. And it's a very, yeah, it's a challenging kind of thing that you have to do, especially when all you want to do is I wanna go out and make a difference, I wanna go create a thing, I wanna go make stuff. And suddenly you're confronted with this idea of having to make sure that people believe in what you believe in, and so they, you need to understand what you believe in as well.

What is your 'why'?

Ari Krzyzek

One thing that I would say to that, it popped in my head, on a few different exercise that you could potentially do. The first one will be asking yourself why seven times? So let's just

say like, okay, why are you building this company, Maybe you have the answer, then ask yourself again. But why ask that seven times until you can distill that reason and then you'll start seeing different answer because you are really trying to find what is the core of all of this? Where does this come from?

Sometimes in your mind it's just like, you

know, ideas pop.

It's like, oh, I think that's gonna be a great idea, but wh why really, do we really need this? Do the people around the world really need it, or is it for specific people? I think you find it interesting through this exercise just seeing what different answers that come up after you ask yourself over and over again, 'Why does it matter?'.

Michele Ong

It's such a a good sanity check as well, because once you've actually put enough thought into it, you've realised what your direction is, whether it's actually valid, whether someone else has already done it, whether you can actually give value to the idea.

It's really delving into the details of your motivations.

Giving back because of the support she received.

Michele Ong

So because you're doing all of this as well, and it is very personal, I can see kind of why you headed also into the mentoring route and coaching, because they're all kind of connected. But was there a particular moment for you where you realised that this is part of the package, or is it something that just organically grew?

Ari Krzyzek

The mentoring part of it is, to be honest with you, is my way of giving back. I grew up not having any mentor while I was in Bali, and when I moved here to Chicago, I was welcomed with so much warm from the community of women entrepreneurs in Chicago ecosystem, and I didn't even ask for, a mentor yet.

People would say like, if you need extra help, I'll be happy to mentor you. And time and time again, it feels like the support that I needed was coming from this, little. Network of amazing women who are willing to see the next generation of women entrepreneurs to succeed. So to me it almost feels like, okay, now I've gotten all of these knowledge I also want to help like maybe the future ari, to see there's so many different ways to do. Anything really, to achieve your goal. There's just so many things that have been done before. You don't have to start from scratch Because I think

There's so much available to help you to succeed.

Ari Krzyzek

at the end of the day, we're trying to tell people like, I've done that. It doesn't work. Do this instead. I made that mistake in the past when my mentor told me like, Ari, you gotta niche down, and I didn't listen, I'm just like, I'm for everybody. It's like, yeah bad mistake.

It prove how much knowledge and resources are available around you, especially in the digital media today, right? You cannot not succeed with all these different,

resources around you. You gotta figure something out because I didn't grow up with it.

But when you have all of these different, you know, resources, support, and mentorship around you, you'll be amazed how much that can really help shape your thinking and help you find the tools you needed and support you to grow even faster.

Michele Ong

It's almost as though we're, we're spoilt for choice now with all the things that we have access to, to be able to create whatever our vision is, but to the point where it's overwhelming and where do you start?

Ari Krzyzek

You can be very selective though. You know, one of the big thing that I start recognising with so much information out there is to be laser-focused on your goal. There's always gonna be this, you know, shiny object syndrome. You see new things like, Ooh, what is that? Let me check that one out. I mean, I'm guilty of that. But when you have such a focus on your goal, that would definitely get you down the road of getting to it faster, and if you need to review and test it out or experiment with it, you'll have the time to do it simply because you're not getting distracted on other things.

Michele Ong

It's very, very easy to just fall down this rabbit hole and you just have to kind of curate, you really curate your tools and your focus.

How to find your niche.

Michele Ong

And that comes back to being told that you need to find your niche. So how did you determine what your niche was?

Ari Krzyzek

I was very hesitant to not finding my niche because I felt like yeah I can be generic. But time and time again my mentor would tell me, it's like, are you sure? Like, there's definitely a power in being in a niche in your market or a niche industry or even like having a specific set of capabilities.

Do you really want to be known for doing almost anything and everything, but not being great at one thing? It haunt me for several years until I realised that, okay, what kind of project do we really want to take on? What really lights us up? What are we really passionate about?

In the beginning we were this, full service agency, And I think it was naive of me to. Think of it that way simply because we were overrun by projects like, yeah, we can do this, we can do that, we can do every little things. And I didn't really enjoy it as much.

There's very small part of our services that I truly enjoy, and then I realised, you know what? We need to scale back here in terms of the services that we offer. So we have our core service around branding and web. That is exactly where I felt like our strong suit and our capabilities and where my team really thrive.

The focus on tech and FemTech.

Ari Krzyzek

this is it. I'm slowly working my way into embracing, the core essence of not just our services, but also looking at who are our top clients that we truly enjoy working with, In what industry are they? What are their type of business? So there's very specific type of businesses that we truly enjoy working with, and we found that technology industry, just so much fun to work with. So that's why we ended up dabbling into it for this past 13 plus years. And then from that, we slowly seeing the shift around different pockets inside the tech industry, like financial tech or FinTech, and then there's MarkTech, EdTech, I mean, there's just so many of them.

But when FemTech slowly introduced in the past couple of years, that piqued my interest simply because the core essence of that target audience is a woman. And I have always have a soft spot for all things women and helping them thrive in their life, helping them succeed in any capacity. And I wanna be in it.

I wanted to be in it. And I didn't realise it was really something that has been calling me since the beginning until I also have my own issues around my women's health. So I finally take a step back and really review things that happened to me. It's funny when you start listening to your own intuition and trusting your gut.

You help that guide your decision as well, and it's the best way to really find. That core purpose Because you know that deep down you enjoy doing X or deep down you know exactly what kind of topic you want to discuss with clients or that lights you up and things like that.

Tune into that, like lean in and really listen to that intuition because sometimes. It tries to tell you what's gonna be the best option, for your decisions or whatever else that's happening in your life that needs some validation. So I listened to that and we start talking to different companies around FemTech and I realise the impact that we could bring.

So we now mainly work with women-led brands in technology as well as FemTech direct-to-consumer.

Michele Ong

That is very, very cool.

Trends in FemTech beyond medical.

Michele Ong

So, with FemTech, what kind of things have you been noticing in the field that we should be paying attention to?

Ari Krzyzek

You'd be surprised of what are out there right now around FemTech. But the typical FemTech solutions that you probably have seen are around fertility, maternal health, as well as menopause. But you also then now will start seeing some shift around product specifically and I'm not just saying this simply because there should be diversity, I mean there will be diversity, around product and solution for FemTech, because women's need around health and wellness varies. And it's not just on the medical part, but also around lifestyle.

Awkward Essentials - Dripstick (Content Warning: Sexual health, may be TMI for some).

Ari Krzyzek

So Awkward Essentials have this product called Dripstick. to be fair, this is very TMI you guys, so be prepared. So Dripstick, essentially what it does, it helps take out the excess semen out of your vagina after you have sex. And I mean, that is genius, simply because now women no longer need to walk around like a penguin to the bathroom trying to clean up after sex.

And it just truly shows how things can be very much innovative in the FemTech space. And women have been dealing with all these different things on our own, trying to find our own solution. But when finally, other women founders think about the solution, it just click, right?

The burgeoning space of FemTech in lifestyle and wellness.

Ari Krzyzek

I mean, this is genius. Like who, who'd've thought that finally there is such products. So I think there's gonna be more and more products like this aim towards, you know, women's need in more of a lifestyle kind of way for our health and wellness beyond medical procedures or things like that.

Michele Ong

That's fascinating because it's so specifically niche. It's one of those things where, there's so many things in women's lives, where you just go, oh, it's just one of those things that we have to deal with. And it's like, do we, do we really need to have to deal with that? Could we find a solution for this? And that's where so many of these amazing ideas come from because everyone's got all of these things that they deal with every day. And it's just finding ways to improve quality of life in so many different respects, whether it's sexual health, menstrual health, or being who we are, basically. So yeah, it's such a fascinating burgeoning space to be looking at and it's really exciting.

Solutions for quality of life as well as sustainability, because women's bodies and our needs are always changing.

Ari Krzyzek

It is, honestly. Especially with the different product that comes out. Um, I know you're, probably already familiar with the cup for menstruation as well as the disk, now. I'm trying out a few of these different solution as well, simply because it definitely helps support our lifestyle, but also sustainability.

I think if we really think about it, do we really want to dump all of these different hygiene product in our Mother Earth continuously? Can we find a new innovative product that can serve us as a woman, but also, we're not gonna feel bad about like dumping all of these in the trash and things like that.

So finding different solutions like

this is really exciting for me because it proves that, women can be innovative and for our own needs by women and for also sustainability.

Michele Ong

Yeah, because throughout our lives, our body changes and our needs change, and you just end up going from product that's consumable, to another product that's consumable, just to cater for the fact that your body does change and things happen. And it's extremely wasteful when you think about how much we've had to use just to function effectively. So the sustainability part of women's health is just so important.

The point of connection.

Michele Ong

So, coming back to the kind of brand aspect of it, when you're speaking to women founders and they've got these amazing ideas, what are some of the common problems that do come up in terms of trying to establish who they are and what their brand is?

Ari Krzyzek

I keep seeing it time and time again around things that are not a hundred percent essential to kick off a business, but could really define who you are as a brand. So, for example, when I ask. The questions around like, what do you stand for, as a brand, as yourself, as a founder, and what is it that you are against?

Sometimes they wonder like, how is this relevant to the business? Well, we're trying to create connection here between you, your business, the brand, as well as the audiences. Without something that can create connection like this it's not gonna be easy to, get them interested in you beyond the product or solution or even services that you offer.

Because essentially every product, every service is out there. It's such a saturated market, but what really holds you, Is your brand purpose your values and what is it that you are trying to create in terms of impact to the world?

People will then finally understand like, oh, okay, so there's this nurturing activity that we have to do before we bring them as a customer. When you start thinking how brand acts these days and how consumers, Our target audience acts these days when they believe in certain brand, it becomes part of their identity, So they can be very choosy now

because there are so many different brands out there. They get a lot of option to choose from, but they wanna make sure that if I buy a product or if I work with these people, What does that tell me about who I am? So it becomes so personal, and you have to understand that this is gonna be their identity. so

if your brand doesn't fit their identity, then most likely they're not gonna be your customers. So you have to have a very specific description about, like, who it is that you want to target, because not everybody going to be buying your brand, not gonna become loyal to you and make you part of their identity.

The significance of building connection in FemTech.

Michele Ong

It's such a fascinating shift because, as you said, we've got so much choice now that we can be very discerning about what we want in a business that we patronise. People are looking at social ethics and whether the company is good to the people who work for them. But especially when it comes with FemTech, it becomes a very intimate thing as well because you're trusting them with your health. You're trusting them with some very personal issues that you might be having in terms of who you are and your biology.

Which is all the more reason that you need to create that connection because you need to be able to tell this customer, you can trust us because we align with what you believe in, we align with who you are, and we believe in making sure that this aspect of your life is the best it can be. But there's a lot of trust building that needs to be made there and

Ari Krzyzek

I agree.

Michele Ong

People are now looking to the leaders of the businesses as well, to ensure that it's not just whitewashing.

Ari Krzyzek

Oh, yes. And I think that's where the personal brand come in handy, because you really finally show it to the world that you align with the business as well, because, well, for example, look what happened to Elon Musk. I was like, oh my, I don't wanna talk about Elon Musk, but that's just for example.

Michele Ong

Yeah, exactly. And it's so polarising as well because people start to question this and all the debates and I am not a fan of cancel culture, I think that is a little bit too black and white, but when things like that do happen, that's all the more reason why you have to be able to know who you are, and what you stand for in order for people to understand what your position is and align themselves accordingly.

The challenges of marketing FemTech begin with education (or a lack thereof).

Michele Ong

So, given this space can be kind of problematic in various ways due to social expectation or anything like that. What sort of problems have you encountered when it does come to marketing and branding these products, which were only relatively recently starting to become more open, talking about in terms of feminine health and feminine tech.

Ari Krzyzek

There's lack of education, to be honest in our generation for understanding our own body. Nobody tells me what I'll be experiencing, and how normal or not normal it is, especially when you go through a new phase in your life as a woman. Take for example, when you get pregnant, right?

Nobody tells me how bad you're really going to feel, or even like, how does it feel when you're finally getting ready to give birth and all those different stuff.

And I think in terms of our own health as a woman, there's not enough study out there because a lot of the time people will default towards men's body and they felt like women's body is essentially a smaller portion of men.

It's like that is not true, and it really just proves that there should be more understanding, you know, women's body and men's body, because essentially we have different needs and on top of that, we don't have enough knowledge about what is normal and what is not normal.

I unfortunately had a very bad cramp every, every month when I have my period. And I have always thought that it's a normal thing. And people have been telling me, it was like, no, that's actually not normal and this is why. And you start learning all these different things around health that's so important.

So to me, I felt like it's still around educating the consumer about what areas in their life right now, could be important to look at, could be reevaluated. And also finding the solution as early as they can so that they don't have to go through, much later stage of, pain or something like that. And you'll see a lot of these on different Instagram accounts for FemTech products and things like it. It's just a constant learning and education as well as discussion like you said earlier, everybody's body is actually different. Our needs are different as well. And we're in so many different stages from some girls are starting menstruation for the first time and while others already getting into their menopause.

So it's just so varies, but the constant thing around it is still lack of education around women's health.

The potential scope of FemTech's role in public education.

Michele Ong

That's a fascinating angle to take actually when you're using education for marketing. And some people have no pain when they have periods, some people are in absolute agony and there's this wide spectrum of experiences that people have for different medical procedures. And for some people it's well, why are we forced to have these things when it's gonna hurt so much? At the same time, they don't always know it's gonna hurt that much because for some people it's a non-event. So, yes, we need to do more research, but because this isn't really spoken about, we have no idea what is or isn't normal or what the spectrum is of experience for people.

So the idea that if you're in FemTech and you take this opportunity to say, look, this is the thing that we are creating, and even if you know that your product may not cater for the full range of people in that demographic, you can still take the opportunity to go, okay, this is the thing, these are the ways that you can experience this, these are the current options that you have for it, these are the ways that people have dealt with it in the past. Is this you? Even if it's not, these are the things that you can look at or think about or research. And just make it a lot more mainstream for people to seek out the information themselves, rather than going, oh, this is just normal because it's me.

Ari Krzyzek

You brought a really good idea, not just idea, but also a notion there around changing the narrative. Because essentially with FemTech, we finally changed some of these old narrative around, oh, menopause is bad, it gives a really bad rap for older women. You know, that is not true. That is actually when women finally realise how much they can feel, so, they can really feel liberated in that stage.

And there's just so many misconception around all things that we have, from menstrual health or maternity health and things like that. and we need to change that, especially for the next generation. So I think part of, not just the education but mission in FemTech is to change some of this narrative so that we can normalise the discussion, we can normalise the issues that are happening and no longer have women feel that they're abnormal in a sense and feeling left alone without any solution. I think there's definitely a big change around giving them the equality that they need because we are pretty advanced in terms of technology and like, why wouldn't we be able to deliver such solution for them.

Michele Ong

It really does empower them to make more informed choices, and that's really what a lot of the FemTech and all the MedTech stuff is trying to help people to do. That's awesome.

Women can thrive in tech.

Ari Krzyzek

The other part that I want to definitely share is around the misconception of how

women. Are not really thriving in technology.

I would say that's not true. Sure, there are challenges around woman founders not getting enough funding, but I don't think that would

stop anybody who truly feel that they have such a big mission and big passion to deliver specific solution to better

people's life and make impact.

Because to be honest, there's a lot of different funding opportunities. Beyond the capital or raising capital, beyond the vc. So I would honestly feel like it's not the only challenges. I feel like oftentimes the other challenges are around understanding, your, product market fit as well as your target audience and having a really strong brand that would communicate in building connection to your target audience.

So yeah, if anybody asks me like, how should I even break into tech? You know what? That's a really good question. I would say definitely start asking different mentors in the technology space because you'll gain so much knowledge just from understanding that, and even more so like having

a really strong skills on one particular.

Areas that can really make you feel stand out. That's also important because if you, just like anybody else who can do a little bit of this, a little bit of that, but nothing very specific. you could easily get washed in the saturated market. But when you can be known for

one particular thing, let's say like you were the best JavaScript developer, or you're the best Ruby, programmer, things like that, that will get you in very fast.

Michele Ong

And, yeah, it comes back to making sure you understand your niche, and being able to, present the fact that this is your niche and this is your space.

How to position yourself as the solution.

Michele Ong

This is gonna be a very kind of 'how long piece of string' kind of question. But when you are in that kind of space, how do you convey that?

Because if what you're building is relatively new, if what you are trying to establish is, a space where people are still trying to understand it. How do you push that? This is, this is it. This is the answer. This is my answer to this niche and be convincing.

Ari Krzyzek

You know, I'm not a big fan of the word, like trying to convince people because if you have specific product or services, it should come out naturally for others to feel like this is what I need. And a lot of that comes down to how you position yourself in the market, as well as what your messaging look like.

But sometimes you also think about different ways on, okay, do I really have to convince people? And if you must convince people, and this is where I think like the pitch comes in when you have to do pitch presentation and stuff like that, really focusing on the solution and, well, before the solution, right, you are really focusing on the challenges, why this is a problem, and how your particular solution is the best solution. Without that story and understanding about where does it even come from, why does people need this, there's gonna be a gap in terms of like, well, everybody else can do that, why does it matter?

I think it comes back to that seven 'why' question we mentioned earlier, like, distill your messages and distill your, reasoning in terms of like, why does this even matter? Why this not that? Why you not them or other people in, the market, So it always comes down in terms of your positioning, the challenges in the market, why people are craving for this, and you know, people will be delighted to have this in their life.

I think those are very important to just really find I would say maybe like interconnected messages from the brand as well as into your target audience.

Michele Ong

If you have to pitch so hard that they have to find a way to shoehorn it into their lives, then that's no value there either.

Okay. Well this is probably a good way to kind of round off this conversation and we'll move on to some of the other questions that I had for you.

Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?

Michele Ong

So what sort of interest or hobby do you have that's most unrelated to your field of work?

Ari Krzyzek

Oh my goodness. That's a hard question, Michele. The reason why is because I always thought that design was my hobby. And then I made it into, my work and my business and I

start losing sight of things that, okay, do I even have another hobby? Right? I love to. look at a lot of different greenery and flowers and things like that.

I even have a membership at the local Botanic garden, and that's something I truly love enjoying. But I also love all things, Korean drama. So I watch that sometimes here and there just to kind of destress. I love reading novels as well. And finally going back to it reading books in general has always been a good way to, Step away from the computer, Just like getting some refresh, ideas as well as like, just letting my mind wonder sometimes. But yeah, I feel like that's that and I just love to do. Things for my family. I have a seven year old boy right now and he loves all things cars. So sometimes I dabble in just like playing the Mario Kart with him or things a seven year old would do with their parents.

Michele Ong

That's awesome. Yeah, that's a good range of interests.

Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?

Michele Ong

And which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?

Ari Krzyzek

I have to give it to Harry Potter. it's one of the top, book for me simply because it opens up a lot of different adventure. And now that I, think about it, it's really impactful and I felt drawn to it because the possibilities are endless. You could really reinvent yourself. And when you believe that you have such power to do so and you aim towards that goal, you can really make it happen.

So I felt like that probably is why I was drawn to it. And I felt like

I took this adventure alongside with Harry Potter, and really seeing like, oh my goodness, you could do this. You could become somebody that are so passionate about something and being loved. so, yeah. I know. I feel like I'm rambling, but that's basically it.

Michele Ong

No, you're not. That's what you want in a book. When you find a book that means something to you, that actually makes you think and feel all of these things, that that's it. That's the thing.

Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?

Michele Ong

And lastly, what advice would you give someone who would like to get into the kind of space that you're in? Or what advice should they ignore?

Ari Krzyzek

Definitely do your own research. That's number one, right? I see people come into new industries or changing lane or career path, without proper research or even like without proper preparation. So definitely do your homework around the research, talk to different people who have done it before and really understand what the challenges are, what the day-to-day work look like, and really picture yourself. Can you be in that position, right? Will you enjoy that? If you talk to these people who have gone through the process and you feel like, yeah, that's not for me, so this is probably not gonna be for you. But if you feel super empowered, like, oh my God, yes, I wanna be in that space, then you are on the right track.

And also definitely lean in to your heart, your intuition, your gut. Every single time I failed to listen to my intuition and my gut, I regret a lot of things. So I felt like that's just my indicator. But hey, maybe you have your own circle or network that you can throw in, some ideas become a sounding board to you so that you can potentially see like the pros and cons and making sure that you have the right decision.

Michele Ong

Absolutely, and coming back to asking people in the space about what they do in the process, it's so important because with a lot of new passions, you have this romanticised view, which is only surface level of what it involves. And another bit of advice on another guest gave was ask them what they love about it, but also ask them what they hate about it and not just at the surface level. It's like, everyone hates admin, but what other parts that's specifically part of that job or that field is it they hate? And talk to them about that because you're gonna have to face that too.

Ari Krzyzek

Yes. I think the other word that maybe you Would want to use as well. What would make them feel so fulfilled. Because I think when you ask somebody, do you like the job? It's like, well, most people will say, yeah, I like the job, it's okay. But when you ask them, what feels so meaningful, how did you feel fulfilled? Ask about that and you probably get some insights around what really fills them up from either that role or that project or that experience.

Michele Ong

Yeah, absolutely. It's a much more valuable way of asking about it because it, it's now starting to touch on some of the more intrinsic parts of the job that, when you ask someone about their work, they're just gonna tell you about the surface stuff. When you ask them what makes 'em fulfilled, they're gonna tell you about the stuff that means a lot to them.

And yeah, that's the bit that you want to get to in order to be able to help inform your own choice.

Ari Krzyzek

I agree.

Michele Ong

Well, thank you so much, Ari. This has been such an amazing conversation, speaking with you about all things branding and all the things that we need to think about when we're trying to be visible in this world, in our work, and, lots of food for thought there.

If people would like to know more about what you do, where can they go?

Ari Krzyzek

Well, I'm pretty active on LinkedIn, so you can find me on LinkedIn. Search my name and you'll find me, or you can also check me out at my website,

Michele Ong

Amazing. Well, yeah, thank you so much. This has been so enlightening. Really enjoyed this, I hope you have an absolutely incredible evening.

Ari Krzyzek

Thank you so much, Michele. This has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you for having me.

Michele Ong

If you enjoyed this conversation, please let me know.

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