Founder Profile

Cynthia Plotch

Stix

For giving women's health tests a much-needed makeover.

After running into her boyfriend’s mom while buying a pregnancy test, Cynthia Plotch thought the women’s health industry could use a fresh approach. Her friend Jamie Norwood, who had recently fainted from a UTI, agreed. The two conducted some market research, found a need, and co-founded Stix, a direct-to-consumer women’s health brand, in September 2019: Their first product was a discreet, easy-to-use pregnancy test. But when the duo set out to raise money, more than 100 investors turned them down. “Most of venture capital is run by men, and this is a problem that mostly women face,” says Norwood. “So not only are we pitching the business and explaining why it makes sense as a business, but we're also explaining the problem.” Another complication arose in April 2020, when Plotch fell ill with mysterious symptoms and was eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. “When you get sick, I think you realize how much you need to prioritize,” Plotch says. For Stix, that meant clarifying its mission to become a one-stop shop for women’s health education, not just products. The founders raised a $3.5 million seed round in April 2021, bringing Stix’s total funding to $5 million. The Philadelphia company is now a nine-person operation offering products to test for, treat, and prevent UTIs and yeast infections, in addition to pregnancy and ovulation tests and prenatal vitamins. Next up: launching new product lines and expanding its online library of health resources and digital tools.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Jamie Norwood

Stix

For giving women's health tests a much-needed makeover.

After running into her boyfriend’s mom while buying a pregnancy test, Cynthia Plotch thought the women’s health industry could use a fresh approach. Her friend Jamie Norwood, who had recently fainted from a UTI, agreed. The two conducted some market research, found a need, and co-founded Stix, a direct-to-consumer women’s health brand, in September 2019: Their first product was a discreet, easy-to-use pregnancy test. But when the duo set out to raise money, more than 100 investors turned them down. “Most of venture capital is run by men, and this is a problem that mostly women face,” says Norwood. “So not only are we pitching the business and explaining why it makes sense as a business, but we're also explaining the problem.” Another complication arose in April 2020, when Plotch fell ill with mysterious symptoms and was eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. “When you get sick, I think you realize how much you need to prioritize,” Plotch says. For Stix, that meant clarifying its mission to become a one-stop shop for women’s health education, not just products. The founders raised a $3.5 million seed round in April 2021, bringing Stix’s total funding to $5 million. The Philadelphia company is now a nine-person operation offering products to test for, treat, and prevent UTIs and yeast infections, in addition to pregnancy and ovulation tests and prenatal vitamins. Next up: launching new product lines and expanding its online library of health resources and digital tools.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Dana Donofree

AnaOno

For breaking taboos in the bra industry.

At the age of 27, Dana Donofree was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I felt like I had gotten catapulted into this world that was built for my grandmother,” she says. In 2014, the lack of bras suitable for people with breast cancer inspired Donofree, who had been a fashion designer, to launch AnaOno, which makes intimate apparel for people who have undergone breast surgery, often for cancer. ”If you have one breast, two breasts, no breasts, or new breasts, it shouldn’t matter,” she says. AnaOno’s were among the first mastectomy bras to be sold online and not by a medical supply company, she says. From the start, the company has sought to break taboos and build an empowering community for cancer survivors. “Yes, we're the bra, and yes, you're going to need us,” she says, “but I hope to be so much more than that.” Other brands are finally recognizing the need to be “boob-inclusive,” Donofree says, thanks to the recent heightened attention on diversity and inclusion. At the same time, however, the pandemic led many people to skip regular cancer screenings--which now means more diagnoses, more surgeries, and more people seeking out AnaOno’s products. “We were there to catch them when they were ready to fall,” Donofree says. AnaOno is on track to hit 30,000 customers and nearly $3 million in revenue this year, nearly double last year’s figures, Donofree says. The Philadelphia-based company, which raised a seed round in 2018, is now looking toward securing additional fundraising and expanding into new product lines, including swimwear.--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Madonna Badger

Badger & Winters

For rooting out sexism in the ad industry.

When Madonna Badger started working in advertising, there weren’t many women executives to look up to. So she became one. She left Calvin Klein to start her own firm in New York City in 1994, which, “just like any other company, went through peaks and valleys and changes,” she says, but landed clients like Vera Wang, Shiseido, and Procter & Gamble. Then, on Christmas morning 2011, Badger’s parents and three young daughters died in a fire at her Connecticut home. “After that, I really wanted to live, and be, and use my talent with a purpose,” she says. In 2016, her agency launched #WomenNotObjects, a campaign to end the objectification of women in advertising, and successfully petitioned the Cannes Lions to reject ads that objectified women. Badger & Winters went on to create more campaigns with a social-impact focus, including one for Olay, featuring gymnast Aly Raisman, that aired during the Tokyo Olympics and a Dick’s Sporting Goods ad spotlighting the company’s female leaders. The business is growing at a rapid clip, Badger says, and keeps getting more diverse: Its staff is now 56 percent BIPOC, while senior leadership is half BIPOC and two-thirds female. Badger’s next goal is to create more campaigns for companies outside beauty and fashion, like automakers, cruise lines, and real estate. “The key to our future growth is going to be working with some of these other industries that are starting to turn the lights on as well,” she says. “They need to up their game in terms of diversity and inclusion, and they're going to need agencies like mine that know how to do that.”--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
New York, New York
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Gina Bartasi

Kindbody

For making fertility services more accessible.

When you’re a serial entrepreneur, Gina Bartasi says, you learn to listen to your customers. “They have the answers about what business you should be starting, and what business is needed to serve their pain points.” Bartasi found those pain points in health care, and specifically in fertility, where costs keep rising while patient experiences and outcomes worsen. Her previous company, Progyny, which offers a fertility benefits management solution for employers, went public in 2019 at a $1.3 billion valuation. She launched her fifth startup, New York City-based Kindbody, in 2018, to take fertility benefits a step further--by letting employers purchase services directly from doctors. Kindbody operates its own clinics, including some on-site at workplaces, and plans to expand into 12 new markets in 2022. It also has 300 partner clinics around the country that meet its standards for patient-focused care, higher-than-average success rates, and competitive, transparent pricing. It reduces the cost of care by automating scheduling and other administrative work. The fertility industry has boomed during the pandemic, Bartasi says, with more single parents, same-sex couples, and newlyweds deciding to have children. Kindbody has raised $125 million in venture capital, most recently in a $62 million Series C round in June that included investments from Gabrielle Union, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Hannah Bronfman. All of Kindbody’s physicians are women, and half are BIPOC, Bartasi says, noting that studies suggest Black women are twice as likely as White women to experience infertility. “We want to make sure that women’s health is being run by women, for women.”--Sophie Downes

Company Information
Location
New York, New York
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021