Miki Agrawal combines creative vision and an entrepreneurial spirit with an unflinching desire to disrupt the status quo within multiple industries. Her decidedly irreverent approach has manifested itself in two successful businesses and books, all of which focused on society’s “taboo” subjects. This resourceful Canadian innovator revels in every opportunity to use disruption as a positive force in her own life and in the larger culture.
Miki Agrawal began her career evolution by earning a Bachelor of Science in Business and Communication degree from Cornell University in 2001. While working as an investment banking analyst at New York City’s Deutsche Bank, she was profoundly impacted by the events of 9/11. She intuitively shifted her focus, developing a desire to positively impact people and add something of value to the world.
Rather than redefining her career path, Miki Agrawal chose her ideal lifestyle and searched for a compatible business idea. In 2005, she started a gluten-free, farm-to-table pizzeria called Slice (now called “Wild”). This successful eatery now has two New York City locations.
For her next business venture, Miki Agrawal drew upon her enduring desire to find a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to meet a universal need. In 2008, she launched THINX, a sustainable underwear company geared to helping women during their menstrual cycles.
Miki Agrawal’s newest entrepreneurial venture is TUSHY, an innovative startup that fabricates bidet-style toilet attachments. The business was born of Agrawal’s desire to create a more hygienic, environmentally friendly way to attend to personal bathroom needs, with an unapologetic and honest approach to the notion that “everyone poops”.
TUSHY’s wide-ranging appeal was magnified by the 2020 toilet paper market shortage, resulting in exponential revenue increases for this innovative product. To date, almost one million customers have purchased the TUSHY product.
As might be expected, Miki Agrawal delights in helping others take positive steps in their own lives. This best-selling author has written “Disrupt-Her: A Manifesto for the Modern Woman,” which offers inspiration for progress on multiple levels. “Do Cool Sh*t” shares insights on carving a career from a personal passion. “Heart Wisdom,” Agrawal’s much-anticipated literary work, will be published soon.
For her bold entrepreneurship and notable achievements, Miki Agrawal has received many professional accolades. She was among Forbes’ “Top 20 Millennials on a Mission,” and INC Magazine named her one of its “Most Impressive Women Entrepreneurs of 2016.” The World Economic Forum, the World Technology Summit, Fast Company, Time Magazine, and other organizations have also presented Agrawal with well-earned awards.
Looking ahead, Miki Agrawal will keep searching for ways to modify existing products to reflect a more artful, efficient, and environmentally friendly design. When she discovers a common problem that the marketplace has thus far ignored, her disruptive tendencies will likely lead her to pursue a solution.
Where did the idea for TUSHY come from?
Since I have been a hard-charging entrepreneur my whole life and have been pushing my body past its limits for years, my body started screaming at me. I developed an extreme hyperthyroid condition. One of the unfortunate side effects of it is excessive pooping.
During this time in my life, I was pooping up to 8 times a day and got down to nearly 100 lbs. It was really scary. Part of pooping 8 times a day, and not clean poops might I add, made me wipe and wipe and wipe until my butt was so raw that I had to start jumping in the shower to wash my butt gently after I pooped. It was a really frustrating time in my life.
My husband found a faulty bidet product from Asia and thought that it could help me. So, we installed it on my toilet…and it changed my LIFE. It was another “DING! DING! DING!” moment in my life, where I said to myself, “I need to create the best-in-class version of this bidet product and bring it to America”. From there, TUSHY was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have my days set up to where I only allocate a 2-hour window, all in one go, broken down into 15-30 minute calls, with the occasional 1-hour call. This 2-hour window of calls is usually Monday-Thursday. I don’t take any work calls on Fridays because I call it my “thinking day”.
After 2 hours of calls, I do respond to emails and messages for about an hour or so every day. Then, I spent the rest of my time in spaciousness, thinking, dreaming, channeling the next idea, campaign, strategy.
This space creates an opportunity to truly open up the portal to creativity and this needs to be celebrated more.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by dreaming up a bigger vision, through meditation or taking walks, and being in nature, participating in conversation, or reading a book, when showering, or in the state between sleep and awake.
When an idea hits, I then reach out to my team (first my CEO/COO/CMO), because they will then be able to take the idea and create the system to execute on it with the rest of the team.
I then talk with my Art Director to draw out/design the concept, so that we can fully break it down into steps to launch it properly (if it makes sense). As a lot of ideas come through, my team prioritizes what makes the most sense and they add their ideas to the table to elevate them even more.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I know that memes are the most sharable thing these days, so I have been dreaming up funny memes based on well-known water scenes. For example, in “The Notebook”, the scene where they make out in the rain is made fresh with the presence of TUSHY bidet sticking out from the corner, watering them, too. At MOMA, the Cezanne exhibit features a lot of butts, which can be elevated by putting a TUSHY bidet in there, spraying them.
I’m always thinking about creative ways to show our product working.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that makes me more productive is to schedule my calls and meetings in a 2-hour window, in 15/30 minute meeting slots, with only a couple of one-hour-long meetings a week.
I get so much done in those two hours with my teams, which leaves the rest of the time for me to think, create, dream and build on the bigger vision of the company.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The advice I would give my younger self is to listen to my body when it needs to slow down. I’d remind myself to not feel the need to “go, go, go” at all costs because we’re all mortal beings who will end up as dust, in the end.
Yes, it’s important to want to leave the world a better place, but to also remember to slow down, relax, and recover when one’s body needs it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Well, barely anyone agreed with me that period-proof underwear was going to be a “thing”, except for my Co-Founders, at first. The same thing happened with bringing a bidet to America. In both cases, no investor wanted to invest initially and it took a long time to raise the money to make both ventures happen. Almost nobody thought that bidets in America would take off.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Adopt the following mantra: One customer at a time. One clean butt at a time. Having the best product in the world and the best customer service in the world is crucial. If each customer feels special, then it’s a win.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has helped me grow professionally is to truly question everything and bring things back to first principles, looking at the components that make up an idea, a product, a concept. After this introspection, decide if it still makes sense or to figure out a better way to do it.
It has also been helpful to look at business as art. When people see our product, emails, and ads, I want them to think it’s art. and that we’re funny. Art and comedy go hand in hand.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t see anything as a failure. In fact, in my book “Disrupt-Her,” I replace the word failure altogether with “revelations”. Things have always been revealed to me through a challenging experience or process. I’ve been given the opportunity to learn and grow from these revelations.
I don’t even believe in the concept of “failing forward”, because it still has a negative connotation. I think one of the greatest challenges I experienced was in the “people space”. I learned that if I am to hire young and inexperienced people on the team, then I have to have real management in place to train, teach, and grow them properly.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would love to see someone create a vacuum cleaner for the air, where all cars can suck up CO2 from the air and convert the CO2 to carbon to fuel the car and oxygen to go back into the atmosphere!
The hardest thing to figure out is how to break down the CO2 molecule and to do it successfully in a small space. It’s akin to trying to create a laptop computer when the current offering is an old computer that takes over a whole room!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I always spend is on massages and physical therapy. When my body feels good, I feel good.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The one piece of software that helps me be productive is my alarm clock on my phone. I get so caught up in my thinking that unless my alarm goes off, I’ll miss meetings and calls. So, I set my alarm on my phone for all of the meetings in my day (within the two-hour window).
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The most recent book I read that I would 100% recommend to this audience is “The Artist’s Way”. Julia Cameron really breaks down how to think like an artist through morning pages and artist’s dates. She teaches readers how to remind ourselves that we can ALL think creatively, outside of the box, and get out of our own self-deprecating brain.
What is your favorite quote?
“Iteration is perfection”.
“With more truth comes more beauty”.
- Maintaining an organized call/meeting schedule throughout the week can help multitasking professionals maximize their times.
- Dedicating the time and energy to properly take care of one’s body is essential to overall wellness and success.
- Taking the word “failure” out of your vocabulary can help you consider missteps as revelations, and focus on the outcomes, learning experiences, and growth from those revelations, instead of the perceived “failure”.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.