If you’re interested in the ultimate lemons-to-lemonade startup story, then this episode of Busine$$ of the V is for you. It features a woman who has channeled second-degree burns from a Brazilian wax gone wrong and a punishing round of breast cancer treatment into a hot new women’s health product. Suzanne Sinatra, CEO & Founder of Private Packs, shares with us her remarkable entrepreneurial journey – an inspiring success story built on resiliency and fire. Her wearable, reusable cooling/heating packs are designed specifically for the V – and women are scooping them up direct online and nationwide in retail outlets such as CVS.
Learn how Suzanne took a nascent idea (pain relief for female genitals that have suffered some kind of inflammatory injury or stress) and bootstrapped it into a position of strength that has attracted mature VC funding and attention from members of the startup community who want to know, “How’d she do it?” The answer is: with ingenuity, common sense and fearlessness. She also got valuable help from an accelerator that set her on the path to expansion. Private Packs has plans in the works to create soothing hot/cold packs for other personal areas. Put another way, says Suzanne: “Enough with the peas anywhere on the privates!”
Private Packs can be used repeatedly and their unique mix of carefully vetted ingredients combines to offer hot, cold and moist heat options that afford comfort to those suffering anything from acute vaginal dryness to pain following a long bike ride, from childbirth recovery to esthetic treatment injuries. The real secret sauce, however, is the CEO herself. Suzanne took her breast cancer diagnosis and the ensuing rounds of treatment as a timely opportunity to step back, grow her business and establish her vision without input from outside funders. She’s a powerhouse who invites all women entrepreneurs with FemTech ideas to join her in exploring this dynamic and growing business sector.
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- How Suzanne came up with Private Packs as the result of a Brazilian wax gone badly wrong, leaving her with second-degree burns. A bag of frozen peas was not going to be the solution …
- What are Private Pack and how do they work? They are an external product that takes ancient hot/cold therapy to reduce swelling and inflammation, pain, itchiness and achiness from anything from childbirth to a yeast infection to horseback riding … or a Brazilian wax trauma. They are ergonomically designed to take on the contour of the vulva and are fully reusable.
- Dr. Dweck is unfortunately very familiar with vaginal pain and discomfort – and the limits of the traditional frozen pea approach (most often deployed to treat side effects of an entirely different V – as in vasectomy).
- Right as she was readying her company’s big launch in 2017, Suzanne received a breast cancer diagnosis. She took it on with the same positivity and focus she applied to her entrepreneurial pursuit and life in general.
- Suzanne was working on her startup venture both in the early morning and after work as a marketing team member at Deutsche Bank when she noticed extreme fatigue – that she promptly dismissed as just being the long hours. A cancer diagnosis was not what she was expecting.
- Private Packets was initially a completely self-funded venture that Suzanne found a welcome mental diversion from the rigors of cancer treatment (two cycles of chemotherapy and 26 rounds of radiation, mastectomy and physical therapy).
- Suzanne confronted doctors who did not prepare her for the menopausal symptoms (such as vaginal dryness) associated with her cancer treatment. She calls out the need for a team approach, incorporating gynecologists’ feedback and guidance.
- Private Packs suddenly came into play in a completely unintentional and unanticipated way: as relief for the terrible vulvar irritation Suzanne was experiencing post-chemo.
- Suzanne walks us through the mechanisms behind Private Packs, including the hot, cold and moist heat technology with differing applications.
- About Private Packs ingredients, including their microwaveability and the binding agent (gentle) and latex-free, highly reusable product materials.
- Warmth promotes blood flow – which is great for menstrual cramps and pain of all kinds while the cooling brings down inflammation, such as after waxing.
- Suzanne achieved the entrepreneurial dream by solidifying a partnership with CVS pharmacies, which are supportive of the product and women’s health in general. She credits this huge inroad to her experience with the startup accelerator XRC Labs.
- Dr. Dweck asks about the edgy, funny video that Suzanne came up with to promote her product on various social media platforms. The campaign stirred controversy and resulted in a doubling of support for her Indiegogo fundraiser, underwriting the initial inventory to stock CVS. Larger VC investors would love to know the magic formula behind Suzanne’s successful strategy!
- Redirecting direct-to-consumer to CVS.com has resulted in blowing out the numbers projected for Private Packs’ performance out of the gate – even without outside funding or marketing.
- Suzanne gives a shout-out to Bonafide Health, a provider of non-prescription solutions for women’s health for which Dr. Dweck serves as Chief Medical Officer.
- Dr. Dweck enumerates the many use cases for Private Packs she can see based on a variety of scenarios she encounters daily in her practice.
- Suzanne solicited physician feedback during her development process – out of which came some design modifications and a lesson about proper FDA registration.
- Because Private Packs are external and topical, the product doesn’t require full FDA approval. They are very assiduous with language, avoiding terms like “treat” or “heal.”
- What’s next for Suzanne? She’s in talks with another mass retailer (in addition to CVS) and will be launching a breast pack, inspired by her own breast cancer journey.
Suzanne believes that cancer actually slowed her down in a good way, giving her an opportunity to reflect on and grow her company without outside influence. The ultimate lemons-to-lemonade attitude!
Quotes from Suzanne Sinatra:
(04:53) – “I turned to Google back in 2014, googled vaginal ice pack and couldn’t find anything!”
(06:45) – “I decided to go head-first into it. I was launching my company in 2017 … and two weeks before I found a lump in my breast.”
(07:27) – “To talk about genital pain definitely was not going to be happening … Moms felt like they were going to be judged if they didn’t know how to take care of their body after having a baby.”
(12:19) – “We (gynecologists) have to bring to the forefront how important some of these residual cancer treatment symptoms are and the side effects. We sometimes don’t appreciate (the vaginal symptoms) until later on.” (Dr. Dweck)
(14:14) – “Cold can reduce the swelling of inflammation, but heat – if someone has a cyst or abscess – can actually soften the skin to lance it.”
(18:20) – “We are now nationwide in select CVS pharmacies and CVS.com and it’s been such a wonderful partnership because they really want to be a partner in women’s health.”
(21:41) – “Fundraising has been harder because a lot of people among VC and angel investors have not expected that a person that’s an immigrant to this country (from Canada) with no network was able to get into CVS six weeks after launching their ecommerce site.”
(22:58) – “Sales have just blown our forecast for CVS out of the water. We’ve over-performed, which, for having at the time no VC funding, is just shocking to everyone!”
(23:52) – “There’s always a one-, two- and three-punch approach to vaginal and vulvar pain for whatever the reason.” (Dr. Dweck)
(27:03) – “It is your responsibility as a Chief Executive Officer to do your due diligence to protect the customers and to protect your investors.”
(30:09) – “Our whole brand is about creating pain solutions for the private body parts. Enough with the peas anywhere on the privates! We want to tackle the anus, breasts, cramps … That’s really the lane that I’ve created for myself because that’s what resonates most with me.”
(30:32) – “I doubt that without this company I would have made it through cancer. I had a nice amount of time to build the company before I got outside investors telling me what they thought I should do.”
(31:30) – “I don’t think we spend enough time telling entrepreneurs that you need to reinforce all of your resources: Financial, physical, psychological.” (Rachel)
(32:17) – “For any female founder or anyone going into this sector, women’s health is primed for innovation and conversations like this show. They can take us and are ready to take what we are giving. So bring it, Ladies!”
Suzanne Sinatra is the CEO and Founder of Private Packs, a New York City-based FemTech company. A former Event Planner turned Accidental Entrepreneur. Private Packs has reimagined the therapy pack and sculpted it for the intimate areas to deliver discrete, wearable and reusable comfort. Private Packs was born out of a traumatic Brazilian waxing incident that prompted Suzanne to design a product that has taken off in the women’s health marketplace.
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LINKS FOR BUSINE$$ OF THE V:
Dr. Alyssa Dweck: https://drdweck.com
Author Rachel Braun Scherl: www.sparksolutionsforgrowth.com/about-rachel-braun-scherl/