Butt-Con: N.Y. Entrepreneur Miki Agrawal Talks Taboo Topics

Miki Agrawal, co-founder and former chief executive of Thinx.

Late last month, Tushy founder Miki Agrawal hosted an event that was decided to the derriere. Agrawal, who founded the bidet company, was the bread behind “Butt-Con,” which she described as “a convention for all things butt related.”

According to news reports in Variety, Glamour magazine and the New York Post, the Aug, 21 event featured programs with doctors, experts, celebrities, porn stars, and internet personalities. There was a a chat with Dr. Mark Hyman and Tracy Piper about gut health, a booty workout with celeb trainer Jorge Cruise, and a conversation about the business of booties with sex expert Layla Martin and Agrawal. Other highlights included a “belfie” wall and twerk-offs, reports said.

Agrwal told The Cut that through the event, she aims to disrupt butts—or at least stigmas surrounding butts and, by extension, bidets. On it’s website, Tushy calls Agrawal “a doer,” who leads the most innovative social enterprises. It says the company was founded “to upgrade the American bathroom experience with a modern, best-in-class, affordable bidet attachment.” Using the toilet paper “is not only ineffective but contributes to health issues like UTIs, hemorrhoids, yeast infections, anal fissures, anal itching, not to mention kills 15 million trees to make the toilet paper,” the website says. Agrawal, it says, thought of the concept “after an eye opening trip to India.” She also realized that she had a personal and corporate social responsibility to tackle India’s defecation issues as well. So through the company’s corporate give-back program, a portion of each bidet, provides one family in India with access to clean community toilets by partnering with Samagra.

But this is not the first out-of-the-box enterprise Agrawal has hosted. The 40-year-old Canadian citizen who now calls New York her home, disrupted the underwear industry in 2014 when she co-founded Thinx, a period-proof panties company. Agrawal, the daughter of a Japanese mother and an Indian father, was named “Fast Company’s Most Creative People” in 2018, “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum and INC’s “Most Impressive Women Entrepreneurs.”

According to her website, Agrawal’s work has always tackled topics and issues considered taboo by mainstream audiences. “I feel a great sense of pride in having built successful companies that have tackled taboos head on, are truly changing culture and improving the lives of millions of people around the world.,” she says. “I’ve also learned a great deal of lessons (oh, have I ever) in the process of building these businesses and I look forward to sharing them as I go.”

However, Agrawal’s exit from Thinx wasn’t without controversies. According to news reports, she left the company after a host of employee accusations, including a sexual harassment claim by the company’s former head of public relations. Agrawal denied any wrongdoing--and a subsequent investigation commissioned by Thinx found the allegations had had no legal merit. She ended up settling the dispute and a complaint filed with the New York Commission on Human Rights was withdrawn, according to a July 2017 report in Jezbel.

In a May 2017 report, The Cut, citing the complaint filed against Agrawal said that the SHE-eo's abuses included commenting on the size and shape of her employees’ breasts, an employee’s nipple piercings, her own sexual exploits, her desire to experiment with polyamory, her interest in entering a sexual relationship with one of her employees, and the exact means by which she was brought to female ejaculation.

At the time, she wrote a post in The Medium, clearing the air about the accusations. “This is a personal statement from me, Miki, as a human being, not as a representative of THINX. Since the original story has now mushroomed into a true, bizarre game of telephone, thought it’d be best to share the truth of what actually happened,” she wrote. “It’s SO easy to find fault and complain about what people didn’t get and the things I lacked and I certainly admit wholeheartedly that I don’t have it all. No question. And yes, you can make a bulleted list of every misstep I’ve ever made (go for it), but what I am calling all of this is an opportunity to learn and grow. Also, it’s a certainty that all founders will have disgruntled people who feel thwarted by them throughout their entrepreneurial adventures. Tough calls have to be made like terminating people, and sometimes those terminated people can retaliate in ugly ways and I learned that we have to be prepared for it. All of my successful founder friends shared the same stories.”

Earlier this year, she published her second book, “Disrupt Her: A Manifesto for the Modern woman,” which is said to encapsulate Agrawal's belief system. According to inc.com, “each of its 13 chapters, Agrawal tackles a common [societal] belief and suggests an alternative viewpoint to the reader.” The topics range from career advice and how to think about money to building a "conscious business" and finding a romantic partner.

In 2015, Agrawal won a public battle against New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which at the time wanted to ban Thinx's ads featuring halved grapefruits and references to menstruation, among other things.

She is also the founder of the acclaimed farm-to-table, alternative pizza concept called Wild, with three locations in New York City, one in Guatemala. Her first book, “Do Cool Shit,” was published by Harper Collins in 2013.

After earning a business degree at Cornell, Agrawal moved to Manhattan in 2001 and worked as an investment-banking analyst at Deutsche Bank and later in TV production. She also played soccer for the New York Magic until a torn ACL sidelined her in 2003.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, entrepreneur Andrew Horn. The couple has a toddler son.

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