Miki Agrawal, serial entrepreneur and all-around thought leader, recently stopped by the Imposters podcast, by Morning Brew. Hosted by Alex Lieberman, Imposters explores the complex world of faking it until you make it, finding success, and earning your confidence. Speaking about finding success by overcoming shame and antiquated notions of being “proper”, entrepreneur Miki Agrawal shared stories about her background, her motivations, and what led to her successes.
Agrawal is the Founder/CEO of several companies, including Wild, Thinx, and Tushy. Through innovative and boundary-pushing marketing and vision, Agrawal has led these companies to success. In addition to running successful businesses, Miki Agrawal is a best-selling author of “Do Cool Sh*t” and “Disrupt-Her”. Below, check out snippets from the conversation:
Alex Lieberman: Welcome to Imposters, the show where I talk to world-class execs, athletes, and entertainers about their personal challenges and how overcoming those challenges has shaped their careers and lives for the better. I’m your host Alex Lieberman, co-founder and executive chairman of Morning Brew. My guest today is Miki Agrawal. If you’ve ever heard of Thinx, the Period Underwear Company, or happen to use a Tushy, the popular Mass Market Bidet Attachment, you have Miki to thank for that. Miki co-founded Thinx in 2013 with her sister Radha as well as Antonia Dunbar. Then, Miki Agrawal founded Tushy in 2015 with co-founder Justin Allen.
Both of those companies are now profitable with each being valued at well over 100 million dollars. Miki is, as she says herself, a true disruptor. With every business she started, from her gluten-free farm to table pizza restaurant Wild, to her current company Tushy, Miki goes the grain. Challenging societal norms and changing how people talk about taboo topics. In fact, you might say that Miki is in the business of taboo. But this isn’t necessarily what she set out to do at the start of her career.
In the beginning, Miki was driven by deep insecurity. While she is known for shining a light on ideas or parts of life that many consider shameful, she, in fact, was largely motivated by her own fear of shame and need for approval. Miki told me how she struggled with this fear of shame for years and how she eventually learned to overcome it. Miki Agrawal. First of all, it’s awesome to see you and to talk to you for the first time in what feels like two years which I think it is.
Miki Agrawal: I know.
Alex Lieberman: You have built businesses around behaviors that people have felt shameful about based on society standards. Before we talk about those businesses, I want to hear about you. When have you felt most shameful in your life?
Miki Agrawal: That’s a great question. I think for me, being the first generation of immigrant parents, achievement meant survival. I think for my parents, too. My father came here with five dollars in his pocket from India. My mom came to America from Japan without speaking English. I think the only way to really make it is to achieve. If I didn’t achieve, I was shamed. And not on purpose, but that was a form of motivation.
My father’s nickname for me was GFN as one of them. One of them was “Bonus”, which is a loving one, and the other one was GFN which is “good for nothing”. It was meant to be sort of a term to remind us that my sister and I, my twin sister and I, just that we could become nothing at any point, and it’s on us to just really push ourselves. I think I felt ashamed when I would be called that, and I’d feel ashamed when I wouldn’t succeed because for me that meant the potential for not surviving. I think that’s kind of what I learned. And so, my whole life I think early in my childhood was about not shaming myself and being as achievement-focused as possible and that of course posed a lot of problems.
Alex Lieberman: I can see so many ways that would serve you, right. And has served you in your life and with everything you’ve built. But I could also imagine that amount of pressure and expectation. There could be difficulties with that. I want to understand kind of where did it provide some kind of like achy things you had to think through or work through?
Miki Agrawal: I mean, of course, I think up until literally recently, where I did the Hoffman process and I’ve done a ton, I’ve done over the last 8 years, a ton of coaching and kind of somatic therapy around this kind of concept of achievement-based love. If I don’t achieve that I don’t get love. So, for me, I didn’t believe that I was lovable unless I achieved. And so, like there’s no way unless I’m the best at what I’m doing, then people will like me and love me.
Otherwise, they won’t like me and love me and I’ll be like an outcast and not accepted or loved. And I think that was, it’s a very human feeling to kind of feel like you have to constantly. It’s not just like, okay, I did one thing. But now I’m loved. It’s like, it’s a nonstop continuous thing that has to happen over and over and over again. And I think that’s like it’s exhausting.
Alex Lieberman: It’s really interesting, you said that you felt like you needed to achieve in order to feel love. I feel like this is like you said a pretty common thing that high achievers feel where there’s some need for external validation. What I’m most interested in is, you’ve now built many businesses, many successful businesses. Did you feel a sense of success and love when you reached the point of being really successful with these businesses?
Miki Agrawal: I mean I don’t think it was achieving the success of the businesses. I think it was in doing a lot of the self-love work. And I think like if I had not achieved that success and still did the self-love work, I would be ahead of if I did, if I succeeded and didn’t do the self-love work. So, I think, I feel very blessed when so many wild things happen and the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. I think that achievement mentality kept me putting one foot in front of the other and so I’m deeply grateful for it. But I think if I had kept that going, it could have probably killed me from a health perspective. Because of just pushing past my boundaries of physical and emotional wellbeing.
Check out the Miki Agrawal Medium page for more stories from the entrepreneur.