Deeannah Seymour Transcript
For as long as I can remember, feminine sexual health was something never to discuss in public – something that came with embarrassed or shameful whispers. Now one of the fastest growing industries in the wellness space is FemTech and it’s about time.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who is changing the game on how we care for our bodies … and yes, our vaginas.
Deeannah Seymour was frustrated with the lack of natural feminine hygiene and wellness solutions to common vaginal issues, so she developed pH-D® Feminine Health in 2014 with the introduction of the brand’s best-selling boric acid suppositories. We’re going to hear all about Deeannah’s entrepreneurial journey in a moment – and her business.
Now to Deeannah Seymour. With two decades in the pharmaceutical industry, Deeannah wanted a natural solution for common vaginal issues that wouldn’t give rise to unwanted side-effects – and it had to be backed by research. So, she examined hundreds of clinical studies on the use of boric acid vaginal suppositories to help with feminine issues and vaginal balance. She tried it with great success, yet the key ingredient was not commercially available.
Deeannah wanted to make her breakthrough available to millions of women just like herself who had suffered for years with no relief. Partnering with a holistic healthcare company, Vireo Systems, she began producing boric acid suppositories in their own FDA registered facility with pharmaceutical grade boric acid. pH-D Feminine Health was born!
Before we get to the first of the story, I have a question for you.
Now back to the inspiring Deeannah Seymour. Her groundbreaking product pH-D – an alternative to antibiotics for treatment of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis – has successfully helped millions of women while becoming one of the top-selling feminine hygiene brands available at national retail chains such as Target and CVS.
pH-D® Feminine Health has successfully treated hundreds of thousands of women and became the best-selling treatment for vaginal odor and itch in online sales. It is embraced by the medical community and written into treatment protocols at several elite medical centers.
As she was developing her brand, Deeannah was going through another life-altering experience. She discovered she was a donor match for a friend’s four-year-old boy. Deeannah donated her kidney and saved her friend’s son. This experience helped her grow in her faith and gave her the fortitude to trust the plan that was being laid out for her. Now, she says she sees every challenging situation as a growth opportunity!
Melinda Wittstock: Deeannah, welcome to Wings.
Deeannah Seymour: Hi Melinda. Thank you so much for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, I'm excited to talk to you. You know, I'm always interested in the origin stories of entrepreneurs and how they come to launch the businesses that they launch. So, what was the spark for you that led you down this path?
Deeannah Seymour: Well, great question. You know, they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And it is so true. I had been in the pharmaceutical industry for about 20 years and had been on a lot of antibiotics for sinus infections. And we as women know that when on antibiotics they can throw your whole vaginal biome out of whack, and I wanted to find a solution that was natural that was backed by published clinical data, and so I started doing some research and found that there were hundreds of studies that had been done on ingredients, and doctors were actually using it for their patients, but the patients had to get it at compounding pharmacies. And the CDC actually recommended it, but no one was making it commercially. And I actually tried it myself and it worked wonders for me.
Deeannah Seymour: And it's interesting, I'm a firm believer that everything in life happens for a reason and it was meant to be that I had those lows, but also as fate would have it that my daughter at the time, her hockey coach owned and operated a holistic manufacturing facility that makes products for people and pets, and I decided, you know what? This has been laid out before me, and what are the odds that I know someone who manufacturers holistic products. So, I had a very uncomfortable conversation with my daughter's hockey coach, but it came armed with my stack of clinical data, and fortunately enough, he has a background in science, and is very scientifically oriented, and he actually loved the idea of starting to produce this product.
Deeannah Seymour: And it was just amazing, incredible, that within six months of us placing it on Amazon it became the number one bestseller in its category and it just demonstrated the need. Women were looking for a natural alternative for their vaginal health. And you know, then the reviews started coming in, and women, I soon realized it was life changing for thousands of women at that point. And, now millions, five and a half years later. So that's kind of the Genesis of pH-D.
Melinda Wittstock: What I love about this is that the businesses that really succeed for entrepreneurs are ones that meet a real and unserved need or problem in the market. Right? And so that you spotted this and acting on it, it seems so intuitive for people who are naturally entrepreneurial, but how many people walk through their lives and say, oh, somebody should do that.
Deeannah Seymour: Oh, I feel like everyone at some point has probably had a million idea, but they just haven't acted on it. And again, like I said, it was kind of the stars were aligned and I was led to do this. Everything in my life happened for a reason, working in the pharmaceutical industry, being on antibiotics, having the hockey coach in my life it just was like God had a runway with lights laid out for me. Like this is the way you need to go. So yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely right. You know, but it comes with challenges too, and I think what's interesting about your particular business, right, is that you have all this, I guess, I don't know, I'm not sure if this is the right word, but, almost like embarrassment or squeamishness or something about like talking about it.
Deeannah Seymour: Oh absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: So, like what are the marketing challenges that you have? I mean, do you end up, if you're trying to do a Facebook ad, if you say the word vaginal, I mean do you get banned? Like how do you market what you do?
Deeannah Seymour: Well in talking about the challenges, honestly, initially it was a challenge for me too, to allow myself to be that vulnerable, but then just when I realized all the women that were being helped, it was just like, this is what has to happen. We have to create this discussion around vaginal health, and as a result of that, early on we had our brand positioning statement that we developed and our marketing people and the agency that we work with, they are just so spot on, and they get it. They're women and they just understand. So we do have to walk a fine line because there are some other feminine hygiene companies who are a little more crass, and really different in their narrative, and focus, and their communication. Whereas because we appeal to such a huge… Basically from 18 to 70 is our target audience, which is a huge span of ages.
Deeannah Seymour: But we like to keep it classy and communicate in just a straightforward way to where we're not making a joke about anything, because it effects women's lives to the point of interfering with relationships and a lot of other factors. So it does pose a challenge, but we are straightforward, and we do say the word vagina in our ads, and what we do is we take a lot of quotes too from our customers, who are evangelical about our product, and use actual quotes from them and our ads. And they have been just off the charts a successful, especially as far as engagement, the amount of engagement we have with our customers, especially on social media, they are so passionate about our product and come to our defense for women who are saying you shouldn't say the word vagina in an ad.
Deeannah Seymour: Well it's a fact of life, people talk about erectile dysfunction. Viagra is highly successful, successful, and people talk bluntly about that. Well, every woman has a vagina, and 70% of all women at some point in their lives will have an issue with vaginal health. So it's a fact of life, and we just need to continue to create that dialogue because we've found that once we started, and you can especially see the reviews on Amazon, just how women, it's like they've been bottled up for years, and thinking that for some reason they were ashamed, because a lot of women thought it was a hygiene issue, which it's not. It's a vaginal balance issue. So just removing that stigma so that they're not shameful anymore of what's going on with their bodies has been so important for us.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. And so what are some of the other kind of lessons that you've learned along the way in interacting? Because you've had such great success, but there are always challenges in this, right?
Deeannah Seymour: Sure, oh goodness. Absolutely. You know, it was interesting, early on I left the security of my corporate job and pharmaceuticals to take over running pH-D, and I was a single mom of two teenage kids at the time and I really had my life planned out for me I thought, or so I thought. I was going to retire from that corporate job with full benefits, and a pension, and a 401k, and then pH-D was doing well on Amazon on the side, and I'm like, you know what, I can use that to help pay for college, and the kids' expenses, and a lot of times, I say God has to get us to be really uncomfortable where we are in order to get us to make a change, and that's what happened to me in corporate America. I fortunately had a manager that didn't see eye to eye with, even though I was highly successful, and I knew that's what was happening.
Deeannah Seymour: So leaving the security of corporate America to go run my company initially, I didn't know. You know they have the saying, “You don't know what you don't know.” I had no idea what I didn't know. It was basically if you pick up a product and you look at it, everything on that, like a bottle of soda or whatever, the label, the ingredients, the lid, the manufacturing, all of that. I had to learn how to source, how to prepare, how to do graphic designers, all of that. And I made so many mistakes, especially in that first six months to a year where I found myself just being that inner critic that I've learned now to pay attention to and call out, but it could destroy you, and I felt like I was, particularly after one mistake that I made on a label that I didn't proof well, and having to deal with the ramifications of that which cost thousands and thousands of dollars. I was spiraling.
Deeannah Seymour: That inner critic was saying, what are you doing? You have no business being in business. You don't know what you're doing, and I remember being on a run and all of the narrative was playing in my head, and finally it like, got punched in the face and I stopped, literally stopped running and I said, enough. I told the voice in my head, I'm like, I can control this, and I can control you. It's that imposter syndrome or whatever you want to call it, but I was under attack. And so I learned that I had to be really, really intentional about my thoughts and what I was telling myself and telling myself that I am capable, and if those thoughts ever started occurring in my head, just say enough is enough. And you know, I'm a big believer in faith and spirituality, so I prayed a lot to help me through that as well. But I feel like as women, based on the conversations that I've had, I feel like we fall victim to that more so than men. And I read a great book called The Untethered Soul.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, I love that book.
Deeannah Seymour: Isn't it great.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that book is amazing. No, that's huge, that book. I mean, it makes such a big difference.
Deeannah Seymour: It made a huge difference in me. It just laid out clearly how to deal with that inner critic. And so that was pivotal for me too was reading that. So that certainly was a challenge I had to overcome was the self-doubt. But I've learned so much through that, and it also made me so much more empathetic to others, because you just never know what is happening with other people, and what's going on in between their ears. So, again, that happened for a reason.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. It's interesting what you say about this inner critic though, that we have as women. I'm sure men have this too, but I think women have it in a really special way. I think we talk to ourselves in a way that we wouldn't tolerate from our own worst enemy.
Deeannah Seymour: I wouldn't be friends with that person that was in between my ears back then.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. And what do you think the root of that is? I mean, is it a societal thing? Like what teaches us to be like that in the first place? I mean, because it so stands in the way of our progress.
Deeannah Seymour: It does. I heard a statistic yesterday that which I knew, but it was just jaw dropping when I heard it spoken out loud, was that women in addition to working their full-time jobs, on average work an additional two and a half hours at home more than men. And to me that says so much, like not only are we trying to hold our careers together, but we're working to hold our families together as well. And it's an expectation. I feel like it's put on us that yeah, it's our responsibility to do the laundry, and make sure the kids are taken care of, and keep the house together. So, I feel that it's a societal thing as you said, that so much pressure is put on us to keep it all together. That as a result, we're juggling so much more than most men are. I'm not going to generalize, but the statistic kind off speaks for itself.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Deeannah Seymour: So, I feel like that's a huge part of it, that we're trying to keep it all together.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. So, we confuse having it all with doing it all.
Deeannah Seymour: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: And, the fastest cure for that I think is having to scale a business because you can't and succeed, right? Like you just can't. So you've got to get out of your own way. You got to learn that otherwise, I mean, you just simply don't succeed. So You can always tell the people who've figured out leverage, or figured out how to use their time, or use their time to do only the things that they can do, and delegate, outsource the rest. Because anyone listening to this, if you're not doing that, you're not hiring early enough in your business, that's a disaster. Yeah?
Deeannah Seymour: Oh absolutely. And I felt those pain points, I mean, massively up until, I guess like a year and a half ago, I was doing way, way too much. And as a result, I mean things suffered and I soon realized I need to bring in people who are smarter than me in so many areas, even if I had to cut back and rearrange expenses in order for us to grow, in order for me to grow to personally, especially for the company to grow. But yeah, I've, that's one of the things I try to do is hire to my weaknesses and I have a lot of weaknesses, so hiring people who are so good at what they do has been one of the best things that we've done.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's so, so important. So going back to The Untethered Soul entrepreneurship is going to throw up all sorts of things that you need to unlearn, right? So, when you're triggered, It's an opportunity to create a business, and in the case of an entrepreneur, is an opportunity to create a business, grow a business in terms of your own personal growth.
Melinda Wittstock: It's like an opportunity to shed something that you don't need anymore. Like an old belief, an old attitude or whatever. Right? It became a game. It's kind of like, oh, how interesting. Look at this. And there's a level of consciousness where you're also almost looking down at yourself saying, oh, how funny. Okay, well that's another one to get rid of. I'll just let that go, right? And it's so simple, right?
Deeannah Seymour: Right, right. But not. But it takes a lot of pain.
Melinda Wittstock: But not, there was a lot of time in between where we were talking about doing, thinking we had to do it all. I thought there was some really hard work involved in doing this and then I realized that no, it was just a decision. I don't need this anymore. [crosstalk [spp-timestamp time="00:30:28"].
Deeannah Seymour: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: It was that simple. But I was stuck in my, I have to work hard, or toil or something to be able to…
Deeannah Seymour: Right. Or it might be a case of just changing your expectations. For instance, my house was filthy at some point. I had help, but not enough help. So, it's a matter of changing your expectations, maybe letting go for a while of what your idea of perfection is. It's also so important to extend grace to herself. That's been huge for me is, it's okay if you're not meeting the ideals of everyone else, or of yourself, that your expectations are way too high of you. And if you can't afford to hire that help, then just let the expectations go. Lower your expectations so that you're not disappointed, or you're not just putting it in yourself, and have grace for yourself. Extend that so that you're not crucifying yourself over things that are unattainable.
Melinda Wittstock: And so what do you think of your business and where it's going next? What are the big things you're looking at, and what are you working on right now, and where are you taking it? Where are you headed?
Deeannah Seymour: So we are extremely unique for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that we're totally vertically integrated. You know, a business partner, we own and operate our own manufacturing facility which is amazing. But it's also a lot of challenges, especially for the rapid growth that we're experiencing right now. And we're having to expand our production and hire more people, which is amazing. And we're so blessed in that regard, but it comes with its own set of challenges especially financially being able to scale the growth, not only to meet the demand, but also to build, to expand our production facilities in order to be able to produce all the product that's needed for these retailers.
Deeannah Seymour: So great problem to have, but the pace at which we're working is a frenetic pace. It's so exciting. And I have never been more excited in my career in my life, and I literally cannot wait to get into work every day, and I love to solve problems, so this is one of my strengths too is trying to figure difficult challenges and circumstances out. So scaling right now is definitely one of our biggest challenges.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. And so let's talk about scaling for a bit. Scaling is a challenge for everybody because on one hand you've got to let go of, so you learn all these things in different phase, and you get comfortable in this particular phase as a CEO and a founder, and then suddenly, just as you're comfortable in that, it's time to let go of all that stuff and embrace something else. Right. So that's tricky. How do you handle that emotionally, psychologically, actually physically, I mean, how do you handle that?
Deeannah Seymour: Well, again, going back to not knowing what I don't know, it's just unbelievable what I have learned in a short amount of time, but, my business partner, one of the first things is that we are so aligned, and from what I understand, it's kind of rare that that occurs. But thankfully we are, and we're open communication with him, and then with also our leadership team, and that's another thing is establishing that leadership team, which has been something we've done over the past nine months. And also, before we had those people in place, we knew that we needed outside help, but at that time we couldn't afford it, to hire the leadership team, so we hired consultants who were like a stop gap measure until we could get the right people in place. And that was one of the most important decisions that we made because they were able to help us understand these nuances of the retail landscape that we knew nothing about, or very little about, I should say.
Deeannah Seymour: So they were able to step in, and since, of course have become great friends, but really help us kind of like a Band-aid, put a Band-aid on it to help us grow during that time without having to invest in a lot of headcount. So that was one of the most important things that we did, and matter of fact, we still have some consultants that are working with our team to help us be better. Just as CEOs we're getting guidance and from them to helping us grow as leaders, and then also with our entire marketing, finance, operations, they're a whole team full of people who are helping us, all of us grow. So that's been great.
Melinda Wittstock: Hmm. Yeah, that's amazing. Well, I mean one of the things that a lot of women struggle with, and I know I was in this club too for a long time, it's just getting good at asking for help.
Deeannah Seymour: Yeah. So true.
Melinda Wittstock: You know, which is necessary to be able to scale, or just finding who's done it before you who can be a mentor or whatever. I mean coaches, you hire a coach, I mean do all that stuff. Yeah.
Deeannah Seymour: And it was great what we said earlier, we were talking about female entrepreneurs, and they are so different. My business partner is a man, and he has some friends that are CEOs, but the level of communication is just on a completely different level than my friends who are in business. I feel like women we just want to help each other out. It's like the Wings you know?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Deeannah Seymour: Lifting each other up. It's just a whole different level when it comes to women, and that's also been a priority of mine because as an entrepreneur starting out, I lived in a bubble in my office because I would work all the time, and I didn't have a network of people and other women that I could bounce ideas off of or learn from. So last year that was a priority for me was to join organizations and get out and start having conversations, and develop friendships with other women in business, and it has been a game changer for me.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, absolutely. Me too. I mean just even launching this podcast was a game changer for me.
Deeannah Seymour: Oh, I bet.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I launched it simply because I felt sort of isolated. I wanted to affirm and acclaim the journeys of entrepreneurial women, and just felt that we were succeeding in silence, all this sort of stuff, but with each interview that I do, I feel like it's not only my own personal mastermind, but it's opened so many doors, and to be able to advance so many other female run and founded businesses is amazing. Like we all have to just get into the habit of paying it forward for each other, but then that means that we need to be able and ready to receive. It's one thing to ask for help, but I see a lot of women struggling to receive.
Deeannah Seymour: Yeah. Yeah. So true. It's one of those things, it's so important, you have to check your ego at the door.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness that, yes.
Deeannah Seymour: And that's one of the things I try and share with my team. There are no egos allowed here. I am so imperfect and I have so much to learn. We all do. Especially again, it's that idea of perfectionism with women, wanting to be all things to everyone. To be a successful businesswoman as you know, we just have to forget it and be open and receptive to that, and open and receptive, I feel like listening to where we're being guided. That was one thing I talk about a lot is you know, like I said, it's spirituality.
Deeannah Seymour: I am very spiritual, and prayer is part of my life. And you know, in addition to asking, you also have to listen to how you're being guided, and if you believe it's God or the universe or whatever, to be open and receptive to doors closing, because they close for a reason, or doors opening for a reason. Or maybe you're just meant to be where you are in that moment to grow, to get to the point where you are able to get to the point to where you can be the person that you're meant to be, or you know that saying God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow, beautiful.
Deeannah Seymour: I know, I love that, and my dad shared that with me and I was like, “Ding.” But it's so true. I mean I have never taken a business class in my life. I was a biology major and worked in science pharmaceuticals for 20 years. I didn't know a lot about business, but he has equipped me. I have a fantastic business partner. We had the right consultants. I read a lot, so I'm constantly learning, and I'm learning from the people we hire. So, it's true, you become equipped, but you have to be open and receptive to that.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, absolutely you do. So Deeannah, you're providing such a great service and product for people. How can people find you and work with you?
Deeannah Seymour: Oh, thank you. Yeah, phdfemininehealth.com is our website, and you can find the product on Amazon of course, and then at every Target nationwide, and then at CVS, and we're also launching at Kroger here soon, and also Wegmans, HEB, and Hy-Vee to name a few.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Deeannah Seymour: Oh, thank you so much for having me Melinda. It's been a pleasure.