Any person who suffers from menstrual cycle disruption whether it is physical or emotional knows the monthly plight firsthand. Monica Grohne is one of those people and it was the motivating factor behind her first foray into entrepreneurialism.
Photo by Diana Davis
“I got my period when I was 9 years old, with no education about menstruation or hormonal cycles I just started bleeding,” Grohne tells me. “It wasn’t until my mid-twenties, 17 years later, that I began the menstrual cycle education process. At this point in my life, I was dealing with some severe mood changes that lead me to believe I was depressed or potentially bi-polar. It wasn’t until a medical professional suggested I track these symptoms in correlation with my period that I realized that the symptoms I was dealing with were directly related to my period.”
It was when her doctor at the time reached for their prescription pad to prescribe her an antidepressant that she was convinced that there had to be a natural alternative. “Fortunately, I knew the various adverse side effects of antidepressants and wasn’t willing to go that route,” continue Grohne. “Shortly thereafter an OBGYN suggested nutritional supplementation as an option. I rushed out to the local Whole Grocer and purchased the $160+ worth of supplements immediately—this was something I was willing to try.”
After seeing firsthand the positive effects that taking nutritional supplements had on her crippling menstrual symptoms she knew her doctor was right. “Within 2 months my symptoms had mostly diminished. During that time I had curiously dug into the available research behind these nutrients and how they relate to hormone health and menstruation. My doctor was right in suggesting them, but the 7-12 pill regimen was intense and unsustainable,” states Grohne.
Marea Founder, Monica Grohne
Photo by Shannon Corsi
With seeing her own improvement taking an array of supplements, Grohne shared what she learned with friends who also saw emotional and physical improvements from the regimen. It was then and there that Grohne knew she wanted to create her own product. “I wanted to create something that was easier to take and more affordable—to build a brand where we could empower women through education so that they didn’t have to wait 17 years of menstruating to find the right solution for them,” she tells me.
Marea, a strong feminine name that appropriately means tide in Spanish (something Grohne’s husband Brady, who speaks Spanish came up with) just launched a few weeks ago. Grohne, who’s Wyoming-based tapped into funds for Marea from the state. “Supplement manufacturing has some pretty steep MOQs (minimum order quantities) so I knew I would need some financial assistance,” states Grohne. “I applied in early 2019 and was denied the grant. But fortunately a ‘no’ to me has always been a maybe and I was able to secure the $50K state grant later that summer by reapplying—that plus some personal capital has been my initial funding to date.”
While Grohne prefers to get her nutrients from her diet, she understands that isn’t possible with both our incredibly busy lifestyles furthered by the fact that our soils are simply depleted of the nutrients they once had. “The research and science we’ve based our formulation after is about nutrition and supporting the nutritional needs of menstruating women—so we sourced nutrients in the best formats we could and decided to deliver them in a drinkable format,” Grohne explains.
Photo by Diana Davis
Grohne and her team at Marea landed on the drinkable formulation for both convenience and better absorption within the body. The product contains 15 essential nutrients and can be ordered through a monthly subscription. “A water soluble format is known to be more absorbent and bioavailable than pill formats,” explains Grohne. “Capsules have to dissolve before the nutrients can be absorbed and commonly don’t break down properly, resulting in malabsorption problems and some really expensive pee. Powders dissolve quickly! In pill form this could be as many as 5 pills. This is a nuisance to a busy woman’s daily routine—plus pill organizers aren’t very sexy.”
Besides helping my symptoms, one of the things that I like most about Marea is how darn good it tastes, which is a feat in of itself. “We worked with a really good food scientist to help us flavor,” Grohne tells me. “He had worked on a few other water soluble products that I loved and has really high standards. I knew I wanted it to taste similar to how I like my cocktails—more tart than sweet. While we may crave sugar in our luteal (premenstrual) phase, I believe it’s best not to trick our bodies about sugar consumption. So, we aimed for citrus.”
I would say she nailed the flavor with no added sugars and very few calories (5 per serving).
The other aspect that I like about Marea is that it is a supplement that can be used every day. Grohne continues, “The PMS Elixir is a daily multi-vitamin for menstruators. Our goal is to support the common nutrient deficiencies in menstruating women and maintain them over the life of their menstrual cycle. This is necessary throughout the entire cycle, not just before a woman bleeds.”
Photo by Diana Davis
With so many businesses dying as a result of the pandemic I was curious what it was like to launch a new brand during a pandemic. “The biggest issue was with the supply chain. People went out and bought all of the immunity boosting supplements and it created a bottleneck. It also affected our third-party testing. We were supposed to launch in April and it ended up being the end of June,” responds Grohne. “On the flipside however, as a digital brand with so many people surfing online we saw an opportunity to focus on content and education in the space. We did Instagram lives and took pre-orders, which really helped us build our audience. To talk about how stress affects menstruation like missing periods and increased symptoms and to offer support was the bright spot.”
Looking towards the future, Grohne has her eyes set on becoming the go-to source for menstruation education. “My menstrual cycle cost me over 17 years of suffering and disruption. At Marea, we want to be the resource for women, partners, and families so they are empowered to find the right solutions for their bodies and so that we can stop being so quiet about this amazing event that happens in our bodies on a monthly basis. We are also currently working on a Period:101 book that will help our future and existing community to have more tools in their box. Moms and dads can use it to educate their daughters, spouses can use it to better understand their partners, and so on.”
Once Marea is a bit more established, Grohne plans addressing other hormonal issues that are connected to nutrient deficiencies like child bearing, perimenopause, and menopause. I will be keeping my eye out for the perimenoupausal formula—a highly un-served market and one that I am personally in.