Trueheart podcast, hosted by Scott and Amy Malin, recently invited Miki Agrawal to share the story of her journey as a social entrepreneur who has built multiple successful businesses.
Miki Agrawal uses creativity and disruptive innovation to challenge the status quo and change culture. She is the founder of several acclaimed enterprises – TUSHY, THINX, and WILD, which are collectively valued at more than $200 million, and has authored two number-one, best-selling books DO COOL SHI*T and DISRUPT-HER.
Each of Miki Agrawal’s enterprises is a bit unconventional but intentionally unique. TUSHY provides a variety of bidet attachments “for people who poop”; THINX is a sustainable underwear company geared toward helping women during their menstrual periods; and WILD is a gluten-free, farm-to-table pizzeria previously called Slice.
Given today’s environment, where disruption can be difficult to achieve, how is Miki Agrawal capable of making such waves? In the interview, she reveals the mindset she adopts when approaching a new idea and discusses some of the critical issues facing today’s society that have motivated her to become a disrupt-her.
Nearly one million businesses are started annually worldwide, but only a few have gained the same level of success as Agrawal’s. This should come as no surprise – through her years as a working professional, she has identified key questions to ask herself when determining if an idea is worth pursuing. Each question sheds new light on the future of her success and can be used by other entrepreneurs to guide their decision-making process.
The best idea is usually one that offers a solution to a problem in life. If someone is battling something daily, they should look deeper and search for an idea that can both solve the problem and evolve into a solid business opportunity. For entrepreneur Miki Agrawal, each of her businesses offers a solution to a personal problem that she regularly encountered at the time of its development.
She candidly reveals the problematic issues that led to the pursuit of constructive solutions: “… having a stomachache sucked in my world, which is why I started my gluten-free, farm-to-table pizza restaurant … constantly having period accidents … which is such a messy experience … sucked in my world … going to the bathroom and using dry toilet paper … while I was dealing with … a [gastrointestinal] issue … and a thyroid issue [sucked in my world].”
Each of Agrawal’s companies was developed as a solution to a challenge in her life. Instead of just learning how to live with these issues, she created businesses that provided relief. Her first venture, a gluten-free pizzeria (WILD), was far ahead of the curve – this trendy lifestyle choice is everywhere today. Likewise, THINX was an innovative concept that challenged the norms of how women should “deal” with their period by offering a sustainable alternative to traditional feminine hygiene products, and the third venture (TUSHY) was created to provide relief from a medical condition that causes ongoing discomfort in the bathroom.
Miki Agrawal’s ability to explore creative and unusual ideas that are not limited or controlled by rules and tradition sets her apart from the competition. While conversations sparked by her innovative ideas may not always be comfortable, the fact is that she is making life easier for millions of people who have been living silently in distress or embarrassment.
Agrawal realized early on that if something is a problem for her, chances are that it is a problem for others. The next step in her process is to conduct research to determine if the idea is worth pursuing. This basic concept has driven all of Miki Agrawal’s business decisions and has led to great success.
Referring to THINX, she discloses, “… in the period industry … if you’re to ask every single woman, ‘Have you ever experienced a period accident in your life?’ … [she] would raise [her] hand. So, it sucks for every woman on [her] period … it’s a messy experience.” When discussing TUSHY, Agrawal notes, “… going to the bathroom and using dry toilet paper – [is unpleasant]. It causes chronic UTIs [urinary tract infections], hemorrhoids, anal fissures … anal itching [in] tens and tens and tens of millions [of people] per year, not to mention … bacterial vaginosis … [For] people who have disabilities or people [who] are aging or just anybody who wants to be clean … it’s just not a proper clean. It’s just dirty.”
Speaking on behalf of millions who experience similar issues, Miki Agrawal tells it like it is. Her candor is refreshing in a world that prefers to change the subject when the topics of menstrual cycles, irritable bowel syndrome, and other biological processes arise in everyday conversation. The willingness to broach these uncomfortable issues has made Agrawal the success she is today.
The third question Agrawal poses to herself when considering an idea is, “Can I be passionate about this issue, cause, or community for a really long time? If you’re starting something that you’re not passionate about, you just won’t … you’ll just piddle off.” In other words, an idea can only be successful if the person behind it is motivated to act.
Coming up with an innovative idea in today’s world – where nearly every concept has been repeated and rebranded in hopes of becoming the next big thing – can feel impossible. Therefore, Miki Agrawal stresses the importance of feeling passionate about a topic before pursuing it as a business venture. Too many people feel like they can find their cause by rebranding an apparel or promotional company. However, rarely do these businesses find organic growth. The lack of passion and drive behind the brand often extends to consumers, who tend to turn to companies that pull at their heartstrings and connect with them on a deeper level. A business that is unable to do this will not succeed.
Agrawal concludes, “For me, ‘Can I be passionate about food my whole life? Can I be passionate about women’s issues and … breaking the period taboo – this shameful thing that people [feel is] the most important time of the month that creates human life?’ And then, ‘Can I be passionate about saving 15 million trees every single year from getting flushed down the toilet? Can I be passionate about … hygiene for humans … an elevated human experience?’ [The answer is] yes. ‘Can I be passionate about the global sanitation crisis that’s affecting three billion people on the planet?’ Yes [I can], for the rest of my life.”
According to TUSHY’s Miki Agrawal, one must be able to sustain passion for an idea for at least ten years because that is how long it takes for a company to truly become an “overnight” success. She notes, “I always ask myself, ‘Can I sit in the discomfort of the entrepreneurial journey in this category for 10 years?’ And if my answer is no, then I don’t do it because that’s usually how long it takes.”
Miki Agrawal cautions those who think they can develop the next Instagram and sell it in two years, making billions of dollars. “… it’s like winning the lottery,” she says, “… that’s your heart, you know, your true heart is not in the right place. It’s totally in the place of … external validation, extrinsic validation, and it’s … not going to interest you for a really long time.”
Follow What Is Intrinsically Motivating
Those who have a passion for doing something great but are uncertain about what to do should follow what intrinsically motivates them. Miki Agrawal expands on this idea in her interview with Trueheart:
“I think we’re so motivated by stuff … by shiny [objects] … and by looking good on the internet (or wherever) that we forget about checking in with ourselves. … I think if we did actually check in with [ourselves by asking] ‘What am I passionate about?’ … then it [would] probably change our idea of what business [we should] start or build or grow or continue … pushing down the path. Which is why … asking the question ‘Can I be passionate about this … about food, about women’s issues, and about … saving the planet and the global sanitation crisis and upgrading … [an unpleasant] human … habit into a 21st-century water experience’ … [leads me to say] yes, yes, and yes …”
Miki Agrawal understands the importance of intrinsic motivation for entrepreneurs. The most successful entrepreneurs are often not the most talented, but those with an entrepreneurial obsession who see an opportunity and pursue it with profound existence. They have conviction and believe in their ideas so much that they will them into existence. It is not a question of whether they want to do it – they have to do it.
About Miki Agrawal
Miki Agrawal is a social entrepreneur, best-selling author, and disrupter of the status quo, known for breaking cultural taboos. She is the co-founder of THINX, a high-tech, period-proof underwear brand; TUSHY, a company specializing in modern, affordable, designer bidet attachments; and WILD, an alternative farm-to-table pizza concept with two locations in New York City, one in Guatemala, and others on the way.
Miki Agrawal was named one of 2018’s “Most Creative People” by Fast Company; a 2017 “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum; “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by the World Technology Summit; and one of INC magazine’s “Most Impressive Women Entrepreneurs of 2016.”
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