Leadership

Thinx just got a new CEO. Here's what she wants to accomplish in her role

Thinx product lineup.
Thinx product lineup.

Thinx, the feminine hygiene company behind the eponymous leak-proof underwear brand, is preparing for a fresh start as it welcomes Maria Molland Selby as its new CEO.

Selby, 43, has spent nearly half of her life working in e-commerce marketplaces and digital media and data companies, including stints at Splacer, eBay, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones and Yahoo!, among other firms.

She tells CNBC Make It that working for Thinx, currently at 35 employees, marks the first time in her career where she truly cares about the company's mission, its foundation and its impact on the world.

Selby says that Thinx "will make the world a better place," which is a prime reason she joined the company. "I love being a part of that," Selby says. "I believe so much in the product and where it can go."

Maria Molland Selby, CEO of Thinx.
Source: Thinx
Maria Molland Selby, CEO of Thinx.

Launched earlier this year, the Thinx Foundation offers programs that teach reproductive health education and subsidizes sanitary products for girls and women in developing countries.

Selby tells CNBC Make It she has a personal connection to the subject: While undergoing five years of IVF and having a baby at 42, doctors informed Selby about the risks associated with prolonged use of traditional feminine hygiene products.

"During that process, I learned so much about reproductive health and suddenly became much more interested in the products that women put in their bodies," Selby says. "That is something that I take personally and want to solve. It's great to be a part of a company that is trying to solve that."

As the new CEO, she likely has her work cut out for her after Thinx's former CEO and co-founder Miki Agrawal resigned from the company following a frenzy of complaints and harassment allegations against her from employees.

But Selby has experience with crisis communications, having worked with e-commerce website Fab.com. In 2013, it went from being a "retail disrupter" valued at $1 billion to being forced to lay off staff and sell itself.

Regardless of Thinx's past, Selby says she doesn't "want to get in there and say things need to change." Why? "Because they don't."

"I know it got a lot of negative press, but ironically my experience at Fab was the best in my career," Selby says. "I learned a ton on both what to do and what not to do."

Notably, Agrawal and the other Thinx co-founders no longer have any active involvement within the company, Thinx told CNBC Make It in a statement.

Instead, she plans to follow advice from a former boss and mentor: "You never want to run away from something, you always want to be running toward something."

Reminiscing about her time at Harvard Business School, which she graduated from in 2002, Selby says putting people first has been the most valuable business lesson she learned there and still follows in her leadership roles today.

"It's all about treating people well," Selby says. "I like to win, but I care deeply about the people that will enable a company that I'm running to get there.

"It's not about me," she adds. "It's about the team."

"It's not about me. It's about the team." -Maria Molland Selby, Thinx, CEO

She adds that, despite the negative press coverage Thinx has attracted, she has found it "wonderfully surprising" to see how the company has performed over that time. She says the company's financial performance is the best it has been over the last few years.

"I'm so proud and I feel really grateful and humbled to be in this position because this company, under their leadership, has really done so well and accomplished so much in such a short period of time," Selby says.

For her first few weeks, she plans to spend a lot of time listening to, learning from and enabling her new Thinx team. She hopes they will also note that she isn't "about the limelight," but prefers her teammates getting "the pat on the back."

"It's important to me that they're able to get the tools that they need to be successful and be rewarded for that, both financially but also just personally in terms of being able to develop their careers," Selby says.

Thereafter, she plans to use her data-focused background to track employee and company performance, set clearly defined goals for her team and get employees more excited about their mission to destigmatize feminine hygiene while giving back menstrual products to women without access.

"You can have the best strategy or the best product or combination of both, but if you don't have the right leaders, or you don't inspire the employees and you don't enable them to take calculated risks, the company is never going to be as successful as it could be," Selby says.

"My goal is to not live in that shadow of negativity and [instead] focus the company on how we can accomplish the dream that Miki and the other two founders had set out," she says. "I think it's a wonderful one."

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