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Mike Norwood, Founder and Creative Director of Wears Woody shares his story about starting a company while living with type 1 diabetes.
Wears Woody is generously donating 50% of sales from their Mission collection to T1D Exchange, in addition to donating 7% of every sale to five prominent T1D nonprofits, including T1D Exchange! Use promo code T1DX for 20% off your entire purchase. Check out WearsWoody.com to shop.
Tell us a little about your diabetes story. When were you diagnosed? What was it like, if you remember?
I was diagnosed just three months after my younger brother, Mark, 42 years ago way back in 1978. With no technology or standardized devices, on top of the assumption that most juvenile diabetes cases were almost exclusively hereditary, I was instructed by my family physician to check my “glucose” on a urine strip every week and report back if the color darkened or fell outside the normal range.
Well, it did. I vividly remember my mother taking me to the emergency room for a full-on blood draw (fingersticks came about 15 years later). It was high but only in the 400s, so I was fairly asymptomatic. A much different experience than my brother who got extremely sick prior to diagnosis.
I was immediately admitted and spent the longest week ever poking and practicing injections – on an orange! Not anything like the real thing. Not to mention, with insulins (NPH and Regular) that were wildly unpredictable! Acclimating to a strict diet, on hospital food, nonetheless, was a ton of fun too.
What did you do before starting Wears Woody?
I started my career in retail and spent about 12 years in the medical device field selling insulin pumps and CGM devices.
When I got into my late 20s, I was traveling and working ridiculously long hours in the hustle and bustle of NYC. My health suffered so I decided to pursue a career in a field that would make my diabetes much more front of mind.
Fortunately, my industry experience afforded me the opportunity to quit working in corporate. And my MBA at Babson gave me the confidence to know I could manage it.
What drove you to start the company?
I have always had the itch to do something different, bet on myself and do my own thing. At the same time, I wanted to create a business that could make much more noise (and donation dollars) for diabetes. I believe we are on our way to making an impact that people in the diabetes community (and beyond) truly feel, while building a legacy that will contribute to better lives for PWD and a cure, of course, in due time.
How has having T1D impacted you as an entrepreneur?
It motivates me every day. I make no excuses and try to live life no less than everyone else, with or without a chronic condition.
As we always say at Wears Woody, our purpose is to “chase your wildest dreams, make a bold statement and believe that living with T1D should be no different.”
What advice would you give to young adults with T1D who want to start a business?
Start! The hardest thing to do is to take that first step. Even if you are not 100% convinced your concept is ready for prime time. You will eventually figure it out. Lean on that passion that pushed you over the edge, stick with it and TRY to have fun.
It is much like living with T1D. If you have just a few more great days than not so good ones, you are on the right track. Keep going and feel proud. It gets better, easier the longer you live (with) it.
About Mike Norwood
Mike Norwood is the Founder and Creative Director of Wears Woody, a premium lifestyle apparel brand born on Cape Cod that is committed to American manufacturing and supporting diabetes nonprofits in bold coastal style.
He grew up on the South Jersey Shore, was diagnosed with T1D at 11, went to college in Virginia (JMU) and has resided in the Boston area for the past 20 years since getting married to Laura, a Connecticut native. His amazing kids, Jack and Kate, are 12th and 7th graders, respectively.
Mike’s on his third “career” at Wears Woody. He began his professional life as a “retail grunt” managing stores until he eventually designed, built and turned around a few. That hands-on experience has served him well at WW.
Struggling to manage his diabetes with long hours and cross-country travel, he pursued a job in medical sales at 29. He thought immersing himself in health would help him with his own. It did. In a big way.
Mike spent 12 years in the industry, helping more than 3,000 PWD transition from injections to pump and CGM therapy. A very rewarding experience that proved to be the perfect runway to start his own business.
Since 2011, Mike has been shaping WW into a multi-channel retailer and local manufacturer of best quality active and resortwear people love; especially those impacted by T1D. Perhaps the most compelling part of their strategy is directly donating 7% of every sale to T1D Exchange and four other prominent nonprofits, all of whom complement each other quite nicely.
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