Change Agent

Change Agents 2016: Miki Agrawal, Thinx

Canadian Business: Change Agents 2016
Miki Agrawal
Miki Agrawal

Miki Agrawal

CEO, Thinx

Follow: @twinmiki
Follow: @SheTHINX

Why she matters: Building a business by breaking taboos

Miki Agrawal is in the middle of another conversation when she picks up her phone. After 20 seconds or so of animated, muffled chatter, she takes a breath, offers a confident “Hi!” and apologizes for the delay. “We’re hiring, like, eight people right now, so it’s definitely hectic as all hell,” says the New York–based entrepreneur. “But I am not complaining.”

Born and raised in Montreal, Agrawal dabbled in investment banking, TV production and restaurant ownership before finding her calling creating products you’d typically find in the more prosaic aisles of a drugstore. Today, she’s the driving force behind Thinx, an ultra-hip line of underwear designed for menstruating women. The brand made international headlines last year when the agency representing New York’s subway system refused to run its ads. (It later acquiesced.) Agrawal has also launched Icon, a brand of underwear meant to handle urinary incontinence, and Tushy, a “li’l bidet” that clips on to a standard toilet. “I deal in what I call the three Ps: periods, pee and poop,” she explains. “There’s very little innovation in these spaces, because people are so uncomfortable talking about them. What I’m most excited about is really, really breaking the taboos.”

Indeed, the marketing collateral surrounding Thinx, Icon and Tushy is aggressively—and, to those outside the demographic, a bit bafflingly—casual, addressing sensitive subjects like bloodstains and urinary leakage in the conversational manner a young urbanite might text a girlfriend about a great new restaurant. “It makes you feel familiar with the brand and the idea behind it, even if you’ve never heard of this type of product before,” Agrawal explains of her approach. “We’re not academic, clinical or medical. We’re approachable and relatable.”

Agrawal is so comfortable talking about bodily functions that it’d be tempting to dismiss her as a provocateur, someone who likes to make the suits sweat for the fun of it. And while there’s an element of that at play, even a short conversation with her reveals razor-sharp business acumen. (She can rattle off stats about toilet paper consumption, for instance, with a conviction that would make even the most hardened VC cower.) Get her talking about the philanthropic impact of her work—with every sale, each of her brands contributes to a related cause in the developing world—and it’s apparent there’s nothing at all flippant about her audacity. “I see our work,” she says, “as being a real opportunity to change the world as we’re innovating.”

More about the 2016 Change Agents