“Menopause snuck up on me.” This is how Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, CEO of Kindra described her first experience with menopause concerns.
In her 40s, she started experiencing body aches and nightly fever-like symptoms. Her doctor misdiagnosed her condition as fibromyalgia and prescribed a six month steroid treatment. “Something was wrong with my clock,” Catherine said. “I couldn’t articulate what it was but that is how I felt and I knew it wasn’t fibromyalgia!”. So she went for a second opinion and her new doctor confirmed that it was “probably the beginning of perimenopause; a lot of women start to get achy just because of hormones’”.
After undergoing a series of tests that confirmed she was indeed perimenopausal, Catherine was in shock. “What do you mean, this is menopause? I am young. I have little kids. I’m active. I’m traveling all over the world?”
And that was the beginning of her awakening.
Although she felt “25 on the inside”, Catherine became aware, for the first time ever, of her own “time limit”. “And I think that sparked the idea in my mind that not only did I want to do work that I felt was really important, but I also wanted to be in control of my own destiny;” she recalled.
At 49, Catherine was ready to shed her corporate identity and move her career towards more meaningful and impactful work. “When my children turned 10, I felt that I was at a point where I could really take this next phase for myself and be able to grow something new and different where the mission and the metrics are aligned,” she said. “I knew I wanted to work another 20 or 30 years. So how can I work on something where I can do good and do well at the same time?”
Coming from a corporate background, entrepreneurship can be a risky and somewhat scary endeavor. As she was exploring this uncharted territory, talking with entrepreneurs and investors in the space, Catherine and Kindra “found each other”.
“I walked into the middle of the union between M13 and Procter & Gamble Ventures. I’ve been marketing to women and connecting with women and healthcare initiatives, my whole career. So we were a perfect union”.
At the helm of Kindra, which comes from “kindred spirits”, Catherine finally found her mission and calling. “When I’m engaging with our customers, the word that they keep referencing when it comes to Kindra products is ‘godsend’. Although, we’re not literally saving lives, we are making women feel a lot better about what’s happening in their bodies and able to take control of their own lives.“ She adds, “this is the work that I have been seeking all along!”
Science-Backed Menopause Products, By Women, For Women
Kindra’s mission is to help women prepare for, manage, and embrace their natural hormonal levels. Kindra’s clinically-studied solutions include non-toxic, physician-backed, patented products targeted for the most significant and disruptive menopause pain points, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, fatigue, brain fog, sleep disruption, and more.
Formulated by P&G, Kindra’s products are clinically and consumer tested, with years of research behind them. “As a company, the top two things that we actually focus on are education and community. Products are third because we have so much faith in the products being effective.”
Catherine continues to explain that there are 34 menopause symptoms that have been identified in the U.S. Kindra chose to focus on the top four most debilitating ones: vaginal dryness, sleep disruption, fatigue and hot flashes.
Kindra offers four estrogen-free products to help combat these symptoms. Three supplements that are taken orally and a vaginal lotion that includes a patented applicator. “Our supplements are all natural, and they include super powerful antioxidants. And all of the supplements also include ingredients that reduce hot flashes.” They are plant-powered, backed by science and made by women. Yes – made BY women!
The vaginal lotion, she notes, is their top seller and a “miracle product.” The formula is light and hydrating and addresses vaginal dryness, low libido and painful sex. Catherine admits that she wasn’t aware that vaginal dryness was “a thing” and to be honest, we weren’t either! She continues, “Based on my own anecdotal data, it feels like it hits everybody. Once I started to talk about vaginal dryness at a cocktail party or at school or wherever I am, every other woman is like, ‘Oh yeah, Oh, I’m having that.’ But they’ve never talked about it, and no one ever necessarily mentioned it. They just said it’s part of getting older or feeling uncomfortable is normal, which it doesn’t have to be.”
When it comes to sleep, Catherine says, “If you can’t sleep you can’t do anything, right?” For sleep disruption, Kindra offers the Sleep Enhancing Supplement. Unlike other supplements that contain a concentration of one ingredient, this supplement raises the bar. It includes Ashwagandha for stress reduction and an antioxidant called Pycnogenol, as well as a touch of melatonin. “Sleep was a little bit of a double whammy, because if you have night sweats, it can be difficult sleeping. So, this (supplement) gives you the double benefit of melatonin, a super low dose melatonin, that helps you sleep, but then, also, a sense that you won’t have a night sweat and you’ll be able to sleep through the night.”
For brain fog, which Catherine fully admits happened to her, Kindra’s Energy Boosting Supplement assists in mental clarity. It contains key ingredients found in their other supplements with the added benefit of green tea leaf extract to “help add some pep to your step”. As one customer describes it, “This product immediately remedied my brain fog. I’ve been taking it daily for almost two months. I notice if I forget to take it.”
When hot flashes hit, the Core Supplement helps to improve circulation to reduce overheating. It also addresses mental clarity, skin moisture and libido while reducing stress. This is your all-in-one go to when you’re experiencing the top four symptoms that Kindra prides themselves on tackling.
Menopause Support & Straight Talk
Every woman has their own unique set of needs as they experience different symptoms at different times. This is why it was important for Kindra to provide a safe space in their Facebook group for women to ask personal questions.
Kindra has a medical team that works to answer these questions and to provide the best possible education for community members. There’s also the added benefit of getting “real answers from real women” within the community itself.
Aside from the Facebook community, Catherine adds, “We are always trying to reflect stories of other women in everything that we do. Because once you hear a woman who sounds like you, having this similar kind of challenge, you feel more comfortable saying ‘Oh, well, maybe I’m not the only one having this. Maybe there are other women out there who are going through this kind of challenge’.”
Kindra also offers a quiz on their website that “helps you figure out where you are in your own journey.” This results in educational resources through their blog and also product recommendations. And it’s applicable to women that are in the “peri peri” phase all the way through “extra post”, as Catherine describes it. She continues, “There’s so much information to take in. And we try to serve each of them in a different way because they need very different things…..it’s also so intimate. It’s so personal. We think a lot about customer service, and how we can be there at the other end of the email, or the other end of the phone, when women are calling in with questions.”
Menopause At Work – Strategy & Mindset
In the workplace, menopause is rarely a topic of discussion; even though the negative impact it has on women’s careers is clearly documented. A study, of nearly 900 professional women, found that lowered confidence, poor concentration and poor memory associated with menopause symptoms caused them particularly significant difficulties at work.
Catherine shared that she too started to experience “a full disk space”; we laughed at the Gen X reference for her memory challenges. She credits her awareness of menopausal symptoms for her decision to change her strategy and mitigate the impact of her symptoms at work.
“During my whole career, I never took notes, because it all stayed in my brain. But now, I have to take copious notes. I look at them at the end of the day and I write them down again. Thankfully, I was aware enough not to think ‘I was losing my mind’ and I simply had to change my strategy for remembering everything.” She adds that for women experiencing the debilitating symptoms of menopause, their strategy change should be even more aggressive.
Catherine also credits a change in mindset to thriving during menopause. “If you can frame your mind to awakening instead of crisis, it’s at the exact difference between feeling it’s happening to you and something that you are evolving into — the metamorphosis of the butterfly.”
Menopause – Not A One Size Fits All
Catherine recalls having a moment in the early days of Kindra when she thought of Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls. She points out that Blanche went through her menopausal transition in 1985 when her character was 53 years old. In comparison, J.Lo headlined the Super Bowl in 2020 at the age of 50. “In your mind’s eye you picture Blanche Devereaux as menopause, especially for Gen X, who know The Golden Girls. But when you look at yourself, you think about yourself as J.Lo. And that feels very different. I think that’s part of finding a new language for aging and what it means to be in this stage.”
Catherine continues to say that menopause is more about looking at this phase of your life as another transition. She acknowledges that there are women who experience debilitating symptoms, both physically and emotionally; Kindra supports every woman wherever they are on their journey.
“We have room for everybody from Blanche to J.Lo.”
Catherine Balsam-Schwaber is known as a dynamic, results-oriented leader with a track record of delivering exceptional results in high pressure environments. She is the CEO of Kindra, an innovative self-care company for women in menopause. A life-long advocate for women’s health, Catherine joined Kindra to break down the stigma surrounding menopause care and support and empower women in mid-life through Kindra’s science-backed formulas and community-building initiatives.
She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their twins.