We've Gotta Have it
Shopping for Menopause Products Stinks!
Womaness offers a full line of solutions, from supplements to vibrators, we've been waiting for
The feminine care aisle of the pharmacy is not generally a place women enjoy, even when they have needs to be addressed. Dealing with “feminine” concerns in public is challenging enough without being faced with brands with cryptic names like Vagisil, KY or RePhresh and their quasi-clinical packaging. Womaness, a new range of feminine, skin care and wellness products for menopausal women, is hoping to change that.
Womaness was founded by Sally Mueller, chief executive officer, and Michelle Jacobs, chief operating officer, both experts in consumer product marketing, strategic development and distribution who became friends as their work paths crossed. Their goal with Womaness is to provide those 50 million-plus women who are going through menopause in the U.S. each year a one-stop-shopping resource for their age-specific feminine care, health and beauty needs. The range boasts 13 products, featuring everything from body moisturizing cream to wipes and a vibrator, and it launched March 1 at Womaness.com. The full collection hits Target.com on April 21 while four feminine care products are already sold in select Target stores.
The idea for Womaness emerged two years ago, after Mueller left a corporate job at Target where she had worked for 25 years. It was time for a little self-care, so she took advantage of her more relaxed consulting work schedule to make an appointment at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Women’s Health.
“After I left Target, I thought, ‘why not take advantage of going there?’ It’s a leading medical institution about an hour and a half from my home. I’m healthy, but it’s hard to get in and be a patient” Mueller explains.
Soon after her visit, the Center for Women’s Health called her back for an appointment. Probably, she thinks, because she answered a survey with questions about vaginal dryness and painful intercourse, among others. At her appointment, Mueller discussed these subjects with the doctor, who assured her that the symptoms she was experiencing were common, normal and linked to menopause. The doctor sent Mueller home with a list of helpful products to try.
“I was ignorantly going through menopause. I went home and told my husband about it and he said I needed to order everything!” Sally recalls. “But the [product] names were horrible, the packaging was horrible, it was all very medicinal.”
That’s when Mueller had an “aha!” moment. After decades of developing and launching consumer brands for companies including Clique Brands (which encompasses Joy Lab, Versed and Who What Wear) and Target, notably spearheading the retailer’s designer and Design for All platform, Mueller realized she had never looked at the menopause space. She saw a huge opportunity to cater to women 40-plus, because millions in this age group go through menopause at the same time and they enjoy high disposable income.
“I decided I was going to tackle it, not by addressing one symptom, but offering a total solution,” she says.
She next reached out to Jacobs, with whom she had worked on various product launches as a consultant after leaving Target, eager to try new challenges. Conveniently, Jacobs, considered a strategic development leader with expertise in areas such as branding, licensing, logistics and financial management, was also ready for a change. She’d worked for worldwide brands including Ralph Lauren and Lancome; developed licensing and retail businesses for Real Simple, Cooking Light and Instyle Magazines while at Time, Inc., and was in charge of the retail rollout for The Joy Mangano Brand at QVC/HSN.
“Sally and I…always talked about starting something together but we were always in another job,” recalls Jacobs who left HSN when Mangano retired. “I had started networking with other women who had huge careers and I kept hearing the same thing about “dissatisfaction” with their corporate life.”
Jacobs notes that many top executives reach a point where they figure that if they have to work hard, they’d prefer to do it for themselves. They have big jobs and don’t want bigger ones. This spurred her interest in joining Mueller.
“Women like us are marginally ignored, even in fashion we’re ignored. [We saw] a big opportunity to address the needs of the menopausal women [and] we felt we could get behind [it],” notes Mueller.
Womaness, developed with gynecologists, dermatologists and expert formulators, was conceived to address a wide swath of menopause symptoms from hot flashes to bladder leaks. There are seven skin care products for the face and body, and the beauty items are the first ever to contain Hyaclear-7, a new super-moisturizing formula using seven different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid. The line also includes wipes, external vaginal moisturizer, panty liners, and a pocket vibrator. There are two supplements as well. The Me.No.Pause oral capsules contain ingredients including Pycnogenol, a maritime pine bark extract from the South of France that acts against symptoms including night sweats, and Ashwagandha, an adaptogen that promotes enhanced focus and restful sleep, among others. The Active Glow oral supplements address issues including thinning hair, brittle nails and joint pain thanks largely to Longvida, an optimized and patented extract of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory ingredient in turmeric. And, a real plus is that Womaness, unlike many feminine care products, actually looks like a beauty line thanks to appealing, colorful packaging and eye-catching fonts, .
Prices range from $8.99 for a package of 22 liners to $39.99 for the Me.No.Pause supplements.
Mueller and Jacobs invested their own money to get Womaness off the ground. A second round of financing came from Unilever Ventures, a venture capital and private equity arm of consumer goods giant Unilever, and from Obvious Ventures, another private investment firm behind consumer brands including Olly supplements and Beyond Meat.
The duo has some great pointers for others who want to launch a product-based business. For one, have a clear vision of what you want to create. An entrepreneur will get so much feedback that it’s important to return to your main goal and be able to distill the input for that purpose. Also, surround yourself with the right people – not just the right investors. Fewer of the right people than too many of the wrong people is the way to go, they say.
Finally, rely on your network.
“Really open yourself up and go outside your comfort zone to ask for help,” Mueller says. “It’s amazing how many women have stepped up.”