As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of Interviewing Vanessa Ford.
Vanessa Ford is the co-founder of MenoLabs, a company focused on women’s issues during perimenopause/menopause. Vanessa was prompted to action when, at 44, she began her own transition into menopause. Unsatisfied with the lack of support that women experience during this stage of life, and finding the stereotypes of women in mid-life exasperating and insulting, she and her friend of 20 years, Danielle Jacobs, created MenoLabs to address what they see as a glaring need in every woman’s life. Named a top ten finalist in the Cartier Women’s Initiative, Vanessa believes that for-profits can change the world and make a difference in people’s lives with the same passion for mission used by nonprofits — and in fact should do so if they want to be truly successful.
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?
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?
Vanessa Ford: I will never forget the conversation I had with a woman when we first started this company, who told me that her mood swings were so intense that she couldn’t control her temper with her kids and her husband. She told me — in tears — that she thought her husband was going to leave her, and she didn’t blame him. And it really hit home when I was talking to her just how devastating the transition to menopause can be for women. It impacts their relationships, their careers, just as they are at the peak of their career, by the way. It affects the way they see their bodies and their mental and physical well-being, and that moment was when I knew, I mean really knew, that I wanted to devote my life and my resources to changing this process for women.
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?
Vanessa Ford: We had incredible success right out of the gate, and the credit for that belongs to the people on my team. I like to use mistakes as opportunities, either to inform a change of approach or as a learning opportunity — whatever it might be. That said, the biggest learning opportunity I’ve had is to consider the woman we’re talking to first, above everything else. We’ve found that she has to be the center and focus of everything we do. We have a saying in our company that guides each decision we make — “Every woman first.”
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?
Vanessa Ford: Well, it’s a team of people, really. There are five people in our leadership team who collaborate and drive decisions, and I really love that approach. It means that problem/solution analysis always has multiple brains, areas of expertise, and ways of thinking to guide it. But if I have to choose one person, it’s Danielle, whose friendship and business acumen have been absolutely essential to me. During the pandemic lockdown, we tried to hop on Zoom calls every Friday, just the two of us, to touch base and chat about things that weren’t always work-related. It was such a good stress reliever to laugh and talk, that we decided to film it and share it with our MenoLife app users, because who couldn’t use a good belly laugh?
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?
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.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Vanessa Ford: I feel we already have. Nearly 300,000 women have tried our products, our social media following is about 60,000 strong and growing rapidly, and we are having conversations with all of those women about taking their health into their hands, about being vocal and demanding better information, more research, more focus on women’s health in midlife and beyond. When women reach the end of their reproductive years, this society tends to stop seeing them, thinking about them, and that shows in their physical and mental health outcomes. The movement I want is a fundamental change in the way menopause impacts women, and I think we’ve got a good shot at accomplishing that.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Vanessa Ford: They are all causes I believe in, but I think I would have to choose mental health above all, simply because I see the impacts that it can have on a person’s quality of life, and the extension of that into the public sphere. If your mental health is suffering, it can be very difficult to affect change anywhere else. A populace with good mental health is a populace that can effect positive change. We’ve seen over and over that some mental health issues are impacted by hormones, stress, diet, even gut health. We should all recognize that the mind and body are linked and that health for the whole person is important for us to fund, research, understand and support.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Vanessa Ford: You can find MenoLabs on Facebook, Instagram, and on our app MenoLife, and I have an Instagram account where people can connect with me directly, @vanessa.menolabs.