Personally Cool: Launch of Family Business Serves Menopausal Women
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To launch a company in the Life Science space, it nothing but challenging. To launch a product that is targeted at a female issue, which most men don't understand or want to understand, is a tough sell to the investment community. But Personally Cool overcame the challenges and just launched their product. Time for an Interview with Hugh Brownstone, the CEO and co-founder of Personally Cool.
What is the product?
coldfront® is a pragmatic solution to a widespread problem in a terribly underserved market. In simplest terms, coldfront is a cold therapy system designed specially for menopausal women experiencing hot flashes. Our product offers heat relief without drugs, mess or embarrassment.
Who is on the team?
Personally Cool Inc. was founded by a hot flashing woman, Susie Hadas. She is a serial entrepreneur and our President.
Susie asked me to join her on this extraordinary journey because of my complementary experiences and skills (former Fortune Global 500 exec and Internet startup CEO) - and because we've had more than 50 years to iron out our communication style (she’s my sister).
I said "yes" immediately – her passion and determination were incredible, and it was clear that she'd discovered an enormous gap in the marketplace. I am her co-founder; the company's Chairman & CEO; and honorary menopause maven.
Why was this team interested in this product?
Susie was shocked by the lack of suitable hot flash relief products. It was what I’ll call an “and” problem: she couldn’t find anything that was effective AND safe AND convenient AND discreet AND socially responsible.
She became so frustrated that she set out to invent something better, something that would give her and millions of women like her the ability to get through hot flashes with a little grace and dignity without worrying about side effects, inconvenience or embarrassment. She wasn't trying to thwart nature, just make it a little bit…personally cooler. She's done it. coldfront is awesome (I admit I've used it myself on long haul flights to keep my cool)!
How big is your market? And where will you grow the coming 3 years?
There are 43 million women in the U.S. alone between the ages of 40 and 59. 100% of them are in or will go through menopause. 75% of them will have hot flashes -- that's 32 million hot flashing women. To repeat: that's just the U.S.
Our objective is to be THE go-to company for menopausal hot flash relief first in the U.S., and then the rest of the world. And we’re very well aware of additional applications for our product in other verticals.
How much money was needed to make this product happen?
We started the company with just about $100,000 of our own money and a small seed round. We recently closed our $500,000 Friends & Family round. Together, this has gotten us through launch. We're exploring an A round now to accelerate things dramatically.
Any crucial advisers or advice received along the way?
We've had great advice. It began with a formal market assessment conducted by my favorite ex-Wharton and ex-Harvard professor who now heads up our customer insights. A former classmate -- a senior marketing executive at Liz Claiborne, Clairol and Revlon -- helped us understand the pros and cons of traditional media and brick and mortar.
Our general and IP counsels were there with us very early on.
Our branding work was done with a firm in Philadelphia resulting in a great product name.
Our investors have been terrific as advisors as well, from a third generation entrepreneur to a former Goldman Sachs exec (a woman) who took all of the remaining headroom of our F&F round.
Our Astia advisors have been nothing short of extraordinary. We don't just respect them and get tremendous advice and contacts from them, but we've bonded with them. We love them, each one of them, each one of whom is very different.
But I would be remiss if I didn't mention the single best advice we received along the way: "You are going to make it happen. So get going."
This was from our mother.
What were the hurdles for getting this product to life?
A consumer products company whose launch product is aimed at a female issue, which most men don't understand or want to understand, is a tough sell to the investment community.
The off-shoring of this segment of the American manufacturing industry has proven challenging, as has the fact that we're often asking our manufacturing partners to do things a little bit differently than they've done them before, and it ends up being much more difficult than either we or they ever have imagined.
And now that we've lived it, we're astounded by the U.S. tax code. I'm not talking about top marginal tax rates, I'm talking about a tax code that makes it extraordinarily difficult for startups to use the money they already have and does a stellar job of preventing them from applying legitimate losses that they incur ahead of generating revenue.
What's your secret to be successful?
Our focus is on an incredible, yet terribly underserved market with a compelling reason to buy. Women want simple, effective, safe, discreet, and socially responsible hot flash relief, and they haven't been able to get it -- until now.
We have a compelling product, coldfront. And we are a wonderful team -- even when we yell at each other (and we do), we always end up with a better decision as a result, and we never stay mad at each other for more than a couple of minutes. Well, maybe up to 20 minutes. Neither of us has ever had this much fun in business.
What's on your wish list?
We want women to know that they don't have to allow other people to frame the discussion around menopause, hot flashes, and what it means to be a woman of a certain age.
We want them to take back that power, to know they can embrace this time of their lives -- or moan and groan about it freely, openly if that's what they want to do (or do both). I want my younger daughter to get through college in one piece (my older daughter just graduated, and Susie's three boys are already grown. Her oldest -- my nephew -- is employee number 3).
How important was Astia?
When we first heard about Astia, we weren't quite sure what to make of it. But once we were selected to become an Astia portfolio company and attended the week-long boot camp, we thought we'd been admitted to Hogwarts. Neither of us have ever seen anything like it. They have been instrumental in getting us to this point. Every single person we've met through Astia has been exceptional, and we feel incredibly privileged and fortunate to have said "yes" to their invitation to become part of the community.
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