How Kayla Rodriguez Graff made the healthcare space sweeter

Visible Hands
7 min readFeb 15, 2024

Sweetbio is a commercial-ready, medical device company with novel, honey-incorporated wound care products. Sweetbio was a part of LATTITUDE Ventures’ 2023 Match-Up Program, and participated in Visible Hands’ 2023 VHLV Fellowship for Latine founders.

Kayla Rodriguez Graff found the sweet spot for her career when she decided to take on starting a business with her brother nine years ago.

“I’m incredibly passionate about helping a whole lot of people get a whole lot better,” Graff said. ”And I’m now able to do that with my company, Sweetbio.”

Sweetbio is a Memphis-based medical device company that produces honey-incorporated products to aid in wound care and closure. Graff participated in LATTITUDE Ventures’ 2023 MATCH-UP Program to help further the growth of her company, and subsequently, participated in Visible Hands’ first ever VHLV Fellowship program for Latine founders. Read on to learn more about Graff’s journey as a founder, as well as her time in the VHLV Fellowship.

Sweetbio co-founder and CEO, Kayla Rodriguez Graff

The Problem

Graff began Sweetbio after she kept observing the same patterns of prognosis and “treatment” for people in need of wound care.

“Decades ago, my great grandfather passed away from diabetes with a wound on his foot that led to an amputation,” Graff said. “And then decades later, there’s a guy here in town; a hard-working family-man struggling with a wound on his foot. And his prognosis is an amputation. The difference now is that advanced wound care products have been created, and they work, but the price is so high that 90% of patients can’t afford them.”

According to the National Library of Medicine, 5% of Americans on Medicare (roughly 8.2 million people) are affected by chronic, non-healing wounds, and even with Medicare, cost projections for all wounds range from $28.1 to $96.8 billion a year. Outpatient costs are reportedly almost twice as high than impatient costs, and despite the growing need for wound care, the amount of affordable options for patients has yet to keep up with the demand.

“This isn’t a technology only problem, it’s an access problem,” Graff said. “Clinicians want to help, but they’re handcuffed. If something’s not reimbursed, it’s out of their pocket to be able to provide better care for the patients, so it leaves the majority of people struggling with wounds like diabetic ulcers or skin cancer sites using Vaseline and inventions from the 1800s to get better.”

Graff wanted to create a solution that would help patients get well sooner, easier, and more affordably, and knew that she had to make the technology more accessible to those who need it most.

“We created Sweetbio’s technology to help deliver better outcomes, and combined the tech with our use of collagen and honey because they are great materials,” Graff said. “Both naturally help fight bacteria and inflammation. Combined, they’re pretty badass.”

The Solution

Prior to Sweet bio, Graff had a corporate background in consumer goods, where she developed her passion for consumer behavior.

“I’m really fascinated, even obsessed, with consumer behavior when it comes to choosing brands and choosing products to care about,” Graff said.

Her brother, Isaac Rodriguez, a biomedical engineer with speciality in tissue regeneration, had invented the technology behind Sweetbio, and combined his strengths with Graff’s to co-found the company.

“I love this concept of using materials that people have an affinity with, like honey and collagen,” Graff said. “They have great potential to cross over from hospital to home. When Isaac showed me the science behind our now product, I knew this was pretty sweet stuff. When I looked at the market of this massive healthcare crisis, I thought it was a really cool opportunity. So we took it from the lab concept through an accelerator program, and have been busting down federal hurdles and growing ever since.”

Sweetbio’s products, named APIS and VERIS, are bioengineered wound products made with a collagen derivative, Manuka honey, and hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring and strength-building mineral. They work to reduce bacteria and fight inflammation, two huge offenders that keep wounds from progressing. Clinically, these products have seen wounds close twice as fast than the standard timeline.

Sweetbio’s APIS patch

Sweetbio products come in the form of easy-to-apply wound dressings that can be sent home to patients, so that they have control over their recovery, and the team prioritized keeping their product simple and affordable for ease of access.

“Honey has been used for decades to help wounds and even internal issues,” Graff said. “But the problem is, it’s just a hot mess when you want to use it. We found a way to encapsulate it in a solid, non-sticky sheet that dissolves as the wound gets better.”

Working with Visible Hands

Graff began working with Visible Hands after participating in the 2023 LATTITUDE Ventures MATCH-UP Program, a highly competitive pitch competition and Venture Capital conference that curates the top Latine entrepreneurs who are creating the next generation of transformational companies. Near the conclusion of the program, LATTITUDE Ventures partnered with Visible Hands to run a Fellowship specifically for Latine founders, titled VHLV, and invited the MATCH-UP founders to be inaugurated as part of the first cohort.

For Graff, the partnership integration was a smooth transition for her startup, especially as a founder who had participated in numerous founder-facing programs throughout her nine year journey.

“It was really helpful that VHLV was seamlessly integrated,” Graff said. “I trusted LATTITUDE and they selected me to work with Visible Hands, so I knew the program would be something to invest some time in, and ultimately, I think the time commitment was a good one. I knew I was going to solve something specific, and come out of VHLV with something of value for my company. ”

VHLV, like the other Visible Hands fellowships, focuses on building a strong and trusting community among the cohort founders throughout the program. Graff’s in-person connection with her fellow cohort members aided in that experience.

“I already knew the cohort from our time with LATTITUDE,” Graff said. “And although it’s hard to build a digital connection, it helped that we got to meet in person, especially as we kicked off VHLV. It helped make things more comfortable, and the more comfortable you are with the cohort, the more willing you are to have open and helpful conversations. Visible Hands’ Product Manager, Yulkendy Valdez, really helped to further foster that comfort for us, and make the program one worth having.”

VHLV founders connecting after the LATTITUDE Ventures 2023 Match-Up Event.

How VHLV was a Catalyst for Growth

VHLV offered an array of founder support options, from virtual 1:1 meetings and group cohort calls with industry experts, to tangible hands-on deliverables provided by the Visible Hands team. Each week, the founders reviewed different aspects of company building, and ultimately left with personalized guidance for how to continue their growth. For Graff, that came in the form of revising her startup’s pitch process.

“VHLV helped me to begin going through a deck update, and really refining value,” Graff said. “I tested several assumptions. And using the MBT framework provided by [former VH Product Manager] Yulkendy was so helpful in narrowing down and getting more specific and more targeted. VHLV helped me to test some things faster than I would have on my own; I got answers faster, and now that framework is something I use regularly.”

Visible Hands was excited to work on a fellowship in collaboration with LATTITUDE Ventures, as a way to help provide more hands-on and direct support to Latine founders.

“Too often Latine founders are overlooked and this is a missed opportunity,” said Visible Hands Co-Founder and General Partner Justin Kang. “As one of the fastest growing populations in the US, it does not make sense for them not to thrive as entrepreneurs. L’ATTITUDE and Visible Hands share a common commitment in empowering the genius and resilience of Latinx founders to create generational companies.”

The fellowship consisted of weekly mastermind sessions with Visible Hands, as well as coaching and mentorship to help the participants get to the stage of company building.

“The sessions were insightful, whether they were just inspirational, from speakers who shared their own personal stories and struggles, or extremely educational, like sessions on how to structure the pitch deck or on storytelling,” Graff said. “I also appreciated the breakout sessions, show and tells, and building relationships with the founders. To have friendly people entrepreneurs who are in different spaces that could provide valuable feedback was extremely helpful. Overall, I thought the content was educational and focused, and I think stage appropriate.”


Since her time with VHLV, Graff has continued to grow Sweetbio to new heights. Her team has raised $7 million to date, and began raising a $3-$6 million round in December to continue to scale.

“I’m super grateful for the program,” Graff said “I’m really going to miss those weekly sessions because it was a pause to reflect internally. And I just don’t think we, as founders, do that enough. “

You can learn more about the Graff and her startup here.



Visible Hands

Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups.