The Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast, hosted by John Lee Dumas, regularly welcomes industry innovators, startup experts, and entrepreneurs with interesting tales. Dumas launched the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast to share the gritty, authentic, and oftentimes overlooked stories of overcoming real-world challenges to create thriving businesses. Recently, Dumas welcomed serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal to his podcast. As the successful business owner of Wild, Thinx, and Tushy, Miki Agrawal understands the particular nuances of starting a business from scratch. Below, read on for highlights from the conversation:
John Lee Dumas: Shake the room, Fire Nation. JLD here and welcome to Entrepreneurs on Fire, brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, with great shows like ABM Conversations. Today, we’ll be pulling a timeless EOFire classic episode from the archives and we’ll be sharing how to create a disruptive physical product. To drop these value bombs, we brought Miki Agrawal to the EOFire Studios. She is a social entrepreneur who uses disruptive innovation to challenge the status quo in change culture. She is the founder of several acclaimed social enterprises, Wild, Thinx, and Tushy, and she is also the author of the best-selling book, “Do Cool Sh*t”.
Miki Agrawal’s most recent book is “Disrupt-Her” and hit the bookshelves back in January of 2019. Her innovative message has been featured in major media including New York Times, ABC, CNN, NBC, and more. Miki was named in Fast Company’s most creative people and Inc.’s most impressive women entrepreneurs.
In today’s episode, we’ll be talking about what you need to disrupt the status quo and we’ll talk about having fun because if you’re not having fun with your product, nobody’s going to want to have fun with your product either.
So, Miki, say what’s up to Fire Nation and share something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know.
Miki Agrawal On Writing “Disrupt-Her”
Miki Agrawal: Hey, Fire Nation. My name is Miki Agrawal and I am here in sunny Williamsburg, Brooklyn one thing about me that you might not know is that I had a cesarean section birth. During the times when my baby was sleeping and napping is when I wrote my entire book, “Disrupt-Her.”
John Lee Dumas: Wow, and this is the book that’s coming out in January 2019. So, how do you feel like you had the time to do something like that between those kinds of fits and bursts of energy that you had?
Miki Agrawal: I mean I just feel like it poured out of me. I think obviously when you write a book, it can’t be something that’s inauthentic. It has to really come out of you and fly out of you and I think for me, I had just so much to say. I went through a lot last year, building my business and scaling it exponentially, and then dealing with just some crazy sort of setbacks. I just had a lot to say about it. Also, society kind of dictates how we should think, sound, behave, look, feel, still today. The fact is that we’re still worried about how people might perceive us because of societal conditioning. That just all needs to get disrupted, and so, I was just very passionate about all of it. I think with my baby being born, I just had hormones raging inside of me. I was able to really just put some authenticity on paper.
John Lee Dumas: Well, that’s why I’m really fired up today, Miki because you are going to come on and share with Fire Nation the details on how to create a disruptive physical product. I mean you’ve done it; you’ve actually done it in multiple mediums whether it be physical virtual all these other places. So, I’m really excited to kind of dive into that and kind of really just see what your brain comes up with. Before we kind of get into these specific points, what’s an overview that we’re going to be talking about today when it comes to creating a disruptive physical product?
Miki Agrawal On Pulling Back the Proverbial Curtain
Miki Agrawal: Yeah, I think a lot of people have come and asked me, “You’re able to really look at taboo categories and create products around things that people don’t like talking about and how do you do it? What are the steps to take to make it happen? When you have an idea, what’s the first, second, third step you need to take? How do you promote a product that’s weird and that people don’t haven’t seen before? How do you market or brand something that people are uncomfortable talking about or that’s disruptive and category that’s been pretty sort of standard for a really long time?”
There are just these questions are coming up over and over again and my goal here is to sort of pull back the curtain kind of like in The Wizard of Oz. There’s this scary Oz character, and you’re like, it’s Dorothy, she’s terrified, and so it was like the lion, and the tin man, everyone’s terrified. When you actually get to Oz and there’s this little man behind the curtain pulling these levers. When you pull it back, pull back the curtain, it’s actually not that scary after all. I think the goal here is to make something that seems scary, not so scary.
John Lee Dumas: Well, I personally love this word disrupt because I mean, Fire Nation, we are living in this world right now where everybody is copying everybody’s else success. I mean, you see somebody that has a little bit of success in this one thing and then all of a sudden, it’s just everybody’s doing that one thing. It makes it absolutely impossible to stand out. We’re on the flip side, what we need to be doing disrupting the status quo. You need to be zigging when other people are zagging. You need to be finding that blue ocean fire nation. Otherwise, you’re just screaming into the wind, and guess what? Nobody cares and nobody’s going to hear your voice.
So, Miki, let’s talk about disruption, and I actually would love to know how do you come up with a disruptive idea in the first place.
Miki Agrawal On The 3 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask Themselves
Miki Agrawal: Yeah, I mean I think it always starts with you. It always has to start with you. What sucks in your world? For me, my most recent company is called Tushy, and we’re looking at disrupting the bathroom, specifically, the toilet category. So, for example, when I went to the bathroom prior to coming up with my product, I would go to the bathroom. I would have to take a poop and then I would take a bunch of dry paper, toilet paper, and then try and clean the poop off with dry paper. Really talk about it like that. You kind of laugh and say like, “we’re crazy”, right? Would we jump in a shower and not turn the water on and just use dry paper and call ourselves clean? Of course not.
We do that with our dishes. We do that with our dirty car or dirty everything. We always use water to clean those things. Every time I went to the bathroom, I would try to use all this dry paper, then I would jump in the shower. The average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper per day, and I was certainly one of those people using that much toilet paper just trying to clean myself, then in the shower, wasting a bunch of time, a bunch of water, a bunch of energy, and it was just such a cumbersome, ridiculous process for me. Then, I discovered that toilet paper not only kills 15 million trees per year, but it causes a bunch of things. You’re not cleaning yourself properly, so it causes things like hemorrhoids and urinary tract infections and anal fissures.
All of these things are just not fun and millions and millions and millions of cases of these. For me, the real question was, “can I take this thing that people have been doing since the late 1800s, which is wiping our butts with dry paper, and turn it on its head, and actually show people the right way to do it?”
So, I think it always starts with you. It always starts with your own pain point. In my first book, I talk about the three questions to ask yourself before starting a disruptive business. The first question is, what sucks in your world? As I said, it says to start with you. Then, the second question is, does it suck for a lot of people? Do a lot of people have to deal with this?
Well yeah, 30 million people are dealing with chronic urinary tract infections, hemorrhoids, anal issues. Millions of people have IBS and all kinds of sort of like celiac and on all these issues, which cause them to have to go to the bathroom a lot and it’s a very frustrating process. So, yes, it sucks for a lot of people.
Then, the third question is, can I be passionate about this issue cause or community for a really long time? I definitely can be. Not only am I helping save millions of trees, but this product is helping save millions of trees and it’s also helping solve this ridiculous hygiene and health issue.
On top of that, for every Tushy sold, we’re helping fund the production of clean sanitation facilities all over India. To date, we’ve helped over 12,000 families gain access to clean sanitation. So, can I be passionate about the global sanitation crisis for a really long time? Yes, I absolutely can. Those are three very very critical questions.
John Lee Dumas: Well Miki I’m raising my hand right now when it comes to sanitation in India. I actually spent four months traversing that entire country and the food is unbelievable. Guess what? When you eat a lot of food, you have to go to the sanitation areas quite a bit and that was not unbelievable. So, you hear here you have this amazing food in these really crappy crap places.
Miki Agrawal: I mean yeah, India’s called the open defecation capital of the world. I mean, its a fact that over a billion people have to go to the bathroom outside and have nowhere to go to the bathroom. Not only are they now pooping in these villages, but it’s contaminating water systems and affecting community health and hygiene, of course. The smell, the standard of living is awful. Women, specifically girls and women, often have nowhere to go and have to hold in their pee and their poop all day long. They have to travel long distances together late at night to relieve themselves. This isn’t just a once in a while thing. This is an everyday thing for the rest of their lives.
When you’re holding in your pee and pooping all day, it’s causing major issues, like urinary tract infections. All kinds of things, because you can’t properly relieve yourself and in a timely manner. So, a lot of women aren’t even drinking enough fluids or eating enough food because they just are afraid to go to the bathroom. I mean this is like the reality of millions and millions of people.