Mimi Millard Is on a Mission to End Menstrual Suffering

This Women’s History Month, we’re shining a spotlight on the women behind some of the biggest brands in the beauty and wellness industries, and learning more about how they #EmbraceEquity. Today, we’re sitting down with Mimi Millard, co-founder and CEO of De Lune, to discuss all things menstrual care.

At Standard Dose, we love De Lune’s range of all-natural products and mission of ending menstrual suffering. Can you tell us about what inspired you to create your brand and your journey to launching?

I started De Lune out of necessity because I needed relief! I needed a big sister to sit me down and say, “Look, I know you’ve been suffering. You’re not alone. Here’s everything you need to know and do in order to feel better on your period and start thriving all cycle long.” But I didn’t have that growing up. From ages 12 to 21 I had intensely painful, moody periods, and I didn’t get any education from doctors, family members, or teachers about what causes these symptoms hormonally and what I can do to feel better naturally. 

In college, I reached my breaking point when I experienced a bad reaction to a popular over-the-counter painkiller I was taking for my period cramps, and I ended up passing out in the campus clinic. I felt like I had come to a dead end. Like I was stuck between dealing with awful symptoms and taking meds that gave me side effects. So I started down my rabbit hole of research–learning from dietitians, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, and menstrual health specialists–and for the first time I saw the possibility of a better, healthier future. 

I partnered with Courtney Mayszak (a registered dietitian) to formulate our first product, Cramp Aid, and I’ll never forget the first time I tried our prototype. My cramps woke me up in the middle of the night so I got out of bed and reached for the test capsules on my desk. The next thing I remember was waking up again mid-morning, fully rested, which was unheard of for me! My period pain would never let me sleep through the night before that. I knew we had created something really powerful and that I needed to share it with the world.

I named us De Lune as a metaphor for how the menstrual cycle ebbs and flows just like the lunar cycle. There are highs and lows for sure, but it is so much easier to manage when you know what is going on inside your body and how to care for it instead of masking it. So much suffering is avoidable with the right ingredients and the right knowledge. That’s why I do this work.

What are some of the joys and challenges you’ve experienced as a founder?

I would say the most challenging part is fundraising because it inherently involves a lot of rejection. Not every investor is going to align with your vision, and that’s just part of the process that helps you refine your pitch and find the ones who really do.

The most joyful part for me is building my team and my community. As a founder, you literally get to decide what people you surround yourself with. De Lune’s team members, customers, and social media community members are all incredibly intelligent, curious, and empathetic people. We share some very deep values and experiences, so that bonds you in a way. I can’t even express how much joy it gives me to talk to my teammates and my customers, especially about their personal success stories!

Why was using all-natural ingredients so important to you? 

Ironically, it wasn’t at first. When I was in college and hitting my low point of painful periods and mood swings, I had very little understanding of how natural ingredients can work as medicine. I was in a desperate, dark cycle of just taking the status quo meds. When I partnered with Courtney, I told her I just wanted to create something that would stop my pain and not give me side effects. 

During our research, we discovered the many rigorous clinical studies that have been conducted in recent years comparing natural ingredients to pharmaceuticals and finding them to be just as effective but with way fewer side effects. Seriously, the research is so compelling, I was shocked that I didn’t know about it earlier. It flipped a switch in me to take natural ingredients seriously as medicinal substances. We immediately got to work bringing the most evidence-based all-natural ingredients together to create our Cramp Aid and Steady Mood formulations.

What are some of your go-to ingredients for more comfortable periods?

One area of inequality we’ve seen in the wellness world is a male bias in medical and pharmaceutical research. How have you seen this apply to menstrual care?

Don’t even get me started! The fact that research on dysmenorrhea (the clinical term for period pain) has been historically underfunded blows my mind considering that half of us deal with it for half of our lives! It’s not a niche issue, it’s a public health crisis. De Lune has partnered with pain researchers at Harvard Medical to apply for NIH grants to further study dysmenorrhea relief, and unfortunately, they have not yet supported these grants with funding – shocker, right? But don’t worry, we are stubborn!

We love the emphasis De Lune places on education. What areas of menstrual health do you think we could all learn more about?

Oh, there are so many fascinating and important menstrual health topics that we educate about–check out our educational journal for the full wealth of knowledge there. But two topics that are top of mind for me:

  1. The importance of finding a menstrual pain solution that’s good for you long-term. Powering through your period cramps is not sustainable. Research has shown that enduring pain month after month for years is actually damaging to your long-term health. And unfortunately taking pain meds each month isn’t the best solution either. I went viral on Tiktok recently for calling out how crazy it is that these meds we’ve all taken for decades have such serious risks and side effects associated with them. I don’t mean to be alarmist, I just want everyone to be able to make informed choices and to discover De Lune so that they know there is now another option! 
  2. What hormonal balance actually means. I feel like this phrase gets thrown around these days by supplement and pharmaceutical brands alike, and it can be very confusing. A lot of us grew up being told that the birth control pill would “balance our hormones” when in reality it suppresses our hormones by replacing them with synthetic versions. With De Lune, we encourage a nutrition-first approach to hormonal balance that supports your body in producing the progesterone it needs for healthy ovulation and an easy cycle.

This Women’s History Month, we want to see the end of the tampon tax nationwide. What barriers to menstrual care access have you noticed and how can we work together to combat them?

There are so many barriers to menstrual equity that need to be dismantled. We need menstrual health products priced without any “luxury” taxes for starters. But we also need to make paid menstrual leave mainstream and make pads, tampons, and relief products widely available i.e. provided in every workplace and government building. Managing our menstrual symptoms should not be a burden, because we need a level playing field for menstruating and non-menstruating people! The average menstruating person loses 9 work days a year dealing with cycle symptoms, like pain, mood swings, and fatigue, and in the United States, that time is typically unpaid. To help change this, my team and I have advocated on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Meng’s Equity for All Act. It’s a federal bill that was introduced in 2019; you can follow its progress and learn more here

What advice would you give to women starting the journey of entrepreneurship? 

Don’t let anyone make you feel small. Even if your team or experience or bank account is small at the beginning, that does not mean your vision is small. It will be hard at first to get attention from investors, influencers, and manufacturers, but you know how big and bright the future of your brand is because you can imagine it–you wouldn’t be interested in entrepreneurship if you couldn’t. Your ability to see and communicate that big vision is your greatest power. 

How does De Lune promote gender equality within your company and in your mission?

We are a public benefit corporation with the mission of lifting the period burden and ending menstrual suffering, which is inherently gender equality work because up to 90% of women suffer from disruptive menstrual symptoms. In fact, period pain is the leading cause of absenteeism from work and school for women under 30. “The period burden” is a phrase we coined when founding De Lune to describe all of the ways in which these symptoms affect our lives that go beyond physical discomfort: lost time, lost opportunity, missed wages, missed school, lower quality of life, damaged relationships, and more. We work every day to lift that burden and make women’s lives easier. 

Another facet of gender equality that I believe is important when it comes to menstrual health is to include menstruating people of all genders. We have many customers who are trans, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming who experience disruptive menstrual symptoms and need special support. Especially if your gender identity doesn’t align with the societal perception of periods, it can be very distressing. We work to keep De Lune’s branding and language inclusive so that everyone can feel welcome and cared for. 

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about a woman who inspires you this Women’s History Month?

I continue to be inspired by Melinda French Gates who is tirelessly fighting for gender equality around the world. At that level of wealth, it would be so easy to put your feet up and tune out the rest of the world’s suffering but she doesn’t. She invests her resources into other women, like through the Female Founders Fund. She’s on my vision board for De Lune to go global with our menstrual relief efforts!

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