Educate Yourself. We’re living longer, more active lives and working more years than any time in history. No two bodies menopause the same with 34 possible changes happening in our bodies. The only way to find what you need is through learning what’s happening to your body and connecting to other people on their journey.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Balsam-Schwaber..
Catherine Balsam-Schwaber is the CEO of Kindra, an innovative self-care company for women in menopause. A life-long advocate for women’s health, Catherine joined Kindra to break down the stigma surrounding menopause care, and to support and empower women in mid-life through Kindra’s science-backed formulas and community-building initiatives. Catherine is known as a dynamic, results-oriented leader with a track record of delivering exceptional results in high pressure environments.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Like many ‘women in wellness,’ my backstory begins with my mother — and her mother before her. As the granddaughter of a war-era nurse and the daughter of a glass-ceiling-shattering doctor, I feel destined to carry the torch in my way. Kindra is my way.
I’ve been truly fortunate in how my work has beautifully aligned with the stages of my life. In my 20s, I worked at MTV. I joined NBCUniversal’s iVillage in my late 30s as I was trying to get pregnant and had my amazing twins. When the kids were young, I started at Mattel. Now, as I enter my 50s, I am on a mission to change the way we think about menopause.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
There have been so many interesting stories! I pulled all-nighters working at The White House working on healthcare speeches, planned concerts with The Killers for MTV, chased stories around the world with NBC Nightly News, and helped reinvent the TV Upfront. But looking back, the lesson is always the same. If you have passion for your work and get to build businesses with smart, driven, extraordinary people, work is play and you’re already winning.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There were (and continue to be) many pros to my innate determination, but we all make rookie mistakes when we’re at the beginning of our journey. In the early days, I was always fighting to get promoted or grow into the next role. I had a defining moment with a new boss when I told him that I wanted to be in more of a leadership role. He was quick to tell me that “giving me” a leadership role would not make me a leader. I needed to earn the trust of the people around me, and when they followed me, then I was leading. I really took that to heart.
Now I try to lead by example and help everyone around me grow along with me. While I don’t believe leaning into career growth or having ambition is a mistake, team is everything. In a start-up especially, we all need to lead in order to deliver on our mission. Empowering others is the key to unlocking real success — and sleeping better at night!
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? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve had some special mentors, but one in particular showed incredible faith in my work and my ability to bring my team together at a crucial time in my career. He always said, “focus on the work. If the work is good, nothing else matters.” Now, while that is not always true, it’s an incredible principle to live by. Let your work speak for itself, and leave your ego at home.
I also find inspiration from women every day through their groundbreaking leadership. Michelle Obama, Brene Brown, Gabrielle Union, Salma Hayek, Viola Davis, Jennifer Garner, Shonda Rhimes — I’m wowed by all these women leading by example, defying convention, and changing the way we think about what it means to be seen and heard as we age.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
6,000 women reach menopause every day, but that potential market is currently confused, frustrated, and very under-served. We can spend 40% of our lives in peri-post menopause, yet 90% of doctors have limited or no menopause training, leaving many women both physically and psychologically left to go-it alone. That’s more than a strategic market opportunity; it’s an unacceptable societal issue.
Kindra has a unique opportunity to highlight and champion the importance of women’s health — especially as we age. Science and innovation have not always had a focus on these years, let alone our entire sex. With our mission-driven company and partners — VCs, product developers, scientists, doctors, and more — we can drive and create vital new options for all the people in and entering this era of life.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Educate Yourself. We’re living longer, more active lives and working more years than any time in history. No two bodies menopause the same with 34 possible changes happening in our bodies. The only way to find what you need is through learning what’s happening to your body and connecting to other people on their journey.
- Say More. This should not be like “Fight Club.” The first rule of menopause should be to talk about menopause. For our fellow woman, but also for the village it takes to support a woman on her menopause journey. If we want more information, relief, empathy and support through menopause, we need our doctors, bosses, families, friends — and yes, even our brands — to know more about what we’re going through and what we need. To help them help us, we need to tell them what we need.
- Be Kind To Yourself. Every journey is different. If you are having a hard time, THAT’S OK. Honestly, it’s normal. Give yourself a break. The anxiety that we all experienced over the last year has left many people feeling unsure of how to navigate what comes next and changes in your body only make that feel more pronounced. You are not alone. We are all managing this world in our own way and there are resources and people to help you find the path that makes sense for your journey.
- Find Some Alone Time. I feel like I am never alone. Between work from home 24/7 and my beautiful family, I can literally go for days without alone time. In the past, I would get my ‘me time’ on my commute or at the gym. Now, while I am thankful to have that “found” time, I realize that I am now constantly on the go in other ways. Your mind needs down time and being alone gives you time to breathe and reflect which is critical to having a strong relationship with yourself and others.
- Laugh. No, really! I know, I know. Am I seriously saying ‘live, laugh, love’ here? Honestly though, there is nothing more cathartic than a good belly laugh. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when you can grab a moment of pure joy with friends, your kids or a favorite movie, just really let yourself laugh out loud. Enjoy every second! Allow little moments to give you big joy.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Kindra is a movement.
This isn’t a unique, niche opportunity. It’s a clear and startling gap in our society’s view of women. We’re talking about a phase of life half of the people on the planet will go through. Serving people in menopause is a health and wellness category that should have always existed. I don’t even think of it as new — it is wildly overdue. The reason that it is so wildly overdue is NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT. When we stay silent, everybody loses. Half the population is going through a shared experience they are not encouraged to actually share. And the other half of the population? Let’s be real; women’s wellness is essential to their wellness too.
So how do we change ‘the change’?
Get women talking. Get physicians talking. Get health and wellness experts talking. Galvanize the communities that will not only understand the message that menopause is important, but distribute this knowledge. Kindra is here to lift up the voices sharing their stories and spread the good word(s) as far and wide as we can.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- You will never sleep again, and that’s ok.
I wake up excited with ideas in the middle of the night all the time. It’s not like corporate life when political issues from office war games kept me awake. Now I am awake thinking about ways to grow the business and help more women! Being a bit tired while working on a labor of love is weirdly energizing. Plus, I can take a Kindra Sleep Supplement when I need it. *wink emoji*
2. It’s nothing like what you think it will be.
I think there is a romantic notion about startups and the overnight success it can bring. That’s not the reality. Yes, this is the best, most fun job I have ever had. I don’t even feel like it’s a job, because I love the work and the team so much. But, it’s hard work that never takes a day off.
3. Self-care is your job.
You can’t keep the startup pace all the time. The intensity ebbs and flows. You need to rest when you can, so you have the energy to leap on new opportunities and challenges when they cross your path. Think of self-care as part of the job, because it honestly needs to be.
4. You will find a community.
The most magical discovery is all of the other CEOs that I’m introduced to as part of this community of start-up builders and industry disruptors actually helping to lift eachother up. Their support is incredible. I am buoyed by their stories of highs and lows, and it makes me feel like my journey is somehow both normal and extraordinary.
5. Trust your team, and do work you believe in together.
Have faith in the individual capability of each person on your team. Don’t micromanage. Let them fulfill their destiny as a leader in whatever makes sense for them.
And give them a mission that you can all be proud of.
It’s hard to get up every day and work for the numbers alone, but we know that we are actually helping women at Kindra. We each take shifts answering calls for customer service. Sure, it’s a great way to stay close to the customer, but it’s also a reminder of why we are doing this and what really matters to her. It’s about being heard and feeling like your best self. We are literally here for her. I see and trust that my team comes through for her everyday.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
As the daughter of two psychoanalysts, it’s no surprise that mental health is top of mind for me. Menopause is more than an opportunity to get back in touch with the changing needs of your physical body — it’s THE moment many people come to head with a habitualized over-functioning, people-pleasing, superwoman complex. It’s almost as though her body is delivering a wake-up call, and to answer the call means to actually put herself first — sometimes for the first time in her life. I know just how hard that is for any woman. It’s also mutually beneficial for all of society when women put on their own oxygen mask before jumping to assist others.
As we imagine the future of Kindra, I am always thinking of ways for us to bring more emotional support to the women we serve. Yes, we’re offering up science-backed solutions for your body, but we’re also offering a kind of support, knowledge, and encouragement that can only be found through the power of community and education.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
My journey is Kindra right now, so follow us — @ourkindra on IG and TikTok — and join the conversation in our Facebook community. You’ll be glad you did.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!