Rock Ridge Alumni Works to Outshine Skin Cancer One Stitch at a Time

Founded in 2019, local small business Low Ultraviolet seeks to “Outshine Skin Cancer” by creating fashionable L.U.V. clothing for younger women. Erica Sullivan and Rock Ridge alumni Snigdha Sangisetti have made it their goal to design clothes of comfort and style to help prevent skin cancer.

Low Ultraviolet, or L.U.V., is the story of a hardworking Rock Ridge alumni and now Analysis Director, Snigdha Sangisetti, and a woman struggling with her family battling skin cancer, CEO Erica Sullivan, both seeing the need for change in the skin protection industry. Both these women are striving to make an impact in the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing industry by providing skin cancer protection to younger women. L.U.V.’s mission is to “outshine skin cancer” to give young women the chance to wear both fashionable and safe clothing that protects them from the sun.  

Snigdha Sangisetti has grown a lot since graduating from Rock Ridge in 2017, but the Rock is where her journey started. She got a peek into the fashion world by taking the fashion construction elective, and developed public speaking skills by joining the debate team – all of which would help her develop an interest to eventually join and become the Analysis Director of L.U.V. With the motto “do a few things greatly,” she recognizes that it is important to not get caught up in weaknesses, and rather expand passions to improve in things you are good at. “I am more well-spoken. Debate set the foundation for that,” Sangisetti said.“I am more balanced. I know what I want, and I don’t think I had that clarity when I was in high school.” Her marketing skills and her perseverance and push to make herself and her business known helped expand L.U.V.’s outreach. Today, she manages a full-time job at a software engineering company and co-manages the small business L.U.V. on the side.  

As a graduate of the class of 2017 at Rock Ridge, Sangisetti saw Rock Ridge in its early years. She transferred from Briar Woods to Rock Ridge at the beginning of her sophomore year and would take a fashion construction class, giving her insight into this field and that understanding would later help her in helping design clothes for L.U.V. Sangisetti was also a member of the debate team and one of the founding members of the Spanish Honor Society, reflecting her deep involvement in the study of the language. (Courtesy of Snigdha Sangisetti)

While studying Computational Modeling and Data Analytics at Virginia Tech, Sangisetti met Sullivan, who, inspired by her mom’s battle with skin cancer and her own experiences, was working on a project with which she needed marketing assistance that Sangisetti provided. After getting two cancerous moles removed herself, Sullivan began to look for clothing to protect her from the sun further and found that the UPF clothing offered on the market was mostly targeted towards older audiences, not suiting her needs. Sullivan decided to take matters into her own hands and created L.U.V. during her time at Virginia Tech in late 2019, and in 2020 Sangisetti joined her team as an Analyses Director. 

Forming a small business is a challenging task for any team of young college graduates, but Sangisetti and Sullivan experienced a special kind of difficulty: COVID hit right as Sullivan had started up the business in late 2019. “Building a small business, especially during a pandemic, forced us to make a lot of difficult decisions,” Sangisetti said. “We had to pivot and focus on building a brand presence completely online.” Advertisement and looking for ways to expand outreach and customer base was essential to L.U.V.’s success and recovery from COVID’s impact on the business. “While we do operate primarily as an e-commerce brand, attending farmers markets and hosting other in-person events diversifies our customer base and allows us to reach new communities.”

Sangisetti and Sullivan met during their time at Virginia Tech, at a club in 2019 where Sullivan was working on a project that she needed help from marketing expert Sangisetti on. Soon after Sullivan founded L.U.V. and Sangisetti joined a year later. The two have been running L.U.V. together ever since, designing protective and fashionable clothes and trying to extend the outreach of L.U.V. by projects like launching their podcast “Ultraviolet Tide.” (Photo Courtesy of Snigdha Sangisetti)

As a new team, Sangisetti and Sullivan made it their mission to bring awareness on skin cancer and the importance of sun protection. Skin cancer accounts to be the most common cancer in the US and worldwide and is estimated to affect about 20% of Americans. Here unrepaired DNA damage triggers mutations leading to cells rapidly growing and formulating tumors. Sun protection plays a big part in causing skin cancer in the form of high exposure to Ultraviolet light coming from the sun. Sangisetti and Sullivan work with clothing designers to sew UPF 50+ protection into their products, to help reduce skin exposure to UV light. Sangisetti encourages the Phoenix Community to take sun safety seriously this summer, as rising temperatures and increasing holes in our ozone layers only increase sun’s danger. 

Recognizing the need for younger women, 35 and under, to feel represented in the skin cancer protection clothing industry, Sangisetti and Sullivan try to combine style — respecting color, pattern, and cut of fashion articles to appeal to younger audiences — comfort, and sun safety into their products. Sangisetti sees designing the “All Star Tennis Dress”  from scratch as one of the company’s great accomplishments, because it promotes flexibility in being simple but effective and is still able to be paired up with a lot of clothing options.

Since starting, Sullivan and Sangisetti have developed a multitude of different articles of clothing, launched their podcast “The Ultraviolet Tide” to engage their audience and spread awareness about skin cancer protection, and partnered with their first boutique, Candid Form Boutique, located in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Sangisetti and Sullivan’s weekly podcast focuses on skin care and protection, educates about skin cancer, and promotes mental health advocacy by talking with board-certified dermatologists, lifestyle coaches, and skin cancer battlers and survivors, who share stories and knowledge about cancer. Moving forward, Sangisetti’s dream is to widen the reach of L.U.V., hoping to eventually extend to the international level, touching communities in Australia or the UK. 

From becoming a Phoenix in Rock Ridge’s opening year in 2014 and starting the Spanish Honor Society to co-managing a small business, Sangisetti has accomplished much and grown to push and advocate for issues that matter to her but thinks some of the pressure and stress she put herself under wasn’t always worth it. “When you look back in hindsight, a lot of things in the moment seem a lot more intense than they actually are,” Sangisetti said. “There was no reason for me to be under so much stress [in high school]. In hindsight, everything always looks better. Set your sights forward.”