Serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal, founder of the bidet company Hello Tushy, aims to fix Americans’ resistance to cleaning up with water rather than toilet paper. A spurt of water, whether shooting out from a fancy ceramic stand-alone bidet or out of a humble watering can spout, is thought to be a superior method of cleaning in many parts of the globe. But it’s never quite caught on in the U.S.
“If a bird pooped in your arm, would you wipe it with dry paper or would you wash it with water?” Agrawal asks rhetorically during our interview, to make her point.
Hello Tushy makes bidet toilet attachments that are easy to install, with regular price points of $129 to $149. Aware that the average U.S. consumer is not only unfamiliar with bidets, but also quite puritanical, Agrawal took an irreverent approach to marketing. Tushy’s wacky social media is filled with buttock puns, references to No. 2, images of beautiful people on toilets, and a rap video about the digestive system process with Agrawal appearing in the crowd as a butt. The Tushy slogan “Ask me about my butthole” is featured on t-shirts, and a line of Tushy lipstick in colors to match sphincters called SkidLip was posted as an April Fool’s joke.
Hello Tushy fits Agrawal’s pattern of unconventional businesses. In 2013, she co-founded and launched Thinx, a menstrual-centric underwear line ( and previously in 2006, a gluten-free pizzeria Wild).
Agrawal stepped down from Thinx in 2017 amid a legal dispute with the company’s former public relations head, who accused Agrawal of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. The case was settled in 2017, with both parties agreeing not to reveal the terms or further discuss each other publicly. Agrawal declined to comment on the matter. Court records confirmed the agreement.
Opening up about her latest venture, Agrawal explains why she took on the Sisyphean task of normalizing bidets to the toilet paper loving Americans and her adventures in outlandish marketing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Business of Business: I think Hello Tushy’s marketing campaign is funny, but I imagine launching a bidet company in the U.S. has been a tough sell.
Miki Agrawal: Absolutely. The good news is at my previous company [Thinx] I learned to talk about something that’s taboo that shouldn't be taboo.
Did you know Hello Tushy would be marketed with humor from the beginning, or did that evolve?
I mean, who doesn't love a good poop joke? It's like low-hanging… it's dumb if we didn’t! It's what everyone talks about behind closed doors. When you get close enough with your girlfriend or boyfriend, do you poop with the door open or door closed?
It’s a topic of conversation that you laugh about. It’s smelly and gross, and it’s what every human does—if you're lucky, you know.
I have a kid who is almost three and a half, we talk about poop all the time. But there comes a point when it's uncouth to talk about. Can we ask ourselves why it’s taboo? Why is talking about poop a weird subject?
You must have known launching a bidet business in the U.S. would be a monumental task in terms of psychological and sociological norms.
What brings those defenses down? How do you shift culture and challenge societal conditioning? I have developed a three-pronged thesis around it. The first prong is simply offering a best-in-class product: best design, functionality, easy install, great customer service. Excellence from start to finish, that's just baseline. The second is artful design across every touch point; art makes you look. The image of a Tushy bidet spraying water and people riding the wave, that’s kind of weird and fun.
The third prong is accessible, relatable language. We don't want to be too academic, clinical or technical. I tried and tested those, they do not work. We don't shame or make people feel stupid, because that also never works. I’ve explained the language to my team as, “How do you text your friends?” It's funny, it’s silly, there’s a level of closeness; there’s heart in it.
That trifecta can change culture across the board. I've seen it with my last company [Thinx], with my restaurants [Wild], and we’re seeing it again with Tushy.
Have there ever been marketing ideas that crossed the line, or is it, the crazier the better?
It's so funny that you say that because I was on the fence for this April Fool's Day joke about the lipstick line, SkidLip.
For a second it crossed my mind, “Would our Boomers be weirded out by this?” My team was like, “Miki, this is odd for you to even think this is weird. You're being a little sheepish, come on!” I was like, “You're right. I had a moment, let’s do it.” So, we continued to stay true to ourselves, if they don't laugh at this, then they are not our customers.
So are Boomers your customers? Or Millennials, Gen Z, Gen X?
It’s all across the board. People who care about sustainability, their health, wellness people, I mean, it’s anyone with a butt, [laughs] that’s our target.
How do you explain the benefits of bidets to those who have never used one?
Why are we wiping the dirtiest part of our body and not washing it with water? Taking dry paper and just smearing poop around and then sitting on that fecal matter? For women, it can creep up your vaginal canal, cause bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections. For men—the hair—I mean we all have hair, but…
And some people have been using wet wipes! Which actually breaks the skin. Anal fissure surgeries have skyrocketed because people are using wet wipes to scrape poop out of their butts.
What is the universal solvent? It’s water, it cleans everything in our lives and yet we have been deeply indoctrinated since the 1800s, to do this crazy thing, which is wipe ourselves.
Getting to the nuts and bolts, how and when did Hello Tushy launch?
We raised our first capital in 2014.
You were at Thinx, so was this a side project?
The back story is: I grew up in Montreal, Canada, with a Japanese mother from Japan, and Indian father from India. It set the stage for a multicultural existence that celebrates different traditions and customs.
I knew about bidets my whole life, the Japanese have these super fancy toilets that shoot water, most people can't afford them or understand why they would need all the bells and whistles—plumbing, electrical—I loved them when I went to Japan, I really understood the magic. And in India, they have these like, spray hoses, it’s almost like you're spraying your lawn, but it’s your butt. [laughs]
In 2014, I developed an extreme, like extreme , hyper thyroid condition. One of the unfortunate side effects is pooping a ton. I was pooping—this is not an exaggeration—up to eight times a day. Eight. Times. A. Day. And I'm not talking little, tiny poops, I'm talking like cows patch poop. I lost a shit ton of weight, it was really scary.
By going to the bathroom so much, I would rub with toilet paper and my butt got so chapped. Eventually, I resorted to jumping the shower after, but I was so raw, it was just the most painful thing.
My boyfriend, now husband, he’s the best, got me this really crappy bidet product he found online. It wasn't the super fancy Japanese toilet thing, but an Asian product that you can easily attach to your toilet. And it changed, my, life.
It transformed my entire being, my confidence, my level of ickiness and feeling pain constantly, to just feeling normal.
So even though I was launching Thinx, I knew bidets could be popular in America. On a whim, I met a new friend who was very wealthy and he wrote me a big check to start that process. All of a sudden, I had capital for this new business. I mean, it took me a year to raise anything for Thinx.
Was that an official investment or was he just being nice and supportive?
He said, “I’m investing in you, you're going to send me the paperwork.” Like, “I'm investor at X valuation and this is what I get.” He's going to make an insane return.
I put a small team in place to start building the business, I would check in on the weekends. When I stepped down from Thinx in 2017 and after giving birth, I jumped into really focusing on Tushy.
What gave the inkling that bidets could become popular in the United States?
I knew what it did for me and just felt like, “Wow, this is a tool that can really help people and a tool that could really help solve planetary issues.” Tushy’s helped divert over 5 million trees from getting flushed down the toilet. That’s unbelievable! I feel so proud of that.
Is Tushy only marketed on social media or do you advertise?
It’s mostly Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, which is a new a new place for us.
We wanted to advertise in the New York City subway, but they banned us because they said that we're a sex product.
Wait, they thought Tushy is a sex toy rather than a toilet accessory?
That is really weird. On to sales, I think they spiked during the pandemic because everyone was so worried about running out of toilet paper, correct?
Sales went up 10X during the heart of the pandemic.
And now? Can you talk about units sold, growth or revenue?
We’ve had a few million dollar days, which has been great.
You mean, sold enough units to make $1 million in a day?
Yes. It happened a couple more times, so that's been really exciting. We’ve had nearly a million customers. I would say net-net we’re 5X. We had 5X growth last year and we'll probably average out to 2 to 3X.
A lot of people have purchased our products because they found it fun, they laughed at a joke. But after they buy a bidet, they say, “This is the best thing ever!” It goes to show that people really do care about the voice of the brand.