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Meet Xyla Foxlin - Founder & CEO, Parihug

 

Xyla Foxlin, a mechanical and aerospace major at the Case School of Engineering and recipient of the Case Alumni Association Jr./Sr. Scholarship award, launched a fundraising campaign this week for her company Parihug. Xyla developed the concept of the Wi-Fi connected stuffed toys that can provide "hugs" to loved ones from anywhere in the world while still a first-year student. She's utilized many resources at Case Western Reserve University, including its innovation and entrepreneur center, the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnik Sears think[box] an CWRU LaunchNet.  

Xyla Foxlin is not a new face to the student startup scene here at Case Western Reserve University. Foxlin is the founder and CEO of Parihug, the internet-connected pairable plush pal that allows you to hug loved ones from anywhere in the world. “Parihug started when I found myself in a long distance relationship. There are so many emotions a hug can convey that words cannot,” said Foxlin.

Foxlin realized this was a good idea the first time she started working on a prototype of Pari. “I first built Parihug as a hackathon project not thinking much of it, but immediately got a lot of attention from other hackers and a San Francisco-based venture capital firm who gave a $1,000 grant to turn this idea into a startup.” Foxlin has been busy since then creating energy for her innovation by entering many student competitions where her awards now sum to greater than $40,000. Notable competitions include the Spartan Challenge and the Saint Gobain Engineering Design Competition, both of which Foxlin won first place and $10,000 for each.

Student competitions have been crucial to the success of Parihug, “they’ve aided in success by providing not only money, but press and attention. They add a lot of validity, and give you great pitch practice for the real deal of pitching to investors. It’s the most risk-free way to grow a company as a student,” said Foxlin.

Foxlin has found student competitions to be rewarding in other ways as well. “The greatest reward is definitely getting to share what we do with loved ones who need it most. The first time we showed Parihug to hundreds of kids was at South by Southwest® conference last year, and the response was overwhelming. Everyone wanted to share their personal stories and each one was touching and inspiring,” Foxlin said.  

These inspiring stories have given Foxlin motivation to continue her startup endeavors with Parihug. Although difficult at times, being able to compete opens doors to networking opportunities that would not have been available otherwise. “Start-ups seem to be 33% product, 34% team and 33% who you know. If you don’t come from a family that has a billion connections, make your own! No sweat. People are especially willing to help a student.”

Through the help of competitions, networking, hard work and determination, Foxlin is on her way in the next step of the startup process; product launch. The team is currently on a Kickstarter tour to get the word out about Parihug. “We just did two days in New York City interviewing with places like Mashable, the Verge and Good Housekeeping with the hope they will publish about us the day our Kickstarter goes live. We are definitely heads-down charging ahead. There are so many things to balance when it comes to a launch like this: marketing, public relations, manufacturing, web management, ad campaigns, keeping the team happy, continuing to raise money – the list goes on forever!

“It's incredibly rewarding though, being able to look at what I've done so far and say, hey, I did all this before I could even legally buy myself a drink to celebrate it,” said the second-year mechanical and aerospace engineering major, currently taking a break from school work through a co-op arrangement with her own company.

 

 

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December 2016 - Allyson Beach, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Student