Often described as a “disruptor” within many industries, Miki Agrawal is an entrepreneur, CEO, Founder, best-selling author, and innovator. To date, Agrawal has established, spearheaded, and grown several successful business ventures. Though she began her professional career as an investment banking analyst, she sought to spur change, solve problems, and create innovative products that are simultaneously practical and environmentally conscious.
Thus, Miki Agrawal’s initial foray into entrepreneurship was born via Wild, a gluten-free farm-to-table pizzeria that boasts two successful NYC locations.
Agrawal launched period underwear company THINX in 2014, reimagining the conversation and experience of menstruation. Miki Agrawal’s newest venture, TUSHY, modernizes the bathroom experience by fabricating bidet attachments that work seamlessly with standard toilets.
A well-established thought leader, Miki Agrawal has earnestly shared her experiences, visions, and passions via the publication of best-selling books. Agrawal’s first book, “Disrupt-Her: A Manifesto for the Modern Woman,” offers various insights for spearheading leadership, evolution, and overall confidence. Meanwhile, Agrawal’s follow-up, “Do Cool Sh*t”, shares wisdom about unabashedly creating the career you want to have.
Miki Agrawal has received numerous professional accolades from leading organizations, including placement on Forbes’ “Top 20 Millennials on a Mission.” In 2016, INC Magazine named Miki Agrawal one of its “Most Impressive Women Entrepreneurs of 2016.”
How did you get started in this business?
There were three things that have inspired the creation of TUSHY. The first was that in my parents’ home countries – Japan and India – bidets have been ubiquitous and everyone washes their butts instead of using dry toilet paper. My family overseas would always talk about how America is somehow “so backward” in this one category of cleanliness because water is a much cleaner experience than toilet paper.
The analogy they liked to give was, “Imagine if you jumped in your shower, did NOT turn the water on, and just used dry toilet paper to wipe down your dirtiest bits. People would call you crazy, right? So, why are you doing that to the dirtiest parts of your bodies?” I realized that the only reason that bidets weren’t in North America was for cultural reasons and that it was seen as “weird and foreign” to Americans.
Thus, my main focus was to debunk all of the weirdness around it, and that once people tried it, they could never go back because of how clean they felt and how “DUH” it was to use water instead of dry paper to properly clean ourselves.
The second inspiration occurred when I tried it for the first time as an adult. It was not only a “EUREKA!” moment for me where I felt so, so clean, but it also cleared up my painful butt right away (I had hyperthyroidism and one of the side effects was pooping a LOT. Needless to say, the constant wiping hurt my butt over time). Using a bidet changed my life during that hard time. It then made me realize that the tens of millions of people with chronic issues like hemorrhoids, UTIs, BV, yeast infections, itchy butt, painful butt, GI issues, mobility issues, and even pregnant and post-pregnant mamas would majorly benefit from this!
The third reason was that I love trees and I care about sustainability! When I learned that 15 million trees are cut down every single year for JUST toilet paper consumption and that important forests, like the Canadian Boreal Forest and the Amazon rainforest in South America, which are the most important global carbon sinks in the world, were being cut down to make disposable toilet paper, it was hard to swallow. To learn that simply switching to a bidet would solve that problem was massive. Also, I learned that one single roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water to make versus using only 1 pint of water per use.
Even when it comes to water, by using a bidet (water), we are saving nearly 55 gallons of water per week. This was another “EUREKA!” moment! People care about the planet more and more and I thought that when people would find this out, they would care too.
How do you make money?
TUSHY makes money by selling the TUSHY bidet, a modern bidet attachment, our TUSHY Ottoman, a modern designer toilet stool, our TUSHY Stand, and Tissues, and TUSHY brush, along with other TUSHY products on HelloTUshy.com. Currently, 99% of our business is direct-to-consumer, but we plan on launching in stores as well.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
We launched in 2014 quietly and were not profitable until 2017, and we have been profitable ever since. It took a while for people to understand why they needed a bidet and we had to educate and educate and educate the American audience. That is why I think we’re a leader in the field now because we took the time to consistently educate the customer.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Like any business, it’s hard to know if it’s going to work out. I think the fastest way to lose our power is to look for certainty. Nothing is certain in life and I think being comfortable in uncertainty gives us our power back. I knew that the bidet changed MY life, so I knew that it was only a matter of spending the time educating people and letting them know why TUSHY is a MUCH cleaner alternative than dry toilet paper that kills 15 million trees per year and that switching to a bidet saves people money and is way better for the planet.
How did you get your first customer?
You mean aside from my family and friends buying it? We launched a simple, basic, 1.0 website and started doing Facebook ads with a spot that I acted in. I wore a paper bag over my head and my husband Andrew did the VoiceOver. It was a real family affair.
Here is the first spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keZry9ApESU
We said, “Imagine if a bird pooped on your face? Do you wipe it off with toilet paper, smearing more poop on your face, or do you wash your face? Treat your butt like your face. With TUSHY, the modern bidet for people who poop.”
People started to slowly buy it. We did about $700K in revenue our first real year in business in 2016, and then we grew from there.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
We just started doing really thumb-stopping videos and experimented a lot with educating the customer by using funny content with beautiful design. Having a great, new product that didn’t really exist in the American market, while having beautiful, artful designs and accessible, relatable language really worked well to get people to try it out.
We attempted to do a New York City Subway ad but got rejected because the MTA said that TUSHY was a “sex product” and, therefore, couldn’t be featured in there. Since it was so absurd, we took the rejection to the press and NY Daily News picked it up. Then, the most unexpected thing happened. Saturday Night Live writers saw the article in the Daily News and decided to do a whole rant on SNL about it! So, we were featured in Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Edition when the head writer of SNL, Michael Che himself, performed a 3 minute rant as to why TUSHY should have been allowed to advertise on the subway! It really put us on the map!
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
In the last few months, we have had to figure out the best way to scale our business. We have been growing exponentially and now, we want to truly reach the American masses. Thus, we are working on a bunch of fun stunts and new thumb-stopping experiences that will put TUSHY top of mind!
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I give myself the space and time to think. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time reacting to what’s happening versus creating the space to dream. I am so grateful to my team to give me the space to dream about the “next campaign” or the next fun thing to get people excited about TUSHY or whatever it is I’m working on.
I think I have also spent a ton of time giving to my community of friends. Even when I’m super busy, I make sure to show up for my friends. I know that when times are tough, they show up for me, too. That has gotten me through some challenging times. Entrepreneurship is not a linear straight-line path and has so many peaks and valleys, so having a solid stable group of friends has been critical in my success.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I think when I go to random places and run into people wearing Thinx or see people who are OBSESSED with their TUSHY and share how much their lives are changed for the better because of them, that is THE MOST satisfying thing ever. When people say “the first time I ate pizza since becoming diagnosed with a gluten allergy in 20 years was at your restaurant, Wild” or “My wife and I went on our first date at Wild and it’s our happy place” – those are the moments that make it ALL worth it!
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I think we won’t rest until every butt in America is cleaned by TUSHY. Water is the most universal clean and we aim to spread the gospel of TUSHY magic until it’s synonymous with going to the bathroom. We want to save millions of trees every single year from getting flushed down the toilet. We want to help the 3 billion people globally who don’t have a safe place to go to the bathroom every day by building clean, safe toilets for the communities who need them most.
What business books have inspired you?
“Losing My Virginity” by Richard Branson was the first book I read that made me say to myself, “AH YES! I’m going to be an entrepreneur!”
“Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh is among my favorites. I am so inspired by how he built the culture at Zappos.
“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight. I was on the edge of my seat the WHOLE time. What a ride to build the empire, Nike, and it showed me that even GIANTS like Nike started somewhere and built it one building block at a time with one rabbit pulled out of a hat at a time. There is no silver bullet to building a business, only perseverance, and this book is about that!
“Come Home To Yourself” by Sadhvi Saraswati. This book reminded me over and over again about how important it is to be in a full open-hearted self-affirming, self-loving space in order to create anything in life.
“Jitterbug Perfume” by Tom Robbins. This book taught me all about the magic of creative writing and how we can create worlds with words and this book gave me permission to do that in business, too!
“Be Here Now” by Ram Das. This book taught me that in order to create, we have to be present, right here, right now, not thinking about the past or caught up in the future. The NOW creates the most genius inventions and magic and to just be is enough to get into the creative zone.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take deep breaths. Take slow walks. Give myself space and time to think. Focus on the things that serve my heart and the rest will take care of itself.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
As my life is so full right now with family, business, friends, nature, slowness, I filmed an entrepreneurship course on Mindvalley called “Zero to $100 Million” and that comes out in September of 2021, so that would be the best place to get all of the things I’ve ever learned in business.