My business partner and I originally ran an online period subscription service delivering popular brands of tampons and pads to women around the UK, but we soon began to see the amount of plastic, chemicals and waste tied up in these everyday single-use products. 100 billion period products are thrown away around the world each year, most of which contain plastic and cannot be recycled. We realised our business was contributing to the problem, and that the reusable options available on the market were only being used by a minority, so we decided we needed to think of a way to speed up the shift to more sustainable solutions. We felt we needed to create a solution that was based on what women were already comfortable using, so that they could easily make the switch.
After two years of careful design, we launched D, the world’s first reusable tampon applicator. D works like a normal applicator, but you keep it for life. It gives you all the comfort and convenience, without the waste. By switching to a D, a woman can save up to 12,000 disposable applicators from reaching landfill and polluting our oceans. We also make our own organic tampons which are free from the pesticides and harsh chemicals often found in conventional tampons. Our products are designed to be displayed on the bathroom shelf, rather than hidden away, so that we can finally normalise periods as an everyday part of life for half the global population, while also helping to reduce the environmental impact periods currently have on our planet.
I definitely never envisaged selling tampons. As a child I didn’t even know what they were, so taboo was the product when I was growing up. But I have always had a big feminist streak in me and didn’t like the way when I got to puberty I suddenly had to deal with something that I felt I wasn’t supposed to speak about, that I had to hide tampons up my sleeve and feel embarrassed about it. The sustainability side has always been there in me, lingering under the surface. I’ve always loved scouring charity shops and buying secondhand furniture, and it still remains my go-to when I am looking for things. I’m lucky that DAME has now allowed me to combine both my feminist and sustainability interests.
It wasn’t until I was at home with a newborn baby that the impact of waste I was producing fully hit. Every day we discard our rubbish in many places, bins at work, on the street, in other people’s homes and don’t really think about it. But when you’re staying at home with a child, and all your waste is going into one bin, you can’t ignore it. Being confronted with how much waste I was producing really knocked me to want to make a change. Plus, you suddenly have this little person who you have brought into the world and, as cliched as it is, you feel responsible to leave the world a better place for them.
That I’m not your typical founder. The classic founder profile is someone who has blue sky thinking, big vision, and incessant positivity that anything is possible. Before DAME, I never believed I could start a business because I didn’t see myself as this sort of person. I can do the vision part, but I am naturally a worrier and need to see the clear steps of how we’re going to get there. But I now realise that it takes all types, and I’m very fortunate that my co-founder fills the gaps where I am lacking. Women, especially mothers, can naturally lose confidence, and I think it’s important to realise that you don’t have to be the cookie-cutter fit of what you think a founder should be.
I’ve no idea what works for other women, but for me I walk. I love walking, and running, as a way to pound out the stresses of my day. I either listen to music, podcasts or just zone out. I find it is the cheapest therapy. Plus trying to step away from my phone as much as possible when I’m not in the office as it just drains my soul.
As a female co-founder with a female-centric product I’ve faced some of the usual challenges. I’m a mother of two young kids and I’ve had investors turn me down for funding because I would be ‘distracted’ being a mother. On other occasions I’ve had male investors not able to look me in the eye and engage with my pitch purely because of the subject matter. It happens. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t incredible investors out there, both male and female, who get the product and the bigger environmental picture. After all, this plastic problem affects us all.
My advice is to persist, because if your product is solving a genuine pain point then there will be people out there willing to invest and support your growth.
What do you think is the single biggest change women can make to achieve better work/life balance in 2019?
Taking the pressure off themselves to think that they will have it all balanced. I have small children and so I rarely feel it is all balanced. Generally, one thing is dominating, but it isn’t continuous. I have to remind myself that this is normal and that things will swing back again.
In certain areas of our lives, the closer we can be to nature the better. The more you deviate and fiddle with things, the ripple effect will always be felt elsewhere.
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Care a little less about the things that aren’t that important…is what I wish I did. Reality is that I wind myself up into a tornado until someone makes me laugh and then I calm down. So, my advice is to find that person who can make you laugh and never let them leave your side!
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