Menopause is not a “condition”—it’s a fact of life, yet the products and services available to address symptoms have lacked innovation, empathy, and a sense of community. M13 recognized the need to truly disrupt the menopause space. Sitting at the nexus point of the burgeoning women’s wellness market and the aging population, menopause is a unique intersection of high-potential spaces aligning with our investment thesis, but beyond that, it's an issue that speaks to us on a human level.
M13’s Launchpad partnered with Procter & Gamble Ventures (PGV) to bring together the strength of P&G’s innovation and creation of consumer products with M13’s entrepreneurial agility, DTC capabilities, and network of investors and advisors. And with an incredible founding team in place, together we have created Kindra—a DTC brand that offers estrogen-free, over-the-counter solutions to alleviate many common menopause symptoms. Kindra both modernizes and normalizes the menopause space, creating a digital experience that serves as a supportive resource and community tailored specifically to women in midlife.
We sat down with Kindra’s CEO Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, to further discuss how Kindra’s offerings are helping women, and what her experience has been like working with M13’s Launchpad.
What drew you to M13’s Launchpad? How did you learn about this opportunity?
In my experience, partnership is the mother of innovation. When you marry PGV’s superpowers—creating proven products and brands that matter to and work for women—to M13’s superpowers—building dynamic startup operations that reach consumers one-on-one—you get a unicorn opportunity to fuel business growth and capture the attention of a wildly underserved audience.
Launchpad is M13’s in-house venture studio that brings together founding teams with tested products to build great businesses. Starting a company can be hard. Having strategic partners, like Launchpad, makes all the difference. Launchpad is laser-focused on helping the business, and me as the CEO, succeed. Their team is designed to support each business through each step of the startup journey. From bolstering our team in areas where we may not have internal strength, to leading brainstorms with the M13 Partners on how to break through a business challenge, to just checking in on how I am actually feeling, their mentorship and friendship is immeasurable in this process.
While that opportunity in itself is very compelling, there’s actually more in it for me, and everyone, on what I call the Kindra heart team. There is an opportunity to make safe and effective products accessible to women in need of solutions. And there is an even bigger, equally important opportunity to help women embrace and manage the evolution of their changing bodies without shame.
I joined Kindra because I believe that all women deserve support when it comes to taking care of ourselves, and I know that true confidence comes with embracing change in multiple facets of our lives. Women shouldn’t be made to feel “less-than” for 40% of our lives. In the U.S. especially, this is a real issue. Just listen to Michelle Obama’s podcast. We have been conditioned to be ashamed, embarrassed, and hide menopause. If you Google the word menopause, you’ll see it is treated almost like a disease rather than a natural part of life for half of the population. “Treatment can help, but this condition can't be cured,” says the medical condition widget at the very top of the page. What that’s really saying is being a woman over 50 is an incurable “condition.” We need to do better by women. Kindra is here to make sure that we really DO better on every possible level.
After working in media & retail, what drew you to femtech?
As a lifelong women's health advocate, I joined Kindra to empower women. Even in femtech, the majority of the focus is on fertility, pregnancy, early maternity, and sex. For too long, women 50-plus have been underserved by the markets they drive.
My background and expertise is diverse, but my career has one constant theme—connecting with women. And it seems that the roles I have held often reflect the stage of my own life: following my passion for supporting underserved people in the Clinton White House just out of college, learning the ins and outs of media and marketing at MTV as my early career path first evolved, leading marketing at iVillage when I was trying to get pregnant, developing content at Mattel as my twins entered pre-school. Now as a woman in early menopause myself, I am intuitively aware of the challenges our customers are facing. Thus, this role felt like the perfect combination of my personal passions and the professional expertise I could bring to bear to drive growth and deliver solutions for my underserved sisters.
How does Kindra help break the stigma around menopause?
Kindra is a radical self-care company. And all that’s really radical about us is we see women over 50 as people.
What does that mean? Expert guidance, estrogen-free essentials, revolutionary design by women for women. Women lifting other women up through innovative products and technology, but also the power of community.
We are here to give women vital resources and context, so she can learn about and adapt to the changes happening in her body with the support of our innovative products.
How has femtech as an industry been impacted by COVID-19 (and the other crises happening simultaneously)?
As women especially, we are torn between protecting the bodies and nurturing the hearts of those we love most every day. With so many of us based at home, women face new challenges, whether it’s getting to a doctor, caring for loved ones who may not be close by, or handling emergency situations made more complex in these unprecedented times. Not to mention the rise of family abuse and neglect brought on by added stress, job loss, lack of personal time and space, etc. All of these factors make access to self-care through direct-to-consumer businesses more critical.
What advice do you have for founders in similar industries?
If you are building a business to serve women, you need to see beyond your product. I can tell you that the key to our approach is to see and support the whole woman, not just the woman in menopause. We see all the challenges a woman may be facing rather than a list of her symptoms because we are women.
What has your experience been like with M13’s Launchpad?
The M13 Launchpad team has been an invaluable part of my experience as a CEO. Leading a company through the early stages of a startup comes with a unique set of challenges, many of which were new to me as a first-time CEO of a seed stage organization. The Launchpad team has partnered with me on every step as we grow. In addition, the ability to connect with and collaborate with the M13 portfolio leaders and M13 partners gives me fresh perspective, solid advice, and new ideas. Joining this portfolio as a Launchpad business is a one-of-a-kind experience that most certainly contributes to the success of our company.
Click here to follow Kindra’s journey and here to learn more about M13’s Launchpad.