Miki Agrawal On Solving Problems Through Products

Alex Lieberman’s Imposters podcast welcomes entrepreneurs and taste-makers from all industries to talk about their motivations, business ventures, and lessons learned along the way. Hosted by Lieberman of Morning Brew, Imposters highlights the often-difficult issues that entrepreneurs face on their respective journeys.

Recently, entrepreneur Miki Agrawal sat down with Lieberman for some shop talk. The duo chatted about Agrawal’s three-pronged thesis, her creative marketing strategies, and more. Known as a serial disrupt-her, Miki Agrawal is the founder and CEO of several companies, including Wild, Thinx, and Tushy. Additionally, Agrawal is also the best-selling author of books like “Do Cool Sh*t” and “Disrupt-Her”.

Below, check out parts of their conversation:

Alex Lieberman: Miki had to double down on promoting her products, simply because they were addressing topics that society wasn’t ready to talk about yet. They were considered shameful. But because of this shame, they were also newsworthy. And the bottom line is, Miki’s products were helping people. And we’d be remissed not to mention Tushy’s recent Super Bowl contest, which certainly made waves on the internet. In it, Tushy asked participants to send in photos of their actual post Super Bowl poops for chance to win $10,000. It certainly made a Splash, no pun intended. But while Miki’s marketing tactics might seem like gimmicky ways to get attention, the truth is, Miki is genuinely passionate about her businesses.

Miki Agrawal On Asking The Right Questions

Miki Agrawal: Honestly, for me, it’s just solving a problem in my life. Like, honestly, like, every single one of them is truly answering what sucks in my world. Does it suck for a lot of people? Can I be passionate about this? Can I be passionate about food and food issues and feeding my own sensitive belly for the rest of my life? Can I be about women’s issues and liberating the shame, the oldest shame in the world. So, can I be passionate about releasing that shame through innovation and through inventing a product? Absolutely.

For the rest of, as long as it needs to be. Could I for the rest of my life, like help save 15 million trees when they flush down the toilet? Elevate the experience of humans instead of literally smearing shit around and sitting on fecal matter your whole life. Like every single time you go to the bathroom. And for women that fecal matters creeps up into your vaginal canal creates chronic UTIs, bacterial vaginosis. Like and for men it creates like all kinds of itchy butt, like itchy butt is a real thing that people go to the doctors for.

Like I mean you have hair back there. There’s like dingle berries. I mean so it’s a real thing. So anyways it was just truly to solve my own problem. And I knew that this is a problem. Because it’s a problem for everyone. And it’s like, okay so these are shitty taboo problems that no one has solved for over 100 years truly both periods and poop in these taboo spaces. So actually, it’s smart to look at these spaces that haven’t had innovation over 100 years. Because anything you put out that’s better is going to be like thank you ed over time, because the next best thing is toilet paper or pads.

Miki Agrawal: And it’s like so I think anyone’s interested in starting a business to look at categories that actually aren’t very popular, aren’t very sexy. Which is why now you’re seeing like the first suitcase company went to unicorn. The first like laundromat company just got bought by private equity fund for 9 figures. Like basic shit like shavers, like deodorant. Like whatever company that’s been basic. People are like whoa, I can make this cool and make this disruptive in this own kind of way. For me, it’s more than just making a product and like making money. For me, I love the creative challenge of really challenging societal stigma.

Like I think that keeps me going creatively. I think it’s cool to see suitcases and all these things like that’s cool. But like that wouldn’t keep me excited for a long time. I think what keeps me excited is fighting the shame, is making people uncomfortable and asking themselves why.

Miki Agrawal On Ambition and Shame

Alex Lieberman: It is remarkable to see how Miki’s ambition driven by her own fear of shame has led her to boldly fight shame in broader society. And though she experienced constant push back along the way, no one can argue that Miki Agrawal has succeeded. Thinx’s valuation topped a $165 million in its last funding round and as of February 2022, personal care products giant Kimberly Clark had acquired a majority stake in the company. Tushy, meanwhile, continues to grow with multiple single day sales of over a million dollars and an expanding product line. I think the biggest take ways from Miki Agrawal’s story are these:

One, know when to let go of your raft. Those long held beliefs that might have helped you in the past but are no longer serving you. Instead, find your zone of genius and figure out a way to orient your team or your business around that. Two, if you’re struggling to get your message across, meet people where they are. Don’t force your idea down their throats if they’re not ready to receive it. Instead, figure out where people are most comfortable at that moment and use that to find a different way into their hearts and three, pursue an idea that you can be passionate about for a very long time. This will provide you with the motivation to keep going. Don’t pursue something that you think is a good idea but that you might tire of. Do something that you truly believe in. As Miki would say, ‘Do cool shit.’

Alex Lieberman: And now, before we go, it’s time for some reflection of my own. Entrepreneur Miki Agrawal mentioned several times during our conversation that she works with a coach to help her with certain personal and professional challenges. So, I thought I’d share my experience with my own executive coach, which I first talked about on my other podcast, Founders Journal back in March of 2021. If you want to hear a more detailed breakdown of that first session with my coach Ryan, you can check out the episode called Meeting My Coach in the Founders Journal Feed.

Some people call it executive coaching, others like Miki simply call it coaching which is actually what I call it as well. But what I think is important to call out is that many people assume that professional coaching is only reserved for top-level executives. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe that coaching is something that every professional should have access to and should seriously consider trying out at some point in the near future. What stood out to me in my first coaching session with Ryan is that, he was an extremely active listener. Rather than jumping in with his own thoughts while I was talking, he sometimes takes painfully long pauses before responding to me, because he was taking in everything I had just said.

Ryan talked with me for over an hour about several topics including my codependency. That is my people-pleasing nature that sometimes causes me to go along with things I might not agree with or don’t want to do. Simply because I don’t want to let another person down. He also helped me clarify what actual productivity looks like as a founder and CEO. While I was to productivity being about doing, doing, doing. What Ryan helped me realize is that, often in leadership positions, productivity looks more like asking questions, reading, listening, and making decisions. Ryan also helped me work through how to be open minded as a professional while also maintaining the strong opinions that helped me get to where I am today as well as think about how to really spend my time most effectively.

All in all, during this 80-minute first session that Ryan and I had, we got into some of the biggest questions, concerns, and insecurities that I have around my career, which obviously bleeds into my personal life as well. Now, it wasn’t all answers, but to me, it set an amazing foundation for exploring some of the things that will ultimately, when I do find the answers, make me most fulfilled and most successful in my career and life in general and clearly having a resource like this has helped Miki a ton professionally as well. I’ve said it in the past and I’m going to keep saying it. Coaching can benefit literally every professional. Whether it comes in the form of a literal coach or just a person that you trust and who’s a great listener. I hope that if you do seek it out, you’ll find some value in it as well.

Head over to Miki Agrawal’s Medium site for more stories from the avid entrepreneur.

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