Summer Centered: Finding the Perfect Fit
Student-run startup El Mejor Fit, part of this summer’s Haverford Innovations Program Incubator, is working to provide more affordable and comfortable socks for people with prosthetic limbs.
Haverford is powered by the ingenuity and ideas of its students. Each summer, students have a chance to turn those ideas into a tangible product with the support of the Haverford Innovation Program (HIP) Summer Incubator. The program, which supports two teams a year, provides students with the necessary funds, resources, and mentorship to solve a problem of their choosing by learning and practicing an entrepreneurial startup mindset.
This summer, Rubi Rivas ‘23, Mónica Mena Cordero ‘24, and Keyla Ramirez ‘25, are working together on designing better fitting, more personalized, and more affordable socks for people with prosthetic limbs. The three, who are all board members of the Alliance for Latin American Students, met in the Latinx Cultural Center this spring and decided to build upon Rivas’ idea of improving the quality and comfort of socks for people with prosthetic limbs.
“We decided to become a team and thought it would be great to showcase that Latinx heritage that played a role in the team’s inception through our name: El Mejor Fit,” Rivas, Cordero, and Ramirez explained. They have been meeting remotely from their homes in New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and Texas, respectively, over the course of the summer, while still making full use of the resources provided by the Incubator Program.
The team began their summer by meeting with alumni who have experience in the fashion industry to learn more about the production of clothes, what steps are being made towards accessibility already, and how they can be improved. In addition to considering the fashion aspect of the socks, the team is taking great care to ensure that the prosthetic comfort aspect of the socks is well informed and researched.
“Recently, we talked with experts and users of prosthetics to learn more about socks and other aspects that affect the individual,” they said. “Currently, we are looking for a manufacturer and deciding what printing process we want for our socks, as well as designing potential prints.”
All three members of the team recognized how helpful the Incubator Program has been to their progress so far. They credited their organization and structured timelines to their productivity. The funding provided by the program is additionally allowing them to have a prototype developed by the end of the summer.
“This program has provided us with guidance, support, and feedback from many people we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise,” they continued. “We met many people who were generous and provided us with their time and insights through informational meetings, such as fashion and textile experts, manufacturers, and users.” They also credited Shayna Nickel, associate program director for HIP, and their Agile coach, Amber, for helping them along this path through constant assistance.
“Startup teams working in the Incubator are highly collaborative and communication is key,” said Nickel. “This is why each group has an Agile coach to help them learn and practice this type of project and time management framework that emphasizes collective decision-making.”
Each of the three students involved in El Mejor Fit is hoping to learn a different set of skills from their participation. Rivas, a biology and Spanish double major, wants to learn more about the career paths of orthotists and prosthetists.
“I have been interested in this field for a long time, and getting to know about different aspects of the role of an orthotist and prosthetist has been awesome. Thus, I hope to gain mentors for my journey to maybe becoming an orthotist and prosthetist myself,” she said. She hopes to focus the creation of a product back to the users themselves, and hopes that her experience in doing that here will help her do so in the future.
Cordero, an economics major, has enjoyed learning about the process of running a startup and exploring the fashion industry. Ramirez, who is interested in also majoring in economics, is using the experience to learn about web development and data analytics as the project moves more into marketing and brand exposure.
“It was fun to create a website and social media accounts, but learning to manage and improve upon these forms of media is an important next step and something I’d like to gain experience in,” she said.
Do you have an interest in pursuing an Innovations Fellowship, or have an idea for a startup? They are open to anyone who has an idea for a solution to a problem no matter how nascent. More can be learned by speaking to Shayna Nickel, who noted that the experience is an outstanding opportunity for professional and personal growth.
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.