Vanessa Ford and Danielle Jacobs of MenoLabs

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Vanessa Ford and Danielle Jacobs, the co-founders of MenoLabs, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of MenoLabs – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

Vanessa: When I was 44, I had a period that lasted for 21 days and I had no idea why. What I learned was that I was in the transitional stage of menopause called perimenopause, which is when a woman’s hormones begin to fluctuate as her body makes less estrogen. I also discovered that there are just no good solutions out there for women who are in this transition, and there are no readily available answers. The fact that I had to find out about the symptoms of peri/menopause on my own, through a lot of Google searches, was really frustrating.

And here’s the thing: menopause symptoms can be incredibly disruptive. I think most women are aware that hot flashes are a sign of menopause, but they are also unprepared for just how exhausting and interfering hot flashes can be. They are also not aware of the other 40 or so symptoms that they may experience, like anxiety, mood swings, and loss of libido. Even dry eyes can be caused by the hormone fluctuations of peri/menopause.

The more I became aware of just how little is out there in terms of information and solutions, the more I became convinced that this was a problem that could be solved. But I had never started a company, and I needed someone who knew how to do that. Danielle is a friend and one of the smartest business women I know, with extensive experience in guiding startups from a financial perspective, and she was really excited about this concept, too.

Danielle: Then we partnered with a leading researcher at the University of Arizona, Dr. John Konhilas, who does very compelling research around women’s health in mid-life, to help guide us from a science and research perspective.

Together, we create natural synbiotic solutions for women to help keep their hormones more balanced by primarily addressing the microbiome, so that the body can reuse its own estrogen. But more than that, we are creating an entire wrap-around ecosystem so that women can get the answers they need and find support and encouragement from other women. We do this primarily through our app, MenoLife, which is live in the Apple and Android app stores now. We are very excited that we’re launching Version 2, which has an incredibly sophisticated symptom and health tracker. That is planned to roll out in October of this year.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

Vanessa: One of the biggest challenges we face is that menopause is a taboo subject in our society, so women often don’t even know that what they are going through is related to menopause. It’s really heart-breaking to have women say to us that they wish they’d had MenoLabs products and support in their lives earlier, because maybe their careers would still be on track, their health would be better, and/or their marriage would still be together. That is how disruptive menopause can be. Symptoms like mood swings can be so bad that marriages break up. These are the kinds of real problems that women need help with.

Danielle: The other hurdle we face is that we make products that are extremely complex. There is nothing else like what we make on the market. Our products are synbiotics, which means they are more than just probiotics. They all include patented probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, minerals, and herbal ingredients, and they are all proprietary blends. Because they are so complex, it was a challenge to find manufacturers who can handle that kind of ingredient complexity. But we did, and they are among the top FDA and CGMP certified manufacturers in the country.

What does the future hold for MenoLabs?

Danielle: We’re always actively listening to our customers and our communities on social media to learn what women need help with. We’ve got two new products coming to market in Q4 of 2020 that we are very excited about, and there are an additional two in R&D right now.

Vanessa: Perhaps the most exciting thing is our plan to fundamentally change the research around women’s menopausal health. Women in mid-life are drastically understudied, because of this idea that we’re “too variable”. But we believe that if your data set is large enough, patterns are going to emerge, even among those variabilities. So we have created our app to be HIPAA compliant and it is already IRB certified. Women will have the opportunity to record their symptom information via the app, to join our clinical trials, and all of that information will be secure and de-identified. We will be compiling the largest data set of women in mid-life, ever. And we fully expect that meaningful patterns will emerge from this data that can drive further research and development.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Tucson?

Vanessa: Before Danielle and I started MenoLabs, I was and still am involved in the startup scene in Tucson through my husband, Tony Ford, and what I love the most is how supportive everyone is of each other. It doesn’t matter how outlandish the idea seems on the surface – everyone in the ecosystem is willing to listen to ideas, to question and engage, and help reach viable outcomes. When you’re creating something new, having a community that supports you really does help get you through the doubt and stress that a business owner/entrepreneur faces on a day-to-day basis.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Danielle: I think it gets said a lot, but it’s absolutely true that you need to get market validation for your solution. The reason MenoLabs has been so successful so quickly is that there is a market size of 25 million women in the United States who have real pain that needs an immediate solution.

Vanessa: We found a product/market fit with resonance, and that makes things slightly easier. You still need to be prepared to work 12, 16, 18 hour days. You still need to be prepared for the stress and anxiety of balancing cash flow. You still need to be prepared to make major decisions on a daily basis and live with the consequences of those decisions. But the knowledge that you have a valid solution for customer pain does make it all a little less stressful. For Danielle and I, knowing that we’re fundamentally changing the way women experience menopause and helping them live better, healthier lives – that’s what drives us. It’s the most rewarding work imaginable.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

One thought on “Vanessa Ford and Danielle Jacobs of MenoLabs

  • October 7, 2020 at 12:10 pm
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    Why should I chose this product of menofit over other products on the market to assist with hot flashes and weight gain, I still have a cycle it is becoming later and later so I know sooner or later I will be in menopause. Is this product safe for the kidneys and liver?

    Reply

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