Manifest Boston Stories

Disrupting What It Means to Be Old

Written by Lindsay Gearheart | Jun 24, 2020 4:29:19 PM

Nobody likes to talk about it, but it's a fact of life: We all get "old." Two Boston startups are embracing this sometimes uncomfortable topic and changing the narrative with an innovative approach. These disruptors are wife duo Mia Abbruzzese and Alexandra Fennell of Attn: Grace and Danielle Duplin of AGENCY, and all three joined us for a recent session of our Disruptor Series.

A few lessons we learned from these powerhouse women about starting a business and reframing an important, if awkward, topic: 

  • Never waste a good crisis - Danielle shared this saying, which applied to her work in 2007-2009 but is also very relevant today. When the economy and spirits are crushed, it's time to look around and figure out how to get off your feet. The earlier financial crisis gave rise to major Boston game changers, like MassChallenge, Venture Cafe, and TEDx. 
  • Solving big problems takes time - Looking at how the Boston innovation ecosystem has evolved over the last 10 years, a transition appears to have taken place from startup mode to scale up mode. “Boston startups love to solve wicked problems,” Danielle told us. "It just takes longer to do, but once we get there…"
  • There's always a better way - The idea for Alex and Mia's new startup, Attn: Grace, was inspired by Mia's mother, a sophisticated and fashionable older woman who was struggling to manage the effects of aging on her bladder in a way that was equally dignified. Mia simply thought, "There has to be a better way." So she created one: a curated, direct-to-consumer subscription service of body- and earth-friendly products.
  • Women are done pretending - Through their research preparing to launch Attn: Grace, Mia and Alex discovered that women are ready to be spoken to differently by brands. They're done pretending things are "all good" when they aren't. In every conversation they had, women would flag other issues aside from bladder leakage that needed solutions. By building a wellness brand like Attn: Grace, Mia and Alex are working to take these issues from awkward to empowering.
  • The aging market is growing - As people continue living longer, our aging population is growing — and with it, the opportunity to innovate for all aspects of daily life. “Aging touches every sector, and when we cross sectors, we get some of the most powerful ideas,” Danielle told us. Her organization AGENCY focuses on encouraging ideas and companies aimed at improving the aging journey as both a place (at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC)) and a community.

If you weren't able to join us for the event or simply want to revisit some of the conversation, we invite you to press play on the recording of the session below.


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