As a 22-year-old very passionate about breaking the stigma around menstruation, I talk a LOT about periods. However, something that I think about quite often (but don’t have the knowledge or experiences to take action on) is the lack of conversation about menopause and incontinence. If you think periods are stigmatized…think about how little we even know about or hear about menopause mentioned.
That’s why I was so excited when I connected with Attn: Grace, a personal care brand founded by two incredible women (who, by the way, are also an absolute power couple) that is now working to disrupt the incontinence (lack of control of one’s bladder and bowels) category. We’re working on some exciting collaborations together, so stay tuned!! @nadyaokamoto x @attngrace
Take a look at our conversation:
What is Attn: Grace?
Attn: Grace is the first sustainable wellness brand for women, by women, as we age. We’re on a mission to destigmatize aging, working to bring this vision to life with sustainably designed wellness products that are thoughtfully tailored to women’s changing needs. We’ve launched a collection of high-performance body-and-earth-friendly liners, pads, briefs, and wipes that are designed for the 1-in-3 women who experience bladder leakage — a common condition that is rarely discussed and often shrouded in shame.
We’re disrupting a tired $9.5 billion incontinence category with the novel notion that we deserve a better way. We’re raising the bar on every front — superior product design, non-toxic ingredients, discreet customizable delivery, sustainable packaging, not to mention an elevated design aesthetic that makes stigmatized personal care feel more like wellness. Since launching in June 2020, thousands of women have responded enthusiastically to our products, brand, and mission, forming a community of vibrant, discerning, and values-driven women that are excited to see themselves reflected in a brand like Attn: Grace.
What inspired you to start the business? Do you consider yourself to be in the period of product space?
Mia: I previously founded a children’s’ apparel brand, morgan & milo, and together with Alex, we have 4 kids. The idea for Attn: Grace came from working in and personally living in a world tailored to the values and convenience that parents (historically led by moms) demand. Every month Alex and I had the rewarding experience of opening our home-delivered subscription of beautifully designed, sustainably-minded diapers and products. And at the same time, in stark contrast, there was my mother — an incredibly refined, elegant 89-year-old, struggling to manage her bladder leakage with a mix of utilitarian products that in no way matched who she was or what she valued. It all felt really archaic and unevolved, and I felt really strongly that there had to be a better way.
We started researching the space and even went to industry conferences. We were shocked to find out that, within the industry, the aisle where you buy incontinence products at your local drugstore is literally called the “aisle of death”. No wonder we weren’t seeing more thoughtful advancements in this space with such a dehumanizing attitude and approach. We have to do better. Women don’t see themselves in the “aisle of death”, and I don’t blame them. The personal care category for older women is anything but personal, and we’re here to change that. Our needs have changed, but our standards have not. In fact, for many of us, the bar has been raised. We deserve rewarding, sustainable, beautifully designed wellness solutions.
We don’t consider ourselves to be in the period space. Our launch collection is made for the 1-in-3 women that experience (UI). However, as part of understanding women’s changing needs, we understand that UI doesn’t magically relent when you have your period. Because of that, it made sense to make a product (our innovative hybrid pad) that serves a dual purpose, absorbing all leaks that one might experience while menstruating.
How is it combining work and family life as a couple?
Alex: It’s definitely stressful at times, particularly since, like every other parent right now, we are inelegantly navigating the messy work-life circus that is living in a pandemic. But in terms of the day-to-day, it’s been the most fun either of us has ever had professionally. We love what we’re building, we love our small but mighty team, and we wake up pretty much every day really excited to dive into whatever it is we’re tackling that week. We also have very different skill sets, which has made it easy to divide and conquer different aspects of the business and has given us each a much greater appreciation for what the other is doing at any given moment. It’s also immensely helpful that by this point in our lives, we’re both really good at seeing the big picture and not sweating the small stuff.
What were your doubts when you began your founding journey, and how did you overcome those doubts?
Raising our first round of venture capital was definitely a wild ride, with lots of highs and lots of lows. Raising institutional capital was entirely new to both of us; we were pitching a concept built to serve a demographic the VC community wasn’t ready to focus on; and we were launching with a line of bladder leakage products, so admittedly not the sexiest market opportunity. All of this, coupled with the fact that we’re two female founders of “a certain age”, made for a long road. Honestly, sometimes I look back and I’m shocked we didn’t call it quits.
But at some point along the way, our thinking about the process shifted. Because for every “no” we got (of which there were plenty) there were vastly more introductions, offers to tap networks to help us push forward, hours of feedback on pitch decks and financial models, and an absolutely ridiculous amount of brainpower. All of this coupled with straight-up human kindness. It was a hugely humbling, inspiring experience.
What are you most proud of in your journey?
We’re proud of not giving up, and for persevering (enthusiastically!) in our belief that we, women in our midlife and beyond, are a “worthy” demographic.
The response to our products and our brand has been the source of intense pride — from women who finally felt free from the painful irritation caused by chemical-laden products from incumbent brands; to journalists that are inspired by our for-women-by-women approach to UI; to new waves of investment from funds ready to shine a light on women’s wellness within the sea of Silver Tech. We decided early on to put as much effort into our brand as we did our products, and as a result, have created both a movement and a marketplace that centers our changing needs, in such a way that women themselves feel seen.
What are your dreams for the company, and how can readers help you achieve those dreams?
In our continued effort to center and destigmatize our changing needs, please help us spread the word about Attn: Grace. One-in-three adult women experience bladder leakage and are likely struggling with how to best manage it. Talk to the women in your life, and please help us spread the word that there IS a better way, waiting to be discreetly delivered to their door.
How do you incorporate ethics/impact/sustainability into your work?
Sustainability is an issue that we take very seriously. But, the truth is, single-use products are still essential for women who have moderate to heavy leaks. As we continue to move toward making disposable products that are fully compostable and/or recyclable, our current cutting edge CLN DesignTM, plus our best-in-class partners across our supply chain, exist to bridge the inevitable gap. We’ve designed our product line and our packaging to incorporate the most sustainable, renewable materials possible without compromising on product performance, and to eliminate harmful, unnecessary chemicals, replacing petroleum-based synthetics with 100% bio-based synthetics derived from sugarcane waste. And most recently, we proudly launched our flushable, body-and-earth-friendly, 100% biodegradable wipes.
Are there any realizations/reflections you’ve had about American capitalism in 2020? What are your thoughts on how we need to reimagine capitalism?
Intersectionality and systemic injustice (though not new) have been massive themes this year, and we’d like to see (and be a part of) meaningful change as a result. When it comes to capitalism, I think we share the increasingly popular belief that capitalism must be reframed in a way that’s more inclusive, creatively, and intentionally putting in place ways to make more people beneficiaries of economic growth — reinvesting in sub-economies and ecosystems to bring about greater prosperity. At Attn: Grace, we often say “there is no WELLNESS, without WE”, and I think that applies when we are talking about the wellness and wellbeing of our nation as well.