Women of the Year 2021: Thigh Society Founder Marnie Rabinovitch Consky is Dismantling Diet Culture Through Body Positivity
From Olympic athletes and tech startup founders to social impact champions and business changemakers, our inaugural 2021 Women of the Year guide features 37 impressive leaders who are making a difference, both individually and as a collective. They’ve all navigated incredible obstacles to get to where they are (often on an uneven playing field) and yet, despite this, have still managed to summit their industries and change Canada—and the world around them—for the better. In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and the other women that inspire them in their own lives.
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky
CEO, Thigh Society
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: I help women feel comfortable and confident by offering a set-it-and-forget-it solution to thigh chafe while destigmatizing this taboo (yet totally normal) skin condition.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: I love that Thigh Society has pioneered a size-inclusive long leg undergarment category for women that is not shapewear. No one questions why men have access to comfortable, performance underwear at every leg length, so why is there a double standard for women? I invented our products to solve the issue of thigh chafing but our multi-wear bottoms are extremely versatile and worn by customers for modesty, yoga, sleeping, pregnancy and postpartum, sensitive scarring, medical conditions, and general comfort. It’s funny to think that I was once told that my product idea was “too niche” when I first started when, in reality, I uncovered a whitespace in women’s intimates.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your company and community?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: We have found a way to uncomplicate slip shorts for a society of women who previously believed (because of diet culture) that their thighs were problematic. Through conversations that we’re having with our customers, not only are we normalizing the non-existence of a thigh gap (thigh gaps are totally cool, by the way!) but we’re empowering women to feel confident in their skin. Diet culture blames thigh chafing on being overweight when it actually has to do with a combination of factors including anatomy, friction, heat, and skin sensitivity. People of all sizes can experience chafing and it shouldn’t be considered taboo or embarrassing to talk about.
What kind of problems are you trying to solve?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: It’s my personal mission in life to ensure that no one ever has to suffer unnecessarily from the pain of thigh chafe at the same time as working to dismantle the diet culture narrative that stigmatizes this totally normal skin rash and blames it on weight. Our products offer wardrobe freedom so that women can wear anything they want without the threat of a painful rash. We’re also normalizing long-leg underwear for women that is not shapewear. Society doesn’t question why men have a zillion (comfy) long leg underwear choices and yet women’s similar choices are relegated to tight and hot shapewear. Shapewear brands prey on body insecurities by telling women that we need to squeeze and contort our natural shape so that our bodies can be more palatable to society. That’s nonsense. Women deserve the same comfort as men.
What are you doing that no one else is doing?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: All we do is slip shorts and it’s all we’ve been doing since 2009, largely due to my obsession with making the perfect solution-focused undergarment for thigh chafe. Thigh Society is the leader in this product category because there is nothing like our 360 seamless stretch shorts with a second-skin fit that are also moisture-wicking, breathable, lightweight and soft, don’t roll down or ride up, sag or bag. Our Cooling shorts are unique in that they’re made of a hi-tech, ultra-thin fabric that is scientifically proven to lower the body temperature by up to one degree. Who doesn’t want that on a hot summer day or sweaty sleepless night? We put our customers at the centre of our product development to fully address her pain points; that’s why we have multiple fabric options depending on her needs.
Why is your work important?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: I am deeply passionate and committed to making a positive social impact on women’s body image and well-being on a global scale by normalizing thigh chafe as a common— albeit unfortunate—skin condition. We don’t question putting on deodorant in the morning to avoid underarm sweat, so why should women feel shame if they put a short on underneath their clothes? We’re able to offer women comfortable, versatile, long leg underwear solutions for whatever use case they have in mind without having to settle for subpar options like shapewear, men’s boxer briefs, bike shorts, or cutting their hosiery. Thigh Society’s products are about self-esteem, empowering women to love and accept their bodies as-is without the looming negative influence of diet-culture.
Was there ever a turning point in your career that fundamentally changed your business for the better?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: Quitting my very secure, pensioned full-time job as an MBA Career Coach to work on Thigh Society full-time at 40 years old. Having more time dedicated to growing the company definitely contributed to its growth over the last five years.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve led your company?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: I’ve learned to embrace progress over perfection. For Type A entrepreneurs like me, it’s easy to obsess over details and want to get something perfect but it’s important to remember that good enough is often just that. The extra time you’re going to spend working to achieve “perfection” probably doesn’t add the value to justify the opportunity cost of your time, so it’s best to know when to walk away and leave it as-is.
What has been the most challenging part of building the business?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: Since we’re a product-based business, I’d say it’s inventory management; knowing how much of each size, style, and colour to buy from our manufacturer on every order. We have high minimums and our lead time has increased since the pandemic, which means we need to finalize our purchase orders farther in advance than we’d like. This also requires a big cash outlay for a deposit on the order which needs to be funded, along with some pretty big assumptions on what we’re going to sell. We forecast based on historical sales, trends, and opportunities but it’s never guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate.
What has been the most rewarding part of building the business?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: Hearing from our customers about how game-changing our slip shorts are for them. Our customers are very savvy shoppers and have tried every other product on the market that claims to prevent thigh rub. They feel like they hit the jackpot when they find ours. I can relate to how they’re feeling since I’ve experienced the same struggle firsthand!
What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: Is your company offering a product or service that people need (ie. is it solving a pain point or problem) or is it offering a “want?”
Do you like managing people? What areas of the business do you think you’d enjoy the most? Finance? Marketing? Operations? People and Culture? You may want to think about getting help for the areas you’re less interested in and try to pay attention to things that you love doing and can get lost in.
How fast do you expect to grow your business and what are you willing to give up (finances, time) to achieve that?
Do you really think you need to quit your day job to start a business? Can you run it part-time for a little while? I often suggest doing a trial run as an “intrapreneur”: In hindsight, each of my former jobs—while totally unrelated to e-commerce or intimates—had me working as an “intrapreneur” where I was out of my comfort zone creating new programs from scratch with no roadmaps. This prepared me for the uncertainties of entrepreneurship and gave me the confidence in myself that I could figure it out. Seek out opportunities within the safety and security of your current job to see where you can have an impact by implementing something new.
In your experience, what do you think is the quickest way to get people on board with your mission?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: Be authentic and explain your vision. If you believe strongly in what you’re doing and can explain the possibilities you see, that will come through in how you communicate. Repeat it often. Make sure everyone on the team understands how the work they do is contributing to the overall success of the company no matter what their role is.
What is your mission? The bigger picture?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: Thigh Society helped to invent the product category of size-inclusive anti-chafing slip shorts in 2009 and I dream of the day when the brand becomes a household name for being the best long leg boxer brief underwear for women. Through Thigh Society, I want to continue to change the diet-culture narrative of shame around thigh chafing and dispel the myths that it’s all about weight.
How do you define success? What does it mean to you?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: I don’t have one definition but it often includes profitability, revenue growth, being surrounded by team members who are smarter than I am and doing work they love, making a difference in people’s lives with the products we’re selling, and having time to enjoy my life outside of work-related activities.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away with from your work?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: Great ideas often come from your own personal pain points and lived experience; don’t underestimate the potential of what you have to offer.
If you could go back and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: I bootstrapped the business to one million dollars in sales and our growth has been conservatively controlled and capped by the amount of risk and debt that I’ve been willing to take on as the business owner. While I don’t have any regrets, if I could go back, I’d coach myself into a more comfortable position with risk and debt sooner, since it may have catapulted our growth faster.
Who is a woman in the community that you admire?
Marnie Rabinovitch Consky: My CFO and COO has been a mentor and confidante for the last five years, having coached me out of my full-time job into Thigh Society, and she is a sounding board and contributing decision-maker in my company. She’s had an impressive career as a seasoned General Manager for multi-million dollar companies and pivoted to working with startups in recent years. She’s fearless when it comes to taking on new challenges and inspires me to be the same. She’s a model for lifelong learning.