A first generation Indian-Japanese Canadian, Miki Agrawal moved to the United States when she enrolled in Cornell University. Being the child of immigrants, Agrawal was instilled with a strong level work ethic at a very young age. Growing up, Agrawal was kept so busy going to school seven days a week that she didn’t have time to get into any trouble. Agrawal’s “aha moment” happened on one of the most tragic days in history. The first and only time Agrawal slept through her alarm clock was on September 11, 2001, her second week on the job at a prestigious investment banking firm across from the World Trade Center.
After realizing how lucky she was to be alive, Agrawal decided to make the most of her time on earth and began crossing off all the things on her bucket list (like playing soccer professionally, making movies, and starting a business). Soon Agrawal teamed up with her twin sister Radha to create Thinx, period-friendly underwear that never leaks, never stains, and absorbs two tampons worth of blood. For every pair of underwear sold, Thinx funds a pack of reusable menstrual pads to girls in the developing world.
When Agrawal decided to put ads for her brand on New York City subways, the MTA refused to run the advertisement, Agrawal went to the press. “You can’t predict virility,” she says, but the MTA scandal went viral. She spent the next four days speaking to over 40 publications, and the entire situation put Thinx on the map. Now, she’s working on her second book and two new projects, both with their own respective missions to help women in the developing world.
“Wherever you go, wherever you work, even if it’s not exactly what you want to be doing, master a skill while you’re there.”
- Miki Agrawal
One thing is for sure, whatever Agrawal does, she does it with passion. And she has done a lot and proven to have an impressive track record in the disruptive path.
One day, while at her producing job, Agrawal found herself coming home with stomach aches. After some researching, she realized that all the processed food she was eating throughout the day, thanks to catered meals and her busy lifestyle, were causing her to get sick. This led to a natural progression to the third item on her bucket list: to finally see through her vision of starting a business.
"It takes ten years to be an overnight success"
With an initial idea to create a healthier version of America’s favorite comfort food: pizza, Agrawal began the start-up process.
Despite the fact that restaurants in New York have a huge failure rate, Agrawal understood that in order for there to be progress, she had to give herself time. “You take a positive action toward your business – even if it’s just 30 minutes – every day,” she says, adding that she treated starting a business no differently than how she treated training for a sport. "There’s no way around it. If you sacrifice your social life, so be it. It’s four months – whatever. It’s not a big deal.”
She kept working her producing job for a third of each month, while the other two thirds were spent working on her restaurant idea, Wild. She funded the enterprise through what she refers to as an “MB experience," short for a mutually beneficial experience. She hosted dinner fundraisers at beautiful apartments she would sublet for the weekend, where she would feature food made by her chef friends. In its 11th year, Agrawal says that the concept is only just now hitting its stride. "It takes ten years to be an overnight success,” she says. Clearly, being wildly successful looks easier than it is.Agrawal has a unique ability to turn her personal problems into brilliant business ventures that provide solutions for virtually everyone. That’s how Wild became Wild and how her next venture, Thinx, became Thinx.
At her family's 15-annual family barbecue, Agrapalooza, Agrawal and her twin sister were defending their 3-legged race champion title when one of them suddenly got her period in the middle of the event. That’s when they thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if there were underwear that never leaked, never stained, and absorbed blood? It also occurred to them that this idea should have already happened. “When a 9-year-old has more access to information on her phone than the President [of the United States] did less than ten years ago, how are women still dealing, managing, and coping with leaking and staining and feminine hygiene products that don’t work?" she asks.
Scarlett Etienne For Thinx Underwear
Thus, Thinx was born, and it became the first of a succession of businesses under the category of “conscious capitalism.” Essentially, conscious capitalists solve first world problems and use the money from those ventures to solve third world problems. “It’s really about elevating humanity while creating a business," she says.
During her launch process, Agrawal discovered that “feminine hygiene is a root cause of cyclical poverty in the developing world.” Hundreds of millions of girls stay home home school during their “week of shame,” some even dropping out for feminine hygiene-related issues. She took it upon herself to help these communities that have access to nothing.
Agrawal says it was the lessons she learned as a young adult that made her want to give back. ”My dad came to this country with $5 in his pocket from India; my mom came with 0 friends from Japan. And one generation put three children through Ivy League schools and built the American Dream for us," she says. "It’s on us now to take that to magnify that and amplify that and do as much good on the planet as we can because our parents made that sacrifice for us.”
From a simple internet search, she found a potential partnership organization in Uganda. It was called AFRIpads, and the company made washable, reusable cloth menstrual pads at an affordable price. The Agrawal twins spent the following three-and-a-half years working on the technology by cold-calling various textile technology companies, to make underwear leak and stain resistant. Once they had their ideal product, they started their Kickstarter campaign. In keeping with her philanthropic mission, for every pair of underwear sold, Thinx funds a pack of reusable menstrual pads to girls in the developing world. After a few rounds of fundraising, they had raised approximately $130K. The sisters started by fulfilling everything themselves, and they were eventually able to close a Series A round with manufacturing partners once they got all their “ducks in a row.” At this point, they also brought in an executive team to clean up and manage the operations and finances.
Under the Thinx umbrella, there are two other projects: Icon and Tushy, and both are equally disruptive. Icon, which is essentially urine-proof underwear, helps fund fistula operations for those who can't afford it through the purchase price. Tushy, on the other hand, turns every toilet into a bidet for under 100 dollars. Tushy is collaborating with charity:water “to help people defecate with dignity.” The common thread in all these businesses, Agrawal laughs, is that she has no idea what she’s doing in any one of them. And yet, she wrote a business and lifestyle book called Do Cool Sh*t that teaches anyone how to go from Step 0 to Step 1 in business and life. "At the end of each chapter, there are tangible, granular takeaways to go from Step 0 to Step 1″. Seems like she knows what she's doing after all.
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!