Deeannah Seymour was a single mom in her 40s when she decided to apply her 20-plus years in biology and the pharmaceutical industry to launch ph-D Feminine Health. She had no outside funding, and has never accepted any while pursuing her vision of building a woman-owned company, managed and run by women, to market products exclusively for women.
To put it mildly, she has succeeded. Sales of pH-D Feminine 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 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 bootstrapping a company, the advantages of a company owned and operated by woman, and the eternal entrepreneurial quest to market a solution to a problem no one else is taking seriously.
You founded pH-D Feminine Health when you were a single mom in your 40s as, without any funding. What motivated you to make that choice?
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. I knew from personal experience that vaginal odor was something that millions of women struggle with – in fact it’s the top vaginal health concern. Yet, I recognized that there was not an effective, accessible, affordable and holistic solution on the market. Previous options were costly and not easily attainable, creating a headache for many women, not to mention a problem for those without access to care.
I pulled on my biology background and 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, seeking holistic options that were backed by research. While there were hundreds of clinical studies on the use of boric acid vaginal suppositories, there wasn’t an over the counter version available to women. So, I partnered with a highly respected, well-established holistic company, Vireo Systems, and in 2014 pH-D Feminine Health was born.
The struggles female founders face trying to attract funding are well documented. Did you consider going for funding?
I did not seek funding – I just didn’t see it as a viable option when I started pH-D. As we’ve grown the business, I wanted to be careful not to dilute my equity. We have bootstrapped the business since day one. A few things that have helped on that journey include expanding credit, working with a small team, outsourcing, getting creative with office space, and putting profits back into the business. Bootstrapping isn’t an easy road, and it can be slow to travel, but in my case, it’s paid off tremendously over time.
How did you manufacture your original product?
Our first product, pH-D’s Boric Acid Suppositories, were created in conjunction with Vireo Systems, within which we had a wonderful corporate incubator setting before the company 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’re deeply committed to as it ensures the highest quality standards.
Your company is described as female founded, female owned, and female run. What are the advantages of that staffing demographic?
We’re really proud to be female-owned and female-run. We are solving some of the most intimate feminine care concerns women face and as females we’re uniquely qualified to understand these concerns. I have also found that women love to work for a female founded business, supporting a vision they believe in – one that affects so many women across the globe.
The pandemic drove many working mothers from the labor force. What is your advice to women whose careers have been involuntarily 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 that. I support mothers doing what they feel is right for themselves and their family. Personally, I wouldn’t think twice about hiring someone who was out of the workforce because of being a mom. I think we need more awareness around this – there shouldn’t be a stigma against hiring mothers who took time off for their families (voluntarily or involuntarily). I think we’re starting to see some progress here – for example with LinkedIn’s recent shift to providing better ways for mothers who took a caregiving hiatus to include this on their digital resumes as “parental leave” or the like.