By Valentina Zarya
March 9, 2017

Miki Agrawal likes to say she’s in the business of the “three Ps.”

The first P is for period—or, more specifically, period underwear company Thinx. Co-founded by Agrawal in 2014, the startup makes reusable panties that hold up to two tampons-worth of liquid, eliminate the need for maxi pads, and promise to keep women clean and dry during menstruation.

The second stands for pee (as in, urine): Agrawal launched ICON, a company that makes a similar product to Thinx, but geared toward women who struggle with incontinence, in 2015.

The third and final P stands for, well, poop and represents the serial entrepreneur’s latest endeavor: Tushy, a high-tech bidet attachment.

Agrawal’s pitch to consumers is that Tushy is a more sustainable, healthier, luxury toilet experience. Or, in her words, it is “a way to clean your butt that doesn’t cut down trees, that doesn’t give you all these issues and ailments, that gives you an upgraded experience.”

According to Scientific American, Americans use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper every year, which amounts to 15 million trees. Moreover, the process of making the rolls requires nearly 500 billion gallons of water. Bidets, on the other hand, use about an eighth of a gallon of water per use (compared to the four gallons the average U.S. toilet uses per flush).

Toilet paper is also distinctly unhygienic, Agrawal argues. “You’re smearing poop up your backside and sitting in fecal matter all day long. That’s literally what you’re doing.”

Finally, Tushy promises an experience far removed from the “geriatric contraptions” that most think of (if they ever think of) bidets. “It’s like the Nest meets iPhone of bidets,” Agrawal says of Tushy, which is a small, $69 gadget that attaches to any regular American toilet.

While there’s little research comparing the health benefits of bidets vs. toilet paper, Agrawal’s argument is compelling enough to have attracted half a million dollars in seed funding, led by venture capital firm Propulsion Capital and with participation from angel investors Luke Sherwin and Neil Parikh of Casper and Zachary Werner of Poln.

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Agrawal knows that toilets aren’t exactly the sexiest industry, but that doesn’t deter her—in fact, she welcomes the challenge. “It was so crazy to understand that in the $15- $19 billion period/feminine hygiene category there have been only three major innovations in the twentieth century,” she says of Thinx.

“And in the incontinence category—a $6.9 billion category—there’s only Depends and Poise and these diaper-like products that nobody really likes to wear. One in three women have [incontinence issues] and they’re so uncomfortable talking about it—it takes seven years for them to admit to a doctor that they’re incontinent.”

What both of Agrawal’s earlier companies have in common is addressing a problem most consumers would prefer to ignore. “Both brands are looking at taboo categories‚ they’re looking at the space of periods and pee, spaces that people are very uncomfortable talking about,” she says.

So it seemed natural to her that the next area she should try to disrupt is the “poop space,” as she calls it. Having grown up with an Indian father and a Japanese mother, Agrawal began using bidets at a young age. “I feel icky when I have to use toilet paper,” she says.

Agrawal knows that most Americans will be resistant to the idea of ditching TP, but she is willing to take the time to educate them.

“I think that’s the way to change mindset and change culture—by using innovation, by using creative, beautiful, aesthetic design, and by talking about it in a way that’s accessible and relatable,” she says.

 

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