Updated: Aug 18, 2021
When you get older, it gets more difficult to take risks and believe in yourself. As a woman, you start having self-doubt, you're transitioning through menopause, or you just want a new start. Michelle Jacobs thought about this point in her life really hard. So hard, that she left her high-paying corporate job to become an entrepreneur. She then founded Womaness, where she celebrates women who are going through menopause and lets them remind themselves of their successes. She helps them feel better, sexier, and more able to embrace their age with more confidence. Hayley Foster brings Michelle on the show to help you find your inner Womaness. Join in in this conversation and let it inspire you to celebrate your womanhood now!
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Embrace Your Inner Womaness: Transitioning Through Menopause And Living A Fabulous Life After 45 With Michelle Jacobs
I am excited to chat with Michelle Jacobs of Womaness. She is a new friend. We realized we have so much in common. I'm excited to know all about her journey into her new business.
Michelle, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you so much for having me.
I love the story behind this brand. I would love for you to walk me through a little bit about how you got started and why.
Thank you so much. It's an interesting story. My partner is Sally Mueller. We’ve known each other for many years. Quickly about her, she's from Minneapolis and worked at Target for 25 years. She has an amazing story also. She was part of the whole design for all campaigns and helped get the bullseye the icon of Target. She was there when all of this was going on. At the same time, I worked at Real Simple Magazine, helping them develop a product line around the Real Simple Name. I was in Minneapolis pitching Target and somebody introduced me to Sally and said, "She'll give you good advice on how to pitch Target and some pointers along the way." She was great. We had coffee that morning. We ended up pitching Target. We placed Real Simple at Target, but Sally and I became friends. She's a few years older than me. She became a great mentor of mine.
Through the years, we stayed in touch. I was at Time Inc. for about ten years working on Real Simple and Cooking Light and Style. She was a Target for many years, then left, and had her own company for a little bit. I moved to HSN Home Shopping Network. I was working with Joy Mangano, who's a big brand for HSN. Branding her product line after the movie Joy came out. I reached back out to Sally. She was helping us with how to work with Target and some other retailers. As I said, we stayed friends and probably a few years ago, I was starting to talk about what my next move was going to be like. Even before I was at Time Inc., I have a whole career before that. I worked for 25 years trying to figure out what was next.
Sally was visiting from New York and she was telling me about a doctor's appointment she had at Mayo Clinic. She was telling me like, "I have all these weird things going on from aches and pains to vaginal dryness." Issues that she wasn't sure what they were about. The doctor came in and said, "Everything you're talking about is related to menopause." With that, I handed her a bag of products and said, "This is our best curation of things that can help you." She went through it all. She happened to be in New York. We were talking about it and she was showing me some of these products and we were laughing. She's like, "I will never use any of these products." It wasn't Mayo's or the doctor's fault. It was that they were outdated and there were products that have been on the shelf at CVS.
We used to say it's the dusty part of the shelf that you're like, "Does anybody shop this aisle?" It was products that she, as a very fashionable, stylish woman I know would never use. We started laughing about that and I started talking about my own situation, where I have all these friends in their late 40s, early 50s, who were feeling dissatisfied, not sure, unhappy with Corporate America and looking for something new. These were women who were enormously successful like head of design at major retailers and on the boards of major companies. The same conversation was swirling around.
Those two ideas that came together that we're like, "We need a brand that one will provide products that will speak to this woman at this time of her life, be inspiring, interesting, celebrate this woman and celebrate the success that she's had as opposed to being either weirdly medical or all about her complaints and her problems.” We're like, "We should be so excited about all the success we've had." That was the genesis of Womaness and that's how we came up with the idea. From there, it was a whole other journey.
Your initial launch, was that during the pandemic 2020?
Yes. The first year, we came up with the idea of the branding. We had the product line in mind. We had done a ton of focus groups. The last meeting I had before COVID came down was in Minneapolis at Target. We were pitching some higher-up people there. They were excited about the idea. They were like, "You should meet with the buyers." COVID happened and that was February 2020 something and as of March 10th, 2020, I've been sitting in the seat ever since. We literally had all of our buyer meetings over Zoom. We had then had to raise money all over Zoom. We created our product line through Zoom and FedEx. We developed everything and we finally launched our direct-to-consumer business on March 1st, 2021.
Good for you guys. Maybe the pandemic was a blessing.
I think that we were ridiculously productive. We were able to take so many investor calls a day because we didn't have to travel. I was literally sitting. It was one after the next to San Francisco, London, New York, Florida. It didn't matter.
You probably saved so much money.
We ultimately save a lot of money and we got so much in because my days were seven to seven and I never moved. In some ways, the pandemic made it hard because it was very stressful. In others, we were maniacally focused because we had nothing else to do.
A lot of us were like that during the pandemic, but I love that there have been so many businesses that have popped up. Obviously, you were working on years before the pandemic, but many new businesses have popped up as a result of people, as you said, looking for something different and make that pivot. One of the things that I do is work with women that are looking to get started or teach the business that they're doing to the next level. I love that we were connected. I'm definitely not curious. I don't want to know and if I didn't ever have to know, I wouldn't. I would avoid it at all costs but creeping up on that time in my life where I know what's coming.
Funny enough, I've had a couple of podcasts recordings. One of them went Live. Although, no one knows because I haven't promoted it. I interviewed a doctor called Dr. Betsy Greenleaf. I want to introduce you to her. She is one of the First Board-Certified Urogynecologists. She has this store called PelvicFloorStore.com. The episode is called Vaginas Need Love Too.
We hear a lot about that.
Through my synagogue, I'm doing a small group that's called It's Time for Me. The Me is short for menopause.
That's interesting. I have to know more about that.
We'll talk about it. I love the story behind this journey. What would you say has been one of your biggest struggles so far?
Along the way, every moment and every juncture we get to were like, "This is the hardest part," but I think in total, the thing that I find the hardest is all the social media that has to go along with the new business. I have many years of experience. I have my MBA. I have all of this great experience to pull from. I could launch a business. We did it, but having to create content and video of myself with products. The constant having to be out there in social media, on Instagram, on Facebook, doesn't come naturally to me. I wasn't on social media before we launched this. I almost feel like that's the hardest part.
As I said, I can deal with a lot of inventory issues, supply chain problems, all of that. The constant of having to be out there, creating this content, and trying to figure out what's going to work, taking selfies is very uncomfortable for me. I think it's part of the whole story. Having confidence in who you are now and feeling good about who you are is part of the whole story.
Obviously, as I work with so many different clients, I always say like, "Spend the time on the thing you know you're good at and outsource the thing that you're not good at," but I get it. If your brand person is telling you, you both need to be out there and on the social media platform. Maybe it's a question of how much you need to be putting your face out there as opposed to putting the product, the messaging, and the content.
I think it's important for Sally to be out there because we represent this woman. We're very empathetic to what she's going through, but also, it's us. Having the face of somebody who represents this whole demographic is important for us. It's as sparingly as I can.
I'm the complete opposite. There are so many things that I don't want to do in my business, but it's my personality because I love social media. You've touched on it a little bit in terms of your why behind you launch this brand. What's your feeling about that? I do a lot of coaching on helping people find their why. Is that something that was important to you guys in doing this?
What'd you mean? Me personally or why we thought Womaness was important for the world?
For both, actually.
No question that this is what we want to do. It was interesting to us because we were interested in the demographic. It was very clear to us what was missing out there. We took a look around and said, "There is nothing like this." It was a combination of both Sally and my career. As I said, we both created a lot of brands for women throughout our life. Sally at Target. She was also at Click Media for a while working on who, what, where and Versed, which is clean skincare, also at Target. I worked at HSN on Women's Lifestyle Brands. It was this culmination. We felt very prepared to step into this and say like, "We know how to do it. Let's do it." The Womaness part was easier.
It took me a while to come to terms with it like I was leaving my job and I wasn't going to have a job while I was creating this. I think for women who have careers, your whole identity is you're this working person and you're making this salary and my next job, I better remaking this salary. It was very unnerving to say like, "I'm going to take this humongous risk, financial risk for my family, a personal risk from my ego." I'm telling people like, "I'm not working right now." It was hard.
You're probably working more than you were working.
Another reason why maybe COVID was good because I can hide in my house. All of a sudden, I emerge and people are like, "Where have you been?" I'm like, "I started a company." In a way, the COVID piece made it a little easier. I didn't have to pay for office space. I didn't have as many expenses but it was a hard decision to make. I would say it was very scary and it continues to be scary because it's not like we're taking big salaries or anything. We work as bare-bones as possible. It's scary.
Again, we're pretty much the same age. I always say I was born an entrepreneur and had the entrepreneurial juices flowing, but you spent all of your career in corporate. At any point, were you feeling like, "I want to do my own thing and have my own business?” Was this something that one day you were like, "This is a good idea. We should do this?"
I always had interesting jobs within Corporate America. When I was at Time Inc. for ten years, I ran the Licensing Department for a bunch of titles within Time Inc. My job is to create businesses out of these titles. Whether it was licensing or partnerships and I loved that piece of what I did. That's why we were able to create this product line for Real Simple. It was at Target, then it was at Bed Bath and Beyond. We created a food line for Cooking Light.
I also think of myself as very entrepreneurial within a corporate environment, which was very protective because you have that corporate structure around you. When I worked for Joy, obviously, she is like the Queen of Entrepreneurs, super encouraging for anybody who worked with her to find your passion, and take a risk. The risk was unheard of to her. She didn't even use the word. It was like, "Of course, you have to do what you want to do." Even when I worked for her, my job was to create new opportunities for her. Open new retail opportunities and open new retail channels. I also felt I've always been entrepreneurial inside a corporate structure. It was scary to do it on my own but I had that same thing that you had.
Joy is so inspirational. Obviously, you don't make a movie on an entrepreneur if she is not so inspirational. Are there other women that you have looked at throughout your career or who you look at now and say like, "I'm inspired by this person?" What about them inspires you?
I say this to Sally. It’s a little more personal than you probably want. One of my older sister, who was very successful in her career. She is a CMO and worked in retail. Her and her group of friends happen to be very successful women. As I was mentioning, all of them have done such amazing things because it was so close to me. It's like, "You can look at other people who run other nonprofit startups. Look at other women who have big jobs." It seems a little vague and abstract to me but when you see it up close and these women who had huge families, marriages, and big jobs. The fact that they did it and they got so far was always the most inspiring to me. I always looked at these women like, "I want to be like that." They were cool.
One thing that we say about Womaness women is that they're the coolest women we know, and they are. They seem like they have it all together, have these amazing jobs, and have huge networks they can pull from. It was always very inspired by this group of women. It's more of that than anyone in particular out there. Joy is amazing. Sally, my business partner, inspires me every day. Certainly, there are people out there you read about but it's that more personal that I was modeling my own life after.
Not too personal. I think that's amazing. My dad is one of my biggest mentors. My brother, who is also an entrepreneur. I listen to a ton of podcasts. I read a ton of books. I spend a lot of time at Clubhouse, which I absolutely love. I hear it so many times and I believe in it. I followed the same guide of, “Surround yourself with the people that fill your cup, doing amazing things, building incredible businesses, emulating what you want to be and who you want to be.” The personal answer, I think, is great. It talks a lot about who you are and I love it.
One other thing to add. My father, because you mentioned your father, who was like, "A man's man in every way." He had these two daughters. My sister and I used to say a lot like, “He never once looked at the two of us. He always expected success. He always expected us to do whatever we could out there in the world.” He would have been fine if both of us were stay-at-home moms and raised our kids. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. He would have been proud of that too, but he got so much out of our careers and our professional success.
It was a part of our relationship with him that it was probably done more because we never want to let him down. We always wanted to tell him that, "I got a promotion. I got a raise." The fact that he had these two girls, he never thought for one second, couldn't be as successful as any man out there. He pushed us and I think that was another reason why we both kind of achieved so much.
I love that also. My dad, who's no longer here. Unfortunately, he's been gone for many years, which is crazy. He was born in 1926, so he lived a very long, fulfilling life. I always say he was the first feminist. He'd call them gals, which isn't so politically correct. He's like, "These gals are running the show." He was in marketing also, direct mail and PR. I spent years behaving him talk about this. Right out of college, I went to Ad agencies and as we talked about, I went to the online world, building websites, doing online marketing. He was in direct mail, which was its form of marketing. He used to talk about the women at these companies that were sitting at the head of the table and running the show.
Again, like your dad, he was encouraging, inspiring, and instilled that confidence in me like, "You could do that. These women are doing that." He was so inspired by them. Without saying it, he was basically planting the seeds to say like, "You can do this. This is the women are rising the ranks and breaking through the ceiling." He was all about that. I love talking to women about their dads. I've so many women in my circle that are, unfortunately, dad lists but look back at it and say like, "It was so amazing to have a father figure that was pro-women in the workforce and pushed us to be the strong, confident women that we are."
That has been a huge part of my life.
One of the things I asked my dad to do, I think it was around his 70th birthday, is I gave him 100 questions about his life story so that I could pass it on to my kids at some point. It was the first book I ever unofficially wrote. It was stories that he never told me and things that I would never have known had I not asked. Now, I have something. I talked to people a lot about legacy and what it is. What's the imprint that you want to leave on this world? What are you doing to leave that imprint? I think it's so important. I always feel like I'm the imprint my dad left on this world.
That's great. That's beautiful.
Thank you. One of the reasons why I named my company Foster Inc. Back to the whole entrepreneurship journey for you. What do you find has been your biggest achievement so far with this business? Where do you see it going? What's the grand vision for Womaness?
Every small step is an achievement and every big step, obviously. When Target said yes, that was huge, then we finally closed our first round of financing. I literally couldn't believe that we had raised this money and these people trusted us to go ahead. Of course, Sally and I are super reliable and take everything very seriously, but it's still remarkable. Building a team and having people who want to come and work for us. They show up every day and are super excited to be a part of this. I'm proud of the people we have on our team, where they came from, and the different connections that got us to this group of people, which happens to be a group of women. We would hire men too, but it happened to be a lot of woman. I'm proud of that.
Now, little things are as big as the big things. It's amazing to me. We launched direct-to-consumer, then we launched at Target. We had our second launch at Target in July 2021 because we split up one is in fem care and the other is in skincare. When that happens, that's a huge milestone for us. Every time something big happens where we're out there, I'm shocked. I'm like, "I can't believe this is happening." I'll talk to somebody and they're like, "You seem so big. It seems like it's much bigger than it is." That's what we want everybody to feel like that this is real. It's totally legit. The products are amazing. Our customers are amazing. We want people to feel like this is a community they want to be a part of. Honestly, every step of the way, I'm proud of everything we've achieved so far.
Every win is a big win.
As I said, I do not take it for granted.
What's your favorite product in the line?
I love the body cream. It's called The Works.
I have it. I've been using it. It's my favorite.
I love how it smells. I love how it feels. I would say our number one product is Let's Neck, which is it's a serum for your neck for smoothing and tightening. It comes with a quilt. It's a rollerball and you roll it on your skin and people love how it feels. It's cooling. I love that product too, but the body cream I use. I have it on my desk. I use it all day long and I do love it.
I've been fortunate to get some samples. I love the body cream too. I'm going to buy the spot removers because my husband is bald and I was like, "We can put these on your head.”
It will get rid off some of your spots.
I'm so happy for you guys. I can't wait to see it. We have a little Target in Port Washington, which is like a Mini Target. I haven't been into a big Target. I don't know how long because I feel like I don't need to go to a big Target. I'm excited to see them on the shelves here. They're not here yet because I haven't been looking.
We're going to select Target Stores. Fingers are crossed as we continue to build sales that they will expand into more doors.
What do you want other entrepreneurs to know that are maybe on the journey or thinking about pivoting and starting a new journey in their lives?
Have a very clear picture of what you're setting out to do. I've talked to a few people. People call us for advice or other people who have connected us. You can see they doubt their own idea. You could hear it in their voice. You have to be the number one champion of the idea and be 100% sure that this is a big idea. It comes with doing your homework. You go out there and see. We did a lot of focus groups, we went to millions of stores and looked at the shelves and what was going on.
We did a lot of homework to get us there. It's like you can't live without doing it. It is still crystal clear in your head that when you talk to people, your passion comes through. That becomes infectious and people are like, "You have to do this." I maybe learned that from Joy. I used to watch her on HSN and be like, "I need everything she's selling." You have to be so sure of it. If you're not, either go back and do some more work or maybe it's not the right idea.
That's perfect. I love it. It's so important. I'm a big proponent of helping people. As I said before, figuring out their why and it's that passion. It's that thing that lights them up, gets them going because when you are an entrepreneur and you have your own business, you're going to have tough times. It's that passion for what you're doing and belief in yourself and your product that gets you through those times because you start questioning it. Everyone's going to start questioning it.
You have those naysayers out there that are like, "I don't think so." You're like, "You're wrong," because you do. It is tough. Every single day, you hear people, whether it's through customer service, people who have some issue with this or that, or investors. We have a lot of investors that turned us down. You can't let it get you down and you have to believe. You have to have plan A, B, C, and D in your head and ready to go. If this doesn't happen, we're going to do this. We were very prepared for all the different scenarios. The bottom line is we believed in this idea.
I would say, "For every no, you say thank you so much because it's leading you one step closer to the yes."
That's true and you learn something from every experience and every conversation. We never say no to anything because you learn something from everyone you talk to.
I'm excited for you guys. I wish you all the luck in the world and all the success to come your way. I'm happy to put this out there and promote you guys. Where can people find this other than Target?
They can find it at Womaness.com and Target.com, although we're sold out right now. We're going to be back in stock soon. We're going to be on the shelves at Target come July 2021. Some of our women's health like women's health care and fem care is on the shelf, but skincare launches in July 2021. You can check out our Instagram @MyWomaness.
Michelle, thank you so much for this conversation. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet Sally. She sounds amazing.
Definitely another time.
Thank you so much. Thanks, everyone, for reading and see you next time.
Sally Mueller - LinkedIn
Vaginas Need Love Too - Previous episode
@MyWomaness - Instagram
About Michelle Jacobs
Michelle Jacobs is the Co-founder and COO of Womaness, modern menopause solutions from top to toe.
She’s a strategic development leader with a sweet spot in brand building, leading sales (e-commerce and traditional), branding, partnerships, licensing, logistics, inventory planning and financial management. She’s worked across multiple categories from home to health, décor to baby, for both start-ups and established brands.
Michelle began her career in licensing then spent a few years at a digital media agency, leading client relationships for Polo, Ralph Lauren and Lancôme. After earning her business degree, Michelle marketed billion-dollar brands like Centrum and Advil to every store from the corner bodega to Costco.
Michelle then spent a decade with Time Inc., launching and developing the licensing and retail business for Real Simple, Cooking Light and InStyle magazines with mass retail partners including Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, BJs Wholesale Club and Crate & Barrel.
Michelle was recruited to QVC/HSN to manage the retail rollout for The Joy Mangano brand (yes, that Joy Mangano— aka inventor of the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers).
Many years and many brands later, with Michelle now in her late 40s, the entrepreneurial urge hit, and she knew it was time to establish a business of her own. She co-founded Womaness (which just debuted March 2021), a brand that is changing the conversation around menopause through innovative products that offer solutions from head to toe (and everything in-between), readily avail via Target. Womaness provides trusted advice on symptoms from hot flashes to sleep issues to fine lines, and support from an inspired community of women who don’t believe in the pause (of menopause) and exude #menopositivity, aka a dynamic, joyful outlook that embraces who we are today.
Originally from Long Island, Michelle is a New Yorker through and through, earning her BA from Colgate University (in Hamilton, NY) and her MBA from New York University. She lives in Larchmont, NY with her husband and their sons, Eli and Max.