2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: Cheekies
Recent biomedical engineering graduate McCall Brinskele was taking Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Engineering (BMED 450), a course taught by lecturer Sara Della Ripa which explores appropriate solutions for maternal health, when she realized the potential for innovation within the period care industry.
Brinskele learned that not only are tampons and pads, the standard solutions for people on their periods, not the entirety of period-wear products available to menstruators, but certain health risks are associated with those solutions.
Brinskele took it upon herself to innovate a new and safer solution — period-wear that utilizes leak-proof technology to provide menstruators with greater comfort while sleeping on their periods.
Brinskele initially began developing the product as a senior project, working alongside Cal Poly business administration majors to found period-wear company Cheekies, formerly FemForward. Senior project advisors then encouraged Cheekies to apply for Innovation Quest (iQ), a prototyping and business plan competition hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in which Cal Poly students pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to win thousands of dollars in funding.
Cheekies was the runner-up at iQ 2022, winning the second-place prize of $10,000 — as well as an opportunity to interview for the CIE’s Summer Accelerator.
The Summer Accelerator is an intensive, 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed in order to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.
Brinskele and her co-founder Mariana Inofuentes, a recent industrial engineering graduate who Brinskele found through professor recommendations, were accepted into the 2022 Summer Accelerator.
“The mindset behind choosing to do the Summer Accelerator was that we both want to see this company succeed,” Brinskele said. “We’re very driven and we want to take it all the way because this is very important not only to us, but to all the women who are in our lives.”
Cheekies currently has a working prototype and is ready to start user testing. They are in the process of putting together focus groups and are actively looking for participants.
Cheekies is striving to perfect their prototype and begin manufacturing their product by the end of the summer. They hope to eventually expand to develop similar products, like swimwear and athletic apparel, that will allow menstruators more freedom while on their periods, Inofuentes said.
“We’re interested in seeing if we could expand, still with that same mission in mind,” Inofuentes said. “Allowing women to feel comfortable, secure and still sexy while they’re on their periods.”
Brinskele and Inofuentes, along with the rest of the 2022 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase the progress they made throughout the summer at Demo Day, on Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. In-person and virtual tickets are available here.