The Real Deal New York

Go inside the Brooklyn home of entrepreneur Miki Agrawal, the ex-investment banker with a novel idea for women’s underwear

March 19, 2016 10:16AM
By Business Insider

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Miki Agrawal (credit: Sarah Jacobs)

Miki Agrawal isn’t afraid to defy expectations. A former investment banker, professional athlete, film producer, and restaurateur, she’s tried her hand at a half-dozen pursuits. Now, she’s the co-founder and mastermind behind one of the buzziest clothing brands on the block: Thinx.

You may know the name from their viral advertising campaign, which included pictures of grapefruits, eggs, and provocative statements plastered across New York City subways — and made waves online for the controversy it inspired. Or you may know it from someone who’s tried the product itself: underwear that was designed to replace feminine hygiene products, priced at $24-$38 a pair. It may sound simple, but Agrawal says it’s the first big attempt to introduce something new in feminine hygiene in centuries. And it’s a potentially $15 billion market.

“I want to be the taboo queen for the nether regions,” Agrawal told us.

Business Insider recently spent a morning at home with Agrawal in her Brooklyn loft space, learning about her winding road to entrepreneurship and the things — both material and spiritual — she’s collected along the way.

Originally from Canada, Agrawal now calls the hip Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg home. The spot: a converted church just off the Bedford L stop. The sign out front still reads “All Are Welcome.”

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Through the stained-glass entrance is a narrow hallway that leads to a series of apartments. Agrawal says that half a dozen of her friends live on the same floor of the building; they end many evenings in impromptu hangouts.

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She shares the lofty space with her partner of five years, Andrew Horn. Like her, he’s an entrepreneur. That wasn’t always the case for Agrawal, though: after attending Cornell, she began her career as an investment banker. But the shock of 9/11 shifted her focus. “It was my wake up call — that a-ha moment,” she says of the events of the day.

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“Did I live a life actualized, or not?” she asked herself. So she wrote down three things she wanted to do: play soccer professionally, make movies, and start a business. This wall decoration is a gift from an artist friend — and a reminder to stay close to her goals.

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Agrawal played soccer professionally for the New York Magic before being sidelined by injury — twice. “I was like, ‘Universe, got it, thank you, OK, not my calling!'” she says of the experience. Next up: video production. On sets, presented with unhealthy foods, her first business idea struck: create a fresh, healthy, unprocessed pizza.

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“I never cooked anything before opening my restaurant,” Agrawal said. She opened her first restaurant, Wild, in 2005. Now she’s part-owner of the restaurant’s two locations, having handed the reigns over to a partner. Below, her current kitchen.

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Her refrigerator is decorated with notes, inspirational quotes, and an iteration of that controversial Thinx subway ad, showing a split, peeled orange. The idea behind Thinx stemmed from a frustration with “accidents” and with the taboos surrounding women’s hygiene.

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At the core of her business and her worldview is a belief in equal opportunity for women and the importance of each person fulfilling their potential. She chose this Ubuntu saying, “I am what I am because of who we all are,” and painted it on a piece of scrap wood she sanded and stained herself before putting it up above her kitchen.

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According to Agrawal, feminine hygiene is a $15 billion business — and it hasn’t been disrupted in centuries. In this corner of her apartment, a collection of candles is set up almost like an alternative altar.

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Thinx isn’t her only project: she’s also behind Icon Undies, an incontinence product, and Tushy, an entry-level bidet unit for any bathroom.

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“My days are extremely high-octane,” she said. So coming home is like “a deep breath of fresh air.” This day bed on the main level of the apartment serves both as a bohemian-style seating area and storage.

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Above her bed hangs a dreamcatcher custom-made for her by Abel Costa, a mind-body therapist. Agrawal said that he channeled her aura in the weaving of the piece, which is made with 200-year-old kimono silk.

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On her entrance table sits this stencil frame by graffiti artist Betty Kay Kendrick; you can find the “pursuit of magic” stamps scattered across Manhattan — or right here, in Agrawal’s home.

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