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Period Story Podcast, Episode 80, Kelly Newton: I’ve Sold Thousands and Thousands of Pairs of Knickers

My guest on today’s episode of Period Story is Kelly Newton. Kelly is the founder and CEO of NIXI Body, a reusable leakproof underwear company. 

In this episode, Kelly shares: 

  • The embarrassment she felt when she first got her period
  • How playing sports helped her deal with having endometriosis 
  • Her menopause story
  • The importance of a holistic approach to keeping your pelvic floor healthy 
  • How she was able to move from being embarrassed to talking about her period to talking so openly about pelvic floors and vaginal health on TV
  • The impact sport and exercise has on her mental health 
  • How she started a business in her 40s and how she supports other women who are setting up businesses 
  • And of course, the story of her first period

Kelly says that if she can start a business, anyone can do it. Just ask questions, Google everything and go on courses!

Thank you, Kelly! 

Get in touch with Kelly:

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Website


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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise Brothers:

Hi, Kelly, thanks for coming on to the show. I’m really excited to speak to you and hear the story of your first period and to talk about your amazing company. So let’s get started. So tell us the story of your very first period.

Kelly Newton:

Okay, so do you know what? It’s really difficult for me to remember exactly what age it was. I feel like I’ve blocked this out of my mind, but I believe I was around 13 or 14 and I was at school and kind of felt a little bit sticky down below, and I thought, well, this doesn’t feel right. I didn’t have any pains or anything like that. So I went to the toilet and yeah, I suppose it was blood, obviously, but it was a brown kind of lumpy kind of thing. And I was like, what on earth is this? Because I was expecting full-blown red blood to be dispersed, and that wasn’t the case at all. So I obviously didn’t have any sanitary products with me. So put some toilet paper down there and went home, and I suppose any normal person would’ve gone in and told their mum.

But I was so embarrassed that this had happened to me that I knew where my mum kept her pads and I stole a pad and used that and took it to school the next day to get rid of it. I didn’t want my mum to see it in the bin, but it also kind of nicked a couple more to get me through the next couple of days. So yeah, thankfully it wasn’t a particularly heavy first period. It was just a little bit kind of muddy looking, sticky kind of lumpy thing. 

So that was my first period. I didn’t actually tell my mum for about three months that I’d had my period. I was so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed. She only realized that I’d started my period because her sanitary towels were depleting. She wondered. She wondered where they were going. So she asked me and then I was very embarrassed and cried and told her I started my period.

Madly enough, my sister did exactly the same when she started her period. Yeah, and my mum and dad are lovely, don’t get me wrong, but we just didn’t talk about things like that. So I think probably my first experience of knowing about a period was at school. I found out at school during our, I suppose a biology lesson, I went to an all girls school. Again, it was maybe a 20 minute, half an hour chat about this is what’s going to happen, you’re going to get a period. My mum probably mentioned it maybe once in passing, one day you’re going to get a period and you’re going to bleed, and then you need to use some sanitary products. But I didn’t understand anything else to do with why I was getting a period, why my body was doing that, and probably didn’t understand a lot of that until I was a bit older.

Le’Nise Brothers:

So let’s just go back to what you were saying about the embarrassment. So you had your period for three months before your mum discovered that you had it because her pads were depleting. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, the embarrassment and why your instinct was to hide it?

Kelly Newton:

I think we just didn’t talk about things like that in our house. I was really close to my mum and dad, but I dunno, I just felt a bit, I don’t think I was ashamed. I didn’t feel shame. We just didn’t talk about things like that. It just wasn’t a conversation that we openly had. And so because my mum and dad didn’t talk about things like that, I suppose that kind of embarrassment was put on us. I was always quite, I was embarrassed about a lot of stuff as a kid walking past a group of people. I didn’t want to walk past a group of people. I wouldn’t like to walk into a place on my own because I’d be embarrassed. And still to this day, if I’m meeting a friend in a pub, I’ll make sure I’m a little bit late. So I’m not the first one to go in there. I hate walking in anywhere on my own. I get completely really, really embarrassed about stuff like that. I dunno if it’s just how I am, I don’t know. But it’s difficult to say.

We had a lovely childhood, a really lovely childhood. There was never any secrets or anything like that. I don’t know, I just always get really embarrassed about things, I suppose. And when I started the company kind of going on a bit and talking about my issues that I’ve got, then I felt very, very embarrassed about talking about things. But now obviously I tell everybody about my business and I think a lot of that has been working with Coni, who’s a little bit younger than me, who very openly talks about these things. So I feel like she’s helped me to come out and not feel the embarrassment and shame that I previously felt. So yeah. Yeah, I dunno if it’s a generational thing. I am 52, maybe it’s a generational thing. But yeah, the fact that my sister also, this came out recently and my sister said the same thing, that she didn’t tell mum for a couple of months either. She was really embarrassed as well. Yeah, I dunno. Strange.

Le’Nise Brothers:

And so then your mum found out, did you have a chat? Did you ask her lots of questions or was it kind of like short and sweet?

Kelly Newton:

Nope, no questions.

Again, I didn’t want to talk to my mum about it. I was so embarrassed. And my mom, literally, I think my mom just said to me, look, you need sanitary towels, so I’ll buy extra. They’ll be in my cupboard in my wardrobe and just help yourself when you need them. There was no, you can use towels or you can use tampons. I think I probably found out about tampons or Tampax through friends at school. And yeah, that’s probably where I found out all of the information that I needed to find out and my biology lessons. I suddenly then started to take a bit more of an interest. I was like, why am I having periods and oh, it’s because of this. I still didn’t understand completely what was going on in my body. And I think that’s something that’s gone through all of my life, to be honest with you. I feel like I was quite naive about all of those things. But yeah, Mum didn’t really explain me what was happening. She just said, there’s the towels when you need them, when you come home, then just help yourself. And that was it.

Le’Nise Brothers:

And that feeling of embarrassment, did it continue as you went further through your teenage years?

Kelly Newton:

Probably not, no. Because then as you turn into, so I was probably 13 and 14 when I started my period, but when you get to 16, 17, and I know this through my own experience with having teenage girls, you don’t actually care. And going back, actually the girls, I’m a foster carer, so I had four foster daughters at one time all the same age. And one of our girls started her period at nine, but I wasn’t actually in the house when she started her period. My husband was here, but I feel like I really did prepare them for what was going to happen. We talked a lot about periods and about the fact it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. And that’s obviously going from my experience. I didn’t want my girls to feel like that. So when one of my girls started her period when I wasn’t here, my husband called me to say that she’d told him that she’d started her period.

She was nine years old, and she told him that she’d started her period and he’d managed to sort her out a bag of stuff. I honestly didn’t expect it to happen at nine. So she was prepared for that, and he put her on the phone and she was like, it’s fine. Dad’s sorted me. I’m all okay. And I felt such relief with that, but also knowing as girls get older, they’re quite disgusting and they can just leave their used sanitary towels on the side, not purposely, I don’t think it’s just a case of they just don’t care. There’s no embarrassment and no shame, which I’m glad they’re not embarrassed and they’re not shamed about it. But come on, girls tidy up after yourself. It’s a bit disgusting. And I think I was probably the same. You don’t think about that as a teenage girl, you are using these things.

Maybe you’re in a rush, you might leave it on the side and you don’t even think about my mum or my dad’s going to go in and see that. So I think I kind of got over the shame of it, but I just think that’s by being a typical teenage girl and just not thinking and being lazy and whatever. But one of my earliest, this is a core memory for me. I had really, really heavy periods, really heavy periods. And I remember sitting at school, I must’ve been about 15 and had one of my mom’s massive pads, the biggest pad ever in. And I had that in my period knickers. And I had obviously, I think I had a pair of tights on, I had my culottes on and I was sat on a plastic chair, and when I got up, I’d bled all the way through my trousers, all over the plastic chair. And I mean, I was so, so heavy. And the shame, the absolute shame of that. So that for me is a core memory. Going to a girl’s school, you can imagine girls are taking the mickey out of you and teasing you and whatever.

Didn’t realize until later on in life that I actually had endometriosis. And it’s another thing I didn’t realize about periods, about what’s a normal period and being particularly heavy, very, very heavy. That could have been a sign of something else. And it wasn’t until in my thirties I was diagnosed as having endometriosis. Yeah. And another thing that I try to get across to the girls – heavy periods, they’re not normal and we need to get them checked out. So yeah, I’ve learned a lot over the years.

Le’Nise Brothers:

So talk a little bit about the endometriosis. So one of the symptoms you had was heavy periods, and then what did it look like for you?

Kelly Newton:

So I mean, I was just very, very heavy, heavy periods, heavy clotting pain, really bad cramps and pain, but also pain down my legs to the extent where I was struggling to walk sometimes. Also sex, very painful sex that was really uncomfortable, not enjoyable. And yeah, you just kind of think what on earth is going on with me here and backwards and forth to the doctors eventually. I mean, I was really lucky I had my two sons and I fell pregnant within a month of trying with both of them. So didn’t have any issues there. But went to see an amazing gynecologist, Dr. Hannah. Everybody I know used to see Dr. Hannah. And at the time we were really lucky, my husband had private health cover because this had been going on with the NHS for such a long time. And in the end my husband said, look, why don’t you just, we’ll go private, we can just use my private health cover.

So went to see a Dr. Hannah, and before I knew it, a week later I was in surgery and we were having the endometriosis lasered off and then a couple of years later I had to go back again. I was really suffering with cramps and again, really heavy periods and it was lasered again. And then they decided, let’s put you on the coil, because of how much pain I was in. So I remember going to the doctors to have the coil inserted, but I think I had a tilted, I think something was tilted. See again, this is how little I know about my own body. Something was tilted so he couldn’t put the coil in. They tried for ages, it was really painful, couldn’t do it. So he said, I think you need to go to the hospital. So we went back to the hospital again, had the coil inserted.

I then bled every day for nine months on the coil. Yeah, yeah. I was like, this can’t be right. This is not right. So Dr. Hannah said, look, I think maybe we need to have a hysterectomy, which I was absolutely fine about. I just thought we’ve got my two boys, I think we had four foster daughters also at the time, which to be fair, we’ve always had about four foster daughters or four foster children as well. I was like, my childbearing years are over, I’m quite happy not to have any more children. And that’s how I felt about my womb. So yeah, went in, had the coil removed at the same time as having a hysterectomy. But I remember coming round from the surgery and the consultant saying to me, I left your ovaries in because I didn’t want you to go into early menopause.

And in typical Kelly style, as my son would say, I started the menopause. I started having the symptoms of the menopause within the year. So yeah, turns out again, another thing that Mum didn’t really talk to us about was my mum had, she started the menopause in her early forties. So I was 42, 43 when I had my hysterectomy. So yeah, started the symptoms, which because the surgeon had said to me, I’ve left your ovaries in so you don’t go into early menopause. I didn’t think that I was going through the menopause and all I’d ever read about were the menopause were hot flushes and night sweats and they weren’t my symptoms. So my symptoms were rage. Literally I wanted to kill every single person that I came in contact with. So I’d come home from work and I’d come in the house and one of the kids’ school bags would be there and I would literally pick it up and throw it across the room and I’d be like, who left their bag?

Then I literally wanted to kill every member of my family and my husband would be like, what’s going on? And he’s like, go and lay down. You need to go and lay down. And I’d be crying and I’d drop the kids to school and I’d come back and I’d lay on the rug in the front room and I wouldn’t get up again until I had to go and pick them up from school. I was severely depressed, palpitations. I was having panic attacks. I remember doing my shop for Christmas, it was a couple of days before Christmas. I’m doing my major shop to get all my food in, and I think we probably had about 22 people around that year. And I was in the shop and then started to when your heart starts to go and I’m like, oh my god, no, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t catch my breath. So I’m in the shops crying and sweating and everyone’s staring at me like I’m an absolute lunatic. Managed to get myself through and pay for everything and get in the car and just lay there crying thinking what is happening to me? I don’t understand what’s happening to me. So yeah, that was the start of my menopause story. So yeah.

Le’Nise Brothers:

What’s really interesting is that when you said early menopause, I was expecting you to say about kind of mid thirties, but 42, 43 is typically the age that we start perimenopause. So your symptoms were much worse. But I don’t, it’s interesting that that was classed as early menopause. I just want to take it back to your teenage years because I read this story where you had said that you found a note at your afterschool netball club that a pupil have brought in excusing her from participating in PE due to her period. And you thought, why should your period stop you from playing sport? I thought that was really interesting because so many teenage girls, I hear and so many women talk about how they used to use their period as an excuse to get out of PE, to stop playing sport. And you see statistics where girls, once they get their period, a lot of time you see a decline in sport participation. So can you talk a little bit about you playing sport and how that kind of connected with you having endometriosis?

Kelly Newton:

Yeah, so I mean I started playing netball at nine at my primary school and we were always running around and doing my at school, but my family weren’t a particularly sporty family, but I started playing netball, absolutely loved it. And I’m very, very competitive. I’m like, this is for me. So when I went to secondary school, I was so lucky at that particular time there were classes every lunchtime and after school and I signed myself up for everything. I played football, hockey, I did athletics, dance, volleyball, gymnastics, you name it. I was in every team. I was that girl and absolutely loved it. And I could after school one day a week, me and my friend Sally would go to another secondary school to do some more netball training. We loved it so much and that’s where I found the note. So it wasn’t at my girls’ school because all the girls, I feel like a lot of the girls at my school played sport.

But this note, I couldn’t believe it. And you could tell that this pupil had written it herself and signed it on behalf of her mom. And I’m like, why would you not want to play sports? Even at that age, I knew my period never stopped me from doing anything. And in those days, the only sanitary products we had, period products we had were the really big thick towels. I mean, I’m talking like over an inch thick. That’s what I used to wear every single day. I swear to you. They were disgusting. They were huge with, we didn’t even have wings at that time. Wings weren’t out on period products then. So I would play netball, I would play any sport on my period wherein literally a brick in my knickers to soak up all of the blood. It was so bad. But that never ever stopped me.

Obviously when I discovered Tampax then that’s great. I was wearing those to play sport. So you are right. So many girls nowadays are dropping out of sports as soon as they start their periods and they’re just giving it up. But we know, all of us know, and I must’ve known that at the time, sport is so good for you physically and mentally and I’ve really tried to encourage my girls to carry on playing sport and my boys, I want them to keep fit and keep active, keep mentally, mentally healthy as well. It’s been a lot more difficult as the girls have got older. You can’t force them. I’ve worked out, I realized you can’t force them to play hockey if they don’t want to. They just won’t go. So yeah, I think even though I had really heavy periods, I’m pretty sure that playing all of those sports really helped me to maintain that.

And I don’t feel like the effects of the endometriosis were particularly bad. I don’t remember them being particularly bad at that age possibly because I was playing all of those sports as I got older and I was working, I wasn’t playing as much sport. I still played hockey or netball on a Saturday and trained once a week, but I wasn’t playing every single day. And I feel like that’s when I started to realize how bad my periods were and how painful they were. But actually I think they got a lot worse as I got a lot older and then stopped playing sports for a little bit. So I didn’t play when I had the kids and also struggled when they were little to get out and do anything like that. And I think that’s when they got really bad. So I feel like sport has really helped me to get through those heavy periods and those times of I don’t feel like it was as bad as when I didn’t play sports.

Le’Nise Brothers:

And also when you’re playing sport, you release endorphins, which are a natural painkiller.

Kelly Newton:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I mean being menopausal now that I am, so I need to exercise and I stretch out. I stretch most days, I probably work out about five times a week and I know. So I didn’t work out a couple of weeks ago. I did a really busy couple of weeks, didn’t do anything at all. And then I did a yoga class eight o’clock on the Monday and then I did a strength class. And I cannot tell you how much better my day was for doing that mentally. I was able to concentrate. I got a lot more work done than I had in the previous two weeks where I’d done absolutely no exercise whatsoever. So it’s so important. I can’t stress how important exercise is to me. And I try to stress this to my girls as well, but nobody listens to me anymore in my house. So

Le’Nise Brothers:

It’s really interesting because you see women in their fifties and sixties, they tend to have this attitude that, and of course I’m generalizing here, but this exercise is a form punishment and no pain, no gain. And the research tells us, especially once you are on the other side of the menopause, how important exercise is for bone health, for mental health and the strength training, how important it is. And there’s this fear of bulking up and having muscles. And I find it really worrying because there are so many benefits and you’ve said it yourself, you saw the effects that when you did those two days of training, of exercise on your mental health, on your physical health. And I just really want this shift to continue. You see it in younger women where they don’t see it as generally speaking, they don’t see it as a punishment and they’re happy to do different classes, but for that to trickle through to women in their fifties and sixties.

Kelly Newton:

Yeah, it’s really funny. I think out of all of my groups of friends, I’m the only one who exercises. I’m the only one, actually, no, there’s one other friend of mine who plays netball, but all of my other friends really maybe belong to a gym, but don’t go very often. I play golf still. I gave up hockey a few years ago, I think it was because of the menopause, because I was getting quite aggressive. And it’s not helpful when you have a hockey stick in your hand and you’re playing and you’re feeling very aggressive, you’re going to hurt somebody. So I actually had to take a step back. I was honestly having a row with somebody every week on the hockey pitch and I’m like, don’t want to do this. This is not conducive to me being calm. And sport for me is supposed to be, like you say, releasing endorphins.

I’m supposed to enjoy it. It’s a time, team sports especially are great. You’re meeting up with friends and it’s good for your mental health and that wasn’t happening. I was wanting to kill people and hurt people. So it was best that I gave that up. And although golf, obviously I’m holding a stick still in my hand. This is a sport where if I have a bad shot, that’s down to me. I’ve got no one else to blame but me and I enjoy the walk as well. So I was finding I was getting frustrated in hockey because I know I want to run and I want to get that ball, but my body’s telling me it’s laughing at me saying, you’re never going to get that ball. Your knee’s going to give up before you get to that ball. So I was getting frustrated with it. I needed something a little bit more sedate.

But I do run now. I run two or three times a week. I didn’t run for a couple of weeks. I’m back on it now and I’m determined. I’ve set myself a goal. We’re doing a couple of 10 Ks next year, so that will keep me, I’m focused, I’m focused on that. I do the strength training. I do a lot of weight training because like you say, as you go through menopause, you need to keep your bones strong, you’re at risk of osteoporosis. So I’m really aware of that. But out of all of my friends, I’m the only one I think that does all of this stuff. And I’m just like, what is wrong with you girls? I want to still be active in my eighties. I still want to be moving about and doing stuff and be mentally with it. And it worries me to think that my friends aren’t doing all that and they’re not looking after themselves. But I’ve always been this way. Exercise has always been my release, sport has always been my release. So I don’t know why I feel like I’m the only one that in my friendship group. So it’s just, yeah, people need to step up. You need to really look after your body all the way through your life. And I realize that especially so now.

Le’Nise Brothers:

Yeah. And this kind of ties nicely into the story around your company where you had incontinence related to childbirth, related to menopause and that you found that that was an issue playing sport. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

Kelly Newton:

So what had happened was I obviously had the boys and had a little, few little issues with incontinence, that stress and urge incontinence after I had the boys. But that seemed to improve a little bit. And then going through starting the menopause, it was a whole new story to me. So I was playing hockey and I remember weeks before I was absolutely fine. I’d stretch for the ball, no problems, but all of a sudden I’d be stretching for the ball and a little bit wee would be coming out and I was like, what the hell? What’s going on down there? That had never happened to me before. And then if I scored a goal and celebrated, it was like game over. I’ve completely wet my knickers. And I just started at this new team and I remember turning to one of the women and saying, oh my God, I’ve just wet myself.

And she’s laughing. She went, oh, don’t worry, I do that all the time as well. So I’m like, oh, okay. And then everyone starts talking and then we realize before when we go to a game and we’ve warmed up, everyone then has to have a wee and then we go play the game. Then half time everyone’s off having a wee again, and as soon as the game’s finished, we’re all back in the toilet and we’re like, oh my god, what’s going on? And we’re all women of around the same age in our forties, fifties, sixties. So I thought, oh my god, this is not nice. This is not nice. So towards the end of having periods, I’d used a menstrual cup, and that was like 20 years ago. I’d started to use a menstrual cup just after my son. I’d had my son because of the really heavy periods and absolutely loved it.

And again, I’m trying to say to my friends, you’ve got to try this menstrual cup. And they were like, that’s disgusting. What do you mean you stick that up inside you? None of them would try it. One friend tried it and loved it. So I was a real advocate for the menstrual cup. So then not having periods for a long time, didn’t have to use anything. But then starting to leak, I thought, well, I don’t want to use disposables again. I know that they’re not good for me. They used to really irritate me down below and they’re just horrible. They move about when you’re playing sports, I don’t want to go back to that. So I’d heard about reusable underwear, looked online, couldn’t find anything that I wanted to wear. I felt I was still young, still bit with it, still wanted to feel attractive and sexy and I think underwear plays a really big part in that.

So I thought, do you know what? I’m going to design my own pair. So designed a pair of knickers without obviously absolutely no experience whatsoever. Then forgot about it because I was going through the menopause and again, I didn’t know I was really going through the menopause and I was in a really bad place, but eventually thought, no, so I’m going to go for this. So found a tech designer and we worked together to design a pair of knickers that I wanted. I wanted them to be really discreet, wanted them to be absorbent, but I didn’t want you to be able to see the pad through my tight gym leggings. I didn’t want to be able to see the, do you know the line around the knickers when you get a double bum? I hate that. My husband says to me, stop staring at people’s bums when you’re out.

I’m constantly staring to see if they’ve got a visible panty line. So I’m like, she needs my knickers, she needs my knickers. So yeah, we designed them. So they’ve got really lovely seamless scalloped edging and you can’t see them at all underneath like tight gym leggings and don’t know where I found the confidence from, but found a factory and then ordered 4,000 pairs and then had to set up a website. And out of just wanting a decent pair of knickers, I’m now running a business that’s sold thousands and thousands of pairs of knickers. We’re now stocked in Boots. We are on QVC. So I’ve done live TV and we’ve got women of all ages buying my knickers. And obviously because of the technology, they’re actually suitable for periods and for leaks. So my girls wear them for their periods, I wear them for leaks. We’ve got young girls of nine all the way up to a 96-year-old woman who rings up for her knickers, all because I needed a decent pair of knickers.

Le’Nise Brothers:

I think it’s really, it’s amazing because you started this company in your forties and that’s a time where you have so much going on and you might be really kind of an entrenched in your career and you have the confidence to be able to say, this is a problem, I want to solve it and this is how I’m going to be able to do it. What would you say to women who are in their forties and are thinking about starting a business but they don’t have the confidence and they think, oh, well I’m not going to be able to do this, blah blah. What would you say to them?

Kelly Newton:

Do you know what I say? If I can do it, anyone can do it. Because like I said, I just started the menopause. I was in a really, really bad place. Honestly, I can’t even tell you some of the stories, how bad it was for me. I had six children at the time, so we had four foster daughters and two sons of our own. And I was working in a clinic part-time as well, which I still do to this day. I love it. It’s my release from everything. You can find the time. If you have an idea and it’s something that you know need and other people need, just bloody go for it. Ask questions. I mean, I googled everything. Google was my savior. I didn’t know how to design a pair of knickers. I didn’t know what I needed to do to start my company.

I googled everything. I found courses, I went on courses. I was also very, very lucky in the early days to have met Coni, my co-founder. So I’d already by this stage designed the knickers. The knickers had arrived. I’d set up a really crappy website because you’re talking to the person, I don’t know how to turn the TV on. I kid you not. I still don’t know how to put our TV on because there’s two controllers and there’s so many things you have to go into. I don’t watch TV if no one’s in, I don’t watch tv, which is fine because I don’t watch a lot of TV anyway, mainly because I can’t because I can’t turn it on. So I set up a website, but then I was very lucky to meet Coni and Coni now she does all the content, she did all the content, then she does all the social media.

She is incredible. She’s on my wavelength. We’ve got a sense of humor. The ideas that she comes up with are just absolute genius. I adore working with her and on paper, maybe it shouldn’t work. Like you say, I’m 20 years older than Coni, but she brings something fresh and really exciting to a subject that is predominantly shrouded in shame, I suppose. Incontinence. And she has taught me so much more than school taught me. I would never say the word vagina before. I’d call it my down below. And I’ve already said that on the podcast. It’s so embarrassing. I’m still slipping back into old habits. But she’s corrected me with the terminology and I never understood the importance of that before. I totally get it now because if we’re not talking about the correct terminology, it’s still hidden in shame. And we can’t talk about our bodies if we don’t know the right names for it.

Coni’s taught me that. I’ve learned that from you as well. So many people have taught me on the way, and I don’t know if it’s an age thing, there are probably women out there who have been very comfortable talking about their vulvas and their vaginas. I was not one of those people. I was too embarrassed to tell my mum about my period. So I’ve come kind of full circle now. I’m happy to talk about those things. I tell everyone, Coni says that somebody will ask me to pass the assault and I would’ve passed the salt over to them, but also told them that I’ve got a dry vagina and a weak bladder. She said, you just tell everyone and my friends as well take the mickey out of me. Now they say to me, I always say, I don’t want to tell everyone my business. She said, but you’re always on TV telling everyone your business. She said, everyone knows about your weak bladder and your dry vagina. It’s like, oh no, I can’t help it now. It’s like the words just keep coming out of my mouth. People need to know about it. A problem shared.

Le’Nise Brothers:

Yeah, definitely. And talking about incontinence and shame, what’s really interesting is that, and you said it, you thought it was something that you had to live with. I’ve heard this from other women. They thought that, okay, well they’ve had a kid, they’re a bit incontinent, they just have to deal with it. And then they go to the doctor and they find out that they have a prolapse and there’s so much that you can do about that. But why do you think we have this culture where we think bad things happen to us physically and we think we just have to live with them?

Kelly Newton:

It’s women’s health, isn’t it? Women’s health is so overlooked all the time. Is it? I don’t know how much they spend on women’s health budget wise. I mean it’s like 3% or something like that. So men’s erections are far more important than women’s bladder health and things like that. I think going back, our product is not the solution to incontinence and we know that. And we are also always so clear about that you have to have a holistic approach to keeping your pelvic floor healthy. So I have had to go to the bladder clinic a couple of times to do a diary. I mean, it’s just crap if I’m honest with you. They check you out. They go, no, no, everything seems fine. Keep a bladder diary and you do a bladder diary and they go, well yeah, you need to do this, you need to do that.

So I’ve had sessions with a fantastic women’s health physio called Jenni Hughes. She owns Four Therapy. I’ve had numerous appointments with her and she’s amazing and she’s really helped me with my breath work. Breath work is so important. I don’t drink caffeine now. I drink decaf. I have one decaf coffee a day, and that’s all I need that in the mornings. I know it sounds ridiculous, it’s got no caffeine in it, but I make this amazing coffee with turmeric and cinnamon and coconut oil and stuff like that in it, and it needs to be in a coffee. So I have my decaf coffee there. There’s certain foods that you need to avoid. You need to hydrate yourself. If you are stopping yourself from drinking water, you are dehydrating, which is causing UTIs and all kinds of issues like that. So she’s really educated me on all of these things and I think we try to let people know through our socials and our websites and whatever. God, I’ve gone off on a tangent now. I’ve forgotten the question that you asked me.

Le’Nise Brothers:

Why we think that incontinent is normal.

Kelly Newton:

Yeah, well, we think it’s normal because so many women go through it. This is the problem and we just don’t have the facilities in place to look after women in that area. So because of the lack of funding, I think it’s because of the lack of funding. We’re just completely overlooked. But I know there’s a great doctor that we’ve worked with as well. Dr. Paula, I’m going to say her name, surname wrong, agu, I think her surname is. So she worked at Guys, but she set up a pilot scheme from the government. It’s government led and they have women’s health physios there I think. Is it midwife. So it’s all to do with once you’ve had a baby, they’re going to give you nine sessions of looking to look after your bladder. I’ve not given it any justice at all how I’ve just described that, but it’s a pilot scheme if it works, and hopefully they’ll get it across the UK.

And I think it’s literally at the moment, it’s just for women who have had babies just give them birth. But hopefully they can take that out wider and actually look into women’s pelvic health and spend a little bit more money and a bit more time in eradicating these issues as much as they can. Because I mean, I have women saying to me, you shouldn’t need your knickers. All you need to do is your pelvic floor exercises. It’s like, oh, thanks for the advice. Do you not think that I’m doing that? And I’m trying that and I still leak. So it really angers me when you have other women saying there’s no need for that. You’ve just got to do your pelvic floor exercises. What about women that have had bladder cancer? That’s not going to help them either. And it’s very insensitive, I think, for women to judge other women in that way.

Le’Nise Brothers:

Yeah, I love the knickers. I have three pairs and I adore them. I wear them when I don’t have my period because I just think they’re so comfortable. And every time I see you, I say, oh, I’m wearing your knickers.

Kelly Newton:

And I know that you are as well. I’m always checking out your bum to see if you are wearing them or not. If I can see the lines, my husband just, honestly, he makes me die. He’s like, stop staring at their bums. I can’t help it. I, it’s my job. He goes, it’s not your job… so bad.

Le’Nise Brothers:

I want to also just talk a little bit about in the embarrassment that you mentioned earlier and how you were able to release yourself from that to be so open. Because as you say, a lot of these topics are intertwined with shame, a lot in of embarrassment in periods, incontinence, menopause. But now you go on TV and you tell everyone your business. How did you get to a place where you are able to be so open about this?

Kelly Newton:

So firstly, I have a really supportive family. So my husband completely supports everything that I do. And to my absolute shame, I mean, at the beginning he would share some of my posts on Facebook. I’m like, no, no, you don’t got, maybe, I dunno, 10 followers and they’re all friends of his. I’m like, no, you don’t need to share it with your friends. I don’t want you to share with your friends. I would be so embarrassed. It took a lot for me to put stuff out there at the beginning. I think also I was really embarrassed because I didn’t talk a lot about it. So not a lot of people knew what I was going through apart from my friends at hockey. They were the ones who were really encouraging about starting the business. It’s a really great idea. So I was embarrassed about who was following me because mostly at the beginning it was just my friends following me and I was embarrassed that some of my friends were going to see my posts and think like, oh God, that’s a bit embarrassing.

Who does she think she is? And then I got into, but these are my friends. Why would my friends think that about me? My friends love me. They wouldn’t be my friends if they didn’t love me and appreciate me and support me. My friends are such fantastic supports, amazing support. I think it was getting over, I think I was more embarrassed. I didn’t care about people I didn’t know knowing about it. I was more embarrassed about what I was putting out with the people that I did know. Once I got over the embarrassment of that and knowing that my friends love me and they’re there to support me, I actually felt quite confident about everything that I did. Nobody is thinking, who does she think she is? Unless they don’t care about me and I don’t care about the people that don’t care about me, and I want to help people.

And I honestly know by sharing my story and talking about what’s happened to me really helps people because I get messages. I get lovely, I’ve got cards all over my board up here from customers that I’ve never met, just saying thank you so much. What you’ve done has actually been life-changing for me. And when you start to get amazing feedback and reviews from people, do you know you’re doing something good? And all I want to do is help people. And I think that comes, obviously I’ve been a foster carer for 18 years, so that involves helping people. And I think that’s really ingrained in my personality and my lifestyle. I want to be the person that helps others and my sons as well. Bless ’em. They were, how old were they? So were they 23? So they were late teens, early teens with the other one when I started the business.

And I was worried about in case any of their friends from school might see some of the stuff. I mean, I’ve been on my website in my knickers, if my son’s mates had found that, how embarrassing for them, oh, they’ve got a picture of their mate’s mum in her drawers. But my boys are so lovely and they message me and I get lovely messages from ’em saying, mum, I’m so proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve achieved. And from the very beginning they’re like, this is a really good idea. We talked about it, what I was doing, obviously they could see 4,000 pairs of knickers in the office upstairs. And they were like, we’re so proud of what you’ve done, the fact that you’ve set up a business. And my youngest son at the moment is looking to set up his own business and he’s coming to me for advice, which I absolutely love. So not only am I helping support women through these life stages, I’m happy to support anybody. There’s other people that I’ve almost didn’t mean to, but I’m kind of mentoring them in a, what’s that word? Not in an unprofessional way. In a

Le’Nise Brothers:

Defacto like unofficial?

Kelly Newton:

Unofficial, that’s the word. In an unofficial way. I’m kind of trying to support other women who are setting up business. And do you know what I love as well in this space? There’s competition, obviously. There are competition out there. You’ve got the reusable pads, you’ve got the menstrual cups, you’ve got the towels and pads, whatever. There’s such a nice community of people that we all support each other. So you could say that we’re in competition, but actually we all know that women need choices. Women should have choices. And my knickers aren’t going to be right for everybody, but I know somebody that maybe you could try the reusable pads or you could try the menstrual cup. Maybe that would work better for you. And we collaborate together. And I absolutely love that about our space. Not everyone’s like that, but the women that are around me are fantastic women and we all support each other and we collaborate. And I think that’s amazing. I feel like we are in it for the right reasons because we really want to support women. And I love that. I absolutely love that. Honestly, my heart is full sometimes. It’s just amazing.

Le’Nise Brothers:

What you said about you having two sons who are really proud of you and who come to you for advice in a topic that is for men, you expect them to be embarrassed. What are they open about these sorts of conversations, talking about periods and all of that?

Kelly Newton:

Yeah, they really are. And I think that’s something that I was very, I wanted to do from when they were very little. I wanted to be open with them and I wanted to talk about stuff. So we’ve, all of the kids that we’ve had coming through our house, we’ve talked about all of these things about having, they need to have a voice, they need to speak up. If something’s not right, they need to speak up about it. And I think I’ve done a really good job with my foster daughters now. Yeah, they do speak up. They drive me mad, but they speak up, they have a voice and I love that. So from an early age, they knew about periods, we talked about sex, we talked about consent, all of these important subjects, they are very, very aware of. And in fact, my youngest son, I think it was last year or the year before we actually, we went up and filmed this little, a mini documentary about menopause.

And I actually cried at the end because they said to him, why did you want to come and do this today? And he said, well, because I feel like any woman in my life now, I want to be able to support them going through these life changes. So he said, I want to learn about menopause, and I’ve learned a lot from my mum, and I want to be able to support my work colleagues or my wife or anybody else around me. I want to be able to support them through that. And that’s through conversation. We’ve done that through conversation. I know that he’ll go out and he’ll buy his girlfriend period products. They’re very open about these things. And I love that. Sometimes they’re a little bit too open with me with stuff I don’t want to know about. But that’s my fault that we’ve raised them to be that way.

And although sometimes I’m a bit like didn’t want to hear that, I’m actually, I’m quite happy that they have spoken to me about it and I know what’s going on in their lives. Yeah, because teenage years, you don’t know what’s going on in your children’s life. They have the secret, all teenage children, both sexes have a secret life that you don’t know about. But I feel like we’ve talked about a lot of stuff. I’m quite intuitive. I know when something’s going on in my children’s lives, even if they’re trying to keep secrets from me. I feel like as a mother, I’ve kind of got a pretty good understanding of what you are up to. You think. I don’t know, but I do know. So whether they’re keeping secrets from me or not, I do know what’s going on in their lives. We’ve been teenagers as well. We so we know what we’ve got up to.

Le’Nise Brothers:

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Kelly Newton:

They tend to forget that we had a life before we had, yeah,

Le’Nise Brothers:

Yeah. I said that to my son the other day. I said, it’s okay if you don’t want to tell me everything he said to me. I was asking him questions about what was going on at school. And he said, I don’t have to tell you everything, Mama. I don’t. And I said, no, that’s fine. I understand that as long as you know that you can come to me and tell me. I don’t tell you everything. There’s stuff that going on in my life that you don’t know about. And I think he didn’t really think about that, which I thought was quite interesting. 

Kelly Newton:

Yeah. He doesn’t realize you have a whole other life and it doesn’t involve him.

Le’Nise Brothers:

Yeah, yeah.

Kelly Newton:

Exactly. I agree. I agree. I think that we’ve brought our kids up that they don’t have to tell us everything, but if there’s something that they really do want to talk about, they will tell us. And I know that from experience, something’s been going on in one of my children’s life that it’s not made them very happy. But they’ll come to me and they’ll talk to me and we can talk through it and we can find solutions to it together. And I love the fact that they can do that, that you’ve done a good thing by being able to get that into them, that we’re always here for them. Whatever happens are always here for them. And they appreciate that. And they know they can come to us. 

And I’m not saying I didn’t have that with my mum, but I just had a lot of embarrassment about things. I knew I could talk to my mum if I wanted to. I just feel like it was a completely different generation then. Things were so, so different then. I think it was so much more open now and supportive again, not saying that my mum wasn’t supportive. She is. And it was just a different time. It’s just, yeah. Does social media play a massive part in that? I don’t know.

Le’Nise Brothers:

I think so. I think social media is helping to break down barriers where you see people talking openly about topics that maybe you felt were taboo, but you see how open other people are about talking about them. And then that helped  I think little by little, it changes people’s perspectives or, oh, actually it’s okay to talk about my period. It’s okay. Or I shouldn’t be accepting this sort of feeling. I shouldn’t be expecting accepting hot flashes or incontinence or whatever. The kind of gamut of things that we tend to think are normal as women, which actually aren’t. I think social media has played a really big part in that. I want to just go on to just ask about what you have coming up next. So the brand has just launched in Boots, which is absolutely massive, thrilled for you. So say what’s coming up next? I mean, you’ve just had this big thing happen, so maybe it’s just like, okay, let’s bed all of this in. But..

Kelly Newton:

Yeah, I mean Boots was, oh my God. Boots was, so, Boots was on my manifestation board. It’s up there. It’s on the manifestation board. It’s been there since the beginning. And just for us to be launched in Boots, it’s just amazing. And obviously we launched with two other amazing brands, Fewe and Luna Daily. So yeah, we had an amazing panel a few weeks ago, which you were absolutely bloody brilliant. And honestly, and I could just listen to your voice. I said to you, didn’t at the end. I said, oh, Le’Nise, you need to do bedtime stories because your voice is just, oh, I love it. Absolutely love it. So yeah, we’ve got Boots. We were on QVC, so we launched on QVC the same week. We launched in Boots, which was absolutely manic and mental.

What else we got coming up. We’ve got a few more kind of stores coming up. Not huge stores, kind of independents. We have a couple of new products coming out next year, which is quite exciting. So we just launched the thong. We, which has been, yeah, it’s been brilliant. We’ve had some really good reception to that. We’ve got, I can’t talk about them yet. We’ve got two or three new designs coming up next year. We’re actually going for funding as well. We’ve decided to go for funding. I think we need this to take it to the next stage. Obviously Coni and I have done this completely self-funded, and I think, which is pretty amazing. Like you say, starting a company in my forties with absolutely no business experience whatsoever, just needing a decent pair of knickers and now building an empire. I’m always saying to my husband, I’m building an empire, I’m building an empire.

So yeah, we’ve got all of those things coming up. We are at the National Running Show in January, which we absolutely love. So me and Claire go along to that. It’s our third or fourth time I think of going. It’s an absolutely brilliant event and we always do so, so well there. And yeah, we’ve got a little group of other stall holders that go along and we’ll meet up and have drinks and it’s a really nice weekend away. Actually. I tell my husband it’s really hard work, but actually I love it. I look forward to it. What else we’ve got coming up this year. We’ve got loads and loads of stuff in the pipeline. We are looking at exporting, like going abroad as well. So that’s something that is also on my board. But yeah, just lots of really exciting things. Really. I’m working, I’m doing this whole thing with Women In Football. So because of my love of sport and because of how unique the knickers are and how light they are, they’re perfect for underneath sportswear. So we’re doing some work with Women in Football and hopefully we can kind of grow on that as well. So yeah. Sorry, I’m being really vague.

Le’Nise Brothers:

No, there’s a lot going on and it all sounds incredibly exciting. I’m just so thrilled to see you go from strength to strength. The knickers, I remember when you gave me the pair, I think it was, you gave me a pair of the knickers at some screening and you were like, try these. What’s your size? Try these. And I was like, okay. And yeah, it’s just amazing to see what you’ve been doing from afar. Where can people find the knickers? Where can they get in touch with you?

Kelly Newton:

Okay, so we have our own website, which is nixibody.com, but you can buy them on Boots if you are a QVC fan. I think we’re going to be back on there soon, so give us a wave. But yeah, so we also sell onto Decathlon, Mountain Warehouse, OMES and Superdrug online. We’re actually stocked in lots of equestrian shops as well. But if you want to speak to me directly, you can email through Nixi Body or I’m also on LinkedIn under Kelly Newton. You can find me under Kelly Newton. And also we’ve got our social media. We’re on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Oh, and TikTok, not TikTok and Twitter we are not great at. But I think Instagram and Facebook are pretty cool. So yeah, Coni’s like our queen of not just social media. She’s like our queen of everything. She’s amazing. So yeah, you can find us there.

Le’Nise Brothers:

Great. Well, it’s been amazing speaking to you, hearing your period story and hearing the story of your business. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Kelly Newton:

You are so welcome. Thank you, Le’Nise. I could listen to you all day…

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