How a Full-Time MBA alumna handles menopause, leads a women’s health company with humour
January 23, 2019
When Chia Chia Sun (MBA ’00) entered the early stages of menopause, she talked about it — with everyone. And the conversation continues. Through vlogs, tweets and Facebook Live chats, Sun discusses her symptoms, jokes about some of her most embarrassing experiences with aging and tackles myths about women’s health.
Sun is CEO and co-founder of Damiva, a women’s health company that specializes in developing feminine care and beauty products using natural ingredients. She feels that it’s her duty to not only speak up but have fun with menopause and women’s health.
“What we hear in our focus groups is that women are embarrassed or even ashamed about how their bodies are changing through pregnancy, menopause and aging,” she explains. “What they don’t understand is that these problems are universal. The more open we are about our symptoms and experiences, the more likely we can develop solutions for them.”
Today, Damiva is working on those solutions through products — found in major drug store chains across the US and Canada — that tackle conditions that many women are still too embarrassed to discuss, including vaginal dryness, nipple sensitivity and post-maternity care.
“We know for a fact that our products are found in the ‘20 second’ store aisles — that’s the maximum amount of time anyone wants to be seen browsing those products,” says Sun.
But with her honesty, humour and strong business sensibilities, Sun is getting women to linger in those aisles a bit longer and feel more comfortable talking about their bodies.
How she did it
Sun’s entrepreneurial journey began almost 20 years ago, almost by accident. When she first started the Full-Time MBA program at Rotman, she had no intention of becoming an entrepreneur.
Trained as a scientist and working predominantly in clinical genetics, she was interested in a career transition to the business side of life sciences industry. At Rotman, she intentionally chose to major in corporate finance so that she could be comfortable reading and analyzing income statements and balance sheets. She also learned the art of balancing work and life responsibilities when she gave birth to a daughter in the midst of finishing her degree.
“My management philosophy is simple: build the right team and remember to have fun.”
—Chia Chia Sun, MBA ‘00
After the MBA, she steadily progressed in her career, serving in VP, managing director and chief operational roles at leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
It wasn’t until years later when she learned more about women’s health — and the lack of support in the area — that Sun really considered launching her own enterprise.
“Women’s health is the most neglected area of medicine. In many ways, it’s stuck in the dark ages. It’s still such a taboo for women to discuss their bodies openly and that’s a huge problem,” she explains.
“It wasn’t a choice, but a realization that I was going to spend the rest of my life and career devoted to women’s health and serving women.”
In 2016, Sun and her life partner quit their corporate jobs and dove into developing Damiva full time. A few months later, after drawing on business fundamentals she picked up through her MBA and years of leadership experience in life sciences, she developed a business plan and managed to secure over $4 million in funding.
Damiva is all about tackling taboos. In the coming months, they’ll be launching a new social media campaign and they have their eye on potential strategic partnerships and expanding their reach.
They are also delving into new territory, creatively: Sun has been approached about developing the concept for an online narrative series. She wants to centre the story on a young woman entering early menopause and her journey in navigating this change.
“If we’re open with our health issues, we can work on developing meaningful solutions.”
—Chia Chia Sun, MBA ‘00
On the production side, the company is also looking to expand their products and they are constantly finding new sources of inspiration.
“My aging is a driver for product development,” jokes Sun. “I tell everyone that most of these products were developed with me in mind.”
“We’re doing important work, and taking on big topics to make a big difference. But at the same time we have to have fun with it.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »