I had the pleasure of interviewing Lora Ivanova. Lora is the co-founder and CEO of myLAB Box, the first the first nationwide at-home STD testing-to-treatment service. myLAB Box aims to remove the barrier of stigma, the inconvenience and cost of physical testing and allow people to take control of their sexual health.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’m originally from Europe, born and raised in Bulgaria. I’ve been in the US for half of my conscious life and think of myself as a citizen of world. I moved to the US for college and left home when I was 18 to travel the world and find myself. An opportunity arose as I received a full scholarship at Washington University in St. Louis. After a lot of pondering, I weighed the choice, but didn’t want to be left with a ‘what if.” Life is too short so I jumped on a plane and showed up to school
Living in the US took time to acclimate to as you can become a stranger in both worlds. Those back home have a perception of what life is like here, and those in the US don’t have insight into where you’re coming from, and what your world was like before you left. It took a while to find balance with who I was and who I wanted to be while building a social support network in a new country.
After Missouri I ended up in Los Angeles. I love the city and its eclectic environment gets me to think outside of the box. This city has become my home. There are many inspiring people here and my creative instinct has helped me with entrepreneurship. It is one of the few places in the world where I felt a person could be multiple things at the same time and didn’t have to identify as just one persona.
It was here in LA that Ursula Hessenflow (my cofounder) and I came up with the idea for myLAB Box over coffee. We were discussing dating in Los Angeles and how difficult it was to bring up sexual health among partners — with stigma being the primary barrier. We did some research to see if an at-home testing existed, and the more I learned the more I realized the need for something like this to exist. To me, it made sense to pursue an at-home model as a solution to this problem, and we worked hard to bring this idea to life.
A year before I co-founded myLAB Box I launched and event called ScareLA, the first fan convention dedicated to everything Halloween — from special effects makeup, trick or treating and costumes. We have a lot of creatives who show up to share what they’re planning to unleash in October, and it is an unofficial kickoff to Halloween in So-Cal.
I believe that I’ve found success in following my curiosity, limiting mental limitations and remembering that I don’t want to live life with any “what ifs.”
Why did you found your company?
The creation of myLAB Box was motivated by experiences my cofounder, Ursula Hessenflow, and I shared and our eagerness to find a solution to a problem which seems to have remained a puzzle for educators, health providers and the public alike.
As challenging as it is to bring up the topic of STDs with a new partner, even more concerning is that as a whole, people in America are simply not testing enough (if at all!). Less than half of adults 18–44 have ever been screened for anything other than HIV leaving the vast majority of infections undetected.
Contrary to being one of the most developed and influential countries in the world, the US is suffering STI/STD rates of unprecedented, epidemic proportions. One in two sexually active people will contract an STI by age 25, which is unacceptable by any standard.
We decided to start myLAB Box with the goal of removing the fear, stigma and inconvenience of clinical appointments — two of the largest barriers to testing — through an at-home model.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
When it comes to STD testing specifically, taking care of one’s health is further complicated by stigma, fear and shame. We instantly recognized this as the perfect opportunity for disruption. Millions of Americans skip their annual checkup because conventional screening and care models simply miss the privacy and convenience demanded by the modern lifestyle. It is not easy for a working professional, for example, to take time off of work to be tested regularly. Adults in living in smaller communities may avoid the local clinics out of fear of being spotted by a neighbor. We designed myLAB Box to bring peace of mind by empowering users to screen on their terms — anytime, anywhere, in full privacy and at a fraction of the cost.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
I think of my entire social circle as mentors. I am an independent thinker but find so much different perspective and wisdom in conversations with everyone, from friends who are artists or parents, employees who bring fuel to my vision, to other business owners, advisors and coaches. They help me shape a better life not only as a business person but a human too.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I am always keeping sights on industry trends and generating ideas for new ventures as well as expansion of myLAB Box. I see great opportunity in disrupting outdated healthcare systems with technology and understanding of consumer experience. I think when we solve challenges we always need to look at the system as a whole and its pain points. There is a lot of work to be done but I welcome the challenge full-heartedly.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- “The opposite of exhaustion is fulfillment, not rest.” I read that quote somewhere and it has stuck with me through the years. I find it really helps me break out of the business of everyday life and focus on inner priorities to find purpose in my work which makes being an entrepreneur a lot more rewarding.
- “Share from a place of abundance not sacrifice,” one of my friends once said. Often as entrepreneurs we feel we need to make personal sacrifices but that can leave us depleted. These words have been a reminder for me to keep an eye out on my family, friendships and personal happiness so that I can fuel my work with that passion.
- “15 minutes of active rest will generate hours of productivity.” Other wise words from one of my business coaches. It reminds me that no matter how busy I am, taking time for self care can be the best investment in my business. When we take time to step back, ideas and decisions take on a different energy. One that is expansive and creative rather than reactive to the daily humdrum. I think this is especially key for me as a leader to my team and CEO.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
I love “Why Smart People Hurt” which discusses the power of our minds and how we can learn to have more empathy for ourselves and others.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Elon Musk — I’d love to talk about our crazy predictions for the future, ideas of where humanity might be headed and how we can create a better reality and impact lives on a scale. Someone like Musk thinks in a whole different plane than most business owners and thats a level I hope to one day play at as well. As someone who is already doing so much to transform an entire industry like healthcare, hearing about his challenges in turning around several sectors from finance to energy, transportation and space exploration, would be fascinating and will bring about ideas on how to create more impact.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on Twitter at @genieeffect and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lora.ivanova. Check out myLAB Box at @myLABBox, https://www.instagram.com/mylabbox/, and https://www.facebook.com/myLABbox/ and our website of course!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
The pleasure is all mine! Thank you.
Originally published at medium.com