How much did you know about menopause before you hit it?
That’s one of the questions we ask on our menopause questionnaire that readers answer to take part in our Menopause Chronicles feature. At first we were surprised by how many of you have said, “Nothing” or some synonym of it.
Since we’re deep in the information age and many decades past the launching of the Women’s Movement, we didn’t expect that menopausal women had been quite so deprived of guidance on their condition. And we aren’t the only ones.
Four years ago, a company called Gennev was born when two entrepreneurs recognized there was a slew of information and support needed in this area. They surveyed 1,500 women about how they were educated about menopause and where they buy products. “The overriding insight out of that was that women were completely unprepared to start the conversation,” says Jill Angelo, who started Gennev with Jacqueline Brandwynne, a former executive at Neutrogena.
Ever since, Gennev has made it their business to offer products to make the transition easier, tons of articles about various facets of menopause, and, starting 18 months ago, tele-health support so that women can actually speak to doctors or coaches to get personalized help.
Gennev has grown rapidly, and Angelo has been honored many times as a prescient entrepreneur delivering a much-needed service. Most recently, she was named to INC. magazine’s top 100 female founders.
“As we study our audience, over time we want to be the go-to for menopause. We want to grow old with our users and support them as they age,” says Angelo, a former Microsoft marketing executive. NextTribe was happy to catch up with her to find out all the ways the company serves women like us. At age 47, Angelo calls herself “a living breathing consumer of my company which is a benefit when you’re trying to figure something out that hasn’t had a lot of attention.”
What led you to starting Gennev?
When Jackie and I founded the company, she had come out of retirement to start a lubricant for vaginal dryness. So we had something to sell. [After seeing the results of our survey], we thought, Whoa! There’s nothing out there. So we needed to start publishing content. My first hire was a woman who has built our platform of education for women in this space. We have articles medically reviewed but they’re consumable by a modern day woman going through menopause. At the end of the day we hope we help women become more educated, not so in the dark because we just don’t talk about it.
Why do you think women are still in the dark about it?
I think shame and stigma surround menopause because it’s associated with aging. But it’s hitting women in their 40s. We’re not old. Even in our 50s and 60s. Today’s 50-year-old person, man or woman, has 20 or 30 more years of life. We have this real issue with age in the U.S., and it’s harder for women than men. We’re not seen as sexy or relevant.
One thing we’re trying to do at Gennev is flip menopause on its head in terms of perception. “Gen” means generation and “Nev” in Old Irish means radiant. We’re here to empower and support this generation of women into the most radiant years of our lives, because we’re more confident, more independent, with more financial freedom. It’s all upside.
Do you think one reason menopausal women are dismissed is because we’re not fertile any longer and for eons, bearing and raising children have been seen as our key contributions?
That’s the narrow view of women’s purpose—to have children. But Wow! There’s a lot of other things we can do and want to do. Obviously our families and caregiving for children and parents are incredibly important and we love that. But we’re more complex than that, more multi-faceted. We’re educated. We have things to do and give. Fertility and children is one slice of what makes up women.
What services does Gennev offer?
Gennev is a three-legged stool. Our mission is to empower women to take control of their health. We think of ourselves as a digital health and wellness site for women in the second half of their life, starting with menopause. Menopause is really the kick off for the whole second half; it prepares our bodies for the second half.
The first leg is free education. We have a lot of published information and content around health and wellness in the menopausal journey. We have our menopause assessment, which is a free quiz women can take to understand where they’re at in the 20-year menopause journey. We also have the free 2020 Guide to Menopause, which you can download.
One thing we’re trying to do at Gennev is flip menopause on its head in terms of perception.
The second leg is the telemedicine. Women can book appointments with a gynecologist who can prescribe medicine if that’s what they need. But a lot of women also want to go the lifestyle route, working on feeling better and managing symptoms. So we have an incredible team of registered dietitians who we also refer to as health coaches. They’re also exercise physiologists. They work with women on anything from emotional health to changing up their diet and nutrition to getting active. They also serve as accountability partners to these women.
We have a team of 25 gynecologists around the U.S. They’re all practicing physicians who do this as side work. We’re got three coaches, all full time.
The third component is products. We have incredible supplements. Our top seller is Vitality, which was formulated by one of our physicians. If you think about all the supplement bottles you have in your cabinet, it consolidates a lot of those into a five-pill daily packet. It has elements for energy, mood, sleep, and joint pain. We have other products—lubricants and other supplements—all focused on the lovely things we get to experience as our hormones change.
What about the mental health component? Do you have someone to help with that?
That’s such a good question, especially this year. Obviously it’s a big deal in menopause in general, but this year five out of seven menopause patients are asking us for referrals to therapists or are working with them on mental health challenges. We don’t have any psychologists or therapists on staff, but we make referrals.
Mental health is certainly on our road map—to expand our provider set and our services. Mental health concerns are pervasive in the menopause period. But in this climate with so much going on, it’s extra important.
Do you make referrals all over the country?
If a woman is on an anti-depressant and our physician can just refill a prescription, we can do that. But if a woman really wants a referral we can work with local contacts we have in a geography to find her someone we feel really confident about. We don’t have a formal network built out yet, but it’s in our road map. We do have physicians and coaches in all 50 states so we can support women no matter where they live.
We hear a lot from readers about problems with sleep. How do you help women with that?
On our menopause assessment, women rate sleep in the top three of symptoms experienced. We have over-the-counter solutions for sale on our site. We promote two options most. Magnesium is a natural sleep aide, plus it helps with joint pain and easing anxiety. I take two magnesium tablets per night. It sure helps me and a lot of women.
We want to be the go-to for menopause. We want to grow old with our users and support them as they age.
The second thing we have for sleep, which we started offering in July, are CBD tablets. They’re 100 percent hemp, with no THC so they’re legal in every state. It comes in two forms. A premium CBD oil that’s a tincture you take before going to bed. The second form is a gel cap of CBD oil mixed with melatonin. which is the natural substance our body makes to help build sleep rhythms. Both of these options are focused on not giving you any sleep hangover the next morning, but just relaxing you so you can get to sleep and stay asleep, which is a big challenge for women.
You said sleep issues are among the top three symptoms reported. What are the other problems do women report?
The top one is fatigue. “I don’t have the energy I used to,” everyone says. That’s why we developed Vitality. Women feel more energy within the first two weeks of taking it. It has a lot of B vitamins. which help with energy.
The other common thing we hear is weight change/weight gain. Some of it is just naturally going to happen; we need that extra weight as our estrogen stores decline; we need that for our brains, to think clearly.
You have a membership for services. Can you tell us how that works?
You can pay per appointment with a doctor or dietician. However, some women want an unlimited relationship. For $85 month, you can get unlimited access to physicians [on Zoom] and health coaches [via text and phone]. Typically, what we see is a woman setting up a personalized plan with a coach. That person is your go-to, whether it’s as an accountability partner or just to check in. A lot of women want access and companionship and work between a doctor and a coach. Then when they’re at a point that they’ve got their plan and they’re feeling pretty good, they may sign out for a while. Membership is there for you as you need it.
How many women are you serving?
In the last 12 months, we’ve engaged or worked with one million women. That’s primarily through education. And about 300 women per day are taking our menopause assessment. Women are curious; they have questions and an informed self is an empowered self.
Above photo by Gavin Doremus.