Oct 01 , 2020
Last week I was honoured to have been interviewed by Anna Parker Naples on her amazing podcast, Entrepreneurs Get Visible. Her take on visibility and the “taboo” subject that I face on a regular basis was a really interesting dilemma. You want to get in front of people (women in my case) and share this hugely important information, but often the women, and you’ll understand this, don’t want anyone to know they’re interested to hear. Would you say that sums it up?
I remember first talking about incontinence and pelvic floor weakness in the playground when I was dropping my boys at school, and the other mums used to run away from me at first! Then, over time, things changed and they were saying “thank you for talking about this” and “why has nobody told me about this before?” When I could see this change I realised more had to be done and my thoughts turned to what type of product I would want to buy?
My business story
Anna asked about my business background and shortly before I started Secret Whispers I was in wholesale with a lock up, which was doing very well, but I wasn't really enjoying it. I have an autoimmune disease ankylosing spondylitis ,which means my back can flare up with heavy lifting so it really was time to sell up and it was only after reading this article, which said most women will lose strength in their pelvic floor as they hit menopause that it hit me that I didn’t want that happening to me and I was on a mission!
When I launched, I knew the demand was out there and women were delighted to hear me standing up and talk about this taboo subject. We need to all be aware that incontinence has no discrimination - this became clear at the running show by the age range of women coming up to visit on our exhibition stand. Sometimes the more active you are the more pressure you're putting on your pelvic floor. I, in no way, wish to put women off exercising but simply to empower women to know that they need to exercise their pelvic floor in the same way as exercising any other muscle in their body. I started doing my Kegel exercises when I was 14 and when I tell women that, they can't believe it. Most women (if they have been told) are only aware of their pelvic floor when they become pregnant. Anna Parker Naples herself has had three children and the third she disclosed was a very difficult birth, such that she was advised not to do any pelvic floor exercises for 2 years, as the Medics had said her body was in shock.
Incontinence can ruin your life
The overwhelming concern is that a weak pelvic floor can affect your whole life; a pelvic organ prolapse can affect you and your family around you and can be absolutely devastating. Anna remembers a family member who was waiting for an operation to repair her prolapse, wondering whether she could get up off the sofa, whether she could leave the house even! Knowing how taboo this subject is she was curious about the challenges I faced to show up online and speak about pelvic floors and whether women wanted to engage with what I have to say. Well you’re here, reading this, so that is a good sign that I’m reaching those who want to hear more.
When I hear “thank you” messages from women online it’s the spur that I need to let me know I'm on the right path. I recently had a message from a female doctor who said “Thank you!! I had sex with my husband for the first time in 8 years without leaking on him” . This really is life changing for many women.
You’re never on your own
These are the kind of messages I need to share so that others don't feel they're alone. There will be women who think they’re alone with their leakage challenges and feel so ashamed they don’t want to speak with anyone about it - even their doctor. The only shame here is in the lack of education given to women (and men) at an early age.
As you know, I’m particularly concerned about the psychological effects pelvic floor weakness can have on women especially those who have just had children, because it has been found that if a woman develops leakage issues after childbirth, the likelihood of developing postnatal depression goes up by 50%!. Do you know anyone who’s faced this?
As Anna’s focus is very much on visibility, she was interested to know if women like you were happy to share their success stories online. This has been a challenge for me but the more I talk about it, it seems to encourage women to share their stories and if I can give women the confidence to know they can talk about it, we are halfway there. Knowing that I can change women’s lives means everything to me and I want women to know that surgery is the very last resort. I believe the support you gave me during my #DontIgnoreThePelvicFloor campaign on social media a couple of weeks ago, proves that women are happy to share their successes!
What don’t you do anymore?
Anna recalls chasing after her toddler on a trampoline and realising that trampolines really weren't for her anymore. Do you notice how you start to avoid certain situations? Something so minimal can escalate fairly rapidly when you start restricting what you believe you can do and that's where you see pelvic floor weakness having a lifelong impact.
When asked what drives me, I think of you - speaking to all the women like you and realising that this lack of pelvic floor education from an early age means I have to do this. You may remember back in May this year, there was a spike of interest and orders on our website and looking further into this level of interest, it turns out that during lockdown there were many women who had taken up exercise for the first time ever, without a thought for their pelvic floors. The impact from running and HIT Training was causing women to have leakage issues. Now I don't want women to stop exercising, I want women to exercise their pelvic floor so they can get back out there and lead the life they love. It's all connected with mental health, physical health and well-being, which is why it is so important to share this information to as many women who want to listen.
When opportunity knocks!
Anna asked me which opportunities have arisen. Now I believe you create opportunities through being visible. If you don't put yourself out there, how will you make the connections to help your business grow? I make no secret that I have a goal list and each week I check through them. One lady had been in my sights to meet for well over a year - you know who I'm going to say - Rosemary Conley CBE “the lady in lycra” Anna dubbed her! I went to an event that she was speaking at and waited my turn to speak with her, as she was surrounded for most of the evening - she was so lovely. She loved what I was doing and even gave me her email address! Since then, we’ve built up a relationship and I asked if she would mentor me. Rosemary recently gave up a whole morning to go through my business plan with me and talk about where I should focus my attention to build my business. I could not be more grateful!
So on the horizon, I'm developing a women's exercise programme to incorporate the use of my Secret Whispers kegel weights - I may be looking for some input from you about what you’d like to see included in that, so watch this space…. And collaborating with women in health is so important to me, having a community of like-minded individuals to share their knowledge, especially in the current Covid climate, when women are anxious about going to the doctor. Speaking engagements are my next focus, trying to reach as many women as I can with this important message and today (Friday) I have my first keynote speaking address at the Woman Who Achieves Awards! Yes, I'm nervous but I'd like to thank you for your support as I’ve had so many good wishes in the leadup to this event.
Building my support team
So many of us need a team of supporters, and I currently have support from freelancers, but I’m in the process of applying for the new Government Kickstart scheme where I can supply work to an unemployed young person, which I’m hoping will be the start of me building my team for the future.
As we rounded up the podcast, I was asked about setbacks and had to admit that 2020 had been a rollercoaster of a year. My plans to attend some strategically chosen exhibitions, which were cancelled, saw me lose a number of deposits and, of course, the visibility that those shows would have given the business, but I always say to my children to “fail your way forward”, you learn so much from failing. I’ve turned to focus more on social media for visibility and have met many people through the platforms including Anna, who was now broadcasting to ten of thousands of her subscribers - I couldn’t have achieved that at an exhibition!. My advice to anyone who’s thinking of starting in business is to jump straight in - your mission is made up of your passion and integrity and …...be brave!
Just as Anna pointed out, there was someone listening to her podcast who needed to hear the messages included in it, just like there’s someone, maybe you, who needed to read what is in this blog today. If you’re looking for more support why not jump over to my private Facebook group where you’ll find hundreds of lovely ladies just like you to be a listening ear and offer advice.