Time for a Sequel

Originally published as "On Tempo" on January 31st, 2019 on Medium by Tempo

Ending leakage, period…and all the other things that come with it.

Amanda and Greta, Stanford Product Design classmates turned co-founders of Sequel.

 

 

Before working on Sequel, I didn’t work for a big tech company, a consulting firm, a bank, or start another company. Neither did my co-founder. We came out of the Product Design program at Stanford. We were both serious athletes and chose our academic pursuits for similar reasons, namely our love of creativity, engineering, reason and practicality. On a slide in our pitch deck, we seem pretty similar, but as co-founders we see one another as stubborn halves, of an even more resolute whole.

We protest jabs at our seemingly similar backgrounds with examples of very different work experiences or the differentiation of our responsibilities today.
For me, it’s all about our motivation. Why are we doing this? What makes us want this more than anything?

For starters, Greta is an incredible athlete. I don’t mean in solely the way she just “casually ran across the Golden Gate bridge” on a random Saturday morning, or the New Balance Indoor Track and Field Nationals backpack which she uses for groceries (they only give those to the top runners in the country!), and it doesn’t just affix itself to her accolades as an all-American high school and Division I lacrosse player. She has endurance. This endurance has kept her focused on finding a solution to a problem that nagged at her brain and leaked on her white uniform. Why was the menstrual experience so bad? And why couldn’t we play, learn or do anything without thinking about how terrible our products are? Why has no one done anything about this?

For me, Sequel was a lifeline after a heart breaking lesson. I was left out of a world championships campaign (despite being a multiple times national champion) because of a desire to construct a team “based on personality”. My intense facade and aggressive intent to win did not fit their needs, and so I was out. I poured my heart and soul — and love of design thinking — into creating a product to solve a real problem that was so obvious, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been addressed. Designing a better tampon meant that women would have one less thing to worry about. With so many unique pressures and issues a woman can face in sports, she should not have to worry about her tampon failing her. To me, this company is about equality; being able to perform in any setting without disadvantage. Sequel was a way to channel my strong traits into solving an issue that I had deeply identified with my entire life as a lifeguard and a swimmer. Now as an entrepreneur, these are all indicators of success.

As co-founders we go through a lot together, and we recognize how important it is to have fun together. For example, here’s our monthly “board meeting.”

 

As co-founders we go through a lot together, and we recognize how important it is to have fun together. For example, here’s our monthly “board meeting.”
It’s fun to present ourselves as the athletic Stanford product designers and engineers — yet our athleticism and skills could not manifest in more different ways.

I have always been emotionally receptive — this allows me to deeply understand the moves of my competitors and calculate my next move in the water. When I tell Greta that “I can really feel this one in my gut,” she believes me. It allows me to write to people about the hard stuff, and this often results in laptops being handed back and forth as I help her to find our best possible words.
This also results in me being the “crier’’ of this relationship. Many an occasion Greta has found me reading emails with a distinct shine in my eyes. Her first reaction, “Amanda it’s going to be okay”, is almost always followed by us immediately belly laughing because we both know she meant to say, “pick yourself back up we’ve got work to do”. My gut? Always the butt end of incredibly crafted one-liners. “But can your GUT make accurate financial projections about where we’ll be in two years? Can your GUT know with absolute certainty that this person wants to invest?” I can tell you it sure can’t read minds or work with excel spreadsheets, but it has come in handy.

This is complemented by Greta’s precision and craving for perfection. Greta practiced her pre-college lacrosse running test every single summer day until she knew she would be able to pass it with ease. In the same way, she meticulously vets every single individual we choose to work with, moving efficiently through a list of conversations we will schedule in order to learn everything we possibly can about a problem before attempting it ourselves or making a strategic hire. Sometimes it takes two weeks — and my gut wants to decide right away. Her exercised patience and research about EVERYTHING drives it (+ me) crazy, but in the end, I’m thankful. It’s the same reason she put an honors thesis on hold; for the pursuit of all-encompassing knowledge on the tampon industry (and all-nighters scouring the internet) was absolutely necessary if she was going to go “all-in” on Sequel. I have come to love waking up to 20 articles about the femtech revolution and the future of periods in our text thread (that we affectionately call “our slack”).
So yes, my co-founder and I may have the same degree and the same vision, but our inspiration, our drive, and our athleticism? Different in the best way possible.

 

Amanda Calabrese is the Co-founder and COO of Sequel, a modern femcare company reimagining women’s products with intentional design and engineering.