A lesson in business success from the creators of Thinx, Tushy, and Daybreaker

What qualities bring success? Miki and Radha Agrawal share the story of how one decision changed their lives.

Radha: Often people will write me an email, like a young person will write me an email like, “Hey, can we get together for coffee?”

And then I won’t respond just to see if they’ll write me again.

Because there’s something in that! Like I would write my mentors probably 20 times until I got a response.

Miki Agrawal: I showed up, like a stalker.

Radha Agrawal: Yeah. We find out like— this one guy I wanted to get in touch with, I called his landline like 20 times, he wouldn’t pick up, and then I found out where he was speaking in New York City and then I went there, and I was just, like afterwards I was like, “Hey what’s up?” And he became the head researcher of one of my big projects!

And so I think the resilience and never giving up, persistence is something that sports has taught us, and I think that we can all be so sort of timid at times to continue reaching out again.

Like my best friend Max, when I first started hanging out with him he was 22 at the time and I was 32 – he’s our best friend. Okay. Sorry. Our best friend Max, he was 22 and we were 32, and we met him on a vacation and when he came back to New York he would just text me all the time he would say “Hey want to hang out?” And I was like, “No I don’t want to hang out with a 22 year old kid, no thanks.”

But then he just kept texting me over and over again and be like, “Hey I’m in the neighborhood!”

Miki Agrawal: And just kept showing up— first person at the party, last person to leave.

Radha Agrawal: Yeah. And he would show up all the time. And then finally he came to one of our parties and we realized how smart and thoughtful and interesting he was, and he’s now our best friend. So I think that perseverance is something that we aren’t often taught and it just—keep going up.
And especially as women we’re so empathetic that in some ways our empathy becomes our fuel for fear.

Empathy becomes fuel for fear because when we care so much about what someone else thinks it stops us from actually wanting to step on anyone’s toes. “I don’t want to bother them again.” And if you just take on that attitude you’re never going to get to where you want to go.

Miki Agrawal: And the worst that happens is rejection.

Radha Agrawal: Yeah. Exactly. And so I think because, again, we had each other, this is why I wrote a book called Belong. It’s all about finding your tribe and create community. When you have a tribe that supports you and that really makes you feel safe and gives you wings, you don’t feel weird reaching out to people because you already have friends! You’re like, “Yeah I called this guy and he didn’t respond, what are you going to do?” And then Miki would be like “Call him again!” or “Call her again!”

And so you have friends and community members who are there to build you up when you’re sort of down. So I think step one in anything that you do in life, like no matter what it is whether it’s a business, whether it’s just anything sort of related to something that’s difficult, is to start first with finding your tribe, finding your community, building your people. Because when you feel a sense of belonging, when you feel that sense of “oh my God I’m safe I’m here,” that’s how Daybreaker became a thing, that’s how it grew into a half-a-million-person movement around the world that it is today in 23 cities. Because first I spent five years building my tribe really developing and deepening my tribe, my community, who then when I launched our very first Daybreaker that December 10th first snowfall in New York City in 2013, everybody could have slept in, they could’ve been like “No I’m not going to that thing,” but everyone showed up. We had 200 people who showed up to our very first event because they were my friends and they cared about me, and I had nurtured those relationships.

And so that’s the first baseline layer to anything that we do in life, is first put down your computer and go meet your friend for that drink, go meet your friend for that dinner, because you just can’t even imagine how in the moments that you meet them how much they’ll be there for you.

And particularly, representing a business, it is so deeply critical too to the have those friends they can be like “Oh I went to this investor and they said no to me.” Instead of taking you into a downward spiral your friends lift you back up again, so I can’t even say that enough, it’s the most important thing that we can do, is to find your tribe and feel a sense of belonging.

Miki Agrawal: At the time and nobody wanted to talk about periods, not a single press wanted to talk about it. “America is not ready to talk about this Miki,” that was what I got every single day in 2013/’14, et cetera, and it was really, really, really hard.

And so in 2015 we scaled the business enough digitally that we wanted to launch our first out of home campaign, our first subway advertisements.

And we were so excited: my team spent two weeks sleeping under their desks designing these incredible campaigns, and we ran up against an issue, which was the New York City public transit system officials basically said that they could not publish our ads in the subway because of the word “period.”

And they said people in the subway will be offended by it, “it’s offensive to riders.” And we were like, “Interesting… you said that. And Oh No You Didn’t!”

And it was a powerful moment, that in the rest of the world periods are so taboo, in Nepal women are still sleeping outside because if they sleep inside their homes on their periods then “snakes will come eat their dads,” literally, or the husbands. That’s literally still happening.

And so the fact that in the most progressive city in the world, New York City, we could not put the word “period” in the subways, was really like “wow,” it really brought this sort of…

Radha Agrawal: Why like grapefruits could be put on your breasts, like there’s so many other sort of breast augmentation ads, so many other sort of very sexual ads that could be on subways, but not periods.

Miki Agrawal: Yeah. It was really crazy. So there was such a double standard even used grapefruits to represent augmented breasts but you couldn’t use it to represent a woman’s “part” that every single human is here because of, that important time of the month—not man, not one man, not one woman could be here without that important nutrients to feed the baby as we’re in utero.

So the fact that it’s considered taboo is crazy, and so we decided instead of just slinking away and put away this idea of doing New York City subway campaign, we were like “Fuck it we’re going to go fight it.” And we put out - we basically sent an email out to all press, which when we threatened the New York City public transit system we were like “we’re going to go to press,” and they were like, “Go ahead.”

And we were like “You called my bluff; I don’t know any press. Shit.”
And so I like found two contacts in press that knew…

Radha Agrawal: I’ll never forget this, Miki and I were DJing that night, do you remember that? We were DJing a party that night some non-profit party, whatever, and Miki was like, “Oh my god they wrote me back!” I’m like, “What do you mean?”

She’s was like, “I put subject line: SCANDAL. NEW YORK CITY SCANDAL! and sent it to all this press and media,” and one of them wrote her back.

And I remember she was like on her phone we’re like in the middle of a DJ set and she’s like, “Oh holy shit someone wrote us back.”

Miki Agrawal: And it was so funny because Forbes and Mic.com both wanted the exclusive. At the time I was like, “You both can have the exclusive!”

And they were like, “That’s not how it works.”

And I was like, what do you mean?! Like, no one is paying me money, so what are you talking, “exclusive”?

I didn’t even know, like I thought exclusive meant they were paying money. So I got actually in trouble because I gave them both the exclusive and eventually Forbes backed down and Mic.com took the story, and it went viral—internationally.

And I will never ever forget the moment where it, like the way I think about it is when you’re in the subways like you see those people like singing music and playing the guitar and like people are throwing like change at them, I felt like we were singing our hearts out trying to build, you know, create this product and I’ll never forget when I was like walking down Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg after this story went viral, and I was walking down the street and I ran into this Indian guy named Shawn and his two like super trendy, cool, like, Indian nieces from India like they’re both like—just fabulous.

And Shawn was like, “Oh Miki tell my nieces what you’re working on.”

And I was like, “It’s this period proof underwear company called Thinx.”

And both of these women were like, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.” And I was like, “What? What?”

They both pulled out of their phones and literally they were both on separate WhatsApp text threads with all of their girlfriends and they were all talking about Thinx.

And I remember that moment I was just like I just remember like imprinting that moment, and just like—I like teared up and they’re like “What’s going—?” and I was just like “Wow that’s great. Of course. Thanks.”

No I didn’t say that I would just, like, “Wow you know it?”

Like in my head I was trying to be cool but actually what came out was not.

Anyway, I was just so incredulous, and I like will never forget that moment.

It was like I felt like someone heard my song and they were singing it and like they were singing along, and you’re just like – And then from that moment we just took off.

What qualities bring success? Miki and Radha Agrawal share the story of how one decision changed their lives. By pursuing what they felt was right, they found viral fame and business opportunities. They also realized that to achieve your dreams, it does not only takes perseverance but finding your tribe and creating a community.

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