“Remain Authentic. Not Everyone Will Like You and That’s Okay” Words of Wisdom with Dr. Shannon Klingman
“I have received some criticism over the years about being too bold in my frank discussions about the human condition of odor. Advisors have tried to water down my message to make it more appealing to the masses. If you have to stop and think about how to get your message in through the back door, or say it in a way that makes everyone comfortable, you are missing out on the true wonder that is your core audience. I am unapologetically me.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Shannon Klingman, founder and inventor of Lume Deodorant for Underarms & Private Parts, an innovative product that is changing the narrative on hygiene for women. Shannon successfully developed and patented her clinically proven formula that empowers women to discreetly and effectively manage odor concerns at home. By taking the science in a whole new direction and paring that with her outspoken honesty she has her eyes set on taking over this very tired industry by busting up some long over told myths regarding feminine hygiene.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
As a gynecologist, seeing patients in the office who had concerns regarding “vaginal odor” is common. It is a topic that comes up even if that is not the main reason for the office visit. Women who have been told they have had a condition call “Bacterial Vaginosis” or BV in the past become concerned when they notice any “off odors” again.
What I began to realize, and grew pretty passionate about, was that the tests doctors use to make a diagnosis of BV more often than not DID NOT support a diagnosis of BV. As a result, physicians were over treating women with an antibiotics they most often didn’t need. In fact, physicians over diagnose BV 61% of the time and yeast vaginitis 73% of the time. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1395331/).
These findings are very consistent with what I observed in my own practice.
I wondered if this common odor women experience from time to time could more commonly be EXTERNAL in nature (resulting from day to day life) and far less often a vaginal (or internal) condition that requires antibiotics.
My disruptive theory was contrary to the very tired narrative regarding the source of odor below the belt for women! I knew I had some work to do before I could confidently declare this as fact, and it needed to be proven. So, that is what I did.
I hired a lab to conduct a study. I was able to prove that the odor that results when a woman has Bacterial Vaginosis is indistinguishable from the odor that forms on the OUTSIDE of our bodies when bacteria, that are commonly found in our gastrointestinal tract, come into contact with everyday fluids from intimacy, menstruation, exercise or a leaky bladder.
This finding was remarkable and explained why so many women are overdiagnosed with conditions they do not have. This EXTERNAL reaction between bacteria and fluids on our bodies needs an EXTERNAL solution. So I created one.
By taking the science in a whole new direction, I developed and patented a cream that eliminates external odor. We again needed proof that Lume really worked, so we underwent clinically testing at Princeton
Consumer Research in St. Petersburg, Florida in August of all months! It was proven to be an unbelievably effective underarm deodorant too.
Lume Deodorant for Underarms & Private Parts is clinically proven to provide 48 hours of odor control. It is aluminum free, baking soda free, fragrance oil free, vegan certified, and certified cruelty free. Our formula is water-based and leaves no residue on skin or clothing (for me that part was a must, as I have ruined enough clothing with waxy oil based products!)
The best part is that you can use it anywhere on your body!
We are taking on a huge industry filled with less effective products that don’t accurately address a woman’s needs. It feels great to know that in our small way, we are making a big difference in the lives of women.
I believe this is precisely why I went to medical school!
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
When you are developing a deodorant product, you test it to the max! We go days without showering and are constantly smelling others armpits, our own armpits and scratching and sniffing around. We should be hiring 12 year olds to do this job! It can get pretty hilarious.
That said, the most surreal experience we have had here at Lume was the process of clinical testing. We are the underdog since we are not a big box company with big budgets for R&D, and also being a natural formula, nobody expected much efficacy from us.
Here is a quote from Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, the lead “Odor Guru” from Princeton Consumer Research, “After many, many years of testing AP and Deo products, I have never seen such an efficacious product from the Natural category as Lume. Not only did it do what it says on the label, this product was actually liked by the panel of women that tested it!”
It doesn’t get any clearer or more profoundly stated than that! I didn’t sleep for a week waiting for the final results from our testing. To receive the ability to claim we are clinically proven 48 hours of odor control as a natural product that can be used anywhere on your body, has validated my life’s work. It was a very humbling moment for me.
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What differentiates Lume from all other products on the market today is it’s innovative, patented and proven effective odor control you can use anywhere on your body! No other product on the market can say that.
While Lume was initially developed with women in mind, one-third of our customers are men. We are an equal opportunity odor controller and it’s good for all humans, even children.
We received a very touching email the mother of a 5 year old little girl here in the United States. She has been diagnosed with rare metabolic disorder. She must take a supplement called L-Carnitine that causes her to smell like rotten fish. She shared that her little girl has had this her entire life and has felt rejection from peers and teachers. Kids with these disorders don’t have a lot of wins socially. They had tried every product ever suggested by her dietitian and doctors at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nothing eliminated the odor. When she read about Lume on our website, how it was developed and the science behind it, she decided to give it a try. For the first time in her little girl’s life she was odor free! Her mom said she was like a typical little girl for the first time ever, and that Lume was like a miracle for their family knowing that she will no longer go through the rest of her life struggling with the fishy odor side effects that left her isolated at such a young age from her peers. We have since heard from many other families of children with similar metabolic conditions. That is what makes Lume different.
Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My husband, Evan Griffiths, sits silently in the background and is always there to counsel, listen and fund this challenging process. My family has made many sacrifices over the years on my behalf. My children have taught me how to multitask and bounce back from disappointments. They challenge my every weakness and make me stronger. I have mothered 5 children, and while parenting has been my biggest challenge in life, it has made me a better person in so many ways.
So, I am most grateful to my family for their undying support.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
A new day is on the horizon for women! Lume is a myth-buster because it is changing the narrative about feminine hygiene. Gone are the days of insecurities echoed in the brands that sit on the shelves of pharmacies misleading women into believing that vaginal odor is an inevitable part of being a woman. The vagina is not to blame for day to day odor. If I can be an inspiration to young girls and women around the world and make the path a little clearer for them to dream and develop and problem solve, then I have done a good thing.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.
1. Hire people that elevate you and then get out of their way and let them work! In the beginning I felt the need to micromanage the process and control every single piece of every single decision and I learned some valuable lessons along the way about that. It is such a relief as an entrepreneur to find the right people for your team and be able to trust their decisions and sit back in awe and realize that you couldn’t have done it remotely as well and they do. Work to your strengths and allow others to work theirs.
2. Remain authentic. Not everyone will like you and that’s okay. I have received some criticism over the years about being too bold in my frank discussions about the human condition of odor. Advisors have tried to water down my message to make it more appealing to the masses. If you have to stop and think about how to get your message in through the back door, or say it in a way that makes everyone comfortable, you are missing out on the true wonder that is your core audience. I am unapologetically me.
3. The harder you work, the luckier you become. We all have witnessed what seems to be the “overnight success”. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Blessings come and some do come easy, but that is the exception. Opportunities come when you are prepared to act on them and that preparation takes work and work takes time. Be more patient with yourself. Let the story unfold.
4. Being an entrepreneur and launching a product you really believe in, feels a lot like being in love. You will think about your business day and night. It doesn’t feel like a job, it feels like a mission!
5. There are no failures, just valuable lessons. In the beginning, when you are the main decision maker, it feel a little like living in a fishbowl. Sink or swim it is all on you. Take your punches and get back up and keep fighting. Don’t give up on yourself. Sometimes those bad decisions or bad judgements you make end up serving you so well in future decisions. You can say, “This ain’t my first rodeo!” and mean it.
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Sara Blakely, the innovative mind behind the category leader, Spanx. She saw a problem and worked to solve it. Sara created a product that improved the lives and confidence of women. I think if she and I were to have some time to visit, we would realize how much we have in common. Champions of women, innovators and moms. I would welcome her advice and love the chance for her to try Lume! I have a hunch she would love it! Maybe she has already tried it:)
Yitzi:This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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