I was lucky enough to meet MaryEllen Reider over a decade ago as a fellow freshman in college. Since then, I had the luxury of being able to witness her evolution from the faithful companion I went to my first job fair with to the woman who is now a pioneer in destigmatizing the portrayal of women's reproductive health.
The pelvic floor training device company she co-founded with her father was built to do women's Kegels for them, strengthening the uterus and bladder. The FDA-approved trainer allows women to strengthen their pelvic floor at home and has gained incredible traction amongst women struggling with bladder leaks — something Reider says is an incredibly common occurrence.
The media portrayal of women's reproductive health is often sexualized, diminished as unimportant, or simply not talked about at all. Reider has singlehandedly pioneered a story of empowerment in uterus health, paving the way for what is sure to be far less judgment and openness to educate ourselves on the intricacies of the female reproductive system.
Featured in Bustle, Reader's Digest, and Shape, just to name a few, Reider didn't just found Yarlap, she is Yarlap.
What is the story you hope to tell with Yarlap as a brand?
To improve the quality of women's lives! As a college student, I worked in Kosovo as an intern to empower women helping them take financial control over their lives — having access to a checking account, voting rights, and access to healthcare.
I have continued my work with Yarlap. The pelvic floor muscles are an important piece of the puzzle for women's wellness.
The pelvic floor muscles are critical for sex, bladder control and overall health.
Keeping these muscles toned can make a radical difference in the quality of a woman's life.
Things seem to happen in threes, that includes good things too! Pelvic floor muscle tone is integral to a woman's continence, posture, and sexual response.
We have women of all ages contacting us with their intensely personal success stories with Yarlap. They want to share their joy with someone, and they trust us to remain confidential.
However, I have permission from a licensed healthcare professional in her eighties that I can confirm: she regained her freedom to travel without being anchored to a bathroom. We also have young mothers and college athletes with similar stories! Your pelvic floor matters, no matter what your age is.
This kind of confidence is what we are working to build. Having that kind of confidence is immeasurable.
What has been your biggest challenge and highlight as a business owner?
The big challenge would be that the pelvic floor is both complicated and important to women's health. Yet, we do not talk about it enough as a society. Anything below the belt for women is seen as taboo. Bladder leaks happen to many women (one in three in the USA) and we need to talk about it more openly.
Doing Kegel exercises and pelvic floor exercises do work, but you have to do them correctly.
The highlight is now. Women are looking for ways to better their health, especially at home. They are looking for ways to stop bladder leaks, have a better and more confident time in bed, and feel confident again.
My favorite moment is when women contact us and tell us that they feel confident and so excited that they no longer pee themselves now that they use the Yarlap. Some women, after decades or even months, all of a sudden are able to control their bladders? The excitement is pure joy.
Having a part in giving them that confidence is fantastic and makes me so proud of what we do at Yarlap. Especially hearing some of the horror and humiliating stories, being able to give that confidence back to someone is the biggest high I can get.
How much does coming from a marginalized community play into your business?
It is everything. I am able to directly empathize with the women you are helping.
My dad and I are co-founders of Yarlap. When we created the packaging, we knew that we wanted to emphasize our AutoKegel trademark because we wanted to let women know "we do the entire process for you."
So many women are disheartened when they hear "do your Kegels!" because they have tried. But, the beauty with the Yarlap is that we do everything for you. You are able to sit back and relax, let Yarlap do the rest.
How do you feel community building is a part of your business?
Everyone has talked about Kegels. Women want to know about their pelvic floor muscles. Giving women a resource and a tool that is safe, effective, and reliable is something we take very seriously, but we also want to make it fun too. Showing that message to your community is equally as important!
Our community has grown and started getting brand recognition when it comes to pelvic floor exercises! That is directly with our community engaging with us.
We want to make bladder control and pelvic floor toning accessible.
We want to make it friendly and less daunting, or embarrassing. Giving the community the appropriate resources and tools to make a decision is something we pride ourselves in.
What advice do you give to young entrepreneurs coming from minority backgrounds?
Don't work so hard that you start to lose sight of the big picture. Building a company is really hard work. It is hard to step away. You dive into your business and give it everything you have.
You spend 24/7 answering emails, taking phone calls, etc. and it is all-consuming.
Sometimes you'll come home feeling like you have been fighting a dragon with a pastel pool noodle. It is important to take time off and get reenergized. Feel refueled and do some self-care (in whatever form that means and works for you).
What can we expect from the future of Yarlap?
When women think of bladder leaks, they usually assume the next step is adult diapers or surgery. We're here to shake that mentality up because it's not true. Pelvic floor exercises are a really great and natural way to treat this issue.
Most women just need the information and the correct tools to help fix it.
Yarlap is all about improving the quality of life for every woman. Muscle control is the key — we give that to you in your own home on your own terms. Yarlap may be the ultimate in trans-human medical technology — energizing our neuro-plasticity (the way our brain works) to make the quality of life better.
That's about all I can share at this time, but buying the Yarlap now puts you way out ahead for the new technology.
What are your favorite accounts to follow on social media?
I am a big, big "Parks and Recreation" fan. I really enjoy following Nick Offerman. He has been posting a lot of interviews of the cast with "Parks and Rec"! I think his laugh is hilarious. Plus, Megan Mullally, his wife, is really empowering and she is in almost every post too.
To what one characteristic of yours do you attribute your success?
Hard work. I always have my phone and computer nearby in case someone needs something. I have to tell myself to step away and "leave the office" for the day sometimes!
Tell us a book you'd recommend.
Tina Fey's book, "Bossypants." She talks about all the missteps she has made and that she worked so hard to get to where she is. She went through rejections and terrible jobs (just like the rest of us!), but you have to get back up and try again.
What charities do you support?
Neuromuscular issues including Parkinson's disease. Our support is very direct and personal.
We are very dedicated to muscle tone and muscle re-education. As you might guess, our patents are for patient safety and therapeutic efficacy.
What is the item in your closet you wear the most?
Yoga pants. I work from home every day, so yoga pants and a comfortable top are my go-to outfits.
What is the one skincare product you can't live without?
Cetaphil Foaming Cleanser — I have very, very sensitive skin. I mean, REALLY sensitive. If it has a scent in it, it will probably make my face break out.
Cetaphil is something that my doctor recommended me to use and I have never gone anywhere without. I have travel-size everything and a big bottle of Cetaphil foaming cleanser in my bag!
What is on your nightstand?
A glass of water, my glasses, and a book.