We had a chance to sit down with the charming Co-Founders of AllBodies, an “eco-system of education, tools, and personal experiences to teach people about their bodies.” Their mission is to inform and empower all bodies as a new approach to healthcare. They’re starting with reproductive + sexual health, a topic that needs a lot of help. Deeply intertwined in their brand philosophy is the concept of embodiment, of trusting the body and its signals and then taking actions from that place. Combined with a greater awareness of the body, AllBodies provides a platform that seamlessly connects you to educational content, products, and practitioners.
We help people take power over their bodies by providing education, tools and support.
Blindfold: How did you two connect?
Lauren: I used to work at Lululemon where Ash and her old business partner were hosting some birth events. I would help out at those. We said back then that maybe we would one day work together, and then we met again through my previous work in meditation at MediClub.
Ash: I was doing these gatherings called Birth Gatherings at the time, and Jesse from MediClub invited me to talk at his events because we were trying to bring birth into culture for people who hadn’t had children yet.
Both: What’s unique about us, as co-founders of our business, is that both of us have worked on the ground in the past. Neither one of us is coming from a financial or a tech background, we’re both coming from being an organizer and a practitioner, which has contributed to our success thus far.
L: Our unique skill set is not traditional! It’s funny because what we’re actually building is what we did in real life. We put an event on, and we brought four things together: information, experts who you could talk to, products that you could buy, and community. That’s what we did, and it turned out amazing. It’s been a long process to figure out what that looks like as a business, and then also what business we want to make, and what will make money and how.
So I would say essentially we’re doing what we did in real life, but now online. And a big part of fundraising and selling someone on your business is telling a story. As people who don’t have business degrees, we know we’re capable and smart, we just don’t know what the language is, so it’s taken a while to figure out that language. And I think we’ve landed somewhere.
B: What issues did you feel needed to be addressed, eventually sparking the concept for AllBodies?
A: At the core, that there’s literally no one place to go right now for all your needs for your reproductive and sexual health. There’s over 60 million unique searches a month just for a handful of topics. People are hungry for this information. And the reason why it’s so empty is the shame and taboo that’s been attached to this topic for so long.
L: And the disempowerment and oppression of women.
A: Exactly. And that’s where all this stems from–when midwives in America were taken out of the picture and replaced by male physicians coming from Europe. And women weren’t allowed to organize. White midwives were not allowed to go to Europe and get educated because women weren’t allowed to be educated, and black midwives were working with enslaved populations and it was because they couldn’t make money.
As a result, wealthy white colonial women wanted to work with the fancy physicians coming back from Europe, who charged more money. Consequently these male physicians were able to organize, write books, create organizations and spread information to the general public.
L: Hence everything we know and don’t know.
A: The power of organizing.
L: That’s what we want to do. Organize digitally.
B: What sort of contributors and experts have you brought on in order to choose the content that you post and the subjects that you bring to life?
A: A lot of it is based not on experts, but on feedback from our community and the questions that people ask us. We run a series called “Ask C + S” and we distribute questions to multiple practitioners, and track the questions that people have. A lot of it falls under buckets, so we can see what categories people’s questions fall under.
We have a network now of over 50 practitioners, and for us it’s really important to blend practices so it’s not just OBGYNs and midwives, we’re also blending in acupuncturists, Chinese medicine practitioners, womb massage practitioners, herbalists, and lawyers who specialize in obstetric violence or parental leave policies, so you’re really getting the 360 support from multiple angles. Because what we know is that traditional OBGYN training leaves out a lot, which isn’t a knock to them because their research is important and their work is important and life saving, but it is all definitely entrenched in our history, and takes time to change.
B: Why the shift from the name Cycles + Sex to the name AllBodies?
L: Originally we named it Cycles + Sex when it was a small, fun idea. What it stood for was reproductive health and sex, and we wanted it to highlight the interconnectedness of the two because that’s what we felt was missing. And then it caught on, and as we’ve grown and understood our business and our path forward, it’s become clear that the name isn’t the best choice because it’s a not all-inclusive, for a few reasons: firstly, because the word sex is triggering for some people. It’s also triggering for the Internet because there are a lot of conservative ad guidelines, so for digital ads, our name gets flagged a lot.
And then, some people may not take it seriously or feel uncomfortable because of the word sex. Lastly, when you think of reproductive cycles, you may think of a person with a vagina, and that’s actually a misconception because all humans have reproductive cycles. We really want the room to include all bodies and we want the room to become a lot of things as we grow, as we’re going to be able to support all bodies. We started saying “All Bodies Welcome” and “All Bodies Here” around six months back, and we found it was available as a website, and we’d been talking about it. Then we finally made the decision that we were going to relaunch with that name.
B: Lauren, Given your history in working on policy change and community building projects, what has brought you into the space of the giving of a platform for conversation surrounding sexual health, and specifically in support of the MeToo Movement?
Lauren: My interest in policy and politics started with my interest in equality and justice, and being kind of obsessed with how 1) massive injustice can happen, and 2) how people organize and change things. That’s what I started paying a lot of attention to, and brought that into a lot of areas of my life. But then really since this last [presidential] election, right before that was when Ash asked me to help her out. I did not have a lot of information about sexuality, reproductive health, my own body, had not considered internalized patriarchy and misogyny until the election.
I think the MeToo movement is one specific but unanimous issue that falls under the umbrella [of problems that we want to solve]. By working with Ash and helping her, I realized how all these organizing skills- which essentially create social change, political parties, a successful brand- are really applicable especially right now when there’s this energy amongst millennials, and particularly people who identify as women, to do something different.
B: It seems that by stating that you’re always open to learning and being called out that you welcome personal growth. How have you grown internally throughout the development of AllBodies?
L: So much. I’ve grown a lot in my relationship to my own body, my gender, my sexuality, power. As I’m going through the content, and spreading the information, I’m confronting my own pain and walls that I’ve been living within. It’s been amazing to practice the information that we’re uncovering in my own life.
As a woman first-time entrepreneur, there’s a lot of other hard, new things that we’re constantly going through. Everything from fundraising, leading teams, bringing a big idea to life, selling someone on it, learning how to communicate and reposition, translating what we’re doing to metrics, managing stress, etc… All of these things have been huge opportunities to dive in and figure things out. I’ve been growing faster than I ever have in my life.
And lastly, we chose the name Allbodies because it demands a very high expectation of inclusion (one we want to strive for and be held accountable to). Because it’s so vast, it gives us the room to expand and deepen our work. We have so much work to do to get to a place where we fully embody the vision for what we’re building. It’s just the beginning and we can guarantee we are doing the work to make this platform a place for ALL, but we need our community and anyone who feels not included to help us see what we can do better. We welcome all feedback. It’s crucial.
B: How do you see yourself using your experience in advocating for social justice and participating in policy change in developing your platform down the line?
L: In my opinion, in order for societal change to happen, policy must change. Policy is what changes culture and institutions. Culture can organize itself and elect new policy makers. But policy has to change.
So I’d say that at this point, we are working within culture, making a product for culture to use and a movement for them to stand for. This is power and as we grow, we’ll have power to influence institutions and eventually influence policy. Healthcare has trillions of dollars and is doing a bad job at solving for womxn’s health issues. We’re going to start solving them in a new way and then work with healthcare companies to improve their approach.
There is also very little data surrounding some of the major issues in women’s healthcare and healthcare for those who aren’t white and rich. Data influences lobbying politicians. So we are excited to gather consented information about our users as we grow and use it for good.
B: Ash, what inspired you to enter the path of becoming a birth doula?
A: You know when you get to where you are, you see [all the dots connect], so I guess I can backtrack and say that my whole childhood, I watched my mom experience miscarriages and so I really saw firsthand how much shame there was surrounding something that is so regular. It’s one in four people that it happens to. I just saw the what lack of education and the shame around our bodies did to people from a really young age. I studied nutrition, was fascinated by the body, and it was the first time I really started to understand how the body works. I was like, why is no one telling me these things? And as I was uncovering things, I started learning more about hormonal health and birth control, and again I felt like I had been lied to about my body.
It felt like un-peeling layers of misinformation and I was really mad, and I wanted to share the information, but couldn’t because they were [too long or outdated]. I went down a path of thinking that being a doula wasn’t for me, and then I really truly just had a moment of feeling that maybe I do want to do this. I really feel like the key for people to understand where we are today and connect to their bodies is to understand the points in our history in which it was taken away from us.
I was working for a media company at one point creating their content and their app for clean eating. I’ve always been interested in working with people one-on-one and find what they’re leaning in toward, and think about how I can give it to the masses. [Working at that company was] how I learned how to break down information so it’s more accessible and people can take it in one bit at a time.
B: What has this experience of developing Cycles + Sex and AllBodies taught you about yourself?
A: So much. Even the structure of how we’re building the company is based off the doula model. I’ve always been fascinated by birth and creation in general, and how much there is to learn from the process of labor, because we’re always creating something, whether it’s a new job, an album, an art project, or a business. There are moments of contraction that are really hard and you feel like you’re dying and that you won’t make it through. That’s what a contraction is in labor, your uterus is contracting so your cervix can expand, and your cervix needs to open in order for the baby to be born.
It’s truly the same pattern in building a business: you have moments where you’re so scared and you need someone to be like, “You’re okay, this is normal.” Your doula helping you along the way is actually what AllBodies is mimicked after. Everyone should have an advocate of some kind, a trusted guide that can you the tools and information that can help you across the specific pain points that you’re dealing with.
It’s been very interesting to see myself develop. Again, with the concept of “embodied work,” how do you know if you actually like doing something? Just an example is I used to run our practitioners and I would catch myself thinking, “I cannot get myself to do this. What is happening?” To think about it from my body instead of my head, I realized my body was physically not letting me do this. And it turned out it actually wasn’t my skill set, and it wasn’t the part that I should be doing. So now Lauren does it and it’s been this amazing switch. Leaning into those moments of resistance and asking myself why that resistance is there, that’s been a big thing.
B: None of us can see the future, but how do you envision the direction of where AllBodies can grow into?
L: Which time frame are you referring to? Would you like Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3… It’s funny because we might say different things.
A: My dream is that if someone has a question about their body, it’s a no-brainer— just like you go to Google to find something, you would go to AllBodies to find your answer. But really, the model we’ve created, which is education, information and tools that can help you, vetted people that are putting you, the patient, first, as a bundle for different pain points. I feel like that’s a solution for anything.
L: Yeah, similar. I agree that we’re bringing healthcare services, which are not just doctor patient— they’re different things now, and they include media, products, and technology. We’re making healthcare easy, and in the palm of your hand, starting with reproductive and sexual health, but I see it being a new model for healthcare.
A: And I just want to reiterate that within this new model of healthcare, it’s the fact that you as a patient, a client, or person who has a body feels like you are the one in control of it, and not just being told what to do, but making active decisions.
L: You’re connected to your body and we want to give you the tools and information so you can make the best choice for yourself.
By reimagining a better, more client-centric vision for healthcare, Lauren and Ash are pushing for people to return to their bodies and be in full control of their well-being. They are pioneers in the path toward an all-inclusive healthcare system, making health topics that have excluded so many of us for so long easily accessible on their platform.