My movement would be to truly care about the planet as if it was our family or child. We need to treat her with love, dignity and respect.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Miki Agrawal, a serial social entrepreneur who uses disruptive innovation to challenge the status quo and change culture. She is the founder of several acclaimed social enterprises including TUSHY, THINX, WILD and Icon, a best-selling author of DO COOL SH*T and her next book Disrupt-Her will be hitting bookshelves in January 2019. Miki has been honored “Fast Company’s Most Creative People,” “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, Inc. Magazine’s “Most Impressive Women Entrepreneurs,” Forbes’ “Top 20 Millennials on a Mission,” “Disruptive Innovation Award Winner” at the Tribeca Film Festival and Ad Age’s “50 Most Creative People.” She is a graduate of Cornell University and proud new mama of Hiro Happy.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Miki means “three beautiful trees” in Japanese and I grew up in Canada always loving and climbing trees. Also, as I grew up, I realized that the categories that relate to the nether regions of the body (periods, poop etc.) had very little innovation in them because that area of the body has been so strangely “taboo” in society (meanwhile everybody poops and all humans are here because of a woman’s period). The fact that we are still flushing 15 million trees down the toilet to make toilet paper is absurd. The fact that we are still wiping our butts like we did in the 1890s is absurd (not to mention causing 30 million cases of chronic infections and diseases in humans annually)…It’s time to disrupt our mentality around that part of our body and use the most eco-friendly options out there! Like a TUSHY bidet :-)
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
TUSHY’s mission is to revolutionize the American bathroom with innovative, sustainable, affordable products (starting with the crowd favorite TUSHY bidet attachment, quickly making bidets mainstream in the U.S.) that create a spa-like and mindful bathroom experience for only $69, all while saving trees, water, and electricity in the process.
Additionally, TUSHY’s mission is to shed light on the global sanitation crisis that is affecting over 1 billion people on the planet, where humans have to current defecate openly. To date, TUSHY has helped over 20,000 families gain access to clean sanitation with its partner Samagra, who are bringing clean toilets to the urban poor of India.
Domestically, TUSHY promotes health and well-being, helping prevent some of the 30 million annual cases of diseases and infections exacerbated by toilet paper and wet wipes. The company has also begun to work with doctors and therapists to improve their patients’ and clients’ lives, and will begin to donate TUSHY products to people in need who can’t wipe themselves due to down syndrome, cerebral palsy, extreme obesity, and other mobility restrictions, thus restoring some dignity to their bathroom routine.
Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?
TUSHY bidet attachments are a superior form of personal hygiene in the bathroom versus toilet paper, and reduces the destruction of trees (approximately 15 million annually just for Americans’ toilet paper, which requires 473.5 billion gallons of water and 17.3 TW of electricity to be converted into toilet paper) by reducing our toilet paper usage by 80%. Our consumers reduce their toilet paper spending so much that the TUSHY can pay for itself within months.
For every TUSHY sold, consumers are helping build clean latrine systems in India through a partnership with the Samagra Empowerment Foundation, so people have access to clean latrines. In developing countries, one child dies every 17 seconds due to poor sanitation facilities, 1 billion people are forced to practice open defecation around the world, and 14 million pregnant women worldwide are infected with worms due to poor sanitation. TUSHY has helped more than 30,000 families and counting.
What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that. This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.
The hardest part was getting people to adopt the bidet. People in this country thought it was “weird” and “No I’ll never spray water up my butt” (meanwhile we all take showers for the rest of our bodies don’t we? And nowhere else do we use dry paper to “clean” something do we?)… Indoctrination is powerful and because humans have been wiping with dry paper for over a century, bad habits die hard. Waking people up to the fact that dry paper won’t actually clean them and is detrimental to their health, hygiene, pocketbook and planet was the hardest part but the more amazing reviews we get, the easier it becomes.
Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share how were you able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?
It’s very different today because now there are so many different avenues to raise money and sustainability funds and investors who focus in this area. Also there are crowdfunding platforms and now crowd investment platforms and if the idea is great and the people behind the idea are competent, then it’ll become much easier to get funding.
Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.
Of course. I think nobody is incentivized to be thinking environmentally unless it improves the top and bottom lines. It has been proven time and again that conscious businesses that care about the planet, the people, the suppliers and the shareholders equally, perform exponentially better than companies that just focus on shareholders so it’s only a matter of time where all companies will be thinking sustainably, because it will be best for performance of the company.
What are some practical things that both people and governments can do help you address the climate change and global warming problem?
All of the “consumables” should be banned and taxed heavily. One time use plastic water bottles, traditional toilet paper made from trees, plastic cutlery and plates, plastic packaging and all of the wasteful practices should be taxed more and then things like bidets and water stations will be instated everywhere because companies will have no choice. People move with the purse strings.
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 about that?
So many of my friends and family helped me along the way. Radha my twin sister, Andrew my husband, my parents, so many of my friends played roles in helping me. Three in particular are my dear friends Jonathan Swerdlin, Lauren Zander and John Mackey. Jonathan (who founded a great company called Portal.xyz) invested in all of my companies as one of the very first investor and he even acted as Chairman of the Board for one of my companies. He went to bat for me in the most challenging times in my life and whenever I was upset, he would put reggae on and help me dance it off.
Lauren Zander (co-founder of life coaching company Handel Group) CHANGED my life because over the last 5 years, she held me accountable to be at my highest self always and taught me how to be in complete integrity with myself, through all of the highs and lows of my life both professionally and personally. When I wanted to rage and fight back, she helped me see everything through a lens of love, gratitude and forgiveness (with a LOT of laughter).
John Mackey is the founder of Whole Foods Market and he is the Godfather to my son Hiro. He has become a fast best friend of mine over the last 4 years and as I dealt with the highs and lows and even betrayals in business, he held my hand through all of it and shared and continues to share the most poignant parables when I needed them the most.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Any person joining my teams is like a marriage. It’s not even just partners or investors, it’s employees too. Ask myself if I want this person in my room for a long time or not and will this person bring me joy or cause me grief. Joy and culture trump talent all day.
Stay in my lane when it comes to my business. Know what my strengths are and put people in place who excel at the things you don’t.
Don’t work with a friend unless they have COMPLETELY different skill sets than you. Otherwise, it’s the fastest way to not being friends.
Slow down when making the big decisions. Check and recheck and do your homework.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The movement would be to truly care about the planet as if it was our family or child. We need to treat her with love, dignity and respect.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!