The Torch

How This SJU Alumna Uses Her Company To Help Women And Heal After Losing Her Son

Chyna Davis, Staff Writer

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St. John’s alumna, Graciela Lee-SooHoo, wants to get rid of the shame that comes with women’s menstrual cycles. Body positive movements are continuously evolving throughout various medias and mediums, and Lee-SooHoo’s product is supporting this cause. As CEO and founder of Simple Necessit-EASE, Inc. she provides a product that “EASE[s]” the minds of its consumers and changes lives.

Lee-SooHoo, who graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication and a minor in Business, created and launched Simple Necessit-EASE in 2004.  They offer affordable BFF (beautiful, fabulous and fearless) Period Undies for women’s everyday concerns.

“I created the BFF Period Undies, when I discovered that embarrassing leaks from a girls monthly cycle was common,” Lee-SooHoo said. “During ‘girl talk,’ [with friends] we realized everyone had a period story and that night I wished there was a panty that could save us from the humiliation.”

Not too long after, the idea behind this female-founded company was conceived. BFF Period Undies are designed to look, feel and wash like regular undergarments. Lee-SooHoo, who is passionate about her company, explains that the breathable, lightweight Panty Leak Protection (PLP) technology is brushed onto the inner fabric and concealed.  

“Ordinary panties leak and stains can be seen and left on seats in a classroom, car, [at] work, [or on a] bus,” she describes.

BFF Period Undies have the cotton feel and are durable enough to conceal the accident of a pad or tampon fail, giving the user enough time to get to a bathroom.

THE JOURNEY

Lee-SooHoo credits St. John’s for impacting her business when it first began, all the way up to  now. “I have wonderful memories of St. John’s,” she said. Not only did she meet lifelong friends, but also took the courses that prepared her to run her business.

“When I first started Simple Necessit-EASE, I actually used my notes from my [public relations] classes to write my first press release to PR Newswire,” she says. “The same skills were used, when I pitched to the Tyra Banks show [before] the panties were on air.”

Lee-SooHoo did not foresee herself starting a company years ago, especially after witnessing the challenges her parents faced while owning their own business. This female-founder, who is of Korean descent, was raised in New York and came from a family of experienced clothing manufacturers. “My plan was to graduate and begin a career in communications,” Lee-SooHoo said.

Her first job was working for Media Tech, Inc., a post-production company in New York City, until 1990. “Even though I loved my job and had wonderful colleagues, I couldn’t ignore the problem that all females faced every month [like] embarrassing leaks during a female’s monthly cycle,” she said. “I knew the waterproof technology existed in the medical industry.”

Lee-SooHoo started to research and develop a leak-proof panty of her own. She loved her first sample. It wasn’t long before she distributed it to a test market. Even though it turned out to be a success, she wasn’t satisfied with the quality.

“I was not satisfied with the treatment during exercise or hot days,” she shares. “Thinner treatments did not withstand the machine washings, therefore, I abandoned the project.”

Fast-forward 10 years later, she describes being married with three kids and still having no solution. Fortunately not too long after, she found a solution to the challenge she faced in 2003.

“I discovered a breathable, waterproof technology that withstood the rigors of machine washings and dryings,” she said. “Building Simple Necessit-EASE as a woman for women is what empowers me… especially when the thank you’s and testimonials come flying in.”

In addition to empowering women, Lee-SooHoo also looks forward to educating young girls; specifically by proving that this underwear can provide back-up protection. In fact, she recounts a special moment, that she had with her 11-year-old daughter.

At the time, her daughter had just gotten her first period while staying away at her cousins’ house. Being the only girl at the time, there were little feminine products available to her. Not only did Lee-SooHoo provide her with pads for the the night, but also a sample box of Period Undies that she luckily had in the car.

“The underwear gave her reassurance especially since she was not home,” she explains. “I want every female to ‘EASE’ their minds and feel Beautiful, Fabulous and Fearless (BFF) everyday!”

PICKING UP WHERE SHE LEFT OFF

Once the new breathable, waterproof technology proved to be successful, Simple Necessit-EASE became a New York State corporation and the official website was launched in 2003. Unfortunately, what was a joyful and happy moment momentarily came to a halt.

Later that same year, her five-year-old son, Tyler, was diagnosed with brain cancer. “He used to ask me why I had underwear in my office [and] I used to tease him … ‘it’s what my company produces and you will be running the company one day!’” she remembers. “That sent him running in the other direction.”

At the time the website had no activity — given Period Panties did not exist in the U.S. yet.

“He was my main priority,” Lee-SooHoo says. “Tyler lost his battle and passed away on August 26, 2005.”

Just days after his burial, Simple Necessit-EASE received its first order. What seemed like a forgotten website had a new beginning.

“I took it as a sign from my son that I had to continue [and] I also took it as a sign, that this company was a way to fund Tyler’s foundation and make some sense of his passing.”

Lee-SooHoo recounts each obstacle becoming a learning experience, which further propelled her drive.

“Becoming an entrepreneur was in my blood, but I did not realize it when I was in school,” she says. “I will tell you, my strength to persevere in manufacturing a product that tackles a sensitive subject and healing from the loss of a child at the same time comes from God.”

In honor of  her son, a portion of online sales goes directly to Tyler’s Magical Rainbow Foundation to support pediatric brain tumor research and scholarship program.

“We wanted to keep his memory alive and most importantly we want to make a difference and hope to find the day when parents do not have to hear the words, ‘there is no cure’,” she makes clear. “We were fortunate to have him for six short years.”

THE YEARS AHEAD

“Our goals are to continue our entrance onto the shelves of every retail chain store and grocery store chains,” Lee-SooHoo says. “Since we began this whole endeavor, there have been more companies and each is different, [but] ours is still a simple solution, with a simple price.”

She is proud to have pioneered this category and break the barrier. In addition to Tyler’s foundation, they look forward to supporting other organizations like International Aid and providing feminine products to third world countries and others in need.

“The company solves a problem, helps me heal and despite the challenges it is truly rewarding!” she concludes.

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How This SJU Alumna Uses Her Company To Help Women And Heal After Losing Her Son