The founders behind Thinx underwear jumped into their bold social venture with a collection of impressive resumes and big ideas. What they didn’t have was much experience in the complex world of high-tech apparel and marketing.
They decided to treat their collective lack of experience as a springboard for new ideas, a decision that has allowed the company to develop a completely unique–and entirely self-funded–business model. The trio literally reinvented women’s underwear with cutting edge research and design, and ultimately developed a creative product with major potential for social good.
“I’m not afraid to say ‘I don’t know,'” says cofounder Radha Agrawal, a serial entrepreneur in the food industry. “I think an investor is going to respect you a lot more if you say ‘I’ll get back to you about that.'”
And investors–especially those of the crowdfunded variety–have certainly started to take note of Thinx’s unique approach. By piggybacking and expanding on the model for social entrepreneurship developed by companies like Warby Parker and Toms Shoes, Thinx aims to tackle the annoyance of poorly designed underwear in the U.S. while simultaneously funding a product with serious life-changing implications for schoolgirls in the developing world–schoolgirls who often miss 20% of their education due to stigma around the “week of shame,” according to company research.
Thinx partnered with AFRIpads, a company that produces washable menstrual pads in Uganda. For every 250 pairs of Thinx sold, AFRIpads is able to hire one more employee at its factory, which currently employs 54 local women. Since the official launch in January, Thinx has already sold 2000 pairs of its patent-pending leak and stain resistant underwear at nearly double the pace of its 15,000 unit goal for the year.
The learning curve in founding Thinx was a steep one, but the founders believe that the overwhelming Kickstarter response and the growing interest from women around the world would never have been possible without complete transparency and honesty about their experience and their goals.
Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know–just be smart about how you say it.
[Video by Shalini Sharma // Camera & edit by Tony Ditata // Shot on location at The Yard in Brooklyn]