Written by: Cynthia Rios
Cynthia Rios is an undergraduate student at NC State majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is currently working for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurship (AWE) as part of the Provost’s Professional Experience Program (PEP). In addition to her work with AWE, Cynthia is actively involved in the Quantum Information Club, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the NCSU Figure Skating Club. She is active in her community, partnering with nonprofit organizations to promote STEM to youth in underrepresented communities.
Every night after putting her two young daughters to bed, Irina Perdew, the CEO and President of Vetletics, spends the next few hours working on getting her product closer to market. Perdew, a few days away from graduating with a Doctorate degree from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, hasn’t given up on the dreams she envisioned in her childhood: veterinary school, motherhood, and entrepreneurship.
In 2018, Irina volunteered to support her friend Elena Scholl, CEO of Ballancer Pro USA. She worked alongside her to introduce compression technology to NBA players that would expedite recovery after physically challenging games. Looking for an intersection between her role at her friend’s startup and her own passion for animal health, she scoured the market to see if similar devices existed for horses. Confronted with zero search results, Irina realized that she had stumbled across a product idea. Eventually becoming the flagship device for her company, her product -the EQ Press, is a first of its kind equine pneumatic compression device.
To help her evaluate her idea, Irina turned to one of her professors, Dr. Mathew Gerard, who redirected her to Dr. Lauren Schnabel. “I’ll never forget how excited she was even that first time when I introduced the idea to her.” Dr. Schnabel,a co-founder of Vetletics, is a double board-certified equine orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist recognized as an international leader in both the research and clinical treatment of musculoskeletal injuries in horses. Dr. Matthew Breen, an internationally-known professor of genetics and genomics at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine with 25 years of experience as a pioneer in animal health research, also played a key role in the development of the company and continues to serve as a co-founder. This initial support from department faculty pushed Irina’s idea into a business. After two years of drawings, development and product reiterations, the final prototype of the EQ Press was completed; Irina Perdew launched Vetletics, a company that strives to improve animal health and enhance athletic recovery for maximum performance.
Since founding Vetletics, Perdew’s schedule looks different day to day and semester to semester. This last semester is part of her clinical year, a notoriously demanding time for students. Despite this, Irina has managed to find time to work on Vetletics outside of her academic research. The only thing she hasn’t figured out is how to add more hours to the day. When Irina is not taking care of her daughters or conducting academic research, her days consist of strategizing with manufacturers, investors, and mentors. In moments in between, she’s drafting her company’s next social media post.
As the EQ Press progressed from an idea to a prototype and eventually a product, Perdew cites NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative as a resource that helped her get Vetletics off the ground. While she was launching her business, Irina became an Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) ambassador representing NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Her role with AWE motivated her to grow into a role model for other aspiring entrepreneurs. “I really want to raise awareness and show women, first of all that, yes, you can do anything you set your mind to.” Despite her busy schedule and many responsibilities, Irina has continued to inspire crowds of students and community members at AWE events.
In 2020, Vetletics was accepted to become a part of the Andrew’s Launch Accelerator program housed within NC State’s Entrepreneurship Clinic. The 14-week program provides students with funding, resources, and guidance to take their startup to the next level. Admitting that her lack of experience with running a business was a big obstacle for her, she attributes her ability to transition into the role of business owner to the help she received from the community. “In countries where I grew up and lived, you don’t have that support system that I’ve learned you can have here in the US, especially in RDU, North Carolina and the Triangle.”
In addition to continuously improving the device, the Vetletics team is strategizing the rollout of the product based on regions with higher populations of horse breeds prone to lymphatic issues: developing its social media audience, and nurturing manufacturing partnerships. Their hope is to launch the product in various US states and European countries after Irina’s graduation. At the time of this writing, Vetletics is a finalist in the NC IDEA grant program.
Irina doesn’t know what her day-to-day is going to look like after she graduates, but she knows that her degree brings her one step closer to achieving the future she envisions for herself. She admits: “I personally have tasted and am tasting every day, the difficulties of being a woman entrepreneur and a mom”. With a well established support system for herself, and a substantial audience supporting her business, she knows that she doesn’t have to limit herself to one dream. With her enthusiasm and work ethic, Irina Perdew shows us that entrepreneurship as a mom and student is a balancing act, but it can be done with the right tools and the right attitude.
Follow Irina on Instagram: @vet_irina_ria