Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Jan. 1 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Elizabeth Prenger is involved in multiple entrepreneurial endeavors to improve women’s health and is an adviser to emerging women’s health-focused startups.
In her view, Arkansas is the perfect place for continued innovation in that area.
“We’re at the bottom of the list in many health outcomes, specifically around maternal health,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for growth and room for improvement.”
Prenger, 38, was part of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2018 but is relatively new to the femtech space as a career. She worked for the nonprofit The First Tee of Northwest Arkansas for five years, starting as outreach director in 2014 and rising to executive director in the summer of 2017.
She departed The First Tee in 2019 and, in the years since, has found her niche as a founder in Northwest Arkansas, particularly as a disruptor in the women’s healthcare space.
Two years ago, she created a postpartum recovery product known as the Assicle. “Because women’s asses deserve better” is the product tagline. It’s a reusable cold/warm compress anatomically designed for the female body to provide relief from tearing, hemorrhoids, anal fissures and other ailments resulting from childbirth. She is working to bring the product to market.
“We’re working hard to destigmatize something that our society is uncomfortable talking about related to childbirth; that’s the case for women’s health in general,” she said.
A year later, having personally faced the distinctive hurdles of being a female founder in healthcare, Prenger partnered with April Roy and Natalie Shew to launch FemHealth Founders (FHF). The national women’s health innovation hub aims to cultivate a more inclusive and supportive ecosystem for women founders of companies in the women’s health and wellness sector.
“There’s a lot of topics we don’t talk about as a society even though it impacts half the world’s population,” Prenger said. “I like the idea of saying things that might make people uncomfortable and starting the dialogue of a productive conversation about things we don’t normally talk about, whether that’s menopause, post-partum depression or the fact that a lot of health research is based on the male anatomy.”
Prenger also runs Prose Creative, a brand and content strategy consultancy she launched in January 2020 to work with early-stage, women-owned brands to launch and scale their businesses more quickly and effectively.
Before becoming a founder, nonprofit, consulting and community outreach comprised most of Prenger’s career. Before coming to The First Tee, she previously worked for Santa Monica, Calif.-based nonprofit National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, political consulting firms Markham Group in Little Rock, and New Partners in Washington, D.C., as well as on political campaigns for a Delaware gubernatorial candidate and former President Barack Obama in Miami. She also interned for former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor in Washington.
Married with two very active little boys, Prenger said she considers herself fortunate to work on important things.
“Women’s reproductive access was why I got involved in politics right out of college,” she said. Prenger, a Little Rock native, graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2008. “Fast-forward to today, it’s still something I’m passionate about — women’s access to healthcare and being able to take care of their bodies and their families.”
Prenger said FemHealth Founders will announce details of the next iteration of its accelerator program soon. Five startups participated in the inaugural cohort last year, and each received a $10,000 non-dilutive grant, made possible in part by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.
She has also been invited to join the management team of a femtech startup studio in New York, offering insight into how a coastal startup studio operates.
“Then hopefully bring that insight back to the Northwest Arkansas ecosystem,” she said.
Prenger was also recognized by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce in December as its 2023 NWA Business Women’s Conference Woman of the Year. She said the recognition caused an immense sense of pride.
“I go to bat for all the women’s health champions in Northwest Arkansas and make a concerted effort to get to know them personally and figure out what they’re working on and how we can move their businesses and startups forward,” she said. “And I’m never going to stop doing that.”