Miki Agrawal is out to tackle the "3 P's: periods, pee and poop." She's co-founder of patented "period panties" brand Thinx; Icon reusable underwear for women with light bladder leakage; and Tushy, a $57 device that turns any toilet into a bidet to combat yeast infections and reduce the need for toilet paper. The innovative products are designed to eliminate or vastly curtail the environmentally harmful detritus of disposable feminine care, urinary incontinence products, even toilet paper.
Meanwhile, some might glibly sum up her burgeoning business as the Warby Parker of feminine hygiene, heavier on publicity than sales potential. For every Thinx purchase, the company funds Afripads, a partner organization in Uganda that helps turn local women into entrepreneurs by training them to create and sell reusable sanitary products. Girls are then able to purchase them at an affordable rate, helping them to stay in school every day of the month. Icon also donates to the Fistula Foundation to help women suffering from incontinence in lower-resource countries, and Tushy funds clean water efforts in the developing world. Her brand drew buzz when Outfront Media initially balked at her Thinx subway ads because they used the word "period" and halved grapefruits as anatomical metaphors. But all told, her company has inspired worried attention from competitors.
Ad Age: What was your biggest creative challenge of the past year, and how did you tackle it?
Miki Agrawal: You mean aside from making really hard decisions every day as a startup CEO, CMO, chief creative officer of Thinx? I would say easily the subway creative for the MTA was the most challenging. My creative team knows that my mantras are "is it fridge-worthy" and "is it a showstopper"? Would it end up on the small real estate on your fridge? And will it make you stop in your tracks or want to have a conversation about it? We knew that it was a challenge because we were bringing something taboo to the subway and knew that the MTA would challenge the ads, so we had to be very careful to remain within the guidelines but still have the elements that we wanted. I would say we achieved it.
Ad Age: What's your advice to anyone in a creative slump? How do you fight your creative demons?
Ms. Agrawal: You know when they say "write about what you know"? I would say the same about creativity. Don't force it, think about things that happen to you every day in subtle ways and listen to the subtleties. For example, the idea for our subway campaign was born from our creative team listening to me say, "I can feel my egg dropping" every month when I am ovulating, and that's when the idea for using an egg and grapefruit – food -- for the subway ads came from. Just active listening.
Ad Age: What's the best advice you got when it comes to nurturing your creativity?
Ms. Agrawal: Being creative can definitely come in waves, but the more creative things you do, the more your brain starts to loosen up to being creative. I would also add: Let your freak flag fly as often as possible and don't listen to society. The more uncomfortable you can make people, the better. That's why I personally love creating in the taboo categories, for me specifically, the three P's: period, pee, poop.