Meeting with Deeannah Seymour, founder of pH-D Feminine Health
Deeannah Seymour was a single mom in her forties when she decided to apply her 20+ years in biology and the pharmaceutical industry to launch Ph-D Women’s Health. She did not have external financing, and never accepted it while pursuing her vision of creating a women-owned, female-owned and operated business to market products exclusively for women.
To put it mildly, she succeeded. Sales of pH-D women’s health products doubled in 2020 to $ 12 million and are expected to exceed $ 20 million this year. A bottle of the brand’s best-selling boric acid suppositories sells out every 30 seconds. Products developed by pH-D Feminine Health are on the shelves of mass market retailers including Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger.
We asked Seymour about starting a business, the benefits of a woman-owned and operated business, and the eternal entrepreneurial quest to market a solution to a problem no one else takes seriously.
You founded pH-D Feminine Health when you were a single mom in your 40s, without any funding. What motivated you to make this choice?
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. I knew from personal experience that vaginal odor was something millions of women struggled with – in fact, it’s the number one vaginal health problem. Yet I recognized that there was no effective, accessible, affordable and holistic solution on the market. Previous options were expensive and difficult to achieve, creating a headache for many women, let alone a problem for those without access to care.
I leveraged my background in biology and 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, researching holistic options supported by research. Although there have been hundreds of clinical studies using boric acid vaginal suppositories, there was no over-the-counter version available for women. So, I partnered with a well-respected and established holistic company, Vireo Systems, and in 2014 pH-D Feminine Health was born.
The struggleThe founders faced by attempts to attract funding are well documented. Have you considered going for funding?
I didn’t look for funding – I just didn’t see this as a viable option when I started pH-D. As we grew the business, I wanted to be careful not to dilute my equity. We started the business from day one. Some of the things that helped this trip include expanding credit, working with a small team, outsourcing, creativity with office spaces, and reinvesting profits back into the business. Bootstrapping is not an easy road and it can be slow to travel, but in my case it has paid off enormously over time.
How did you make your original product?
Our first product, pH-D Boric Acid Suppositories, was created in collaboration with Vireo Systems, in which we had a wonderful business incubator before the business was deemed viable to exist on its own.
What are your production facilities like now?
Our products are all manufactured in-house at our own facilities located in Nebraska and Tennessee. This is something we are deeply committed to because it guarantees the highest quality standards.
Your business is described as a business founded by women, owned by women and run by women. What are the advantages of this demographic endowment?
We are really proud to be owned and run by women. We solve some of the most intimate feminine care issues that women face and, as women, we are uniquely qualified to understand these concerns. I have also found that women enjoy working for a business founded by women, supporting a vision they believe in – a vision that affects so many women around the world.
The pandemic has driven many working mothers out of the workforce. What advice do you have for women whose careers have been unintentionally interrupted?
The pandemic has challenged mothers in so many ways we never imagined and I think as a society we need to recognize and accept it. I help mothers do what they think is good for themselves and their families. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to hire someone who wasn’t working because I was a mom. I think we need more awareness on this – there shouldn’t be any stigma against hiring mothers who have taken time for their families (either voluntarily or unintentionally). I think we’re starting to see some progress here – for example with the recent change in LinkedIn to provide better ways for mothers who have taken a nursing break to include this on their digital resumes as ‘parental leave’ or other.