Entrepreneur Jess Graham Disrupting The $600B Menopause Market With Revolutionary New Company

Phenology GM Jess Graham

According to a 2020 report by Venture Capital firm Female Founders Fund, menopause is a $600 billion industry and opportunity for investors. Yes, that’s right, we said BILLION! Yet when you look at the stats that disclose roughly only 2% of VC funding goes to female-founded companies, it’s clear that the lack of investment in especially women’s health tech companies is down to some good old fashioned systemic gender bias.

Women’s Health is an area that is ripe for opportunity and innovation, and perhaps more importantly, it is the right thing to do since the market is huge. One entrepreneur who understands all the above on a personal as well as professional level, is Jess Graham, who is launching a company called Phenology April 27, 2022.

Jess is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the youngest of four daughters, and the graduate of a women’s college. Jess had a successful 15+ year career in Financial Services and Marketing (previously holding roles at Facebook, Instagram and Visa) before becoming the CMO at Hologram Sciences. 

While acting CMO at Hologram Sciences, Jess began experiencing her first symptoms of menopause and began researching treatments. She quickly realized there is a “one size fits all” approach for menopause and the lack of resources makes it a frustrating, isolated experience. Jess recognized the need for customized science-backed solutions for women and to create a well-mapped and supported journey through menopause. Thus, the idea for Phenology was born.  

Phenology enlisted obstetrician-gynecologist and advocate for holistic and integrative women’s health, Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Kourtney Sims (aka “Dr. Kourtney”) to formulate the best science-backed menopause products. A renowned doctor, she is also the first African-American female physician in Houston outside of the Texas Medical Center certified by the North American Menopause Society. 

Dr. Kourtney Sims, Chief Medical Officer at Phenology

Backed by Hologram Sciences, a subsidiary of Royal DSM, Phenology is at its core a truly personalized women’s health brand, and offers the first-of-its-kind saliva-based menopause assessment that allows women to track hormonal changes at home. In addition, Phenology’s topical and ingestible products treat a wide range of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep disruptions, mood changes, loss of energy, thinning hair, and dry skin. 

Jess and Dr, Kourtney are on a mission to redefine and destigmatize the long-neglected $600 billion industry and systematically improve every aspect of a woman’s menopause journey for billions of women (by 2025, the number of postmenopausal women is expected to rise to 1.1 billion worldwide). 

Here’s what Jess told us about her own journey with perimenopause and how she hopes to revolutionize how women get treated for and talk about menopause through Phenology.

As you get ready for the launch of Phenology in April, can you tell us how the idea first came about? 

Menopause is a complex, prolonged, painful experience for women. It is also exactly the kind of health and wellness opportunity Hologram Science’s unique approach was envisioned to solve. We combine best-in-class natural ingredients for real relief, plus diagnostics to increase predictability of bothersome symptoms, plus tech and coaching to provide multifaceted support for women’s challenging, complex, and unique journeys. Then, we overlaid the rich product experience with a lifestyle brand that really speaks to women, acknowledges them, and meets them at the intersection of wellness and beauty – to help women feel good from the inside, out. Add a perimenopausal woman on the leadership team to champion and lead it, and voila!

There is still so much taboo and stigma around menopause today. Why do you think this is, and how do you hope to dismantle this with Phenology?

Women’s hormones have never been something to talk about in “polite” company. By some estimates, less than 1 in 4 women talk about it with even their best friends let alone at the office where effects can be profound. Most of our bosses are male, that’s just statistics. To have a discussion about hotflashes, brainfog, mood swings – can you imagine? You’d feel like you were putting the whole gender back decades if you acknowledged that struggle. But why?

These symptoms, which are a fact of life for most women, create an estimated $150B in productivity loss. That has an impact on global, local, and personal economies and is worthy of serious discussion and to be addressed through workplace policies and more support for women. We want Phenology to be a force for good in beginning this dialogue in earnest in the US.

You will be working with Dr. Kourtney Sims on some of the products. How did you two first meet and then decide to work together? 

Finding Dr. K and someone with her expertise was like finding a needle in a haystack. The pool of doctors quickly narrows when you consider only an estimated 20% of practicing OB/GYNs have any kind of formal training related to menopause. The pool further shrinks when you want to work with MDs that are interested in, and have credentials for functional medicine and are proponents of more natural solutions, including effective supplementation. Then you layer in the desire to find a partner who takes a whole-woman approach and understands the mind-body connection and values techniques like CBT or journaling and…well there just a very few out there. 

It was obvious from my first conversation with Dr. K that she was exactly the right person to help us design our products and experiences. We are really lucky to be working with a female doctor who has spent her career delivering excellent, holistic care to her patients and that we can use her knowledge to scale them for a wider audience.

The idea of talking openly about women’s bodies and health, especially women over 40, seems to be in defiance of our youth-obsessed culture. Do you think this trend plays a role in the lack of resources and information readily available to women 40+ about their bodies? 

Yes, certainly our youth-obsessed culture plays a role, and so do other trends and norms. Women’s bodies and hormones, and anything having to do with menstrual cycles, have always been a taboo subject. Women’s health, to the extent there is investment, tends to focus so heavily on reproduction, then after child bearing it’s like we cease to exist or have needs –we’re dismissed as crones. And, then there is the GenX problem. We are the forgotten middle child – sandwiched between the so-called Greatest Generation and Millennials. Companies, workplaces, technology – have skipped right over us!

How has your own journey through menopause impacted the work you do today? Can you share more about your experience while you were working at Hologram Sciences? 

Within months of starting at Hologram Sciences I realized I was in perimenopause. After a lifetime of good sleep patterns, I was suddenly waking up every morning at 4am on the dot and totally unable to go back to sleep. As I started trying to figure out what was going on, I started thinking about other changes that I’d noticed slowly creep into my life over the last few years – why did I have tender boobs every month, awful cramps and heavy flow when that had never been my fate before? Why were words escaping me – embarrassingly – in phone calls with my new colleagues?

I hadn’t had the grand dame of symptoms yet – the undeniable hot flash or night sweat – but clearly something was amiss. I spent time on Google, I had the prototypical dismissive doctor’s appointment, and didn’t find anything that delivered what I wanted – better understanding of what the heck was happening, a level of predictability of symptoms, effective solutions for someone who prefers to avoid prescriptions if at all possible, and a brand that felt like it spoke to someone who otherwise felt on top of her life and career. My experience certainly creates a high level of empathy for the women we are creating Phenology for and passion for the work that we are doing. 

What are some common myths about menopause that you want to be abolished forever? 

The thing I want abolished FOREVER is not so much a myth as it is women’s belief that they have to “cope.” WHAT IS THAT?! Why is that even an option? We talked to so many women when we were doing research and so many of them expressed a lot of disruption, discomfort, and real impact of menopause on their daily lives – and so many didn’t give themselves permission to seek out relief. It was heartbreaking. I hope that we’ve built products, experiences, and a brand that will speak to these women, offer hope, and provide meaningful regimens and rescues to reduce the bothersome symptoms of menopause.

For women who are unsure whether they are going through menopause, what are the symptoms they should be paying attention to? 

The list of potential symptoms is incredibly long – over 30 in all. For most people, they self-diagnose once they get their first hot flash, but the reality is that they could have been suffering symptoms for years. I tell my friends to look for brain fog, unexplained mood swings, and sleep disruption. These are very common symptoms that are often also associated with stress, so they are overlooked. And to overlook is to under-treat – and everyone deserves relief so they can be their best selves at time in life where we are really coming into our own otherwise.

It’s insane to think that menopause is a $600 Billion industry! Yet the majority of VC funding goes to male-driven companies. How do you hope companies like Phenology will disrupt the funding status quo? 

It is an incredibly large opportunity – both in terms of size and also in terms of the opportunity to have a positive impact on women’s lives. And, it will only grow from there as Millennial women – who are on the cusp of perimenopause – expect data, technology and naturally-powered solutions. I hope Phenology serves as a model for the kind of innovation that can be done with deep consumer empathy at the core of the process and when the players are deeply and personally invested in creating real value for consumers.

What are some of the products and treatments that will be available through Phenology, that you are most excited about? 

Such a hard question because of course the answer is – EVERYTHING! But, if you force me to choose – I would say our gummies. I am a bit of a gummy aficionado, and they taste delicious, are more fun than popping pills, and they are targeted to the most bothersome symptoms – hot flashes, mood, brain fog, and sleep.

As a woman with a more than full-time job, I love the Lucid Lift Mints – I take them before I have a particularly important call or know I’ll need to really focus on a deliverable. They clear out the cobwebs. And, I am really thrilled and proud to bring to market the Phenology MiniLab so we can provide women with greater potential of symptom prediction via easy and convenient at-home testing and allow women take back a bit of control over their lives and keep on their stride.

Sign up for early access to Phenology and get familiar with what the company is doing for the menopause market by clicking HERE.