Erica Chidi’s resume is chocked full of career-making accomplishments. The co-founder and CEO of Loom—a company dedicated to providing sexual and reproductive health education and resources—successfully launched her business in 2017, including a physical storefront in Los Angeles, and in 2020 she raised $3 million for its growth. Doing so, notably made Chidi the 35th Black female founder to have ever raised over $1 million. However, when Chidi speaks about the achievements she’s proud of, she tells us about hearing stories from women who’ve read her first book, Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood―and Trusting Yourself and Your Body.
Chidi recalls how women come up to her in public to express their gratitude for the book that helped them navigate their pregnancies and motherhood journeys. And for Chidi, these interactions reinforce what she learned in the earliest days of her career: there exists a massive lack of education when it comes to sexual wellness, reproductive wellness, and other women’s health issues. Her book acted as a powerful, much-needed guide, and what she’s continuing to build at Loom today is carrying her mission forward to its largest audience yet. While the LA space is no longer open, Loom is currently in the works to release an app this year.
In the latest chapter of her career, Chidi has also earned an unexpected title: tech founder. “There's still so much that I'm learning,” she says of her newest role. “One of the reasons why I decided to do this was in order to scale, because the way you can impact more people over time is to get to as many people as possible. That's one of the gifts of technology.”
Ahead, Chidi shares more about the path that led her from doula to tech leader, how she’s navigating Loom’s next big launch, and why creating a women’s health resource is a radical act itself.
“The first time a venture capitalist said no to me, it fired me up. I felt really motivated through the no to want to go find the yes.”
ON FINDING COMMON PAIN POINTS
I started volunteering as a health coordinator and educator in San Francisco. And then also began my doula career as a volunteer doula in the San Francisco County Jail, working with folks who were incarcerated and who were pregnant. And at the same time, I was working with tech founders in affluent campuses or neighborhoods. It became clear very quickly that no matter where people were socioeconomically they all had the same pain points, the same worries around how they were going to move through their pregnancy, take care of their babies, or figure out what birth control was right for them. And, for me, the aligning factor was that—regardless of where you lived or how much money you made—everybody had the same deficiency of knowledge. That inspired me to want to create an educational experience that could close that knowledge gap for people regardless of who they are or where they come from.
ON WHAT WOMEN’S HEALTH ADVICE LOOKED LIKE BEFORE LOOM
I think the landscape had not had any innovation in a long time. That's also why I felt passionate about writing my first book, Nurture, which was a more modern guide to pregnancy and early motherhood—a more modern version of What To Expect When You're Expecting. I wanted to create a brand and a space and an experience for people to be able to learn about their bodies in a way that wasn't filled with judgment, that had a lot more optionality, and would be more supportive. And that's really what Loom became years down the line.
ON HOW LOOM CHALLENGES THE STATUS QUO
The simplest way to answer is that anything that is built to support women is challenging the status quo just because we live in a deeply patriarchal and misogynist society given all of the recent repeals on abortion access. There's always been a fight to control women's bodies. So anything that helps to give them even an iota of control back is creating something very much outside of the status quo.
ON RAISING CAPITAL AND THE CURRENT CHAPTER OF LOOM
I always wanted to build a digital platform or digitize what we were doing at Loom. I wasn't sure the best way to go about that and a dear friend, Katerina Schneider, founder and CEO of Ritual, who had raised capital for her business and had a background in it, suggested that I should consider going that route. She was the one that kicked it all off. She felt like there was a need for what we were creating and encouraged me and made the first intro for me to venture capitalist.
A lot of work was put in to get to where we are and what we're building now is a health education and engagement platform for women to be able to learn about their bodies at every stage of their lives and find a care provider that they feel connected to.
ON THE BEST NO SHE’S HEARD
The first time a venture capitalist said no to me, the first investor who decided to not invest, it fired me up. That was the fall of 2019. I felt really motivated through the no to want to go find the yes.
ON THE COEXISTENCE OF WORK AND HEALTH
Workplaces should be places where you can be as close to a whole person as you can. Meaning that if you are having health issues or health challenges, you're able to. That's what I wish for everyone: that they have a supportive work environment where work and how you're feeling in your body and your mental health can coexist. I think a lot of jobs create environments where there has to be this very clear divorce from what's going on in your internal world, and that's only going to lead to low productivity.
I'm interested in companies having more productivity and saving money, but that comes from taking care of your employees and making sure that they are functioning as whole people. I think oftentimes there's this feeling of, ‘if I put work first, everything else will fall into place.’ And honestly, it is a privileged opportunity, it is a privileged position, but maybe people reading this are going to be in that position where they probably do need a reminder to make sure that they're in coexistence as opposed to disassociation with what their interior world needs.
ON THE MOST EXCITING WORK TODAY
It's a lot of user research and trying to build something that people will want and use. I think the thing with healthcare—unlike a lot of other areas in tech—is you really can only build at the speed of trust. And we're really lucky that we've been able to have trust because of the work that my team and I have done over the years, especially when Loom’s physical space was still there.
I'd say a lot of my time right now is spent talking to our customers, understanding what their unique needs are, and trying to build the best possible product for them. And also understanding what their pain points are so we can build something that's going to help people feel better.
ON PERSONAL STYLE
I find myself to be a systems girl. I've been dressing monochromatically for 10 years, mostly because I find it really soothing for me—psychically and emotionally. I'm very much a uniform person, but I only wear a handful of colors and I always find myself in them. I've found that approach has really helped my day-to-day. At work, it's a similar thing in that we do use a lot of systems and we're a very organized team. So I find that the internal organization matches the external organization.
“There's always been a fight to control women's bodies. So anything that helps to give them even an iota of control back is creating something very much outside of the status quo.”