5 Questions with
Fria Founder and CEO - Sheilisa McNeal-Burgess
By Anastasia Cuff
February 23, 2021
Photo by Clara Wang Photography
Sheilisa McNeal-Burgess, Founder/CEO
1. How did you come up with the idea for Fria?
I was hot and tired of being hot. I wanted to come up with an idea to combat the misery and woke up one morning with the idea of “cooling jewels”. I wasn’t sure what it would turn into, but, I knew I had to pursue it.
2. What problem were you trying to solve?
Hot flashes! But, I also realized that this particular time of life, aka midlife, wasn't just about the misery of hot flashes. It was a myriad of things—brain fog, anxiety, transitions, etc. More importantly, I realized there was very little I knew about it. The more I researched it, and discussed with other women of a certain age, it became apparent that many of us didn't know what to expect. The overriding theme with most of us was that menopause was something to dread or something we didn't want others to know we were going through. Why? Because of the negative connotations: you’re old, you’re dried up, you’re no longer sexy. I personally didn't subscribe to any of those things. So I knew we needed to change the narrative.
3. Why passive cooling? Why is this important?
I chose passive cooling for its simplicity. My partner and I literally went around the world looking for what our tech would be to create this cooling jewelry. When I woke up with the idea of cooling jewels, I didn't know what it would become or what it would look like. We initially pursued traditional electronic tech, but quickly realized we couldn't get it small enough to integrate it into pretty jewelry. It would be bulky and have features women wouldn't need. So we vetoed that idea and realized that there must be something else. We were introduced to the mechanical engineers at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign who were working on thermal heat transfer and evaporative cooling research. We decided it could work, be easy to use, would not require charging, nor expose us to any additional electromagnetic fields. It also wouldn't negatively impact the environment. So we went with this option for it's non-traditional innovation and ease of use.
4. Why did you choose Swarovski as Fria’s design partner and manufacturer?
They are amazing designers of beautiful jewelry. We've had a relationship with them since early on, when we first started this journey. They've been super supportive. It just made sense.
5. What do you want women to gain from joining the Fria community?
Freedom. By that I mean, freedom from the stigma of menopause. Freedom from the narratives that adversely affect our quality of life at this stage of life. And confidence, knowing that you are nowhere near the end. You are still beautiful and brilliant, sexy and dynamic. The transition to midlife can be the start of something amazing, that you couldn't imagine if you envision it to be so. That’s what we endeavor to do through the Fria platform. Our goal is to educate, inspire and encourage you to live your best life ever, no matter what. For me, it's my turn to shine and there is more than enough sparkle for all of us.