This episode of Busine$$ of the V introduces a dynamo who proves that anything is possible with bootstrap determination. Deeannah Seymour, CEO & Founder of pH-D Feminine Health, shares the story of how she founded her company and grew it from limited online sales on Amazon (where the rave reviews came in an avalanche) to availability at some 35,000 retail outlets nationwide. It’s a profile in persistence and tribute to a woman who turned an undergraduate degree in biology and her experience working in the pharmaceutical industry into a highly successful – and growing – entrepreneurial powerhouse.
pH-D Feminine Health Support grew out of the need Deeannah identified for natural solutions to bothersome feminine issues. She looked at the scientific research and expensive, inconvenient products available on the market and decided to find her own holistic way to address vaginal aroma. She partnered with a highly respected health and wellness company, Vireo Systems, Inc., to commercially produce boric acid vaginal suppositories beginning in 2014 and has since become the #1 best-selling brand for feminine odor and balance.
Dr. Dweck and Rachel host a fascinating conversation about the pH-D product line, its development and the many factors that go into building a successful startup. Deeannah shares resources and some funny stories that demonstrate the influence of serendipity, the power of bouncing back from mistakes and the importance of banishing negative self-talk. Enjoy getting to know Deeannah and pH-D, an inspiring example of woman-owned, women-led success!
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- Deeannah shares the origin story as to how she migrated from the pharmaceutical industry to become a startup pioneer in the women’s health space.
- In researching options for vaginal odor, Deeannah (who has a lifelong interest in biology) was surprised by the dearth of credible affordable, convenient treatment options.
- In looking for a holistic solution, Deeannah uncovered boric acid as a primary ingredient that showed promise. She found a partner in her daughter’s hockey coach (who knew manufacturing and shared her fascination with all things science) and in short order was reaping great reviews for her product on Amazon.
- Dr. Dweck explains the “well-orchestrated microbiome” that is the vagina. It keeps a delicate balance that can be thrown off-track, which is when troublesome aroma occurs.
- How was boric acid (usually associated with killing roaches!) identified as an effective ingredient? Deeannah speculates that it was under the radar for a long time because it’s a natural ingredient that pharmaceutical developers couldn’t patent.
- Glowing reviews for pH-D were what prompted the initial tipping point in pH-D’s success (other companies are now rushing to produce similar products).
- Ordering bespoke boric acid treatments through a compounding pharmacy, as Dr. Dweck has had to do in the past, was expensive and inconvenient. Deeannah’s over-the-counter product line has been a gamechanger.
- In her research Deeannah turned up very little in the way of holistic treatments, so women until now have experimented with all manner of ingredients that weren’t effective. (Side note from Dr. Dweck: If an unpleasant or unusual odor persists, it’s always important to check with a medical professional to rule out an infection that might require pharmaceutical treatment.”
- About exponential growth: Deeannah’s company has grown from 5,000 to 30,000 outlets in a year – a whirlwind trip from startup status to early success and then a steep bootstraps climb into large-scale retail distribution.
- Deeannah shares resources that were helpful to her in launching and developing her business, in particular highlighting RangeMe and ECRM, powerful customer and product management platforms that facilitated her retail product development and sales.
- Deeannah’s business growth and development are based in extensive scientific research as well as customer feedback and direction.
- All pH-D production is based in the U.S., which is a good quality control.
- Core Corporate Values: Kindness is a priority at this woman-owned business, which has built around “the best of who we are” as defined by the team itself.
- Navigating the FDA required due diligence and meticulous practices – based in guidance from a consultant with solid pharmaceutical industry experience.
- Financing Growth: While Amazon was the initial conduit, Deeannah understood quickly that the platform had limitations and liabilities. She set about finding retail channels that provided faster access to her products and broadened her base.
- Lessons Learned: Do what you can to fend off self-doubt. Mistakes will happen (Deeannah shares one of hers from early on) but you can’t let that send you into a shame spiral.
On the Horizon: pH-D has exciting new products that have not yet been announced but will launch in retail outlets next year!
Quotes From Deeanna Seymour:
(03:18) – “There really wasn’t anything on the market that was backed by credible science, so I started looking for ingredients that were backed by published clinical data and came across boric acid.”
(09:44) “What really helped overcome the stigma of boric acid and roach killer and all that was the reviews. These women have been evangelical about how effective pH-D has been for them.”
(13:04) “I am very conscious of the fact that it’s called a rinse, which is great compared to a douche – which we are really opposed to in the gynecology world.” (Dr. Dweck)
(16:16) “There’s a fine line between trying to eliminate odor or a temporary situation and curing or treating an actual problem … The vagina has a natural scent and surely we don’t want to make anybody feel badly about that.” (Dr. Dweck)
(19:36) “The biggest market influencers I have are health care providers and … we have made a conscious effort to market directly to them.”
(21:13) “We’re lean and we’re tight – not to say that I might not consider taking on capital in the future, but we’ve been able to do it by being very meaningful and calculated thus far. And it’s been a whirlwind.”
(24:39) “We really control our expenses and inventory. We can make small batches (at U.S.-based facilities) instead of having to order 100,000 units at a time.” (35:23) “Stop having self-limiting thoughts because anything is possible. I am proof of that. I was 41 when I had the idea for this, so it’s never too late … I’ve never had a business class in my life and here I am!”
Deeannah founded pH-D Feminine Health to provide trustworthy feminine care products to women who struggle with vaginal odor. Unsatisfied with expensive, inconvenient and ineffective solutions – and armed with a biology background and 20 year in the pharmaceutical industry – she sought holistic options. She and her team have today built out a retail network of more than 35,000 outlets with new products and growth on the horizon.
FURTHER RESOURCES/OUR SPONSOR:
Learn more about our sponsor, Kindra.
LINKS FOR BUSINE$$ OF THE V:
Dr. Alyssa Dweck: https://drdweck.com
Author Rachel Braun Scherl: www.sparksolutionsforgrowth.com/about-rachel-braun-scherl/