Hadil Khodji ’25

President of the IC Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Hadil Khodji '25 dove headfirst into actualizing a visionary solution for a formidable issue. 

Hadil Khodji’25

Hadil Khodji is pictured walking on campus between classes. 

Once upon a time, Hadil Khodji ’25, a first-generation student from Morocco who is majoring in business administration, thought of herself as quiet and shy with no leadership skills. As a first-year student at IC, Hadil says, “You wouldn’t even hear my voice in class.” Now a junior, she is president of the IC Entrepreneurs’ Organization and regularly speaks up about her passion for entrepreneurship. 

Hadil traces her achievements and her emergence as a business leader back to the support of key faculty at Ithaca College. “I heard the definition for entrepreneur in one of my very first classes with Professor Brad Treat. It’s someone who sees an opportunity in literally every problem,” she explains.

By the fall of her sophomore year, Hadil faced a problem that she later turned into an opportunity. During her lifeguarding class, whenever she had her period, she felt hesitant to let her male coach know whyshe didn’t want to swim. “It’s a taboo subject in my culture. I thought maybe it’s not the same way here in the United States.” 

Hadil began to set up interviews with swimmers and divers on the IC swim team to investigate her experience and observations further. “I found out the problem actually exists here,” she reflects. “And I found out nothing is marketed in the way that would tell women: Here, this product will help you when you’re underwater—just when you are under water. That’s where the idea came from.”

Enter Hadil’s business prototype, SwimEase, which she describes as “a combination between two products that enables women to swim during their periods—comfortably and leak free."

“If it wasn’t for the faculty here, 100% I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

During her sophomore year, Hadil entered SwimEaseinto the annual Startup Business Plan Demo Day, an adrenalin-packed series of events held at a local business incubator called Rev: Ithaca Startup Works. Students from any major can pitch business ideas to a panel of seasoned investors. During the audition, Hadil was chosen as one of five finalists to present her product idea to the potential investors. She had already been rehearsing her four-minute pitch for over a month—at her job in the dining hall (between customers), while walking to class, and pretty much everywhere she went.

Hadil leaned into other resources, too. John Sanna, an IC alumnus and successful entrepreneur, coached the business students on how to present, how to talk, and how to give a pitch with confidence. “Before that, I didn't know anything about things like eye contact,” she remembers. “You can have the best pitch ever, but if you don’t present it in the right way, it’s not going to be good.” 

After a nerve-wracking but successful pitch, Hadil received the Audience Choice Award andpart of the Sustainability Award, earning her $1,200 in seed money from the judges. “My professors, Brad Treat and Ed Cato, were basically my friends through this journey. If it wasn’t for the faculty here, 100% I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” she says.

The Power of Persistence

With funding, Hadil expanded her interviews and research. She prioritized talking with her potential customers and traveled to California to hear directly from swimmers at USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport of swimming in the United States. But onceshe arrived in California, she was told that she couldn’t interview the swimmers directly. “They didn’t say I couldn’t interview the swimmers’ parents,” she says. “I found out that I am very persistent.” Eventually, she also interviewed the swimmers themselves as well as managers and coaches. 

Hadil plans to expand the availability of her product outside the United States. Through her marketing class with Professor Allison Fields, she sent a survey to North African countries and received over 300 responses.“I had so much data,” she says. “I found out that there’s almost 9% of women in those countries who would wear a tampon, but only if they were swimming. And that was valuable data for me. Not only could I market ithere in the United States but on an international level.”

 Hadil is currently researching patents and weighing her manufacturing options—a process that requires a lot of persistence in navigating rules and regulations. In five years, she envisions SwimEase as a tangible, FDA-approved product that she herself can use as a customer. “I’m excited to make the product. I want to see women using it as the product for swimmers and have it available in gyms through large B2B [business to business] contracts with schools and governments."


A collection of introductions to the Ithaca College story—about those who continue to write it.
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