Marea – home of the flow state

Founder and CEO of three-month old Marea, Monica Grohne started bleeding early, and it hurt. She had her first period at the age of nine, and by the time she was 11, she had very heavy periods, crippling cramps and severe acne.

Her mother did what a sensible parent would, and brought her to see a doctor. The result: at age 11, Monica was put on a schedule of birth control pills. At 11. I stop to take a breath. That can’t be normal, can it? A doctor is telling an 11-year-old girl to take birth control pills every day.

As if reading my mind, Monica tells me that even today, 58% of women currently on birth control pills are on it for non-contraceptive reasons. The solution of chucking birth control pills at hormonal problems is more common than you’d think.

After being on birth control for 15 straight years, Monica went to her doctor, this time because she was depressed. So depressed that she thought she was bipolar. She had never thought that her feeling down could be connected to her period. Her doctor, however, suggested they should try tracking her period to see if her depression aligned with her cycle.

Surprise: the symptoms and her cycle were in lockstep. Before you reach any wide ranging conclusions, consider that the steroid pills she had been on for so long may have played a part. The exact link between depressive symptoms and birth control remains unclear, but there is evidence that it exists. A 2016 paper studied more than 1 million women living in Denmark, and found there was an increased risk for first use of an antidepressant and first diagnosis of depression among users of different types of hormonal contraception. There are however studies that contradict this finding.

Unsurprisingly, Monica’s doctor prescribed her antidepressants after diagnosing her with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This time, Monica refused to add another daily pill to her diet.

She didn't want to go down the prescription route

Monica has been an athlete for her whole life, and as a person who cares about her health, she tells me: “I didn’t want to go down the prescription route”. Looking back on when she said no to prescribed antidepressants, she remarks that it was an interesting lesson.

“Not all of us know that this is a possibility, to say no. To sit in front of a practitioner and say no. It’s something that I think should be more normalised – that we are the experts of our body and we feel empowered to say no,” she elaborates.

She then went to see a gynecologist who had used natural pathology with other patients, and saw tremendous success in the intake of micronutrients to help regulating hormones. Monica decided to give that a try. After a few weeks of being on the natural supplements, she was feeling better, and that’s when she started getting curious about the impact micronutrients could have on menstrual-related problems.

But, Monica said, while the new regime drastically improved her mood, the process was also tiring and felt unsustainable. She was given the nutrients in pill form, which came in bottles of different sizes, that she had to buy from various brands, in several places around the city. It was all expensive too.

She often daydreamed about a way for her regimen to be easier. But Enneagram Type 3s don’t just daydream. Instead, she dived into a rabbit hole and learned all that she could about natural nutritional supplements.

Entrepreneurship runs in the family

Enneagram Type 3s, like Monica, are ambitious, efficient, adaptable and results-oriented; competitive achievers.

Monica’s dad is a businessman; as a young girl, she watched him lead his team, and inspire people. She wanted to do the same. As an ex-sponsored-athlete, Monica’s first business was learning how to market herself, and how to be a brand. She also was very involved in every aspect of a skincare e-commerce she had started too, from customer service to building an online retail site. “The money I spent on creating that business was the cheapest education,”.

It was fun, but it just wasn’t “it”, she says.

Then came Marea. With Marea, Monica felt she had found her “it”. She closed her skincare business and focused all her attention on Marea.

A year into her supplement regime, Monica started to really explore the idea of creating an all-encompassing supplement solution for women. She polled her friends and the crowd on Facebook, and got overwhelmed with positive responses.

When Monica decided to really take the business seriously and start production, the startup cost turned out to be higher than she thought. She applied to a Wyoming state grant for US$50,000 in early 2019, a grant that is awarded to businesses with high-growth potential. She tells me that most startups that successfully get the grant are in the cattle ranching and oil and gas business, not quite a woman’s game at all, and less still, for a menstrual care product. She got denied the first time.

Consumer engagement and feedback is crucial for us

Later that summer, Monica tried again, this time better-prepared. What she did not expect was a panel comprised solely of men. Like the seasoned entrepreneur that she is, Monica tweaked her pitch and played to the men’s emotions, emphasising that the need for such a product like Marea would positively empower the women in their lives; their daughters, wives, sisters, mothers. It worked. Plus, a growth potential of 3.88 billion women, growing by the second, is hard to ignore. In May 2019, Monica secured the grant, and proper work on Marea began.

As a digital growth marketer by trade, Monica knows all about consumer engagement. The Marea community is driven by interaction between brand and consumer. The brand focuses their content around menstrual education and starting conversations, not just for the women, but also for the men in women’s lives, as she had witnessed first-hand how men can also feel empowered by menstrual education in her winning grant pitch.

The company is always actively collecting feedback on what the customer needs and what she is interested in. Marea wants to grow with its audience, now in their mid-20s to mid-30s, ages, and accompany them in every stage of their hormonal lifecycle.  Frequent data analysis of feedback allows the Marea team to plan different flavours of their current product, even different variations of supplements for women for the different stages, so that they take the customer with them.

At Marea, the team is working hard on normalizing the conversation around a global biological event. They are planning digital workshops in which their community can ask questions and actively seeking collaborations. “There is so much power (in collaboration), we are stronger in unity than in singularity,” she adds.

At the time of writing, Marea is two weeks fresh off a #StopThePeriodTaboo collaboration with B Corp-certified menstrual cup company Saalt, through which they will donate $1 and 1 menstrual cup to a woman in need of menstrual products through the Support The Girls organization.

It might have only been months since Marea launched, but I can say with certainty that we’ll be seeing a lot more of them.

Monica is definitely not dreaming now.

More about Marea

Marea is on a mission to empower womxn menstruators to take hold of their menstrual health and help reduce PMS, naturally. Carefully formulated with 15 essential research-backed micronutrients aimed to balance hormones and combat symptoms, the female-founded company launched with their first product, the PMS Elixir. The multivitamin comes in a drinkable format with a 30-day supply of convenient, small sachets to easily take with you wherever you go and make daily supplementation easy. Marea is dedicated to providing education, community and whole-health solutions to womxn in all phases of their hormonal lifecycle.

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