While the formation of Brazen was in 2015, founder and CEO Kirsten Karchmer has been an expert in the period world for over 20 years. She began her lifelong career helping all people with periods (and help others understand periods) with her acupuncture practice, after she saw tremendous health and wellness differences in her own life just years earlier. Noticing that the menstruation and period wellness world was lacking in supplements and products that were both effective, healthy and all natural, she started Brazen as a way to shake up the period world indefinitely.
How It All Began
(A note from our founder)
I’m Kirsten Karchmer. I’m the CEO and founder of Brazen. I’ve spent the last 22 years working with over 10 thousand women to fix their periods and improve their health, but my career in improving people’s health and fixing periods started long before that.
When I was 19 years old, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was incredibly sick, tired all the time, and couldn’t walk without a cane. A friend recommended that I see an acupuncturist. At that point in my life, I was very skeptical about acupuncture but I was desperate to get better, so I gave it a try.
The acupuncturist told me that we had to strengthen all aspects of my health to beat the disease, and that if we look at everything going on in our bodies, we can transform any type of health issue. He was right. My MS went into remission and my overall health improved, including my period symptoms. I went from using a cane to surfing all over the world.
Amazed by the change I saw in myself, I went to acupuncture school and started studying women's health. Working with patients, I realized menstrual cycles revealed so much about their overall health and contained powerful diagnostic information.
I tapped into a new way of understanding women's health and was able to not only fix their symptoms, but also get to the root of their problems. This led me to start one of the earliest reproductive acupuncture clinics in the United States.
Founder Q & A
What is your job title? CEO at BRAZEN.
I treated thousands of people with life-interrupting period symptoms
and noticed two important patterns:
Heartbroken by the suffering, I felt called to action and finally decided to do something about it. I wanted to help more than just the patients I saw in my practice. That’s how Brazen was born. But the opportunity is much bigger than selling products. I envision Brazen as a platform for empowering and equipping people with periods to be their very best selves. It starts with a healthy cycle, feeling good about your body, and being brazen about pursuing your dreams.
You are Tiktok's “period expert”, how do you know so much about periods?
I spent the last 20 years as a board-certified reproductive acupuncturist and helped over 10,000 women fix their periods and improve their fertility. I spent my whole career obsessing over the value of the menstrual cycle as a barometer of women's overall health.
What inspired you to start Brazen?
I wrote an article in Goop magazine called, What Your Period Can Tell You About Your Health that ended up being extremely popular. Several hundred women wrote to me after the article was published that basically said the same thing. “I'm 26 years old. I'm not in a relationship. I don't want to have a baby. I'm not touching shit called Conceivable (that was the name of my first company) and I heard you know how to fix periods. I'm really sick every month and I need you. Can you help me?" When I found out that more than 82% of women were reporting significant and life interrupting menstrual pain, I was shocked. I'm a world-renowned expert in women's health and I didn't even know this. I thought to myself, how can we be in the middle of a woman's movement when the majority of women and people with periods are really sick every single month and no one is talking about it, and more importantly no one is doing anything about it. I happened to be very good at fixing PMS, cramping and pretty much every other menstrual problems, so I decided to take on the challenge at building solutions to liberate people from the shame and suffering of menstruation.
Why is this so important to you?
We have been gaslighted since the beginning of time about what it means to be a person with a period and what the experience of periods should be. Nearly every person with a period I have talked to tells me that suffering with your period is normal. They don’t really believe that anything can change that and that suffering is the lot that we must bear as women and menstruators.
You say the history of the menstrual cycle is holding women back from having access to power. What do you mean by that?
I was a linguist in my first career so after realizing that more than 80% of women were suffering from significant PMS and menstrual pain I wanted to use language to figure out how we got here. I wanted to understand how we got this implicit agreement that it was okay for all of us to suffer. I decided to read everything that was ever written about menstruation since the beginning of written time. it turns out that in the first 1500 years there was nothing written about women and menstruation. The first publicly written mention of menstruation is in the Book of Leviticus in the Bible, it said something to the effect of: “that thing as vile as a menstruating woman or the devil. (SHIT) Then in the third Century Aristotle said, "women are the affair to your species because they menstruate, they are feeble. In reproduction, the female only contributes to soil so that the seed can thrive. Only the seed contains the spirit and the intellect." When I read that I understood why women struggle so fiercely with self-acceptance and self-love. Until we transform that it mentality, I think we will struggle to have access to the power both within and outside of ourselves.
There are several products mostly for PMS and a few for cramping. What is different about Brazen?
There are a number of PMS gummies and vitamins on the market. They are excellent to help support your health if you actually have one of those nutritional deficiencies and you don’t want to just use food to correct them. Personally, they don’t make sense to me because you basically need B vitamins, Calcium and Magnesium to have a great period. These are easy to get from food. On the other hand, Brazen is completely different. First, the formulas were built by extremely seasoned reproductive acupuncturists with over 35 years of combined clinical experience exclusively working with 10s of thousands of people with period and fertility issues. Our formulas don’t work to address symptoms individually, they work to address the underlying causes of hormonal problems and fixes that. Last is dosing. Many other products have things like Dang Gui but you need to have significantly more than a few milligrams to get significant clinical outcomes.
How many years have you worked in the tech industry?
I’ve worked in the tech industry for the last five years, ever since we started working on Conceivable. I think I am one of the rare founders who is a clinician in the women’s health space and turned myself into a techie. There are a lot of other founders in our space that started out in tech and looked at women’s health and saw an opportunity. We’ve been working with women directly every single day for the last twenty years. I think it gives us a totally unique perspective — one that puts women first and the industry second.
Have other women played a significant part in mentoring you or providing role-models in your career? If so, who?
As a clinician who has worked with women for more than 20 years, my entire life’s work has been shaped by women of all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They have been my role models and their bodies were my teachers. They demonstrated perseverance beyond my wildest imagination. Their drive, their commitment to positivity in an impossible situation, and their openness profoundly impacted and shaped me. Their struggles and suffering drove me to innovate constantly in order to continually evolve my theories and solutions.
Ironically, while I was the one who was supposed to be helping them, in many ways, it was those women who showed me the path to where I am today. Without them, I never would have been able to develop the systems and technologies that drive our products.
Do you feel that you have ever been passed over for advancement in your career based on gender?
Never. I am fortunate that I have not had to endure this scenario that so many women have to deal with on a daily basis. I have always had my own company which meant there was never really anyone who could pass me over. Starting and running your own company is no cake walk and will practically break you before you make it, but it gave me agency that is difficult to access in the current male dominated paradigm.
As the CEO of a company, what are some of the challenges you face in creating an open, inclusive work-culture?
Because my company is a female led women’s health company, I typically have the pick of the litter in terms of hiring from an incredibly diverse pool of individuals. So many people approach me asking to come and work with us. We are building highly innovative technology that is making a huge difference where there previously was no solution. There is such a wide range of people who can get behind this mission which makes team building fun.
Complacency, and getting caught up in the day to day, is always a challenge. You have to continually make a commitment to return to your foundational values. We’re really committed to an open environment where everyone’s voice is heard, everyone’s work is valued, and everyone’s perspective is respected. When you start from a position that each person on your team matters, it motivates you to create space for their voices and contributions. The important thing is to make that commitment every day.
If you could recommend one book to every CEO, Senior Executive and entrepreneur in America, what would it be?
I am a voracious reader so I could name dozens, but the book that I found most impactful on my personal and professional life was a book by Joe Dispenza called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. Dispenza talks habitual ways of being that are driven by our subconscious desire to survive. In survival, there is no room for creation. This book and the associated meditations were game changing for me.