LOS ANGELES — When longtime friends Carrie Mapes and Patty Pappas became empty-nesters in 2018, they took a field trip to Los Angeles for a little fun and to educate themselves on cannabis.
Now, Mapes and Pappas are cofounders of Hello Again, a line of vagitory products for menopausal women that includes THC-infused vaginal suppositories to help with everyday and night time menopausal symptoms. Their products hit the shelves in three different Southern California dispensaries at the beginning of this year.
Mapes has a BA in History and an MEd in Education and Pappas has a BA in Communication. After graduating, Mapes published teaching guides as well as taught in both private and public schools and at a private college, while Pappas worked as a collegiate fundraiser before they both transitioned into their roles as stay-at-home mothers. They met over 20 years ago when their oldest children started preschool together; ever since, the families have been close and the women raised their families together.
Their respective backgrounds, as well as their experience as stay-at-home mothers gave the confidence to launch Hello Again in their 50s.
“I did budgeting, I did marketing — we both were pretty active in our community, and our kids’ schools and our kids’ sports teams. All those skills have been applied here,” Pappas explained.
They took those skills and their willingness to learn to get Hello Again out of their minds and onto the shelves.
The name Hello Again originated from the idea of welcoming one’s self back after relieving the menopausal symptoms that weighed a woman down. “This isn’t the recreational high product, this is the product used to lift the symptoms that are dragging you down,” Mapes said.
The duo explained the vagitory (vaginal suppository) was the most effective way to deliver the full benefits of not only cannabis, but the other botanical ingredients as well that help alleviate the symptoms. The vagitory design also allows for all the benefits without the psychoactive high cannabis can have through smoking, vaping and edibles.
“It doesn’t have to go through your liver or stomach. It can be taken into your system in a cleaner, more efficient way,” Pappas said.
By going into the vagina, Hello Again products rely on the cannabinoid receptors in ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and vaginal tract, as well as blood vessels and capillaries in the vaginary mucosa, which takes it into the bloodstream, in order to provide the body with the benefits of the products. This means of delivery allows Hello Again to use THC in doses that would get an individual high through other means of intake, but through the vagitory it does not have the psychoactive effect.
Yet, the women did not know this when they first set out on their recreational road trip to Los Angeles.
“Neither one of us has really had any real relationship with cannabis before that. We just truly went out of curiosity and to see what the buzz was about — see if we could find the magic cream,” Mapes said.
It was on their trip that they discovered that cannabis addressed a significant amount of the symptoms they, and their friends, were experiencing.
“We saw right away that there were a lot of things that they were saying cannabis could help with that were problems we were having as women our age, that all of our friends were having. Things like helping you sleep, inflammation, mood swings, and mental clarity,” Pappas said.
Despite the benefits of cannabis, there weren’t any products they felt worked for them, and they had had enough with the traditional ways of women having to address menopause: medicate or tolerate. Women can do hormone replacement, though not everyone is a candidate depending on their medical history. After that antidepressants, anti-seizure medication, and high blood pressure medication are some of the “heavy hitting pharmaceuticals” being prescribed to make it a little more tolerable for women to get through menopause. They said the problem with this is that none of these medications are specifically made for women with menopause.
“The thing with menopause we are finding is that women are vibrant — so this isn’t your grandma’s menopause where everybody has left the house, you only have to stay home by yourself, and you only have to suffer through your symptoms on your own. You are raising young kids still, you could still be in the workforce, you could be newly dating again. There’s a lot happening in womens’ lives at this stage — they can’t be sidelined by breaking into sweats every hour and being in pain, or not getting enough sleep,” Pappas said.
“We didn’t want to smoke and didn’t want to vape, and edibles are inconsistent in how they affect you. We knew we wanted to feel healthier and better, but not high. We just kept thinking about everything we saw cannabis can do, and thought the product we want isn’t out there. And we decided to commit to creating it,” Mapes said.
When Mapes and Pappas were brainstorming product design ideas they knew they wanted to utilize the benefits of cannabis without getting high, and without smoking or vaping. The women wanted a discreet product that fit their lifestyles and made them feel like themselves again.
They began doing their own research and learned about the benefits of a vaginal suppository as a means for administering their product. Even when they came up with the idea, however, they had to make the idea a reality.
To financially drive their idea, Mapes explained how they were fortunate in having family and friend commitments to get them to their launch date and onto the shelves. They took some risks, and their first big financial decision was to formulate their product at the same time as they were developing their brand and packaging. They think the risk is the reason they made it on the shelves before the current COVID-19 outbreak. Otherwise, they may have not made it before COVID-19 started to impact businesses.
Though fresh on the shelves, Mapes and Pappas are focused on scaling Hello Again. The THC in their products prevent them from selling outside of California at the moment, as federal law requires them to produce their THC-infused product in the state they are selling it. However, whether it is through new legislation or opening up new facilities in other states, they believe their products will be outside California in the future.
They’ve found through feedback from their own college-aged daughters, as well as other women younger and older than the menopausal age, that their products also help women who are not in menopause. The vagitory can help with period cramps, energy levels, mood, inflammation, and vaginal dryness as it contains oils to help rehydrate. In the future, they may even broaden their target marketing outside their current demographic.
“Our main thing is we just think the reality of mature modern women spending almost a decade tolerating these kinds of unhealthy symptoms of menopause is just unacceptable, and that’s what we’re trying to do — help women feel like themselves again. We’re women, we’re strong, and when we’re at our best there is nothing that we can’t do,” Mapes said.