Periods, Ideas and Innovation With Miki Agrawal, Founder of THINX

Written by AmyAnn Cadwell, Editor-In-Chief at The Good Trade

I was initially skeptical of the “period panties” brand that was breaking the internet with its taboo-shattering ads. But I had a chance to hear THINX founder, Miki Agrawal, share her vision for the company at a conference in LA a few weeks ago. I immediately ordered a pair for myself and I’ve been converted. I can’t get enough of this brand or their products. 

THINX messaging is liberating, their is technology a game-changer (named one of Time’s Best Inventions of 2015), and their give-back mission is changing the lives of girls around the world.

Last week Miki and I had a chance to catch up and I was able to hear more about her inspiration for THINX and what she’s up to next with her two new brands, Icon and Tushy. This woman totally mesmerized me with her vision to disrupt industries, shatter taboos and transform lives around the world. 

AC: THINX is making “that time of month” more bearable for women everywhere, but your mission is also to breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation. What came first? Did you just wake up wanting to shatter taboos or make this part of life more comfortable for half the population?

MA: As women, our periods are still interrupting our days. We have learned to stay silent and to cope, but it is absolutely crazy that in this day of innovation, the industry has not evolved in over 50 years. With THINX, we did not want to just create a product that works for women, we also wanted to break the taboo that has caused the stunting of the industry.

AC: You received a lot of controversy early on about your subway ads in New York. Why do you think you received such pushback?

MA: The word ‘taboo’ comes from the Polynesian word tapua, which literally means ‘menstration,’ inferring that most uncomfortable thing could you talk about is a woman’s period. This has caused the stunting of an entire industry and more than that, it is disrupting lives around the world. Over 100 million girls in the developing world fall behind in school because of their periods, forcing many of them to eventually drop out. When we began to examine the gender inequality issues girls face because of their periods, we wanted to double down on these issues.

AC: How is THINX working to alleviate gender inequalities in the developing world through your give back model? 

MA: Rather than giving out menstrual supplies for free through a welfare model that could cause dependence on aid or cannibalize local economies, we invest in for-profit companies in the developing world that train women to make and sell washable pads. This allows women to purchase menstrual products at subsidized prices and stay in school during their periods. For each pair of THINX underwear sold, a portion of proceeds is invested in these social enterprises. We've helped one organization scale from 25 employees to 165 and we are constantly looking for ways to innovate to help empower women. We are planning to launch a THINX Global Girls Clubs where we teach girls about their bodies and their menstrual cycles, as well as safety skills and learning how to say no to men. We also want to teach entrepreneurship and partner with women to fund their ideas. 

AC: We have strong base of male readers at The Good Trade. I’m curious what you’d tell men about THINX?

At THINX, we want to invite men be a part of the conversation and to support women during their periods. The womb holds humanity and is worth of honor and respect. I would encourage men to serve women during their periods and make it as comfortable as possible for them.

AC: Tell me about Icon - your new underwear line for women.  

MA:  Nearly 1 in 3 women experience light bladder leakage. Like menstruation, this area has seen little to no innovation for decades. And there seems to be a lot of embarrassment and taboo around this issue as well; it takes an average of 6 to 7 years before a woman even admits to her doctor that she is experiencing incontinence. Women are having to quietly deal with this, feeling un-womanly, un-sexy and out of control.

Icon’s bikini and hi-waisted underwear can hold up to 15 ml of liquid. Like THINX, Icon underwear is absorbent, leak-resistant, fast drying, and makes women feel sexy again.  For every pair of Icon sold, we are funding fistula surgeries in the developing world. Fistulas affect one million mothers in the developing world who too often give birth without access to medical care, leaving them severely incontinent unless they receive a life-changing procedure.

AC: So… wipe or wash? Tell me about Tushy. :)

MA: America’s toilet culture has gone basically unchanged since 1980. It’s no wonder women constantly suffer from urinary tract infections and yeast infections. Wiping our butts with paper isn’t exactly the most sanitary thing. Beyond the sanitary concerns, a single roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water to create. The average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day, that’s the equivalent of Central Park being cut down every single day.   

Tushy is a bidet attachment that clips on and requires no plumbing, and any idiot can install it. It is the most game changing thing you can do to have a simple, gentle spray of water clean up after you. Like THINX and Icon, we want to use Tushy to affect people’s lives for the better in the developing world where over a billion people practice open defecation. Tushy partners with Samagra House to bring latrines to communities without that need them, employ people in the community to clean and manage the latrines and educate people on their importance.