from the world's big
‘What sucks in my world?’ 3 questions to kickstart your business empire
Miki Agrawal—the entrepreneur behind Thinx, Tushy, and Wild—explains how to turn your #1 gripe into an industry-disrupting idea.
Miki Agrawal is a social entrepreneur who loves to use designed innovation to break taboos and change culture. She's passionate about sharing her knowledge and strategies, from idea to launch to growth to overcoming setbacks, in the most human way possible.
Miki is the co-founder / chief inventor-er of THINX: the period-proof underwear company that’s disrupting the $15 billion feminine-hygiene market. She also co-created a gorgeous pee-proof underwear called ICON to help women stay their MOST unapologetic selves. For every pair sold, money goes to the Fistula Foundation to provide care for women with obstetric fistula in developing countries.
Miki loves eating so she founded the acclaimed farm-to-table gluten-free pizza concept WILD. The restaurant rang in its 12-year anniversary in 2017 (ding)! She just opened her fourth location in Guatemala!
Miki's newest brand is TUSHY (hellotushy.com) which upgrades the American bathroom experience with a modern, best-in-class, affordable bidet attachment. Wiping with toilet paper after you poop is not only ineffective but helps cause health issues like UTIs, hemorrhoids, yeast infections, anal fissures, anal itching (from wet wipes too!), not to mention kills 15 million trees to make the toilet paper. Toilet paper was introduced to America in the 1800s and Miki and her team agrees that it's time to get our butts into the 21st century. Each purchase helps Samagra combat the global sanitation crisis affecting 40% of the world.
Miki Agrawal: So, when I think about what ideas that I want to pursue, I think about three questions. The first question that I ask myself is, “What sucks in my world?" Does this thing suck in my world so much that I want to do something about it?
Like, for example, having period accidents every month. Having to literally like—when I was going to the bathroom, prior to bringing Tushy into the world, I would have to go to the bathroom, take—the average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper per day; I was that person using probably more—I would take two wads of toilet paper, put them under the sink, so I would have two wet wads of toilet paper—because I wouldn't buy wet wipes, because they're are bad for the plumbing system and bad for the environment—so I’d get two wads of wet paper, then I would go to the bathroom and then I would take the first wet wad and I would like wipe. And then I would take dry paper and I would wipe. Then I’d take the second wet wad and I would wipe. Then I would get more dry paper and wipe, and I would do this whole thing to just make sure I’m clean down there. So what sucked in my world? Going through that process. What sucked in my world? Having stomach aches every time I ate pizza—regular, conventional pizza. You know, bleached flour, processed cheese, sugar-filled sauces, processed toppings. That was hurting me, but I loved pizza and I wanted to keep it in my life, but I couldn’t eat that kind of pizza. And so that sucked in my world.
The second question is, “Does it suck for a lot of people?” Because if it sucks for just you and you’re like a diva, then sorry, but that’s probably not a great business idea. But if it sucks for a lot of people, then: business opportunity.
One in five Americans eat gluten-free whether they’re gluten intolerant or not. Gluten does require a lot of energy for your body to break down. It’s not really great for your body to digest. And so to be able to eat gluten-free actually does keep you lighter. And so 20 percent of Americans eat gluten-free. That’s a pretty big market. Okay, we can start this business in this category.
In the bidet world or in the bathroom world wiping your butt with dry paper kind of sucks for a lot of people, specifically the 30 million combined cases of chronic UTIs, hemorrhoids, yeast infections, those who suffer from those, and just everyone that has to sit on fecal matter all day long, which is pretty much everyone. And so it sucks for everyone.
And the final question, which is the most important one, is: “Can I be passionate about this issue, cause or community for a really long time?” It takes ten years to be an overnight success. We often think like, “Oh my god, Dollar Shave Club sold in two years for a billion dollars. Oh, look at Instagram. It had ten people and sold for a billion dollars. I can do this.” Those are literally like winning the lottery. You have to feel like you can sit in that discomfort for ten years.
Can you sit in that, “Oh god, am I going to succeed or not? Am I going to like, just hand to mouth, figuring it out how to live during that period?” Can you do it for ten years? Can you be passionate about that issue for ten years?
So, for me, all of my businesses have a cause attached to it. For Tushy every bidet sold we’re helping fund clean latrine projects all over India. To date, we’ve helped over 12,000 families gain access to clean sanitation through our partnership with Samagra which is an organization that builds clean latrines all over India. Right now the global sanitation crisis is—over a billion people practice open defecation. The global sanitation crisis is one of the greatest killers of our time. I’m half Indian. My father came to this country with five dollars in his pocket from India, and that could have been my life. He came here, he meet my Japanese mother, they fell in love and in one generation built the American Dream for us. But for so many people they just don’t have that.
And so for me, what keeps me going is that not only am I changing culture in the first world by introducing a product that helps save the environment, helps save your health and hygiene, but also we’re helping fight the global sanitation crisis, which is helping—truly—people just gain basic access for human dignity. And so that really keeps me excited, and I think having that passion, that purpose and that thing, that you can be like, when you close your eyes and ask like, “Can I sit in this for ten years?” My answer is yes across the board. So I think if that is your answer too, then go for it.
So why I chose to be a social entrepreneur instead of a traditional entrepreneur—I mean, I think, first of all, the future of entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship. I don’t think you can start a business without it being a social—that has a cause attached to it, because if there are two products that are the same and one has a cause and one doesn’t, who will you support? Obviously, the one that has a cause attached to it.
And secondly, as an entrepreneur when you are like crawling up a hill in molasses trying to just make it and keep your head above like the death zone, which, by the way, between 60 and 95 percent of businesses close within their first or second year, it’s a really daunting thing to start and grow.
What keeps us motivated, that when you close your eyes you can say, for every product sold I’m helping support someone who really desperately need something like this, or desperately needs to have a solve for what their issue is, like the global sanitation crisis.
And so, for me, I think for any entrepreneur, social enterprise actually drives you further and keeps you going for ten years, instead of just kind of like try to create a tee-shirt company so you can sell as many as you can and then sell it to hopefully Target and make your millions which, you know, you can’t start a business like that, because first of all, it’s inauthentic. People will see right through it. People who start businesses for the exit, most of them will fail because there’s just no true passion behind it.
To really, really succeed you have to have such deep passion and drive to make it succeed. When you’re going thorough the worst of times and you close your eyes, you really have to remember like “Oh my god, I’ve helped so many people just gain access to sanitation.” That's going to keep me going. Most people can’t say that if they’re just trying to sell a tee-shirt company.
Why do you put up with things that an entrepreneur wouldn’t? For Miki Agrawal, her entrepreneurial empire started with one question: "What sucks in my world?" Since then, Agrawal has made a habit of disrupting industries—especially in the taboo space. Her farm-to-table gluten-free pizza concept Wild is in its 13th year, her period-proof underwear Thinx shook up the $15 billion feminine-hygiene market (and famously rocked the advertising world), and her latest company Tushy is bringing bidets back. Here, Agrawal explains the three-question test that helps her decide what ideas she wants to pursue, and she makes a case for social entrepreneurship over a pure profit model: she knows from experience that your motivations really matter when times get tough. Miki Agrawal's latest venture is revolutionizing the American toilet with Tushy.
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>