Most of you are all too familiar with period accidents. We don’t need to spell it out for you -- ruining your underwear, clothing, or sheets just plain sucks. But there’s no longer an excuse for staining your stuff. THINX, which was co-founded by Miki Agrawal, Radha Agrawal and Antonia Saint Dunbar, makes period-proof underwear that actually works.
We recently spoke to Miki, who filled us in on how THINX came to be, the challenges the company has faced in dealing with the “old boys’ club,” and what her thoughts are on cultivating company culture.
Fairygodboss: Why was THINX founded?
Miki Agrawal: Every single month, I kept having period accidents, forgetting to change my tampon/pad and leaking into my undies and clothes. It was messy, annoying and interrupted my days, not to mention ruining my favorite pairs of underwear. Clearly I'm not alone here -- pretty much all gals reading this have experienced this at some point in their lives, right?
I did some digging and realized that in the entire 20th century, there were only 3 innovations in the $15 billion feminine hygiene sector (in 1931, the invention of the tampon - by a man; in 1969, the addition of the adhesive strip to a pad to prevent it from moving around; and in the 1980s, the invention of the menstrual cup).
Why only 3 innovations in 100 years in a category that women required for the better part of our lives? Because it's taboo. And "taboo" happens to mean "menstruation" in its Polynesian root word "tapua.” NOT kidding.
So we invented a much-needed pair of underwear that looks like a normal pair of cute undies but has hidden technology built into it that finally helps women period better. And they really work! Our THINX undies are moisture-wicking, absorbent (absorbs up to 2 full tampons’-worth!), anti-microbial and leak-proof. All you need to do is quickly hand wash them and put them in the washing machine and they come out brand new.
They completely replace the need for tampons and pads on your medium and light days, thus helping ease some strife on mother earth. We recommend you wear them with a tampon or cup on your heaviest days. It took us over 3.5 years to perfect the product and patent the technology, but now, magic period panties exist!
In addition to solving our own period problems, we also realized the massive menstrual issues that girls in the developing world are experiencing still today. Right now, over 100 million girls are still missing a week of school because of their periods, and they’re using things like old rags, leaves, mud, mattress bits to try and manage their period -- and none of it works, so they end up staying at home.
FGB: Can you tell us more about your mission?
MA: We are using innovation to change the culture and the conversation around menstruation. Women find it uncomfortable to talk about; it’s a huge taboo – and we're committed to breaking it.
We want people to come in contact with our brand and immediately know that it's okay to be open and inquisitive and to challenge the norms surrounding our periods. I think we’re really doing it, too; we’ve never seen more women openly discuss their hygiene regimens than now, on our own social media accounts, articles, and advertisements. It's really powerful, and so motivating to see.
The dream would be for all menstruating girls and women in the first world to have a pair of THINX in their drawers and for every single girl in the developing world to stay in school when they have their periods, as well as have a safe space for the girls to go to learn about their bodies and learn how to become financially independent. I think a 5-year timeline to make this happen is totally doable.
FGB: Why do you think women should know about THINX/how can women benefit from what you do?
MA: To drastically improve their experience managing their periods, for one! And secondly, to really feel the liberation of not worrying anymore about their period and actually feeling proud of it!
FGB: What's one of the biggest challenges your company has faced in achieving its mission? How have you gone about overcoming this obstacle?
MA: The biggest challenge has been to get the "old boys club" to support us. We fought the MTA and won because we had press backing us, but we continue to hit roadblocks with organizations that don't feel comfortable working with us.
Pictured above: THINX advertisements in an MTA subway station (in New York City). Photo courtesy of THINX.
Right now, we're fighting the Taxi TV ad company to get our period ads in taxi cabs, and they, too, rejected us. We are also fighting the elevator bank TV companies that are calling our ads offensive.
Modeling agencies don't want to work with us because they don't want their girls in period ads. Morning shows don't want to talk about periods as "the mass public isn't ready for it yet." It's constant.
So we have to keep pushing and fighting to tell the story that periods are normal and that every human being is here because of them! In fact, we’ve created a 13-minute film that really addresses the period taboo.
I think that since my company is addressing the less sexy parts of the human body (although I would argue to say that they're the most sexy parts) it is a hard conversation to have sometimes.
So, thank you for helping talk about these issues with me and break these age-old taboos and share the projects I am working on with the hope that these will soon become non-issues.
FGB: How has THINX grown and developed since its inception?
MA: We grew 128x in the last two years if you compare how we did in Jan of 2015 to Jan of 2016! We have also really honed in on our THINX voice and aesthetic.
What's your company culture like?
MA: I think I help unlock the suppressed weird part in my team. I celebrate weirdness and total raw authenticity; I really believe the weirder the better! Often society tries and stifle creativity to remain in line with the norms, and I push my team to go beyond what they thought they could do -- and they even surprise themselves!
What other companies that support women do you admire?
MA: Lululemon. They have a very cool autonomous way of managing their individual stores and creating little mini worlds across the continent.
Anything else you want to share with us?
MA: Hire slow, fire fast! Having a good operations and finance person can change the game, especially for a creative like me.
Culture trumps strategy all day every day. Create amazing culture. Remove the drains; celebrate the generators!
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