Miki Agrawal – Co-Founder & CEO, THINX

Miki Agrawal

Miki Agrawal is a serial social entrepreneur. Miki is the author of the book, DO COOL SH*T and is the founder of the farm-to-table, gluten-free pizza concept called WILD in NYC. She is also a partner in Super Sprowtz, a children’s media company to get kids to eat more vegetables.

Show highlights:

  • Miki talks about her time as a professional soccer player
  • Miki shares her inspiration to start a gluten-free pizza concept in NYC
  • Miki talks about the 3 P’s that we’re afraid to talk about – Periods, Pee & Poop

Show links:

Here’s a few of the transcribed highlights from the interview:

You have this focus on taboo subjects that many of us deal with. Give us a sense of how you go from the restaurant business, to THINX and everything you’re working on.

As a busy woman, I just kept running from one restaurant to another and had monthly period accidents. It was so irritating. Every time I had my period it was like the first time I ever had my period. It was so annoying.

I did a lot of digging in the feminine hygiene category and discovered that the feminine hygiene category is a $15 Billion category. The underwear category is a $14 Billion category. There have only been three major innovations in the entire 20th century. The invention of the tampon in 1931 by a man. The addition of strip underneath the pad in 1969 to eliminate the need for menstrual belts, clips and pins. 1980 was the popularization of the menstrual cup. Since then, there’s been little innovation.

It’s crazy. It’s nuts. The big aha moment for THINX came when my sister and I were at a family barbecue in 2005. My sister and I were defending our three legged race championship title. In the middle of the race, my twin sister started her period. We had to literally run to the bathroom still tied to each other so she could change out her bathing suit bottoms. While she was washing off the blood, that’s when we had the aha moment. What if we could create a pair of underwear that never leaks and never stains and supports women every day of the month. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

But because I just opened my restaurant, I couldn’t really focus on this project. I was in over my head with the restaurant. So I tabled the idea for the next 5 years. Go to 2010 when I was traveling to South Africa for the World Cup, that’s when I discovered the massive issue that girls were facing in developing worlds. Girls were using leaves and mud and old rags and whatever they could find to manage their periods. This was causing a lot of infections, and causing girls to drop out of school. Just putting girls behind because of their periods. It was insane.

Never would have it crossed my mind to think about what girls were doing to manage their periods in the developing world. So I came back and resurrected the idea. There were clearly millions of girls that were having period problems around the world. Girls were leaking and staining their underwear. Feminine hygiene products were not up to snuff. And in the developing world, girls had access to nothing.

So let’s create an underwear that’s leak proof and absorbent and actually support women during their most miserable time of the month. And make it look and feel like a regular pair of underwear. That was the most important part. And for every pair of underwear sold, we wanted to fund an organization that was fighting the menstrual crisis in the developing world.

So we said, let’s take the TOM’S model – the buy one, get one model – and innovate and elevate that model. We wanted to find a for profit company on the ground in the developing world that’s actually selling these pads at an affordable price. We found an organization in Uganda and for every pair of underwear sold, we fund this organization so they can make these pads, and then sell them locally at an affordable price. So this organization grows their business, girls can afford to pay for these pads, and it creates a sustainable business model.

When we started with AFRIpads they had 25 employees. Now they have 165 employees. We played a part in that, and we’re thrilled about empowering women locally and globally.

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