Miki Agrawal's career as a social entrepreneur covers the three Ps — periods, pee, and poop. She started with period proof underwear with her brand Thinx, and expanded to pee-proof underwear with Icon. Most recently, she hit the poop market with Tushy, a bidet attachment that's attempting to infiltrate the porcelain thrones of the western world. If you go back far enough, there's actually a fourth "p." Pizza was her first foray into entrepreneurship with her restaurant Wild — a gluten-free pizza joint with three locations in New York City.
As you might expect, tackling these three Ps has meant breaking taboos and facing stigmas, not only in the face of skeptical consumers, but also investors. On this episode of Well Made, Miki talks about her fundraising challenges and how she's motivated by creating products in blue ocean markets that create a positive impact.
“I can't get into a business where I'm one of many. I need to be a one-of-one product that stands alone, that improves the lives of people.”
"Blue ocean strategy" is a term coined by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne in their book of the same name. A blue ocean strategy brings a product to a market that's completely open and not crowded by sharks — a.k.a a red ocean.
In the case of period products, tampons, pads, and menstrual cups make a up a $15 billion industry. With only three products in a such a massive huge industry, it's a blue ocean and Thinx is bringing a fourth option to the table that's more sustainable, both financially and environmentally. But even in a blue ocean, Miki found that explaining the impact of feminine products like period and pee underwear to investors is a challenge, especially considering only 7% of partners at the top 100 VC firms are women.
“It's really hard to stay motivated to do something when there's no return on your soul.”
The creative direction of Thinx, Icon, and Tushy is unexpected. It's not provocative for shock value or sanitary to stay below the radar. It skirts the line, striking a specific cord that sets the three brands apart from other products in the space. To keep expectations high, each ad, page design, and piece of branding has to pass Miki's "FASC" test.
Fridge worthy — Is it special enough to take up valuable personal space on someone's fridge?
Artful — Is it worthy of a gallery?
Showstopper — Does it stop someone in their tracks?
Conversation — Will it get people talking?
Built into the foundation of each new business, Miki creates a model to support organizations in third world countries. She explains her approach as the next evolution of the one-for-one model started by Toms. By putting funds directly into organizations like AFRIpads and the Fistula Foundation, Miki is attempting to use social good as part of a strategy rather than a sales pitch.
And she isn't done yet! Thinx just launched reusable tampon applicators, and Miki's other brands will no doubt see more innovations in the future. To keep up, you can find more about Miki on her website and her Instagram.
Featured image by The Creators Project.
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