Skip to main content

Disrupting Industries and Taboos, with Miki Agrawal

Disrupting Industries and Taboos, with Miki Agrawal


Episode 48: Disrupting Industries and Taboos, with Miki Agrawal

Miki Agrawal is in the business of period, pee and poop. She is the co-founder and CEO of THINX, the period-proof underwear company that’s disrupting the $15 billion feminine-hygiene market. Miki is a strong voice, a proponent of innovation and social enterprises, and is committed to changing the conversation to break taboos, particularly around normal bodily functions that keep many girls and women back, particularly in the developing world. In this episode, Miki talks about being a twin, her journey building THINX, making taboo topics mainstream, and her favorite entrepreneur moments.


Episode Transcript

00:17 Kristy Wallace: Hi, and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is Kristy Wallace, here with Maricella Herrera, and we are so excited about today's podcast.

00:26 Maricella Herrera: Oh my god.

00:29 KW: Yes. Yes. This was such a fun interview to do. It's with Miki, who is the CEO and Co-Founder of THINX Period Panties as well as Icon Pee-Proof Underwear, all things pee, poops and periods. She talks real, she's super real, super honest and just really actually a fantastic person as well.

00:54 MH: She's also quite the stylish lady.

00:57 KW: Yes.

00:57 MH: Do you remember how she was dressed when she came in for a podcast?

01:00 KW: Well, she came in in a full body unitard? Is that what it's called?

01:04 MH: I guess so. I was gonna say onesie but it wasn't onesie.

01:06 KW: Something that I probably... I have not been able to wear for 25 years but it was lots of fun.

01:13 MH: Yeah. She's awesome.

01:14 KW: It was lots of fun and she's done some events with us as well but very inspirational. And I think, we women, all of us are... Look to be inspired to see others that are doing... Not just running successful businesses, but doing good things and driving social change as part of that successful business. And that's a big movement that we're a part of with the B Corp community but how can we use the power of business to drive social change? And Miki's certainly doing a lot with that. So I loved the interview, I know you will, too. And after you listen and you love it so much, please share it with your friends, please rate and review the podcast on iTunes. That means so much to us. It helps get the word out about what we're doing here and we appreciate it. But before then, Maricella, what have you got for us?

02:06 MH: So I do have some data. As you know, we poll our community every week. We ask them what they think about current trends or things in their careers, or things they wanna share with us. We ask them because Miki has done such a great job disrupting an industry that was kinda dead and bringing new staff that is solving problems for women. We asked our members which industries do you think need to be disrupted? A quarter of our members said education, that was the most popular one, 22% said healthcare, 12% said finance, 10% said all of them. [chuckle] Yes. 9% food, 9% environmental industry, 8% feminine care products which is what Miki is doing, 2% e-commerce and those were the top choices. I guess education is one of them because it's probably very, very close to the hearts of the people in our community.

03:14 KW: I think education and healthcare are two industries that touch pretty much everyone, right? From preschool through to graduate education either yourself or a family member, healthcare, something we're all need to be healthy. But it's very fragmented industries and for a long time very untouched by technology, right? Where you may go to your GP who's not talking to your OB/GYN, who's not talking to maybe your specialist. And how can you really have a more holistic healthcare model as an individual if no one's talking and you don't have the mechanisms for that? And that's just one example. I know we had Kate Ryder from Maven on the podcast a few episodes back and she is looking to disrupt that market. But there's huge opportunity and that's kind of that final frontier and during my time at zeal.com, we ventured into learning more about the healthcare market and it's very convoluted and it's very mired and old systems, and lack of infrastructure and innovation and that's same with education too. There's a huge opportunity there to really disrupt it and I think to drive more impact for us, as consumers of education and healthcare.

04:40 MH: Absolutely. I know nothing. I'm like Jon Snow on this one. I know nothing about these industries.

[laughter]

04:46 MH: But...

[laughter]

04:49 KW: I love... I love the Jon Snow reference. It just made my day. Thanks. You know nothing, Jon Snow.

[laughter]

04:56 MH: Hey, I admit it. [laughter] But I do think that there is quite the opportunity. We've went to the White House summit on B-school. Was it a summit? Yeah, it was a summit on B-school and education and ways we can change it to be more accessible for women because women are not really taking that much advantage of it.

05:16 KW: Yeah. It was great and it was an important meeting and we hope to continue to be involved in that discussion, how we can change the gender ratio in education and beyond. So, lots of good stuff there.

05:29 MH: Yep.

05:30 KW: Awesome. Well, let's get to our interview with Miki. Have fun listening and don't forget to give us some shout-out on iTunes and show us some love.

[music]

05:52 KW: You're in the business of period, pee and poop.

05:55 Miki Agrawal: That's right.

05:56 KW: So all of my favorite things. Not just for myself, but I have three little ones at home that keep me busy with that as well.

[laughter]

06:04 KW: But I'm gonna start off. I have been doing this podcast for quite some time, and this is the first time I get to ask this question, so I'm really excited about it.

06:13 MA: Great.

06:14 KW: Okay. Favorite part of being a twin?

06:17 MA: Ooh.

06:18 KW: And I ask because I am a twin as well.

06:20 MA: You are?

06:20 KW: There are many twins but I still get excited when I get to meet someone who's a twin.

06:24 MA: Are you identical?

06:25 KW: We're fraternal.

06:26 MA: Awesome. Still awesome. In the womb together. From the womb to the tomb, as they say. There's so many amazing things with being a twin. But one of my favorite things is that you just always have a buddy to play with. And I think growing up, we never got bullied, even if we're petite. We never had any issues 'cause we always showed up together and we always are our biggest cheerleaders of each other's ideas. And so if we're playing, it was always like, "Yeah, I love that idea. Okay, now let's just add to it, let's add on top of it." It just allowed for more creativity and more permission to be silly and creative throughout our whole lives. And so I think that's been an amazing thing about being a twin.

07:09 KW: I love that. Absolutely. I agree with all of that. Okay. So we'll get back to the period, pee and poop.

07:16 MA: Yeah.

[laughter]

07:16 KW: Why? Why the three Ps? Why not?

[chuckle]

07:21 MA: I'll turn it back around to you. How many pairs of underwear have you ruined on your period?

07:25 KW: Too many to count.

07:27 MA: Right. And the question became, in this day and age of innovation, how is it possible that we're still having these leaks and these stains? A nine-year old girl today has more access to information today than the president did less than 10, five years ago. And we're still coping and dealing with the most natural thing that's been going on since the beginning of the human species? It doesn't make any sense. And so did a bunch of digging and discovered that not only is the period category but these nether regions categories are all extremely taboo.

08:00 MA: In the $19 billion period category, there've only been three major innovations in the entire 20th century. There's a huge opportunity to disrupt, to look at this category, to face it, to face ourselves and say, "Why are we just sticking something inside of ourselves that's made with rayon and bleach and not actually understanding the ramifications of it, or understanding why we're doing it that way." We're just doing it because it's just what we've been doing forever, since the beginning, and we're leaking, and we're staining our sheets, and we're staining our clothes, and we're having these accidents, and it's not really working, and we're just quietly coping with it on our own. It's time to really look at the space, look at ourselves, and say, "No, we can make this better." And so periods... The word taboo means uncomfortable, and you shouldn't talk about things like that. But the root word of the word taboo stems from the Polynesian word "tapua," and "tapua" actually means menstruation. So taboo...

08:56 KW: Oh, interesting.

08:56 MA: Means menstruation. So the most uncomfortable thing you can possibly talk about is the thing that perpetuates the human species. It's insane.

09:05 KW: It's so true. You try to ask your dad to get you tampons at the store and it's the most awkward conversation and...

09:12 MA: Which it shouldn't be and it's just like, "You're welcome, dad, for that blood because without that, you wouldn't be here."

09:17 KW: And I will not be giving you grandchildren.

09:19 MA: Right. Exactly.

09:20 KW: It's all about life.

09:21 MA: Yeah. And it's also... It's in the same category for the incontinence category. 6.9 plus billion, almost $7 billion category and the only offerings are Depends and Poise, these ugly diaper-like products because people are, again, uncomfortable to talk about it. It takes a woman seven years to admit to her doctor that she's incontinent. 25% of women who are incontinent actually stop having sex because they're so embarrassed. These are things that are just... It's absurd that this is still a thing. It's embarrassing for women. Again, it was an important time to innovate. And the same thing in the poop space. Right now, the way we wipe ourselves hasn't changed since the late 1800s. Toilet papers brought to America in late 1800s and popularized by Scott and Charmin as this consumable product that we can just kill trees and have people use it and flush down this toilet. And when people have to keep buying it over and over again, which behooves them, but it kills 15 million trees per year. It causes 26 million combined cases of chronic urinary tract infections, hemorrhoids, and yeast infections. It is really terrible for our cities. New York City alone spent $18 million in the last five years on just sewage pipe cleanups from wet wipes and cloggages.

10:45 KW: Anyone with a septic tank will also know.

10:47 MA: It's so real. You look at all three of these categories that are billion, multi-billion dollar categories that are daily consumed things that we go through. We excrete, we have our period every month, we pee. All these things happen on a daily, monthly basis, and yet there's just terribly unimaginative offerings on the marketplace. There's real opportunity to look at them. Within the THINX category, we developed a very simple, beautiful, period-proof underwear. So it looks like regular pair of underwear, when you put them on, they're beautiful, sexy black, or in beige underwear. We're launching colors and patterns this year. But they're just... They're beautiful underwear that literally when you put them on, they don't feel bulky like a pad, they don't feel thick, they don't feel anything but like a sexy, beautiful pair of underwear.

11:36 MA: But we spent three and a half years developing the technology within it, so the innermost layer wicks away moisture, keeping you feeling dry. So you'll never feel wet. So if you bleed or leak into them, you don't have to worry about ever feeling like you're sitting in anything. They're antimicrobials, they're odorless, there's no germs. They also absorb. They absorb two full tampons worth of blood. So if you literally leave your tampon on the garden for the whole day or giving a lecture or in a talk or in a meeting, or on a plane, whatever. You don't have to worry about, "Oh my God, I'm having this crazy moment. I don't have protection." You're safe. And so many women who literally have stopped wearing tampons altogether, they just wear our THINX underwear by themselves which oftentimes when you're on the pill or have an IUD, you have kind of a very light period. And so because of that you just need to wear THINX...

12:26 KW: Why do you need the bleach in the rayon when you...

[chuckle]

12:28 MA: You don't need the rayon inside of you. Nothing. You just put the THINX on and you're set to go. So many times women are like, "I literally forgot that I'm on my period right now wearing your product. It's amazing." And then of course the final layer is leak-proof. And then, so you'll never worry about leaking through it. So it really is a combination of form and function coming together. Does it look and feel beautiful and great? And does it actually really work? And so we always say, "#knowyourflow."

12:55 MA: If you're a super-heavy bleeder on your second day of your period, we suggest you wear an organic cotton tampon or a menstrual cup with your underwear. But in medium and light days you can wear the underwear just by itself, never having to pull the dry tampon out of your vagina, which hurts, and that, by the way, is what causes micro-abrasions inside your body, which is what causes toxic shock syndrome. And so to really avoid those things, to know about your body, and to feel great. So that's THINX. And then Icon is also pee-proof underwear which has special technology built within it that look and feel like a regular pair of underwear. But then, it's totally different technology to THINX, but it's specifically made for urine, so it's odorless, it's anti-microbial, it's fast-wicking, it's moisture-wicking, fast drying, and it absorbs 25-50 milliliters of liquid in leak-proof seams as well.

13:42 KW: You and I talked about earlier, after three kids, even probably... Actually, even before three kids, that's a game-changer. And so what I love... Hey, I just talked on our podcast about peeing my underpants. But I love about what you're doing is that it's removing the stigma around that. I can't tell you how many women I've spoken to that are like, "Oh! I have THINX. I love them. They're great. Yeah. It's fantastic. I don't have any accidents, I don't... " And those are things we didn't talk about before. You stick the tampon up your sleeve and you hide it. And it's an embarrassing taboo topic. And now, we're making it mainstream because it's not something to be shy of. And here, on the podcast and on Ellevate, it's so much about like be upfront about your career, own your ambition, own your wealth and your money, and own your body. And these are things that we should all be talking about.

14:39 MA: I completely agree, and it really is interesting because prior to starting this business... I grew up in Canada. Everyone is so tolerant. Everyone is so comfortable with each other. Every culture is celebrated. You can wear a hijab, and no one's gonna say anything to you. You can speak a different language, no one's gonna say anything to you. You can wear weird clothes, no one's gonna say anything to you. But really coming to America and then starting this business, I really started to recognize the deep sort of patriarchal double standard that exists in our country and the world. And really understanding our role that we can play in really changing that conversation. So one of the examples is, when we started to think about launching our first out-of-home campaign, which is our first subway campaign, which is such an incredible thing for a start-up to be able to think about, "Oh my gosh, we can now afford to do a subway campaign in New York City which is so insane and magical," we put together a whole proposal and designs. And then, presented them to the MTA and they said, "No. You cannot use the word period. You cannot use... "

15:52 KW: You cannot use the word period?

15:54 MA: Yeah, you can't use...

15:55 KW: Think about that...

15:55 MA: I know. And you can't use the imagery of... We had a halved grapefruit image, and they were like, "It looks like a vagina." And we were like, "That's so interesting... " "That's offensive." And I'm like, "That's interesting that you call that offensive when literally you use the exact same fruit to represent augmented breasts in the subway." Take a small girl with a frowny face holding little oranges and then frowning. And then she's holding big grapefruits after she's had a breast augmentation and smiling. And that is perfectly permissible, where all little boys and little girls can look at that and start to feel body image issues...

16:31 KW: Body image and I just don't want the little oranges.

16:36 MA: It's like, they call that offensive. That's oppressive to women. And so, it was just such a clear double standard, that we were like, "Absolutely not. We are well within the MTA guidelines. We're gonna fight this, we're gonna go to press." And we told them, "If you don't approve our ads as is, 'cause we are well within the guidelines, we're gonna go to press." And they were like, "Go to press." And I was like, "Fuck, you called my bluff, damn it. But okay, I'm gonna call the two contacts I have in press and hope for the best." And I spoke to my contact at Forbes and mic.com. Mic.com ended up picking it up and ran the story the next day and miraculously, that story went viral internationally. I ended up speaking to 50 publications over the course of the next week, and globally our story just rang so deep for girls and women because it was just like, "Woah. We really, really felt that double standard."

17:27 KW: Of course. Of course.

17:29 MA: And what was so crazy about it was, it was in the most progressive city in the world, New York City. And I think that's really what shook the world. It was like, "Wow. In a city like New York City, they're still denying and rejecting their ads. What it's like in the rest of the world?" Most recently, a girl in Nepal died because, on her period, she was banned to the shed called Chhaupadi, where you have to sleep in an outdoor shed on your period because if you sleep inside your homes, snakes might come and kill your father. All these terrible ridiculous superstitions will happen. The Nepal earthquake that took the life of one of my best friends in 2015, that was literally blamed on menstruating women by Nepali men. And they said that, "The gods are mad at you, women, because they were starting to sleep inside their homes in their periods. And therefore, the gods punished us, thanks to them."

18:23 MA: So again, it's a power tactic trying to control women, trying to control the way women feel about themselves exist. And then they brainwash the women to think that for themselves too. If I don't see them and catch it, something bad is gonna happen, and I don't wanna be the cause of something bad happening. So it's so deep, and you look at religious scriptures, the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, they all talk about how, in the Leviticus, you will be defiled if you touch a woman on her period. You are considered unclean and impure on your period. In the Torah, they say to take a ritual bath every time you have a period. And it's just like this is ingrained in our religious scriptures which people are literally reading about, translating it literally.

19:10 MA: And so of course, it's still in all the religious countries, it's very much taboo, improper to talk about. Of course also, in the very beginning, during the... When men were hunting and gathering, women were the one that were passing down their wisdom from generation to generation. And in fact with matrilineal era, where the women's namesake was passed down, not the man. So my family name would be passed down because I'm the one passing down the wisdom to the next generation. But then when the agricultural movement came, and it became a sedentary lifestyle, farming took over, the men came back, when they weren't hunting and... Spending all their energy and testosterone finding food for the families, they now came in and they were sedentary and they wanted to flex their muscles and gain power and control. And they started burning women for witchcraft, started creating these rules and started flexing their testosterone that women couldn't fight back because men are stronger and faster. And so that was the beginning of the shift.

20:16 KW: So how do you deal with the haters outside of a huge viral press campaign?

20:22 MA: Yeah. I think it's just with pure authenticity and pure honesty and pure transparency. And I think we're like, "This is what we're feeling, this is why we're feeling, this is what's going on, here are the real double standards. We're just giving you the information, we're educating you on what's going on. You can take it and digest it and spit back out what you believe to be true for yourself but we're gonna do that for ourselves too." We, for example, support Planned Parenthood openly as a brand and we get a lot of people coming back saying, "Baby killers. I'll never support you. I want my money back," and things like that. I'm like, "Okay, we'll happily give you your money back but this is why we believe in Planned Parenthood," and try to educate as much as we can. So we do take stands and we do have haters when we take a stand. "Oh, you're acting so gross, why talk about periods. It's like talking about pee and poop." Like what? And we don't talk about those things openly. It's like, "No, it's not the same thing. This is literally a double standard and we're just talking about how periods are used politically to keep women down." And that's what we're talking about here.

21:29 KW: How did you even get started? You say, "Okay. Why is it 2011, at the time, and 2012 and I'm bleeding into my underpants? Like that should not be the case." How do you go from that to where you are today, which is you've created a product and a solution that is revolutionary, it works, it's inspiring.

21:48 MA: Honestly, it's not rocket science. If you believe in something enough to put one foot in front of the other every single day and walk out the door and try to solve it, anyone can solve anything. I truly believe that and you don't have to have any contacts, you don't have to have any money, you just have to have the conviction that this deserves to exist in the world and I'm gonna figure out how to make it happen. And we didn't have much money in the beginning and we couldn't raise anything, of course, because that was period, underwear that sounds weird and gross.

22:25 MA: I think it's just really, we just made 1,000 phone calls for the next three and a half years, took us almost four years to develop the product, and most people would give up after six months, or after three months, or after a year, but we just persevered for three and a half years to develop the first product. It's the hardest product to make in the world. We work with the number one manufacturer who produces for Lululemon, for Nike, for Patagonia, for Speedo, for Spanx and they were trying to create their own version of our product and couldn't do it. And we, we're three girls, figuring it out and they were a multi-billion dollar company, they couldn't figure it out. And so that's why they came to us and said, "We wanna invest in your company." And that's what helped us really stabilize our growth, was bringing on our manufacturing partner who can then help develop our product, and not develop, but help manufacture our product.

23:24 MA: So, we never compromised on any of it because when we think about innovation, when we think about one... Of one innovation, people kind of take... Cut corners and they fall short and the product falls short, and then no one buys it, and it's no wonder people were like, "Oh, we tried to make period underwear, and it didn't work." It's because nobody would buy that particular product. It was bulky or it looks like plastic diapers or it just isn't appealing to you. Would you wear it? No. So why would you think anyone else would? So we wanted a product that we would feel proud and comfortable wearing, that we would feel super safe wearing, and that's what took forever to do, but it can be done. Sometimes it takes one year, six months, five months, two months, sometimes it takes three and a half years. It depends, but you just have to keep persevering.

24:08 KW: I think that's such an important message because oftentimes, when you see the success stories, you feel like, "Oh, if I could be that lucky. They made this, and it worked, and everyone loves it." And the perception is always that it's either easy or it's quick, and in reality, it is never easy and it is never quick, and the core defining factor is the founders who believe in it, who are committed to it, and who are going to persevere and have that conviction.

24:41 MA: I remember six months going out just with my best foot forward trying to raise money, to having so many meetings, and just coming back with a big, fat doughnut, every single day. No one got it, so deflating, and we just believed in it. We knew women wanted it. We couldn't raise any money and so we finally had to launch a Kickstarter campaign. And so we launched a Kickstarter campaign, we raised $65,000 on Kickstarter, $50,000 our goal. And just literally begged, borrowed, and Facebook messaged everyone we knew, and be like, "Check out our new Kickstarter campaign," and just fought for 45 days to get it done. And then before we launched our Kickstarter, we didn't realize that Kickstarter doesn't let you talk about your mission, they only talk about product. And so we launched an Indiegogo campaign right after to talk about our mission 'cause we do have a very important mission. For every pair of underwear sold, we help a girl in the developing world go back to school by funding reusable menstrual pads.

25:35 MA: We want to share that story that 100 million girls are missing a week of school because of their periods still, today. I know that millions of those girls are still dropping out of school because of their periods and it could have been you, it could have been me. We just won the lottery of life, that we're born here. And so we have literally fellow earthlings, fellow brothers and sisters around the world who don't have clean water, who don't have access to these things, and it's on us to try to help. My father came to this country with $5 in his pocket, and literally in one generation, built the American dream for us. And it's really our duty to use this privilege that we've been given, and do everything we can to improve the world while we're still here.

26:16 KW: So then after THINX, when you were going to create Icon and Tushy, was it easier because you already had a success under your belt, and had already tackled one taboo? Or was it still as hard as the uphill battle?

26:33 MA: Icon was a little easier because it's underwear that's technology-based, so when a lot of people emailed us when we first launched THINX, being like, "We wanna use this for pee too." And we're like, "Perfect timing, because we just have the product for you." And so that really helped. Our Icon team is very different from our THINX team, and have done an excellent job really developing a very specific unique brand voice for us. We've really tried to separate our storyline, 'cause our audience is very different. It's similar, but different.

27:05 KW: Sure.

27:05 MA: It's really like our Icon girl is the big sister to our THINX girl, our brand character. And Tushy is also a separate company altogether. I have my CEO that I appointed, who's awesome, and what's really cool about that is, again, we're changing the bathroom culture. We're bringing bidets to America and we're changing the way people think about wiping their asses. Just like, we've developed a very simple $69 bidet that clips on to any standard toilet, turns any toilet into a bidet in less than 10 minutes. There's no plumbing, no electrical required. If you go to hellotushy.com, you can check out the product. That's so great. It's transformational. It's transformational, you can never go back to wiping your ass again. You're just literally thinking about the poop that you're sitting on all day long. And of course, all three brands are social enterprises, and so for every pair of THINX that were sold, we support girls in the developing world with menstrual products. For every Icon underwear sold, we're funding obstetric fistula operations.

28:06 KW: Amazing.

28:07 MA: Which when a girl gives birth, sometimes she rips a hole in her bladder, and instead of stitching it up like they do here, which heals you quickly, you literally end up peeing yourself forever, you get shunned from your families, disowned by your husbands, and put in these fistula camps to die. And we're helping bring these girls back to their communities by offering surgeries to these women who desperately need them. And then for every Tushy bidet sold, we are funding clean latrine projects all over India, because the global sanitation crisis is one of the biggest killers in the world. 40% of the world doesn't have proper sanitation, and over a million children die around the age of five because of poor sanitation, and then 50% of hospital beds in Africa could be alleviated by simply having clean sanitation. These are real, real stats, and 40% of people don't have proper places to go relieve themselves. That is very, very real. And once again, we won the lottery of life, we absolutely won the lottery of life. And so, can we elevate first world experiences, and at the same time, really bring basic human rights to people who just could have been us. I think about that all the time with this baby growing inside my belly, which is like, "Wow, I wanna put this baby on Earth because I want this next generation to really feel for others too." And it's on us to put good people into the world as well.

29:27 KW: Oh, yeah. Having a child puts so many layers of complexity in your thinking. There's so much that's happening in the basics of our bodies, and our functions, and our lives, and our societies. If we can't change that, then we're missing the mark.

29:45 MA: 100%.

29:46 KW: So what is your favorite moment of being an entrepreneur, of this journey? Do you have one moment that really resonates with you and stands out?

29:56 MA: Yeah, I think two very real moments, I think I could just think about. One, going to Uganda and actually really seeing the impact of our funding, really. I think we helped our give back partners grow from 25 employees to almost 200 employees now. And it's not just impacting tens of thousands of girls by having them have washable reusable cloth pads, but it's also empowering this company to grow locally and empower them to build a business through our support and that was really wonderful to see. When you're kind of just sending money and you kind of get some pictures sometimes, it's always fun to be there and actually see the impact. And I think that the issue with that is that we wanted to be more integrated with our give back and so now we've actually changed our business model and we've launched our THINX Foundation in November of this past year. And we now have our very first initiative under our foundation, we spent the last six months working on it, which is our THINX Global Girls Clubs. And what we've realized is that over the last...

31:09 MA: As girls hit puberty in the developing world, the biggest thing is safety. There's nowhere to relieve themselves, they're walking long distances to school, they're getting raped. All these things are happening and so we're developing these safe spaces for girls to learn about their bodies, get menstrual products at a subsidized cost, learn about self-defense, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. And these are very, very real topics that girls just need to know at a young age. And if they do know those things, they can get themselves out of their current situation. At the end of the six-month curriculum, we are giving these girls cold, hard cash to start businesses, and I'm so excited. We're launching our first program in Sri Lanka, India, and then Nepal. Just thrilled to be able to feel true impact, true integrated impact with our give back, and that's been my dream since the beginning.

32:00 MA: And I remember the first time it ever imprinted, I remember, that we were onto something really, for real, was when I was walking down the street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and I ran into my friend, Sham, who's Indian and his two younger cousins from India were with him. And they're trendy, like 20, one was probably 18, probably one was like 21 or something. And they're both super-trendy Indian girls from India, with thick Indian accents. You know, I'm half-Indian. And Sham was like, "Oh, Miki! Tell my cousins what you do." And I was like, "Oh, I have this period-proof underwear company called THINX." And they were like, "Wait a minute, wait a minute." And I was like, "What, what?" They literally both pull out their phones and they both pull out their WhatsApp chains with their girlfriends, each separate chains with each of their girlfriends, and they were both talking about THINX. And it was one of those moments where it's just like, I will never forget, 'cause I was like, "Oh my God, it's a thing." I'm emotional because it really was... I'm reliving it right now. It was that moment where I was just like... I literally fought back tears because it was a thing.

33:23 KW: It is something to be emotional about. You spent three plus years, pounding the pavement, making calls, getting rejection, fighting for something that you believed in, and that was this defining... In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which was where your ad campaign launched. I live in Williamsburg, so I saw the campaign everyday, twice a day, and people were saying no, and that's improper, and that's wrong, and that's disgusting, and you can't do that. And to have two girls, who are like, "Oh, hell yes!"

33:54 MA: From the other side of the world.

33:54 KW: Yes. We are telling our friends. And that's what it's about. Really, you're doing this for the consumer.

34:01 MA: Yeah, yeah.

34:02 KW: You're not doing this for the MTA and you're not doing this for anybody but that end user who is...

34:08 MA: Yeah, it was such a defining moment from an entrepreneur's perspective because you're just like, I built restaurants and when you meet people who are like, "Oh my God! Wow, that's my favorite restaurant." You're like, "Wow, that's so great." You know what I mean? And it's very local but when there was true international impact, it was just like okay. And these girls were Indian, which Indian people don't talk about their periods. And when they pulled out their phone with such pride and joy that they were talking to their girlfriends about their period and about THINX, it was really a moment of like, "Wow, we really are changing the conversation globally." And that was remarkable.

34:45 KW: Well, thank you.

34:47 MA: Yeah.


{{playbook.title}}

Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook: