Menopause is a rite of passage for every woman albeit not one most of us truly understand nor celebrate because, let’s face it, the dreaded “M” is seen by many as “a marker of getting old.”
Menopause is marked by a woman going 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. The average age for a woman in the US to hit menopause is 51, but it may occur earlier or later than this age. While the years leading up to it are called Perimenopause, also aptly referred to as “a bit of a roller coaster ride”. This period may last up to seven years or be as short as only a few months. During this phase, the ovaries produce less estrogen and fewer eggs. It is also common for periods to become less regular during this time. Most women begin perimenopause in their mid-40s, but it may happen as early as their mid-30s.
As Gen X women, many of us are going through menopause right now while the rest of us are probably experiencing symptoms of Perimenopause.
But thanks to ‘Womaness’, a company co-founded by Gen X women Sally Mueller (1964) and Michelle Jacobs (1972), menopause has finally met its match.
“Menopause does not change who we are; it only opens the next door; the next chapter. Change is good”.
With a suite of products ranging from facial creams, body care and sexual wellness made with clean, high end ingredients in classy and beautiful packaging, Womaness is changing the conversation around menopause and effectively disrupting the menopause industry.
And for Sally and Michelle, it’s not just business! It’s a calling built on an admirable mission: “When it comes to Menopause, no woman should be left behind.”
We spoke with Sally and Michelle about how it all started, the pivotal moments in their life and career that led them to starting ‘Womaness’ and what it means to be a Gen X woman.
Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What led to your entrepreneurial adventure in your 40s?
Sally Mueller: Well, I left a great job at Target. I was turning 45, I was at the height of my career. Maybe I was having an identity crisis but I just felt like it was time to take all of that learning, I had been there almost 25 years, and start my own business. So I literally left on a Friday, started my own business on that Monday, had zero clients, but I wanted to move to the brand side of the business and help retailers like Target. That’s what really started the whole journey over the last 10 years. I’ve taken a lot of different roads and different paths but the connective tissue to all of it is building brands for women. But nothing is more exciting than what we’re creating with Womaness – just because of the strong mission we’ve created.
Michelle Jacobs: I was at Time, Inc. for 10 years and then I was at HSN right after that. I think when I left HSN I really didn’t know what was going to inspire me. I felt like I had done so much and I had so many years of building my career and I just was not feeling very inspired to go work for somebody else but I was looking to continue to work and I really wanted to build something either on my own or with a partner and then Sally and I kind of came together. That was sort of the genesis for Womaness and it was the perfect timing for me.
Why Create a Business that centers around Menopause?
Sally Mueller: I started going through menopause, I think at 47 or 48. At the time, I was working non-stop and traveling every week and I didn’t even really realize that the changes I was experiencing in my body were really menopause related. And about four years ago, I found myself at a doctor’s appointment at the Mayo Clinic and had a very, very wonderful doctor across the table from me. And she said ‘Sally, everything you’re telling me is really common with menopause and don’t feel bad.’ Basically I was telling her I have vaginal dryness and painful sex and all of these little, scary things and she’s like ‘I see women all day long with these issues’; she was being empathetic, not downplaying the severity of them. And she said ‘Here’s a list of products I would recommend you research and buy and things will start to feel better for you.’ So I went home that night and looked at the list of products on amazon and thought I am never ever buying any of these products. The names and packaging were horrible and I couldn’t even pronounce the name of most of the ingredients. This was no disrespect to her advice; it was the best that she could choose from in the market.
I just started thinking more about, wow, someone needs to disrupt this menopause space. And I started really looking into the size of the market and talking to friends. And then on an upcoming trip to New York, Michelle and I were having drinks and I was telling her that I really wanted this to be my next big career move and why not disrupt this space. Someone’s going to do it. And then Michelle added her insight, which I’ll let her explain. And that really created kind of the foundation, the pillars of the brand.
Michelle Jacobs: I was saying to Sally all my friends are going through something. They were in their late forties, early fifties, had worked really hard throughout their career and now were either quitting their jobs or just feeling very unfulfilled. It was also coupled with what Sally was saying and not understanding what was going on with their bodies during the different stages of menopause.
There was also just sort of like this aha moment where we said this woman needs to be celebrated. We need to take a moment and say look at what we’ve achieved, look at all we’ve done, you know. Not just career but family, whether you had children or not, raising them, having a home, just the successes that you’ve had along the way and all we’ve learned. And that was really when we said there’s really an idea here about talking to this woman in a way that she hasn’t been spoken to before.
You champion #Menopositivity. What does that mean to you?
Sally Mueller: It’s really about this radiant outlook that women have. And it doesn’t mean that some days aren’t tough but it’s their perspective on life. And that’s what we really learned from talking to these women is that they said they feel more creative now. They feel more empowered. They’re more wise. They’ve had all this experience and now they’re just done with anything that is not fulfilling or is just not right in their life, including quitting their corporate jobs. They’re really willing to take risks at this point in their life.
We wanted to capture that essence and that is the overall feeling that we want to exude from the brand. And, again, it doesn’t mean that, you know, times and certain hours and days can be rough but we also say menopause doesn’t define you. It’s really about you as a person as well. A lot of women are really excited about just thinking about it in a more positive way.
We love the high end look and feel of your brand and that you’re offering a suite of products at affordable pricing. What was the premise behind that?
Michelle Jacobs: For most women, menopause is an inconvenience, at best, and having massive symptoms, at worse. Every woman goes through menopause. There are 50 million women in the US currently going through menopause and everyone will.
What we wanted to be was sort of the first step, the first line of defense, the first place you go when you just need the basics. We also wanted to provide a really positive space and make our product line accessible. Our customer is a woman who is educated and sophisticated. She deserves good products and good information.
Sally Mueller: This woman is also stylish and savvy. She’s bought a lot of products in her life. She shops high to low. But we really did listen to a lot of women along the journey and said make it accessible so that I can buy more than one product. And, we hold that so true to the mission of the brand because we see it; ever since we’ve launched, women are buying multiple products. And they’re buying everything from our vaginal moisturizer to our skincare. We say menopause does not discriminate. Every woman goes through menopause so it really felt like we needed to respect her. We needed to make it affordable. There’s no reason why the packaging needed to look dark and dingy and be on the bottom shelf. So, all of that went into the design and the formulations.
What does it mean to be a Gen X woman?
Michelle Jacobs: We’re the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women, Gen X women. And we take good care of ourselves. We are very active in our lives. 50, 55 looks very different than what it looked like 20 years ago. And more is expected of us too. Because we had children later in life, some of us are still running around with our kids. We’re working. We’re also taking care of our parents and so there’s a lot that’s still on our plate. So we’re definitely not slowing down.
Sally Mueller: Much like women like us, she’s really busy. So yes, we’re digitally savvy; we’re on Instagram, Facebook, Clubhouse and all of the different apps but we’re also not looking at our phones as much as a millennial is. Our interests are more mature in a way, more developed. We’re into cooking, we’re into book clubs, we’re into volunteering, our kids,….
How are you connecting with the Gen X woman – your core consumer?
Sally Mueller: Michelle and I love talking to our customer, to other women and we’ve hired women in this age group on our team to also meet with other women because we just feel like it’s so important for that personal connection to happen. And then we want to create, and we are, a platform for other women to meet each other and to have a conversation and to learn those tips and hear those stories. We say it’s about information but it’s inspiration too. Inspiration is almost just as important. Yes, we want to be educated around our health and these different topics but we also just want to be inspired. So, it doesn’t have to be a topic about menopause. It could just be about a woman starting a new business or interviewing a woman who wrote a book about mid-life. We like to say it’s like a book club where you love the comradery. You go there. You talk about the book for 5 minutes and the rest of the time is chatting with each other, maybe drinking wine. So, that’s what we’re helping to really create, that platform.
We love that you mentioned the word ‘disrupt’ a few times; this is not a word often associated with our generation or women in their 40s or 50s.
Michelle Jacobs: It’s not just millennials that can do that. We went with the perspective that we deserve better. So why can’t we have better.
We’re right on this cusp, this edge, we grew up without digital all around us and now we really jumped right in. So, we lived in both worlds. And I think that says a lot about the perspective we bring.
Any advice for Gen X women making the transition to entrepreneurship and launching their business?
Sally Mueller: I think when Michelle and I decided this was our calling, and we both come from a brand background, brand and retail, we wanted to really create the brand strategy, bring it to life, almost like a proof of concept before we started pitching investors. So, I really encourage the women who are seeking investment for their business to get the idea a little more fully developed before you start pitching investors. And that takes commitment. it took commitment on our end because we had to invest our own time and our own money in getting that off the ground but that was important to us. And we felt like we were going to have a lot more leverage when we went out to start pitching investors if we had the concept fully baked. So, by the time we were pitching we had our product lined up, we had packaging concepted, you could see it. It wasn’t just “oh great idea Sally and Michelle”. It was “I can really see it. I totally understand how this is going to come to life”.
Michelle Jacobs: Some research also helped. And it doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be just get 10 people that fit your target in a room and ask them some questions just to gauge their interest in what you think is a great idea. Not everyone might agree so having some feedback really helps.
Anything else you want Gen X Women to know about your brand?
Sally Mueller: We are affordable because we wanted to reach every single woman, of every economic background, and every situation. So, we really want to invite them to this party, so to speak. And not to be afraid to reach out for help or advice. Not just from us but also from her doctor. But in terms of our brand, we’re here and we really want to help women.
Michelle Jacobs: The only thing I would add to that is that while we were spending all those months raising money, we also spent an enormous amount of time creating these products. And they’re really, really well formulated with the best ingredients, especially designed for this customer, for her skin and her body. We’re really proud of the products that we built and the brand that we built because it was so close to our own heart. We spent a lot of time and money and energy to make it as good as it possibly can be.
Menopause, Meet Your Match: An innovative collection of modern menopause products, Womaness is the first line of defense against perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, from hot flashes to brain fog, fine lines to vaginal dryness, low libido to bladder leaks.
Created by Sally Mueller and Michelle Jacobs, who collectively have helped to launch and define some of the most popular women lifestyle brands, they saw an opportunity to serve the 50+ million women who are not only unfamiliar with the symptoms of menopause but how to treat them. They set out to create Womaness to address these issues and spark the power of menopositivity – a radiant dynamic outlook that embraces who we are today.
Womaness is available at www.womaness.com, Target stores, and Target.com.
Join the menopositivity movement @mywomaness #mywomaness #menopositivity