Today, we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Schull.
Stephanie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I left academia to become an entrepreneur in 2015 when I learned that my mother’s debilitating health problems came from surgical solutions to pelvic floor problems that were caused by giving birth to five children. After many hours of research, I discovered that exercise could have prevented and treated her issues as opposed to surgery and that this can be said about most women who suffer from these pelvic floor issues. The more research I did and the more that I spoke to others, I realized that the incontinence, organ prolapse, and sexual dysfunction created when pelvic muscles are weakened really hold women back from living the lives they want. Learning this triggered my feminist instincts to do something for all these women that are being held back.
I explored the products and services that are available to combat this issue and found that they each have some fatal flaw. I even spoke with the manufacturers at tradeshows and was told they were not willing to make important changes to make their products safer and more effective. This tipped my outrage into action, and I decided to do something about it. At a tradeshow in Germany, I walked around with drawings and descriptions of how the products should be designed and was repeatedly told to go away because they ultimately did not care about women’s health; their goal was simply to sell something to women, whether it truly worked or not. Discouraged, I sat down at a bar to have a drink and figure out why I had flown around the world just to find out that big business is callous and does not care about its consumers.
There was a man with a dreadlock mohawk sitting next to me, looking equally as serious, so I unloaded on him as one does when seeking comradery and commiseration at a tradeshow bar. It turned out that he was a German Doctor of Engineering who was there to work on some of his devices with the companies that produce them. After I excitedly showed him my drawings and parameters of what needs to exist in the world of pelvic floor exercise tools, he said he could help me make it.
Two weeks later, I found myself taking a train across Europe to meet with him and to see if we both meant what we had said at that tradeshow bar. We did. The deal was laid out on a napkin and two months later, I was filing my first patents. That was how I found our co-founder, Dr. Joerg Knyrim. He has over a decade of experience designing products in FemTech and he brings his tradition of German engineering into everything we make.
Since then, the journey has been equally serendipitous and all along the way, I encounter other souls who are equally as concerned that big business keeps women suffering for profit and culture keeps women weak for control. The outpouring of help and support has been real and profound, especially within the greater Phoenix and Arizona community, who has generously given their time and expertise to building the company. At times, it feels more like a social movement than a business, as we are all devoted to seeing this problem resolved with this product. Without the help of dozens of people, there is no way that I, a philosopher who worked largely in academia, could have taken this seedling of an idea to the point of a fully-developed product that is already helping women live the lives they want to live.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The only challenge has been the timeline of scaling up manufacturing while pursuing FDA registration. The challenge here is simply the time it takes. Our decision to register with the FDA was based on our successful trial run in which we were getting feedback from our customers about the wide-range of benefits they received after using an earlier version of the product we called “Oojaah.” The benefits ranged from the return of lubrication for those who had suffered from vaginal dryness, orgasm improvement for 90% of our customers, improved or cured incontinence, and improved squeeze that their partners noticed. We wanted to be able to communicate the full range of benefits our customers reported, so we decided that FDA registration was the right path so we could make those claims publicly known. That really slowed down our ability to meet demand, so we currently have a waitlist. We’re expecting to ship in Fall 2018, but when we do, our customers will be receiving a product made with the highest grade of medical silicone, the kind that is used in surgery and transplants. While our customers insert the device for only 5 minutes a day, 3 times a week, we want to promise that even the most skin sensitive will have a safe and comfortable experience. While waiting has been our biggest challenge, we look forward to offering our clients a real and safe solution.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Matter|Mission (Product highlighted is Kegelbell) – what should we know?
Matter|Mission is on a mission to make things that matter by solving the most overlooked challenges in health with novel design and engineering, to help women live healthier, better lives inside and out. We develop innovative solutions that get to the root of the problems that millions of women face. Our team includes PhDs in engineering and philosophy, an FDA consultant, local investors, volunteer consultants, and medical advisors who understand women’s health and wellness intimately. Most everyone on our team is also a Kegelbell user. In fact, after getting results with Kegelbell, many of our customers approach us and ask how they can help.
Kegelbell, our first product, is a patent-pending kegel trainer fitness device for women designed to quickly and easily strengthen the hard-to-reach pelvic floor muscle in just a few minutes a day. Users can expect to see life-changing results in as little as two weeks.
Our company is entirely focused on creating a world where people can live the lives their hearts want. We achieve this through thoughtfully and creatively developing problem-solving products that challenge the status quo, bring social justice issues to the forefront, and give people empowering new options.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Jennifer Vollmann was one of Kegelbell’s first users, and it has been a thrill to see how Kegelbell has supported her work crossing the finish line of the Ironman marathon (Kegelbell had the easy job; Jennifer did the hard work training for the marathon). She has taken the lead on many of our customer-facing projects because she knows what it is like to suffer not knowing that there was a solution to later discovering Kegelbell and being able to have the life of her dreams.
Rick Lopez of Weiss|Brown in Scottsdale is our attorney, and he has helped us from the earliest stages and kept us safe. Without Rick’s expert guidance, I would have had a long list of woes.
Michelle Lott, owner of Lean RAQA in Tucson, manages our FDA registration and regulatory strategy. We are lucky to have her expertise headquartered here in Arizona. She and her international team delivers the detailed and careful work that companies, with products defined as medical devices, must have.
Local investors have helped us with fundraising and are a resource for help when we need it: Greg Head of Scaling Point, Anu Bhardwaj of Women Investing in Women, and the Van Hornes who own fitness clubs and understand the importance of fitness for quality of life.
SEED SPOT is a startup incubator in Phoenix that focuses on businesses with social impact, and Courtney Klein and her team have supported us in every way imaginable. That is where we met our long time advisors: Kellie Zimmet, of Elevate Human Potential, and Dave Blackledge.
I have named but a few. Many, many others have helped in big and small ways, that are always appreciated and are critically important to the well-being of the company.
At the core of this team is our customers who are so happy with the results that they are helping behind the scenes and with funding! Thanks to the brave ladies who tried something new and want to make sure all women can benefit from this life-changing technology.
- Address: 2929 N Power Road
Mesa, AZ 85215
- Website: www.kegelbell.com
- Phone: (267) 712-9150
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joerg Knyrim, Sierra LaDuke, Courtney Klein, Nichol Mayer, Dan Huber, Jennifer Vollmann, Stephanie Schull