When it comes to female incontinence, it’s a little unexpected to see a young businessman as the face of a solution. But Steven Cruz is here to tell us on this episode of Busine$$ of the V exactly how he came to develop an innovative disposable underwear that is breaking barriers and changing the conversation. As a founder of Hazel, he is helping to shake up a consumer product sector that has been stigmatized and stagnant for decades.

Hosts Dr. Alyssa Dweck and Rachel Braun Scherl walk their guest through how the Hazel model was developed, including the new technology built into every fiber of its flexible, breathable fabric. As easy comfortable and gentle as menstrual underwear, Hazel is nonetheless designed to absorb exponentially more liquid – which is key for millions of women sidelined by anxieties around bladder leakage. We learn what the primary causes of incontinence are and that by no means is it an affliction limited to people in nursing homes.

Data indicate an outsized economic burden associated with incontinence and there is also a significant cost in terms of quality of life. Bladder leakage is associated with factors like weight and genetics, as well as pelvic floor stress as the result of childbearing. With one in four women experiencing some level of discomfort – many of them young and active – Hazel’s modern, disposable solution offers game-changing freedom from worry and self-imposed social isolation. Steven is also highlighting the educational aspect of the evolving Hazel platform, which is nudging incontinence out of the shadows and into the realm of 21st century femtech!

Topics Discussed with Steven Cruz – Co-Founder of Hazel

About Incontinence and Why It Needs to Be Addressed

  • One of the biggest pandemics today is based in loneliness and isolation among seniors who feel sidelined and vulnerable because of issues like incontinence.
  • Steven shares data his team uncovered while developing Hazel’s branding in terms of users (many of whom are active and not bedridden) and how it has shaped design, marketing and digital experience.
  • The National Institutes of Health estimate that the economic burden of incontinence is about $60 billion and only about 10% of those afflicted are in nursing homes.
  • There are two types of triggers for incontinence:
    • Stress (which is triggered by a physical exertion laugh, sneeze or cough).
    • Urgent (the result of an overactive bladder that leads to involuntary contractions.)
  • Risk factors include:
    • Obesity.
    • Genetics.
    • Pelvic floor weakness (often related to childbearing).

What Makes Hazel’s Disposable Underwear Different

  • The underwear features a thin pad of protection but is otherwise nearly identical to “normal” underwear.
  • Newly engineered material is flexible, absorbent and non-irritating to skin.
  • The product is targeted to the 2/3s of women who are not seeking a solution because they reject alternatives available on the market until now.

Hazel Is Not Like Reusable Menstrual Underwear

  • It’s disposable by design (which 93% of women prefer).
  • Levels of absorbency are very different, with Hazel able to handle a 1 to 1.5 cups of urine.

Steven also explains the challenge to break down walls and resistance around stigma associated with incontinence. This piece in Vogue helped broaden the conversation and introduce women to the hope of a solution. Hazel also launched educational initiatives in tandem with its products such as deploying Kegel exercises, pelvic floor exercisers, weights, biofeedback tools and weight  management.

About Steven Cruz

Steven Cruz is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hazel, an innovative femme care brand. He co-founded Hazel to bring empowering, groundbreaking products to women as they evolve through life. With a background in corporate finance and data analytics, Steven began his career in public accounting and ultimately took his skillset to the consumer startup space.

This better aligned with his personal mission to create change and build mission-driven companies. He joined the 3D Printing space to change the relationship between consumers and their physical products, and from there, he went on to lead FP&A and Strategic Finance at Plated, a meal-kit company. He scaled the business to a $300 million acquisition to Albertsons. He then partnered with one of the Plated co-founders to build, validate, and scale a physical-space concept focused on the 50+ audience.

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