In the beginning stages of my business, even though I was extremely optimistic, I was often bombarded with negative thoughts of self-doubt. At one point I made a mistake on packaging and we had to recall thousands of dollars in product while we were operating on razor-thin margins. I spiraled into thinking that I didn’t have what it takes to be in business, much less run a business. It’s amazing how quickly we can allow ourselves to go down a dangerous path when we have negative self-talk occurring in our heads. I have since learned how to control that inner-critic. I know and believe that I am capable and in the process I have developed much more self-confidence.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deeannah Seymour, the Founder of pH-D® Feminine Health, a women-owned business reinventing natural feminine hygiene and wellness solutions that help millions of women feel confident and comfortable. The first to market, since 2014, pH-D’s #1 best-selling natural boric acid suppositories have been a solution for countless women with vaginal issues. They help eliminate odor, restore and retain natural vaginal balance so women can get on with life! An independently held, women-owned and women-run business, pH-D was developed in partnership with physicians and is the #1 doctor-recommended boric acid vaginal suppository. The company’s products are all manufactured in-house at their own FDA-registered facilities ensuring the highest quality standards. You can learn more at www.phdfemininehealth.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Unsatisfied with the lack of natural feminine hygiene and wellness solutions to common vaginal issues, I developed pH-D® Feminine Health in 2014 with the introduction of the brand’s best-selling boric acid suppositories. Having spent two decades in the pharmaceutical industry, I wanted a natural solution that wouldn’t give rise to unwanted side-effects — and it had to be backed by research. I examined hundreds of clinical studies on the use of boric acid vaginal suppositories to help with feminine issues and vaginal balance. I tried it with great success, but this ingredient was not commercially available.
I knew I wanted to make this solution available to millions of women just like myself who had suffered for years without relief. Partnering with a holistic healthcare company, Vireo Systems, I began producing boric acid suppositories in our own FDA registered facility with pharmaceutical grade boric acid. pH-D Feminine Health was born! Today, pH-D has successfully helped millions of women while becoming one of the top-selling feminine hygiene brands.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Early on we had an issue with our main retailer, causing us to lose a substantial amount of revenue. Those were really dark days when we were trying to make ends meet. It was then that I decided to prioritize increasing distribution and diversifying our retail channels. In the midst of that difficult time I was often bombarded with negative thoughts of self-doubt which affected my confidence as a leader. It felt like an emotional roller coaster. Experiencing the tremendous highs and lows during this time taught me how to control that inner-critic, develop greater self-confidence and maintain balance.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
The main factor that has led me to my success, is my purpose. I have made it my mission to improve the lives of women and that has always been my motivation. When you are living in your purpose, things in your life seem to align. This has been my mission since day one in starting pH-D Feminine Health. I am immensely inspired and energized in developing products that dramatically change millions of women’s lives!
Having a great business partner who I am aligned with has also been a huge part of my success. He has been an entrepreneur for many years and has taught me so much about product development, manufacturing, leadership and navigating the pitfalls of running a business.
I make it a point to hire people smarter than me. There are so many areas of the business in which I am by no means an expert and having really capable and intelligent people on my team has contributed greatly to my success. In doing this, it makes it easier for me to let go of certain tasks and allows me to focus on long-term growth.
I am a vulnerable leader. Vulnerability is terrifying to some business leaders but being so has made me who I am today. I admit when I don’t know the answers, I check my ego at the door, I encourage others to share their opinions, and I openly talk about the experiences in my life that have made me who I am today. The greatest way to learn from others is by hearing their stories -the good, the bad and the ugly — because we can all relate and learn from each other’s experience. Also, I have done nearly every job in the company at some point and that makes me extremely empathetic, appreciative and grateful.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- How to silence my inner-critic. In the beginning stages of my business, even though I was extremely optimistic, I was often bombarded with negative thoughts of self-doubt. At one point I made a mistake on packaging and we had to recall thousands of dollars in product while we were operating on razor-thin margins. I spiraled into thinking that I didn’t have what it takes to be in business, much less run a business. It’s amazing how quickly we can allow ourselves to go down a dangerous path when we have negative self-talk occurring in our heads. I have since learned how to control that inner-critic. I know and believe that I am capable and in the process I have developed much more self-confidence.
- Learn to conquer your fears. In the beginning stages of my business there were several things that I was fearful of, but mainly navigating the financial aspects of the business. I learned early on that you can allow fear to either cripple you or to help you grow. If I am fearful of something, it usually means it’s because I don’t have enough knowledge of whatever it is that I am fearful of and it means I need to educate myself in order to conquer that fear. I have learned to embrace fear and know that I have faith, the skills or access to the answers to overcome it.
- Develop well-documented processes for nearly everything in your business. This is really important for business in periods of rapid growth. We found we did not have this accomplished and it resulted in a bit of chaos for us as new hires were brought on board. We particularly were affected by this in areas of customer service and messaging. We quickly realized the need to have clearly thought out, well-documented processes for everything in our business especially where there were multiple layers involved.
- Create and define your culture and core values early on in your company. Let your core values guide you on every person that you bring into the folds of your business. This not only includes employees but also contractors. This is something I didn’t take the time to do in the beginning stages of my business. As a result of this, we hired a contractor that was not aligned with our core values and it created a cancer in our business. This could have easily been avoided if we had done all of our hiring based on our guiding principles.
- Develop both short and long-term plans and make sure you have planned funding to cover them. It is essential for a business to be looking ahead 1–5 years and anticipate expense overruns, revenue shortfalls, and cash flow challenges. Not doing so can result in financial crises, undue stress, and what I like to refer to as “entrepreneurial terror.”
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Self-care is essential to your success as a CEO. Take time to nurture your body, mind and spirit so that you can be the best version of yourself for your family, friends and your employees. Because self-care is a priority, I make sure I hire to my weaknesses so that I have people in place to manage things that I might not be particularly great at. In ensuring that I have a great team, I can make time for what fuels my soul…my family and friends provide fuel for my soul, so it is important that I make them a priority.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Without a doubt, the person for whom I am most grateful for in my success is my business partner, Mark Faulkner. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and our story proves it. When I had the idea for my product, pH-D Feminine Health, Mark was my daughter’s hockey coach. What are the odds that you know someone who owns and operates a company that manufactures and sells holistic products? Armed with clinical data, I took my idea to Mark and he loved it! He took a total gamble on my crazy idea and it nearly immediately became a best-selling product. Undoubtedly, without Mark, I would not be in business today.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Personally, I want to establish a foundation or scholarship to provide education for underprivileged young girls. Also, after having donated a kidney five years ago, I want to raise awareness of organ donation.
Professionally, I want to expand distribution of my product to make it readily available to the millions of women who need it. I also want to remove the stigma associated with feminine hygiene and vaginal health.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I want to create a company that empowers and improves the lives of women with healthy solutions for vaginal care. I also believe deeply in giving back to those in need and seek to make that a lasting legacy of my work and the impact that pH-D Feminine Health leaves on communities.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
The movement I seek to create is one that removes the stigma associated with feminine hygiene and care while improving the lives of women with affordable, holistic products.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
pH-D Feminine Health is active on various social channels!