100 Women, 100 Stories: Helya Mohammadian
Where do you live? New York, NY
What is your profession? I am the Founder and CEO of Slick Chicks, adaptable underwear that allows women to change their undergarments independently. Our mission is to empower women who have problems with mobility and require additional assistance to get in and out of clothes.
How did you get this role and what was your path leading up to this? When I first launched Slick Chicks I didn’t realize that this product would be impactful or change someone’s life. I originally thought of the concept out of pure necessity when I found myself wanting a quick change and fresh pair of undies after an intense sweat session –most women have encountered this situation. It wasn’t until I started receiving messages from women, who were wheelchair users, thanking me for making their life a little easier that I realized so many women need these underwear. Before Slick Chicks I was an Assistant Personal Shopper at Bergdorf Goodman; working with famous celebrities, well-known socialites and the “who’s who” of New York’s Upper East Side. But I felt extremely unfilled and so it led me to create my company.
Tell us about your education! As a young girl, I was always passionate about fashion and the creative arts. I knew that one day when I was old enough I’d live in New York City and become a fashion designer. At 21, my dreams of living in the city came true when I was accepted into The Fashion Institute of Technology.
Has anyone been a mentor to you? What role did they play and how do you feel about mentorship now? To be honest, when I first started out on this exciting adventure of becoming an entrepreneur I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t graduate from a fancy college or take any entrepreneur classes, so I pretty much went into it blindly and completely naive. In the end I think that is what helped me take more risks. I did follow the success of some incredible businesswomen like Sara Blakely and her story is what really inspired me to believe I could do it too.
What’s the hardest thing that you’ve had to deal with in your career so far? The hardest thing for me has been overcoming the feeling of self-doubt and not feeling worthy or good enough. I struggled with the fact that if failed at something people would look at me differently and that pressure was emotionally crippling at times. I learned (and am still learning) that it’s ok to be vulnerable and to make mistakes. I can’t beat myself over a failure or a rejection because it is ALL a learning process.
What has been a really rewarding moment in your career? I would say the defining moment in my career was when I received an email from a woman who had limited mobility and wanted to buy a pair of panties in a size XXL. At first, I was manufacturing limited sizes being that I was running a startup completely bootstrapped. So I told her that I didn’t have them in her size but as soon as I did I’d be happy to send her some. Her request made me realize that the innovative product I had created for women to have a convenient way to change their panties also had a use as adaptable clothing for people with disabilities. By the time I was able to send her some Slick Chicks, she had unfortunately succumbed to cancer. A few weeks later I received an email from her daughter who said her mother was so inspired by my product that she worked harder in physical therapy to keep her mobility so she’d be able to change her own undergarments and regain that dignity. While I am so sad that she never got that chance, the fact that Slick Chicks empowered her so much erased any doubts I had about my product and strengthened my mission to help others.
What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? The current landscape of the undergarment industry is really exciting right now. And we are proud to be innovating a product that can really impact a woman’s life. Over 53 million women live with a permanent disability in America alone, which is something fashion cannot ignore any longer. There is a way to bridge the gap between fashion and function and I am excited to be a part of that change. Over time as we expand, we hope to progress further and develop more products for both female and male genders. We have already started to develop a “sister” line of products geared towards the medical market where we already see a huge void. Right now the only options for adaptable undergarments are diapers and incontinence that seem to be made out of cotton or polyester. How can anyone feel confident or regain their dignity when they’re wearing something designed decades ago? This industry needs a complete facelift and we are here to revolutionize it.
What’s something you want young women to remember when thinking about their future? If I could go back in time I would tell my twenty year old self that it’s ok to not have the answers and to make mistakes. I would say to dig deep and do some soul searching and find what you are passionate about. For me Slick Chicks is my “baby” and making a positive impact on another person’s life gives me a sense of purpose. So take a step back from all the chaos in your life and look at the bigger picture.
What’s one thing you want to try to make an impact on in your lifetime? Our mission is to help women feel empowered and confident regardless of their situation. Everyday women face challenges in their lives that can hinder their confidence and productivity. We believe that your underwear should not be one of them. You’d be surprised how strongly the basics impact your everyday life. We want to make a positive difference in a woman’s life with something we take for granted every day.
Where can people find you on social media if they’d like to connect with you?