Miki Agrawal created Thinx in order to help women live a normal life during the “week of shame”. With the help of bold grapefruit campaigns she has built an image of taboo-busting brand, standing up for women’s rights. Yet, her employees feel suppressed…

According to shethinx.com, a regular woman uses approximately 17,000 tampons and pads during her lifetime. For many of women this fact may seem curious – we don’t actually count hygienic stuff we’ve bought over time. However, for some women, living in African countries, India or Sri Lanka (in fact, the list is much longer) such amount of essential healthcare products is unattainable. Many girls there simply do not have access to menstrual supplies. Moreover, period there is often regarded as a “shame”. So the girls have to deal with their natural problems on their own. “No more!”, – Miki Agrawal, her sister Radha and friend Antonia said. And established “Thinx” company in 2011.

After Miki visited World Cup 2010, which took place in South Africa, she came up with an idea to create special period underwear. Well, how`s the football connected with menstruation? Anyhow. During her trip, Miki met a 12 year-old girl, who didn`t attend school because of her “week of shame”.

It turned out, that 100 million girls don`t have period supplies to maintain their daily routine: go to school or even appear on the streets. Consequently, this trip inspired her to produce magic period underwear to change the situation.


Breaking period taboo

THINX sells period-proof underwear: dry, secure and leak-resistant. Every day they break period taboo, improving many people`s lives. Menstruation still remains unpleasant and scary topic. For now it is impossible to liquidate that conservative attitude. Nevertheless, there are some innovations that can at least facilitate these days. Miki created Thinx in order to help women live a normal life during natural “bleeding” days, without any fear of spoiling clothes and embarrassment.

Miki Agrawal (the CEO of Thinx) succeeded to conduct successful PR campaign. It turned a small startup into well-known brand that is associated with feminism and feminine hygiene. She has built an image of taboo-busting brand, standing up for women’s rights. One of the most bold Thinx`s ad campaign took place in the New York City subway. Pink juicy grapefruit appeared on the stairs, inviting people to discover more information on hellothinx.com.

Agrawali takes part in events, held by women`s organizations and gives interviews on feminism and social entrepreneurship. She talks at shows, conferences and appear in various publications. Eventually, Miki became some kind of feminist-idol. And this status is truly deserved. For example, she supports Afripads – an Ugandan company that provides reusable pads for local women. Miki constantly gets nominated for various awards: Shero Award at Women’s Choice Awards,Tribeca Film Festival’s Disruptive Innovation Award,  Ad Age’s Creativity 50 and etc.

Apart from supporting female organizations in the developing world, Thinx has recently launched their own nonprofit organization -Thinx Foundation, which aim is to educate 12-18 year-old girls from India and Sri Lanka on women’s health. «What we wanted to do was create safe spaces for girls to learn about their bodies, get menstrual products at subsidized costs. Learn about self-defense, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy”, – says Agrawali.

Corporate culture: expectation…

Agrawali wanted to create safe space not only in Sri Lanka and India, but also in her own office. At the moment, her team consists of 35 employees.

According to Miki`s words, she encouraged her employees to get rid of formality and be open to all kinds of communication.  In one of her interviews, she said that she needs smiley faces, “exclamation points” and “love in voice”. “I need smiles when I see you and when you see me. I can’t operate in a way that feels like corporate America — that’s not who I am and I can’t have people around me that act that way.” Miki finds important to work with appreciative and optimistic people. She asks for honesty and courage to start talking about problems face-to-face.

… and reality

The point is all that Thinx`s feministic image played a bad trick on Miki, its CEO, towards her employees. Even her ideology in corporate culture didn`t help. The company, standing up for women`s right, formed high expectations about salary, medical insurance, parental leave standards and so on. These provoked a broad resonance. Аfterwards, the articles with captions like “Thinx Promised a Feminist Utopia to Everyone But Its Employees” started to appear.

Some of the employees believe that personal fame takes priority over teamwork. They say that Miki creates an impeccable public image, while in her office she behaves pretty mean.

Employees complain about low salary and parental leave policies. “How does that make any sense to work for a company that’s for women and we’re not even going to give women enough time to heal mentally and physically after they birth a child?”, – says one of them. Another employee, who`s salary is so low, that she can`t afford birth control, wonders: “And what does that mean if we’re at a feminist company and I can’t afford to keep myself safe and protected?”.

Such complaints became a matter of public record and now everyone wants to teach Agrawal how “to do” real feminism. Recently, Miki announced her intention to find a professional CEO for her company and hire HR to deal with the employees` issues.

The lesson here is that even a small company with important mission eventually faces organizational matters. To avoid problems, it`s better to hire HR and other specialists, who will be able to simplify working process and keep the image of CEO positive. Secondly, one need to be careful with message, he or she put into the company`s ideology as it can cause high expectations. Sometimes it gets hard to fit all of them.

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