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Jackie Rhind launched Ovry to give women a better pregnancy test option

Like many businesses, Jackie Rhind’s startup ran into some problems when COVID-19 struck North America. That might be where the similarities stop, though.

Rhind had the idea to launch Ovry, a company specializing in affordable and sustainable pregnancy and ovulation test strips, in 2019, and was on the verge of receiving the first batch of tests to send to market.

But last April, she got notice that the Surrey manufacturing facility on tap to make the strips would have to immediately stop the order to focus on COVID tests.

“I hadn’t thought about it when the pandemic hit in March, but of course these medical device manufacturers produce tests for different uses,” Rhind recalls. “We were pushed back and couldn’t be given a time. And of course that’s legit—making COVID tests. But it was also really challenging, because we were ready to go in April.”

Some four months later, Ovry was able to properly launch as manufacturer brought on more equipment and fulfilled orders to its other clients without skipping a beat on COVID tests. 

Since then, the company has operated remotely with three full-time employees—including Revelstoke-based Rhind, along with a bevy of contractors—to make an impact on the market. Its pregnancy tests cost about a quarter of what the big brand names charge and require 99 percent less single-use plastic.

The main reason for both of those stats are that instead of a stick, Ovry offers tests in the same strip format that doctors use. “They hadn’t been properly and easily packaged in a trustworthy brand,” Rhind says. “You can get some on Amazon, but the quality and accuracy is a bit questionable. And that’s a product you want to be able to trust.”

Rhind, who was born with Factor V (pronounced five, what she calls a “fairly common gene mutation” that increases someone’s chances of developing blood clots), wasn’t able to take many forms of birth control as a teenager.

“Basically, anytime I had a late period I get really nervous, even when I took all the precautions,” she says. “There were a lot of anxious visits at the drugstore, hoping I wouldn’t run into a friend’s mom or whatever.”

To that end, she made discretion a priority for Ovry, from the way it’s shipped, with no markings or branding, to the wording on receipts and credit card statements.

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“If you look at brands like First Response or Clearblue, their only focus is on people who are trying to get pregnant,” Rhind argues. “And fair enough, those people will be taking a ton of tests. But if you think of everyone taking a test hoping it’s positive, there are probably about 100 that are hoping it’s negative. And that segment of the market that’s not really talked to.”

Ovry skews toward what she calls more inclusive messaging to find a bigger tent of customers. “The range of different people that are buying our products, it’s unbelievable,” says Rhind, who didn’t want to share hard numbers but maintains that sales are doing well, adding that the company is considering partnerships with some larger retailers.

“Some of the users have been athletes with irregular periods or people who have IUDs and are on super effective birth control but are worried it’s not working,” she says. “Or it’s the first month and it’s not working. I had one lady who had a fear of childbirth called tokophobia and takes tests every month; she’s glad she doesn’t have to physically go to the grocery store anymore.”

Rhind balances running Ovry with serving as one of Revelstoke’s five councillors. As a young person from Toronto, she’s predictably seen a fair bit of pushback from some older inhabitants, but she thinks the Kootenay community is changing for the better.

“A lot of the longtime residents will get frustrated with people who move here to enjoy nature, and say, ‘Our town used to be so different,’” she admits. “But it’s not as if Revelstoke is attracting ex-cons. These are healthy young individuals who enjoy going on hikes, who want to volunteer, have jobs, have kids. So it’s not too hard to sell to people.”

Neither are pregnancy tests, it turns out.