Loretta Dignam created The Menopause Hub in 2018, after going through her own menopause and realising the lack of support and information women receive about the process. Loretta and her team have now developed the company providing clinics for women of all ages experiencing menopause, workplace training and advocating for women experiencing menopause. The company currently employs 15 doctors and staff and works with a number of associates and contractors to deliver change in how menopause is perceived, treated and supported.
I interviewed Loretta to find out more.
- How did Menopause Hub begin? What’s its origin story?
I founded The Menopause Hub in December 2018, born out of my own experience of going through menopause. I was caught completely by surprise, was totally unprepared and found the experience to be challenging, isolating and difficult to navigate. I also thought that I was way too young, at 49, to be menopausal. Surely that was something that affected older women, in their late fifties or early sixties. Despite being an intelligent and well-educated woman, I was blindsided. Menopause was taboo, despite 50% of the population experiencing it and the other 50% being indirectly impacted. Hard to believe in 21st century Ireland. But not only in Ireland but globally! Such was my experience that I felt compelled to act, to change the perception and experience of menopause not only for my own generation but for the generations to come. I am passionate about this!
I opened Ireland’s first menopause centre of excellence, focusing on 3 key pillars:
- Menopause clinics – to provide menopause care, treatment and management to women
- Advocacy with the government, the Department of Health, media, etc
- Workplace training and policy development
- What has the company grown to now?
I opened Ireland’s first ever dedicated menopause clinic in Mount Merrion, Co Dublin, with 2 doctors and have grown the team over time, considerably. Our team of 8 doctors is led by a consultant gynaecologist and we are recruiting more doctors and nurses as we speak. Plus, we have a psychologist, a women’s health physiotherapist, a dietitian & nutritionist (the UK’s leading menopause specialist). We offer holistic evidenced based treatment to menopausal women to help them manage their menopause, their way, and to help them to continue to live the life they love. We opened a second clinic in October 2022 in North Dublin to service the Northeast. We are now in the process of opening a clinic in Cork. After that we will open in Galway, Limerick and other urban centres.
In addition to the clinical business, we have expanded into workplace training which is CPD accredited. We offer e-learning modules, live talks and workshops and hybrid education and training.
In total, we now employ 15 doctors and staff and work with a number of associates and contractors to deliver change in how menopause is perceived, treated and supported.
- What are your main products? Who is your target audience?
We have two target audiences. The target audience for our clinics is women aged 40-60 years of age. The target market for our Menopause in the Workplace training is B2B.
The average age of menopause is 51 (when a woman’s periods stop) and the average age of perimenopause (the lead up to the final period) is 45. However, there is also surgical menopause, early menopause (under 45 years) and premature menopause (under 40 years). The average length of time for experiencing symptoms is 7.5 years.
In our clinics we offer initial consultations and review consultations. We offer holistic, evidence-based treatment for women experiencing menopause.The difference between our clinics and a visit to the average GP is our menopause expertise. All our doctors have a special interest in menopause. In fact, that is all we do at The Menopause Hub! We also allow time for consultations, with the initial consultation lasting 30 minutes. Time is not a luxury that many GPs have, unfortunately. Our patients tell us that they felt heard, listened to and understood. Our values are Education, Empathy and Empowerment. We want women to have the facts to make an informed decision about their menopause treatment and care. Our appointments are booked out until the end of April, such is the demand from women to discuss their menopause.
Our B2B target is any organisation, large or small, for profit or not-for-profit, public or private. We offer 4 different menopause training modules, all CPD accredited. Organisations can choose from e-learning modules, live courses and workshops or a combination of the two. They are aimed at 4 distinct audiences: all colleagues / managers / HR Professionals / Menopause Champions (not dissimilar to the concept of mental health First Aiders). The business case for changing the way we think about menopause is simple, yet compelling. Not only does menopause pose a risk to talent retention – 11% of women leave work due to symptoms (that’s 38,500 women in Ireland alone) but 40% (or 14, 000 women) consider giving up work. Menopause also poses a legislative risk. In the UK an increasing number of tribunals have ruled in favour of menopausal women on the grounds of age, gender and disability discrimination. Cases have been taken in Ireland too!
Best practice includes development of a menopause policy and training for managers. HR, general staff and the appointment of menopause champions.
We work with organisations such as Lidl Ireland & Northern Ireland, Accenture, ESB, An Post, Bank of Ireland, UCD, DCU, Comreg, HSE, Axa, Irish life health, VHI, Laya and many more.
Our revenue has grown by double digits every year since launch, which reflects the need for the services as well as the success we have had as a team.
- What were some of the main challenges in starting a business to a segmented market place?
My key barrier to growth in the first 12 months was recruiting doctors. The Menopause Hub brand was new and lacked medical credibility. To address this lack of credibility, I built relationships through recruiting respected medical professionals to the team, attendance at medical conferences, public speaking about menopause, coverage in the media and through patient word of mouth. This helped remove the barrier to expansion, enabling me to recruit a bigger medical team. Now doctors are applying for roles with us!
Another key challenge when starting a business is having limited resources. Having come from working for over 25 years in the corporate sector in C-Suite roles, working with major multinationals and with great brands, resources were never an issue, whether it was money, people, teams or innovation. The life of a start-up entrepreneur is so different! I became the “jack of all trades,” doing all the jobs from receptionist to finance manager to marketing executive to IT manager, to emptying and cleaning the bins. I had no one to delegate to. And with no money either, I had to be imaginative and use all my skills and experience over the years to drive awareness of the Menopause Hub brand, effectively creating a new sector.
- Where do you see the company in 5 years?
The Menopause Hub will be an accredited global leader in menopause training.
On the clinical side, we will have Menopause Hubs across the country offering much-needed menopause services.
- What are the most common misconceptions about menopause that you come across? Particularly in the workplace?
The most common misconceptions about menopause are typically; menopause happens to much older women, in their late 50s and 60s. whereas the reality is that women in their 40s start to experience symptoms. in addition, most people think that menopause only lasts few days, or a month or a year, then it’s over. Unfortunately, symptoms last on average 7.5 years. The other misconception is that menopause equals hot flushes. Once again, not true! Hot flushes are only one of the 40+ symptoms that women experience. That most women, ‘breeze through menopause’. Once again, not true! 75% experience symptoms! Finally, that because menopause is a natural event, that women have to suffer in silence with their symptoms. Once again, not true! There are so many treatment options available, that there is no need for women to suffer any more.
- How did the pandemic affect the organisation? Are there any positives you can take from this time.
When the pandemic started and Ireland shut down, The Menopause Hub was just over a year in existence. My initial thought was that we would have to close the business. However, the move to online consultations via telehealth video enabled us to stay open and to thrive. Prior to the pandemic, women had been travelling from all over the country to our clinics, which was inconvenient and time consuming. Now they could experience their video consultations from the comfort of their own home via their phone or laptop. This revolutionised menopause access and care for women. Furthermore, prescriptions went online too, and were delivered to the patient’s local pharmacy, which was also enormously convenient. Finally, there was no travel allowed, people weren’t going anywhere, so we opened on Saturdays and bank holidays to offer appointments. Women were focusing on themselves and their health finally and now had the time to do so. The Menopause Hub thrived during Covid-19 and continues to do so.
In terms of our training for menopause in the workplace, because of Covid-19 we moved to webinars, online workshops and most recently into e-learning. Once again Covid-19 facilitated all of this and our menopause training goes from strength to strength.
- How do you go about marketing the company? What are the most effective strategies for obtaining clients?
Despite being an award-winning Marketer of the Year, I have had to do very little paid marketing, thankfully. Demand has never been an issue for us. The three important marketing tools we use are:
- Word of mouth – if women have a good experience with The Menopause Hub, they will tell their friends and family. And that has been hugely powerful for us.
- PR – I worked hard to get free publicity on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, speaking at events etc. This generated immeasurable value in media coverage for The Menopause Hub and drove awareness and got the menopause conversation started.
- Social Media, from social posts to live events, podcasts, sharing etc. social has fuelled the menopause revolution. Women are sharing, commenting, being educated and looking for help online and this has helped spread the word about The Menopause Hub. During the pandemic we delivered a free weekly webinar, every Wednesday, called ‘Midweek Menopause’ which drove awareness and engagement of the topic of menopause and our awareness of our brand.
- Have you won any awards in recent years? What were some of the highlights?
I was shortlisted as a finalist (1 of 3) for Marketer of the Year in 2022. in recognition of building a brand, The Menopause Hub and category from scratch. That was an honour to be a finalist. I had previously won the award in 2011.
- Are there any other organisations in the diversity and inclusions sector in Ireland are big fans of?
I am a big fan of Great Places to Work as they drive diversity and inclusion through their programmes and certification. They also do a lot of work to promote women in the workplace through their Best Workplaces For Woman programme.