I had the pleasure to interview Chaitenya Razdan. Chaitenya is the Co-Founder and CEO of Care+Wear, a provider of innovative healthwear focused on creating positive and effective healing experiences for people everywhere. The son of a doctor, Razdan created Care+Wear to dedicate himself to improving people’s lives. Having recognized the growing need to bring innovation and design to the healthcare industry, Razdan is best known for working in partnership with leading hospitals, patients and clinicians to create Care+Wear’s clothing and accessories. Previously, Razdan was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs as well as a strategy consultant at A.T. Kearney. He was named one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2015 and a 2018 Rising Star in Healthcare by Becker’s Healthcare Review. Razdan is a proud University of Virginia graduate with an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is an active alumnus, serving on the reunion committees for both schools and on alumni boards for the University of Virginia.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Asthe son of an anesthesiologist, I always thought I was destined to be a doctor. However, in 11th grade, I had the opportunity to see a colonoscopy but when the nurses were beside me instead of the patient, I realized that may not be the career for me! Several years later, however, I had loved ones diagnosed with cancer who were told to wear tube socks over the PICC lines (a long-term IV) on their arms. I knew there had to be a better solution. I still had the same strong desire I had when I was younger — to make a difference in this world. I then realized that I could combine my background from Goldman Sachs and A.T. Kearney with my co-founder, Susan’s background in fashion and help those around us feel like people again.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
When we launched our first product — our PICC line covers — we were shocked and disappointed to learn that some patients using our black cover were experiencing shedding. We quickly worked with our hospital partners to figure out what the issue was and later determined that in order to avoid this from happening again, the covers needed to be washed twice before they were sent from the factory to the hospitals. Knowing there was even a possibility that we may have created a defective product was truly heartbreaking. Although from this particular experience, we learned how vital it was (and is) to consistently communicate with our consumer base and keep them apprised of situations every step of the way, which in turn, has led to even stronger relationships with our customers. We also now test each version of our products with a host of consumers to avoid any potential issues that could arise.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I think the most important factor to being successful is not being afraid to fail. Entrepreneurship is difficult and more than 50% of companies created are no longer in existence after 5 years. From the very beginning, we have focused on building a company to help people. When we look at our inspiring community, we see many people who continue to strive to live their best lives despite the difficult situations they may be facing. This has had a significant effect on me and I am making continuous efforts through Care+Wear to provide value and make a difference. I am always willing to make or take a phone call or send another email because you never know what it can lead to — perhaps the possibility of something great.
With regards to Care+Wear as a whole, I think the most important element is incorporating the experience, perspective, and input from both clinicians and patients to create products together. We are developing special products that solve specific medical needs that consumers feel comfortable and dignified wearing. While it may sound like a simple concept, consistently adhering to this approach — bringing clinicians and patients together to create solutions to improve the patient experience — has been both an integral and rewarding component to the company’s overall success.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
There is an exorbitant amount of information I wish I knew and I realize there is so much more for me to learn. Here are my Top 5:
- There will be many ups and downs along the way — sometimes in the same day. Stay committed, listen to feedback from others, and continue to improve. Being a Co-Founder and CEO, especially for a start-up, is an around-the-clock position. It is important to stay even-keeled and focus on the overall progress rather than each and every up and down. For example, the day we had the PICC line cover color shedding on patients’ dressings (which I had mentioned earlier) was the same day we had a few of our investors commit to investing in us. By being upfront and communicative about the situation, we were able to develop stronger relationships with both our customers and our investors.
- Take a step back every once in a while. I was recently meeting with an incredibly helpful and knowledgeable nurse who I had first met when we launched the company. She was brimming with enthusiasm with how much we have grown since the company’s inception 5 years ago. It was a great reminder for me to take that step back and celebrate how far we have come.
- Own your mistakes. We all make them. We are all human. The important thing is to not only be accountable but to learn from these experiences in order to move forward. In the early days of our company, we fulfilled all of our orders from our office — meaning that all of our product inventory was housed in our office and we sent orders to consumers directly from there. One time, we sent the wrong product to a customer and realized it just after the mail had gone out. We immediately reached out to the customer, explained our mistake, and sent them the correct product, and asked them to return the wrong one at their convenience. By letting the customer know that we had erred before they realized it allowed us to continue to build transparency and trust and gain a fan of our brand for life.
- Be open and transparent. A few years ago, my co-founder, Susan and I decided to walk away from a potential investment in the company. Even though there were a couple of job offers that were contingent upon this investment, the philosophical differences were too great to be ignored. In the end, while we were disappointed by this eventual chain of events (and shared this with the candidates we were planning on hiring) they have become some of the best ambassadors for our brand. I think sharing the exact reasons for why we wanted to walk away was vital in maintaining these wonderful relationships.
- Continuously look for ways to improve. I recently hired an executive coach to talk through what I could be doing better as a leader. I think hearing another person’s perspective and implementing different ways of approaching things has been really helpful. It has also taught me how to delegate more while providing more context and clear directions upfront — leading to win-win scenarios, where our team is empowered to make decisions on their own.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think many people in startups are going on all cylinders at all times. And while I think sometimes it is necessary, it is also important to identify ways to be successful without the constant grind. For example — setting a positive tone for your entire team plays an incredibly integral part in avoiding burnout: Whether it’s building team morale, recognizing and expressing appreciation for all they do, and creating an encouraging and supportive work environment. These are all factors that help a company thrive and allow us to appreciate all of the great momentum we have to continue to drive success forward.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Honestly, we have been blessed to have so many amazing people — family members, friends, and even strangers along the way — who have all wanted to help make Care+Wear a success. However, I would not be where I am today without the support and enthusiasm of my parents. They have both sacrificed so much in order for me to be in a position to be successful. They continue to help and support me and Care+Wear and have a vested interest in seeing the company succeed. They have both helped out at various conferences and networking events and continue to help spread awareness for Care+Wear and it means the world to me.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
There is so much left to accomplish. As a first time CEO, I am learning on-the-job daily. Our overall goal as a company is to help each and every person with any sort of medical need. We believe that just because you’re sick or injured doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to feel like yourself.
For me personally, I am eager to grow Care+Wear into a global publicly traded company that is focused on bettering the lives of people everywhere. We have an amazing opportunity to help people and I look forward to continuing to help as many people as possible.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
That I have been a part of creating something special to help people in need.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
We want people to spend the extra minute caring for others and trying to make a difference. I think even just spreading a smile can make such a big difference in someone’s day!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am on Instagram and Twitter (_crazdan) as well as LinkedIn (Chaitenya Razdan). Check out our company @careandwear.com on all social media platforms.