“Listen to what your customers do and don’t say.” A fellow co-founder gave us that advice before we had even launched Stix. For us, that means maintaining an open dialogue with our customers on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Our entire team interviews three customers every month, regardless of what team they’re on.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia Plotch and Jamie Norwood, co-founders of Stix.
Jamie Norwood co-founded Stix in 2019, a company on a mission to transform your health experience, starting with direct-to-consumer pregnancy and ovulation tests. Before starting Stix, Jamie was on the founding team of Hungry Harvest where she built and scaled the customer experience and product departments. Jamie received her BA in English Lit from Tulane University and is a Venture for America alumna.
Cynthia Plotch co-founded Stix in 2019, a company on a mission to transform your health experience, starting with direct-to-consumer pregnancy and ovulation tests. Before starting Stix, Cynthia was on the founding team of Hungry Harvest where she led their national expansion. Cynthia received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Venture for America alumna.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Jamie and I met as fellows during Venture for America after graduating from college in 2015. We went on to both work at Hungry Harvest, a food start-up based in Baltimore. One night, I was on the phone with Jamie and told her how I had run into my boyfriend’s mom buying a pregnancy test at the drugstore. Jamie told me she had also had terrible experiences buying pregnancy tests and we knew that we couldn’t be alone.
So, we started doing research and surveyed thousands of women. We found that 70% of women had a bad experience buying a pregnancy test at the drugstore. Similarly, these women also felt a lot of loneliness and confusion over their entire health journey and that there was no singular resource for them to feel confident in their health decisions. We decided that we had to change that.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
At Stix, we want to make you feel confident in your health decisions through reliable products, a supportive community, and expert educational resources. We offer FDA and OBGYN-approved pregnancy and ovulation tests that are over 99% accurate with early detection technology and jargon-free instructions, shipped directly to your door.
Education and privacy are at the core of our service. Our products are shipped to you in a plain envelope with no mention of Stix or pregnancy and the charge on your credit card statement will be obscure. We offer The Stix Library, the ultimate resource to your most googled questions, as well as regular access to our growing panel of medical experts via email, social, and text.
Additionally, as a brand we are pregnancy-agnostic. We don’t care why you have to take a pregnancy test, but we are here to support you. Our customer base is evenly split between those actively trying to get pregnant and those actively trying NOT to get pregnant. We offer products, community, and content that bring peace of mind, whatever outcome you’re looking for.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We really thought we could do everything ourselves in the early days of Stix. We were designing our packaging, sending all the marketing emails, running customer service, and shipping and packaging the products ourselves. We (very quickly) learned that we needed a team around us that could bring industry expertise to our strategic vision. It also helped clarify what our role as founders really needs to be to reach the level that we know Stix can reach.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Justin Smithline was one of our advisors during our accelerator and has taught us so much as founders. Justin is the opposite of us in so many ways. We like to describe ourselves as type A+, but Justin is truly calm. He taught us to take a breath when things are difficult to be able to see them more clearly.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
When we think about disruption, we think customer-first. This means, what will provide the most positive change to our customers and actually solve their problems simply. We have found that when disruption is not based on the end-user or customer, whoever that may be, it is either solving for a problem they don’t have or complicating a problem they do have. Every decision we make as a business on every level is rooted in the customer experience.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- “Always be learning.” We got this piece of advice from the accelerator we participated in during the very early days of Stix. This has impacted not only us as founders but also our team. We’ve built a culture where all outcomes are important lessons, no matter how good or bad they were. This makes us more comfortable thinking outside the box and testing new things.
- “Don’t work with assholes.” One of our advisors told us that and we still think about it daily.
- “Listen to what your customers do and don’t say.” A fellow co-founder gave us that advice before we had even launched Stix. For us, that means maintaining an open dialogue with our customers on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Our entire team interviews three customers every month, regardless of what team they’re on.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
There are so many moments in a woman’s health journey that hasn’t been updated or thought about deeply in decades. In 2021, we will continue to roll out physical and digital products that make women feel confident in their health and expand outside of pregnancy and fertility. Our mission is to inspire confidence and there are so many anxiety-provoking moments in women’s health. There is a lot more to bring peace of mind to for women’s health.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The vast majority of venture investors are men and most have never experienced the issues faced by our consumers. So, there is a lot of education around our products and consumer experiences that we have to do. However, we have been so lucky to find both male and female investors who really believe in our vision and how we want to change this industry.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
The podcast “How I Built This” has inspired both of us as founders. As we are building Stix, it is energizing to hear stories of how massive companies and brands have started out. We especially like Sara Blakely’s episode about founding Spanx.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We would love to inspire our community and country to think more deeply about health education. For many of us, you get sex ed once (or not at all!) during middle school and it barely answers any questions you. Your education about your health and body should continue throughout your life and there should be trustworthy and accessible resources available to you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The smartest person in the room isn’t speaking.” A family member told us that once and we think about it both as team leaders and co-founders. It is our job to listen to our team and to our customers to provide them what they know they need for success, not what we think they need.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow along with us at @getstix on Instagram!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!