When Mia Abbruzzese discovered that her mother was struggling with incontinence, the entrepreneur in her realized that there had to be better solutions than what her mom was using – something more skin-safe, easier to use and environmentally friendly. Together with wife Alex Fennell, they founded Attn: Grace with the intention of creating something genuinely new in the world of incontinence care products.
Since their launch in 2020, they’ve been named to Fast Company’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, and today they offer a range of absorbents, wipes, skin care products and more, all designed to be as natural, sustainable and effective as possible.
In this episode of Life Without Leaks, we’re joined by Alex to hear about what makes Attn: Grace different, what it took to actually introduce a new product to the marketplace, and where they’re going as a company.
Bruce Kassover: Welcome to Life Without Leaks, a podcast by the National Association for Confidence. NAFC is America’s leading advocate for people with bladder and bowel conditions, with resources, connections to doctors, and a welcoming community of patients, physicians and caregivers, all available at NAFC.org.
Welcome back to another episode of Life Without Leaks. I’m your host, Bruce Kassover and with us today is the Executive Director of the National Association for Continence, Steve Gregg – welcome!
Alex Fennell: Thanks, Bruce. Good to be here with you again today.
Bruce Kassover: With us today we have Alex Fennell, co-founder of Attn: Grace, that’s a company that’s introducing innovative solutions for women with incontinence.
Welcome, Alex. How are you doing?
Alex Fennell: I’m great, Bruce. Great to be here with all of you.
Bruce Kassover: Excellent. Thank you for joining us. So tell us what is Attn: Grace and how did you get started?
Alex Fennell: Yeah, absolutely. So, thanks again for having me, and I’m excited to share a little bit more of our story with everyone. So the story really all began about three and a half years ago. We were, my wife and co-founder, Mia and I, were in the process of, you know, building our family and raising our four young kids. And my wife had gone, Mia had gone home to visit her mom, who was 89 at the time. She lived, we’re here in Boston, and she lived about an hour outside of the city on the North Shore.
And Mia had gone home to have lunch with her mom, who was just this, like, amazingly dignified, really refined, fiercely, fiercely independent woman. And, you know, she was sort of still getting her hair blown out, getting her nails done, shopping at Saks, doing all the things that one might hope to be doing when they’re 89 years old.
But there she was that day. Mia watched her coming out of the bathroom and she was stuffing a big used pull up brief, incontinence brief, into the little flimsy plastic sleeve the newspaper comes in, and Mia was really taken aback by a couple of things. You know, first I think the biggest sort of revelation for her was she was just really surprised that her mom had this condition and she hadn’t shared it with her.
They were very, very close. And so she was really kind of just taken aback that she hadn’t known her mom was struggling with bladder leaks and, you know, secondly, she was just really struck by sort of the utilitarian nature of how her mom was relegated to, in this instance, disposing of the product that she had been using.
It was like super cumbersome and really just not particularly dignified. And so she and her mom sat down and they, you know, started to talk a little bit more about it and as Mia learned more, you know, she realized that her mom had sort of been struggling for a few years at this point to kind of piece together solutions for her incontinence.
And she, you know, would reference tipping the kids at the cash register at her local pharmacy to, like, carry the bulky bags of products out to her car. You know, her mom walked with a cane at this point, so, you know, that sort of thing. And so Mia, who is an entrepreneur, you know, she’s a second time founder, so she is, she sort of has that entrepreneurial bug and has had it for a long time.
So she drove home and her mind was sort of already, I think her wheels were already kind of spinning. And then as she walked in the door that day, I was sitting unpacking the Honest Company box of baby diapers and wipes and cleaning supplies and everything. We’ve been users of the Honest Company branded baby diapers since, you know, for really, for like the last 10 years or so.
And it’s a very, if you’re not, for those listeners who may not be familiar, it was one of the first cleaner, greener baby diaper brands in the market. And everything’s kind of, like, lovely and curated and better for your skin and all of that. And it shows up on a subscription. You can customize your orders and so on and so forth.
And it’s just this very, like, simple, curated experience. And Mia thought to herself, “Wow!” Really exactly what my mom needs. You know, there shouldn’t be such a stark juxtaposition between how well and thoughtfully we care for human beings in our youth as babies and, you know, juxtaposed with how I think significantly less care and attention is typically paid to how we age and certainly how we manage conditions like incontinence. So that’s kind of where the, where the story started. And I at that point was still practicing law. I was in IP, litigated IP patent cases, kind of all over the country, all over the world.
You know, I was pretty, pretty seasoned at that point in my career and had always had an urge to do, always knew I wanted to do something else at some point, but I didn’t quite know what it was. So this, you know, opportunity came along and we jumped in and saw that there was not only a huge market opportunity in terms of the number of women that this condition impacts, and obviously it impacts men as well.
We have chosen sort of strategically as a starting point to focus on women, but there is something to the tune of 19 million women in the US with incontinence and we felt that they were being largely underserved and there was an opportunity to elevate not just the product at a functional level and a sustainability level, but also really kind of elevate the whole experience and shift, you know, work to shift the conversation that we’re having in our culture around aging overall.
Bruce Kassover: So now you see this opportunity, What do you come up with for a solution?
Alex Fennell: Yeah, so I think it really, it hearkens back to just the fact that I had been at that point really just sort of heavily entrenched in, like, that new mom mentality where you’re starting to pay much more attention to what goes in, on and around your body.
And I had spent the last, you know, sort of few years prior to this, prior to me coming home with this idea, learning a lot about the importance of the ingredients that go into our products that we use on a daily basis. I’m a big, big fan of folks like Beauty Counter, who called, really called out, was I think the, really, the first brand to call to attention just the how significantly under-regulated ingredients in products are in this country, as opposed to say in Europe where there are thousands upon thousands of banned chemicals, and sustainability initiatives are just, you know, really significantly further along than they are here in the us.
And so we saw an opportunity to try to design a cleaner, greener, more sustainable product in this space. And so we spent the first year or so really working to get to the right manufacturing partner, found our way to one of the, the leading non-wovens manufacturers based over in Europe, and worked with them to design what we call a skin-safe line of incontinence products.
And so what we did was, rather than, if you’re familiar with, sort of, traditional construction of incontinence products, conventional products use a top sheet. So that top sheet, that layer that sits against your skin, they use a top sheet that’s made from petroleum based polyethylene, and then they typically tend to treat that, top sheet with synthetic dyes, fragrances, chlorine, bleach, so on and so forth. And what we’ve learned is that that really can be a recipe for disaster for a lot of women who are wearing these products, you know, all day, every day, unlike our periods, right, where you’re using a product for maybe a week out of the month. If you’re a woman with moderate to severe bladder leaks, you’re wearing these products all the time.
And so that layer that sits next to your skin is super, super important. And so we re-engineered the top sheet in our line to eliminate the petroleum. And we use instead an upcycled sugar cane waste that’s then converted into a polyethylene. So it’s still a synthetic, which allows it to wick the moisture away and capture the moisture and keep that top layer, you know, truly, truly dry, which is really important for skin health, but you know, is free of all of those harsh chemicals that are found in conventional products.
Bruce Kassover: So I’m really interested in a few things that you’re talking about here. One of them is the entrepreneurial journey, because it sounds like you really took on a pretty ambitious task. I would imagine that, you know, you recognize that there’s a need for products that are different than the entire existing market of products that are out there. So it’s not like you can just go to a factory in, you know, wherever there happens to be a factory and say, “just give us some more of this.” You have to really reengineer an entire industry. So what did that look like, and how was it – was it particularly daunting for you, or was it just sort of like, “We’re going to take over the world?”
Alex Fennell: You know, that’s such a fun question to answer, Bruce. I think it was, you know, a combination of many of those things. I think, you know, you sort of, you don’t know what you don’t know at the beginning, and so you have this, I think that sort of, I don’t know, just at least for me, and I think for me as well, just like this inherent optimism that, you know, you’re going to just keep going, and you’re going to see how far you can get with this.
You’re absolutely right. It would’ve been much easier to just go and find a manufacturer who is willing to, you know, throw us some of their existing products and we could throw ’em in a bag and white label them.
That’s certainly one approach that’s been taken. But we did, we really did want to raise the bar at a product level as well. And so it was daunting in the sense that, you know, here you had two complete industry outsiders, you know, coming to the table to try to talk with these massive, massive manufacturing partners.
Not all of them were willing to engage with us. A lot of, we had a lot of people tell us that what we were setting out to do couldn’t really be done. And in hindsight, I smile when I think about it because I, there were a million reasons we should have quit at, you know, at like so many different points in time in the process.
But somehow we kept going and, you know, found our way to a wonderful, you know, a wonderful partnership and an opportunity to work with a team that was, you know, saw the opportunity and is as committed as we are to, to finding more sustainable opportunities to, sort of, sustainably innovate in this space.
And of course, it’s like there’s a huge elephant in the room, which is we are selling single-use disposable products. There’s no getting around that. But the way that we like think about it is that until the technology exists to develop a, you know, a truly fully functional incontinence pad or brief/pull-up, depending on the language you like to use, we’re trying to sort of bridge that inevitable gap. And so we looked for, you know, every touchpoint, not just from the product design standpoint and the components, but also, you know, our packaging, working with carbon neutral factories, so on and so forth. Really just trying to, like, bridge that gap at every touchpoint where we could and replacing non-renewable resources with renewable materials wherever we could and, so, inching ever closer to a truly sustainable solution in this space.
Bruce Kassover: I suppose if you were going to wait until everything was perfect and environmentally, pristine and appropriate, then you’d never actually get out with a product at all.
Alex Fennell: I think. I think that’s right.
Bruce Kassover: So when you decided to go to market, did you decide that we’re just going to introduce a single item, or did you have a sense that you were going to do a line immediately and how did you decide to approach it that way?
Alex Fennell: Another great question. We knew that, we knew that we wanted to develop a line that would be extensive enough to cover to, you know, to provide a product that worked for, you know, effectively all women, depending on the very, you know, depending on the severity of their bladder leaks.
But we also felt like there was a lot of, felt like there was a lot of noise in the space. You know, when you go into the aisle in CVS or wherever you may do your shopping, where you typically buy incontinence products, it’s pretty overwhelming. They all kind of, all the packages kind of look the same.
It’s hard to decipher whether, you know, do you really need like two versions of a micro pad, or can like, you know, will a liner suffice, and that sort of thing. And so we tried to strike a balance really between taking some of that noise out and making the line a little bit more approachable and also making sure we were covering everyone’s needs.
And so our line that we launched with included, it started with liners for very light leaks and then hybrid pads for light leaks and period flow, and then all the way up to, you know, moderate, heavy, and then briefs… kind of touched every, every point on the, on the spectrum, so to speak.
Bruce Kassover: When you decided to get started, so, was this self-funded? Did you have people who you already convinced to believe in you and help back you, Or did you just sit there, roll up your sleeves and say, “We’re going to pay for this and make this happen?”
Alex Fennell: No. Yeah, so it’s, it was a combination of a combination of the two, two things I would say. For the early, early days, it was, you know, a lot of us just kind of self-funding it. And then we raised a small friends and family round before we took on venture capital. And we took on our first wave of venture capital in 2020, so just shortly before we launched.
Bruce Kassover: And how did that launch go?
Alex Fennell: Oh gosh. The launch was, I mean, it went extraordinarily well, but it’s, it was funny in that, you know, it took us a long time to raise that pre-seed round of venture funding, which is, you know, ultimately what got us to that, to that launch, that sort of pivotal moment of being able to launch the brand.
We were supposed to launch in March of 2020 and of course, you know, the world shut down and so there we were, it was a little bit anti-climactic, but we did manage to, we managed to get to market with, I’d say, half of our half of our launch collection by June of 2020. So we didn’t launch, we hadn’t launched, you know, fully. We didn’t have our full line in market until probably November, just given the delays in the supply chain and shipping and all the rest with COVID kind of going on at that point. But it was remarkable. We launched and a couple of things happened. One, Mia and I knew or felt very strongly, instinctively that we wanted to design a product as I’ve been talking about that was, you know, cleaner and greener and better for her body, without obviously compromising on how effective the product is.
And we kind of knew that it was inconceivable to us that we would bring a brand into the world right now that wasn’t, that wasn’t really anchored around a commitment to more sustainable solutions. And that being said, we really hadn’t anticipated the extent to which women were experiencing this skin irritation from, you know, from conventional products that have that petroleum-based top sheet.
And so when we launched, we just started to hear over and over again from women. “You know, I’ve tried every other product on the market. I’ve been dealing with this issue for years. This is the first time that I’m not having this painful skin irritation,” and that skin irritation we’ve learned can range from just kind of itchy and, like, sort of discomfort level irritation to open sores that need, you know, antibiotic treatment.
So it really was a much more pervasive and extreme problem than we had anticipated from that standpoint. The launch was really exciting in that we learned very quickly that we had very strong product market fit and that we were solving a need for women, which is, you know, really powerful and is, it makes our, makes our team feel really great about what we’re doing every day.
And then the other thing that I would say that was funny is that it was, we had countless pitches to investors along the way to that point where we just got blank stares. Just like rooms, largely rooms of men, but rooms of people just staring at us. Like, “Why on earth are you asking us to talk about urinary incontinence?”
Like, not only is it not sexy, it’s like awkward and all of these things, right? And so it took us a long time to find the right investors. And then when we launched, We just had all of this inbound interest start coming in from these, you know, some larger funds who were starting to take notice, I think, not just of the opportunity within urinary incontinence, but within the larger aging space that I think has been historically overlooked.
And you know, I think that’s starting to shift and that we were sort of at the beginning of that, of that shift, which was kind of exciting.
Bruce Kassover: Venture capital can be funny that way because you think they like to, they really grasp any unexploited market that they can find. They really go after it. But at the same time, the fact that you saw a lot of reluctance probably speaks to the stigma that’s associated with the condition also.
And so in the way you go to market, how do you deal with the stigma and how do you overcome that and help people to feel more comfortable?
Alex Fennell: Yeah. Yeah. So on the consumer facing side, we, you know, a few years ago we, we sat down and did some really important kind of soul searching as a brand and went through an exercise where one of our, one of our teammates who, she’s been with us since the beginning. She’s one of our, you know, first employees. Her name is Layla Brier. She’s our head of brand and culture, and she was really pushing us to figure out what it is beyond, you know, what is our mission overall as a brand. Like beyond just designing more sustainable, high performing skin safe products for women.
You know, what is our, what is our greater vision? And we landed on wanting to destigmatize aging for women, you know, across the board. And I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, that’s like, that’s huge . That’s really big, right? And it was hard to imagine, you know, that one company, one team could, you know, kind of tackle that.
And not to suggest at all that we’re doing it single handedly, but that is sort of our North Star. And as we, as we look to engage with women around our products and around, in particular, urinary incontinence, we’re trying to really shift the conversation in a couple of ways. We’re really grounding ourselves in this belief that women should be really empowered around their health and wellbeing.
And to be clear, I’m saying “women”… I think this, I think this for all people, but I’m saying “women” because that is our core demographic. And so it’s not just about getting the products that you need. We firmly believe that women should have access to information about this condition. Most people, as you guys well know, most people don’t know that there are things that you can do to mitigate this condition.
Not all of the things work for all of the people. Most of them are not permanent fixes, but there are things that you can do. There are modalities, both in Eastern and Western medicine that can alleviate some of these symptoms. And so for instance, you’ll see on our blog and our resource directory, we have a searchable nationwide database of different specialists who can help women with this condition.
So urologists and urogynecologists on the more, sort of, traditional end of the spectrum, also acupuncturists and pelvic floor therapists and all of those modalities have been, you know, can have a significant impact. So I think really, we don’t, we don’t want women to sort of take this condition for granted.
There are things that you can do, not just to manage it better from a product level, but also to manage it better from just an overall health and wellbeing standpoint. And so you’ll see us, you know, having those conversations from that standpoint, but also really, you know, tackling the uncomfortable topics in this space.
We’ve seen so much. Amazing work done in the fem care space around periods and opening up that conversation and destigmatizing periods in period care, et cetera. But in that, when you get into sort of the older, the older range of the female demographic, those conversations really haven’t happened yet.
They’re starting now. There are a lot of great brands doing fantastic work around menopause and you know, trying to break down that, working to break down that stigma. And we are, you know, sort of similarly having the, having the uncomfortable conversation and tackling those sort of more taboo topics that are more relevant to an older female demographic.
And a great example of that would be a series that we did last year. It was called “Normalize This,” where we tackled different issues around things that we feel need to be normalized in our culture on our blog and pull in different experts and thought leaders in different spaces to make, to make those conversations happen.
Steve Gregg: I have to say that everything that we’re talking about today is so in line with the attitude that we have instilled in NAFC. When we started in 2014, we took a hard look at the space and who was getting information and who wasn’t. Exactly to what you just said, women have been dismissed, both from an access to medical care. “This is just a sign of getting older. You shouldn’t have had babies.” I can’t actually believe that a physician would say that to a woman in 2020. And so we focus on trying to encourage her to learn more about her health. So I think a lot of the things you’re doing are wonderful. We would love to do that.
I did want to ask sort of a question as you position very differently than everybody else in the marketplace. How did people find you? Because that’s a very different woman who says, “First I need a product and then I need a product that has characteristics of things I want.” How did you find her?
Alex Fennell: Yeah, no, that’s a, that’s a great question. And also I just wanted to say, you know this from all, from the time we spoke before, Steve, but, I’m, we’re just such fans of what you all are doing and the work that you are doing and, you know, and that we share that sort of perspective on this problem.
In terms of how we found her, so this actually goes back to, just reminds me of another story about pitching in the early days to the venture world, we kept hearing over and over again, “How are you going to find this woman? She’s not online,” you know, and we’re thinking, what on earth are you talking about?
Of course she’s online, like, of course she’s online. And one of my favorite stories from the week we launched is that the first, the very first DM direct message that we got on our Facebook channel came from an incredible woman named Trudy. 92 years old, just slid right into our DMs.
And, you know, that sort of says it all, you know, she, she’s out there, she is reachable. I think in terms of the like the, so to answer your question from a sort of tactical level, it’s been primarily online so far, especially having launched in the height of COVID, the beginning of COVID, our ability to grow the brand sort of through, like, more in person connections just hasn’t, hasn’t really been there yet, but I think, what has always struck me as interesting is, as we hear over and over again from women, “I’ve tried everything out there.” There’s this sense of resignation that, you know, she’s just, she’s got to deal with the solutions that she’s been presented with, and that’s what she’s relegated to using.
And so if you have that mindset and you’ve tried everything out there, why are you willing to try a new brand that for many, you know, you’re new and they’ve never heard of you before and they don’t have, you know, a frame of reference for who you are or, and I think it speaks to two things: One, just, I don’t want to say, like, desperation, but, you know, hope springs eternal in a lot of us that will, like, we will find a better solution for whatever problems we might be dealing with. And so I think there’s, there’s that sort of inherent optimism or hope that this will be the one that is actually meaningfully different and changes the game for me.
But two, I think it has to do with how we put ourselves out there in the world as a brand. Like we’re very different from, you know, the larger, the, the Poises, the Tenas, the Depends, and so on and so forth, just in terms of our brand presence and voice and how we speak to the issue and how we speak to her.
And, you know, Mia, I, I’m in my forties, Mia is in her mid fifties. We were younger still than, you know, most of our core demographic, but not by much. And I think we bring a perspective to the table that is more relatable as a result sometimes. And I also think, you know, women, all of us care about the environment.
You know, that was the other thing we kept hearing during early pitches, like. Not only where, why, how are you going to find her? She can’t possibly be online. But two, why is someone in their seventies or sixties or eighties going to care about the environment? I mean, come on. Of course we all care about the environment. And so I think that’s really resonating too.
Bruce Kassover: So when it comes to making an environmentally superior product, did you go to manufacturers with ideas? Did you ask them for what they thought was doable? How did you approach that?
Alex Fennell: Yeah, that’s a great question. So we did have one idea and this, I have to say it would, was not, would not have been particularly original if we had gone this route, but we originally thought that we would take what had been done in the period care space with cotton and extend it into the incontinence space.
And thankfully, we’ve had the good fortune, I like to say that the upside, the sort of silver lining of it having taken us as long as it did to get started and raised that first venture round prior to launching was that we had a lot of time to build out our network. And so we met just some really phenomenal people in the industry along the way, some of whom were willing to kind of take us under their wings and really educate us around the space. And so one of those, one of those mentors, she’s now on our advisory board. Her name is Linda Kelly. She’s been in the non-woven space for like 25 plus years. She’s amazing. And she said to us, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, ladies, you can’t, you can’t use cotton, You can’t use a cotton top sheet for, for bladder leaks. It doesn’t absorb urine the way it absorbs blood. Like it’s just fundamentally different chemistries, different viscosities, different flows, so on and so forth.” And so we came very close to making that mistake. Thankfully didn’t and sort of used that learning as a jumping off point to start exploring other, I don’t want to say a hybrid option, but, like, the fact that we’re using a fully plant based top sheet but that is still synthetic really is something that came out of that learning around the inadequacies of cotton within the urinary incontinence space.
Bruce Kassover: And once you started to introduce this, did you find that people embraced it immediately or did it take a little bit of learning for people to recognize how different you were and why you have an appeal that traditional products don’t?
Alex Fennell: So, you know, I think, I think for some women, hard to say, hard to say in hindsight. Like I’m sure there were some women who saw one ad, clicked, bought, and the product worked out of the gate. But I’m quite certain that the majority of people, there’s a learning phase. We have, had and still have a lot of educating to do in this space.
For instance, a lot of women understandably assume that a period pad is going to work just as well for urinary incontinence as an incontinence pad. That’s actually not the case. They’re fundamentally very, they’re quite different in terms of their design and how much super absorbent material they need and all of that.
So I think, I think there’s a range. And I also would say that as an, as a new brand that launched during a pandemic and solely online for a lot of women, there’s a little, and again, understandably, like, there’s a trust factor. And so I think it took, it takes some women a little bit of time to get to know us and I think, you know, also, the other thing I would say is that when we launched on Amazon, that gives women, even if they’re going to shop directly from us, that gives the brand some street cred. That makes it more approachable and accessible and makes women more comfortable buying from us.
Bruce Kassover: Well, you’ve got a lot of additional validations. Well, I mean, I think that you’ve been recognized by Fast Company for your innovation and you’re really standing out in the market. How validating is that to you?
Alex Fennell: That was amazing. That acknowledgement, I have to say, was amazing. And we, you know, just to sort of sit alongside so many other incredible companies in that category. And I think the other thing that is, and this, this is another example of something that I think is resonating deeply with consumers and the sort of milestone that I am most proud of is getting our B Corp certification about six months ago.
If you’re not familiar with that process, “rigorous” does not adequately capture it. It’s a very rigorous application process and they’re very, you know, they’re very selective in terms of making sure you’re, you really are meeting all of the criteria, both in terms of, like, designing your products and running your company in a way that’s more sustainable, but everything from how you treat your employees to, you know, transparency around sourcing and ingredients and all sorts of things. So to be acknowledged in that way has been, has been huge.
Bruce Kassover: So for those who are unaware, what is a B Corp in the first place?
Alex Fennell: Yeah, so, a Certified B Corp is a status that you get your certification by applying to through an organization called B Lab, and it’s a nonprofit network that is really working to kind of transform the global economy to make business a force for good. So that’s kind of at a very high level, that’s their mission, to sort of drive businesses and companies to focus their efforts, not just around designing better, better products and, you know, optimizing for profitability and that sort of thing, but really building companies to be a force for good that benefits people and, you know, communities and then obviously our larger, our larger planet.
I think it’s been around since about 2006 and they have this, their idea is really, their foundational idea is really that there’s a different kind of economy that’s not just, they say it’s not just possible, but really necessary where businesses are leading the way towards a newer, much more like stakeholder-driven model. And so B Lab in its earliest days became known for certifying corporations that were meeting higher standards of social environmental performance, accountability, transparency and so on and so forth. And so it’s, it’s grown.
There’s maybe 4,500, I want to say, B Corps in the world right now. And it’s, again, just kind of a rigorous process. You have to re-certify every few years. It’s definitely something that gets more complicated as you get larger as an organization, right? It’s, I don’t want to say it’s easy to ever achieve B Corp status, but it’s easier to do when you are smaller and more nimble and so, and have sort of more control over your supply chain and all of those things. But it’s something that we’ll look forward to maintaining as we move forward, and we’ll re-certify again in a few years.
Bruce Kassover: I’d imagine that as the B Corp profile increases, as there’s greater awareness about what a B Corp is, that that will also add to that credibility as well. I mean, I guess it’s sort of like having, not the Good Housekeeping seal… maybe like the Good Earthkeeping seal of approval, I suppose. And that would mean something to people.
So tell us a little bit about your product line. I see that you offer not just absorbent products, but a whole range of additional things that are related to incontinence and skincare.
Alex Fennell: So our incontinence line runs from liners that we have for very light leaks, hybrid pads, as I mentioned before, that are for lighter bladder leaks, but also period flow – it’s very common for women to be dealing with both issues at the same time – and then moderate pads and heavy pads for that sort of middle to higher level of leaks.
And then we actually, in one of the things that I’m also very proud of is that we really do give customers a seat at our table. We’re constantly, constantly asking for feedback. What we, what we find is that women, you know, when they, when they’re asked and brought into the conversation, they do want to participate and they do have opinions, which they should.
And so we launched our ultimate pad, which sits between our heavy pad and our brief in response to feedback from consumers who wanted something in between. And then we have added a couple of, sort of, accessory products in the incontinence space, namely a barrier cream, super, super natural, you know, no, no preservatives, no chemicals, et cetera, and our wipes that are like truly, truly flushable, truly biodegradable.
And again, like, free of all of the toxic sort-of preservatives and harmful chemicals that you find in a lot of conventional brands.
Bruce Kassover: I see you even have a deodorant.
Alex Fennell: Yes, we do. We do. We have a deodorant. We’ve launched a couple of, you know, sort of, we have a deodorant and a body oil as well. You know, really the idea being to just extend this idea of our skin-safe promise, which is what we like to call it, that we’re, we’re always going to use, we’re always going to be transparent about what’s in our products. We’re always going to use the cleanest, most sustainable products, or, sorry, the cleanest, most sustainable ingredients possible without ever compromising on performance.
And that’s something that can be done not just in the incontinence space, but also, you know, in the larger personal care space.
Steve Gregg: Alex, we have seen some research that says that a lot of adults, so they’re not necessarily oldest of the adults, complain that there’s no innovation in these products. And partly that’s not true, because SAP and all that stuff has been going on for years, but nobody actually communicates, none of the brands that are sort-of the big players ever communicate innovation. Do you think that partly you’re picking up all those people going, “Well first there is real innovation here,” but then the fact that you talk about it makes it actually easy for them to go, “that’s who I want to work with.”
Alex Fennell: Yeah, I think that that’s really interesting. I think when you, there, like there is, clearly there has been incremental innovation in the category. Like no one, no one could say, could say otherwise, but I think a lot of that innovation has focused, or at least in, in the way that the bigger brands talk about it with their consumers, so on the consumer facing side of things, it’s about aesthetics, a lot about, you know, color or, like, patterns on the prints and so forth, that kind of thing. And not to suggest that that’s not all important, as well. It certainly is, but I think, I think there is a real, hunger’s not the right word, but there is, I think, people are really interested to know like what is actually going on behind the scenes. And, you know, it’s become very common, particularly in brands focusing on, for instance, mothers and younger women where, you know, when you look at, you know, sort of like the Glossiers and, like, the makeup brands and the different wellness brands and supplements and so on and so forth, like, those brands are having conversations about, you know, what is really happening behind the scenes, Like what’s in those products, why are they different, and that’s what people want to hear.
I think right now it’s that much more sort-of conversational approach to commerce and so yeah, I think that is, I think that is making a difference. You know, women in their sixties, seventies, and eighties, like, they’ve got a lifetime of experience behind them. Like they’re not going to have the wool pulled over their eyes, so to speak, you know, so, yeah, I think, I think they appreciate the candor and the transparency.
Bruce Kassover: You know, one of the things I really like about your products, I mean, I know that people are going to choose the product that works best for them or fits what their particular needs are, but I really think that you’ve done a great job with the branding as well.
If you look at the packaging, the design that you, you’ve developed, it really reflects those principles of freshness and simplicity and cleanliness really well. I think that you guys have really built a very distinct and really appealing brand.
Alex Fennell: Well, that’s very nice to hear. Thank you, Bruce. We had the very good fortune of working with an amazing, amazing team of designers here in Boston to design that first round of packaging and, yeah, I mean, it’s, I’m heavily biased, but I think it’s quite, it’s quite beautiful. And also the, my favorite thing about our packaging is that it is also comprised of, so our, the box that our liners come in is recycled, fully recyclable, FSC certified pulp. And then our packaging that looks more like the traditional, like, plastic packaging is, actually, the majority of it is green polyethylene.
Bruce Kassover: You know, speaking of the brand, one thing that I haven’t asked you about yet is, can you tell us about the name?
Alex Fennell: Yeah, absolutely. So credit here goes again to Layla, who I mentioned earlier, and goes back to that, that same working session I was describing where we were really trying to get at what our larger mission was going to be.
And so Attn: Grace is really, it’s meant to do a couple of things. The “Attention” really is meant to acknowledge that we are shining a light on an issue that is heavily stigmatized and just really has been underserved and overlooked for far too long. Similarly, drawing attention to and engaging with a demographic of women that has been overlooked and underserved for a really long time.
“Grace” is not at all ever meant to be a reference to aging gracefully. In fact, if you were to see our brand guidelines, you would see that we say, you know, we do not use that sort of play on words. “Grace” is really meant to be every woman. And so making the brand and what we’re doing accessible, approachable, relatable, all of those things.
Bruce Kassover: Now, speaking of the name, it is A-T-T-N Grace, and you also actually have a colon in there. Like it’s the attention from a, from a memo.
Alex Fennell: Exactly.
Bruce Kassover: So I’m wondering, that might be a little confusing to people who are just trying to type the name into the URL bar. Maybe you could tell us how can people find you?
Alex Fennell: Yeah, you can, you can find us just by typing A-T-T-N-G-R-A-C-E into your browser and we will, we will pop up, Attn: Grace.com.
Bruce Kassover: But you’re also on Amazon, as well?
Alex Fennell: We are also on Amazon. You’ll see us on social media. I think that’s a really great place to actually get a feel for who we are as a larger brand if you’re interested in more than just learning about the products. You’ll see us talking about a lot of issues that are relevant to our demographic. Another place where you can find us is on YouTube and we’ve launched the, just the be very beginnings of a series with our medical advisor. Her name is Dr. Barbara Frank. We call her Babs. She is a force. She’s an amazing, amazing physician, but also just an amazing human being. And so we launched a series on YouTube called, “So Glad You Asked,” and the first one that’s up there is about pelvic floor therapy. So it is, it’s super informative and it’s also highly entertaining.
Bruce Kassover: Thank you very much. I really appreciate you joining us today. And thank you for the time and all your insights.
Life Without Leaks has been brought to you by the National Association for Continents. Our music is Rainbows by Kevin MacLeod and can be found online at incompetech.com.