Going through menopause can be extremely challenging. It was particularly tough for Rebekah Brown – aged 46 – as she was ‘too young’ to have symptoms of menopause. “My doctor didn’t identify the early symptoms of perimenopause. I didn’t fit the profile. I was ‘too young’ and still having a regular cycle. I was advised to take ‘time out’ to address exhaustion and upweight my vitamin intake,” she says.
A former creative agency executive, Brown had to trawl the aisles of the local health food store, staring at a vast range of products and ingredients she knew nothing about.
She also looked into the biochemical changes the female body goes through in menopause and what vitamins needed at each stage, regardless of symptoms. She explored the impact and practicality of dietary changes, researched what herbs and vitamins have seen results in trials and, critically, what dosages have an impact.
Armed with insight, and a growing sense of frustration that women were under-served with honest information and better options, she decided to start MPowder.
In 2019, Rebekah started MPowder, a brand that provides nutritional powders and insights to empower women through menopause. Her ecommerce brand has recently raised €550K in its seed round of funding led by Pink Salt Ventures, Founders Factory, and other strategic angels including Mumsnet co-founder, Carrie Longton.
The startup will use the raised capital to scale production, upweight trial protocols, and build its team.
Carrie Longton, co-founder of Mumsnet and MPowder angel investor says, “In the next 12 months the team will be testing recipes for women who, like me, have had breast cancer and are therefore excluded from so many menopausal aids.”
MPowder is currently in the Founders Factory Home & Hygiene accelerator programme, backed by Reckitt Benkiser.
The London-based startup plans to improve this experience by providing nutritional powders for the three stages of menopause directly to its customers. The startup claims to use recipes that are only plant-based nutrients and vitamin sources to give women’s bodies what they need.
According to the company, each scoop contains ingredients recognised by the consumer, blended to taste good, as well as supplement a healthy diet. Besides, the ingredients also include botanical extracts and vitamins to ensure one gets the dosage level required.
Brown feels, “The options available to us have not kept pace with the way we live and how we see ourselves. Medical intervention can work wonders. But not everyone can or chooses to take them. This is a life stage that 51% of the population will go through. Women deserve a greater choice – and innovative, smart, robust solutions that encompass the body and mind.”
The powders offered are all vegan so they can be added to a morning smoothie, porridge, etc.
Brown started working on MPowder from March 2019. According to her, the business really took shape this year, during lockdown – which had its challenges! “We also joined the Founders Factory accelerator programme (which is backed by Reckitt Benckiser) in April 2020 and they provided support to enable me to launch the business in September.”
Talking about the initial challenges, Brown tells Silicon Canals, “The reality is that research into the lifestage is woefully inadequate. We had to look hard for early-stage research into the efficacy of plants, vitamins, and minerals. There still isn’t enough understanding of what symptoms impact at what stage in the menopause transition. Women aren’t consulted enough about what specific challenges they face. So the stigma and the lack of robust insight into the lifestage has been our biggest challenge.”
“Then, getting to a point where we could source a recipe that has over 24 ingredients, during a pandemic and with the backdrop of the UK’s exit from the EU, brought a range of unexpected logistical challenges. In spite of this, we are up and running and already receiving repeat purchases, with strong word of mouth,” she adds.
MPowder also has an active ‘Powder Room’ community that takes part in the trials for product recipes, verifies efficacy, and provides detailed feedback on their lifestyle programmes.
Talking about the safety aspect of MPowder’s products, Brown says, “We work with fantastic partners who verify each ingredient supplier, and then test each ingredient individually and as a final blend before release. None of the ingredients in our blends are ‘novel’, which means they are already approved for human consumption.”
According to the company, the menopause market is set to be worth around €4.47B by 2023.
It claims that 89% of its consumers saw an improvement in their symptoms within 8 weeks of taking Peri-Boost (its first powder which supports the first stage of menopause). While 75% saw a reduction in feeling tired, a lack of energy, sleeping, and improvement in their skin. About 60% of the women who entered the program with a real concern about aching muscles and joints, completed the trial with an improvement of at least 50%.
Talking about the company’s revenue stream, Brown says, “We are omni channel with a D2C focus. Revenue generation is focused on product sale, programme subscriptions (with support from a team of experts), select retail partnerships and affiliates, and corporate collaborations.”
She, however, declined to comment on MPowder’s revenue projections for FY 2020-21.
It has a team of 6, but it plans to build its customer hero team, followed by data science support. The company also has ambitions to enter overseas markets.
Reportedly, menopause is mostly regarded as a negative and scary process due to the lack of help and advice available. One in five women has to take time off work in which many end up leaving the workplace as they are unable to cope. With a sense of frustration about how women are under-served, Brown feels, “We are the first generation that will potentially live 50 years after the start of menopause so life is just beginning!”
Image credit: MPowder