Formally known as “the curse” – female menstruation has gone from social taboo to big business, with the average women spending £5,000 in her entire lifetime on supplies.
However, there is little knowledge regarding what is actually in the products women use during their cycle. One would presume that something designed for intimate use would be free from things like bleach and harmful plastics. But unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case.
However, FLO is one brand that’s trying to change this, we speak to co-founders Tara Chandra & Susan Allen to hear their story.
RB: How did it all start?
T&S: It all started in December 2013, when we were chatting in the London School of Economics bathroom between classes, we often talked about how we wanted to start a socially impactful business. Tara had studied economics at Columbia and Susan, who loved well-designed, eye-catching branding, was working for a major philanthropic organisation. This, combined with Tara’s observation that “I can’t find organic tampons anywhere in London”, was the ‘aha’ moment behind our decision to start FLO.
RB: How did you go from this stage to starting up the business?
T&S: The next step was to find out if there was a demand in the UK market for a strong, commercially-branded organic feminine hygiene brand. We both did the Executive Global Master’s in management at the London School of Economics’ Department of Management, and Tara’s dissertation took the shape of FLO consumer research. We did focus groups and surveys in order to discover FLO’s target demographic and ideal branding, guided by questions like: ‘How much do women care about the environment in their purchasing decisions?’, ‘How much do they care about their health?’, ‘About packaging?’ and ‘Which product designs and packaging are most attractive to women?. Our belief in FLO, which was founded on our passion and intuition, was now rooted in market evidence.
RB: How did you get funding?
T&S: We launched our Kickstarter campaign in April 2017, and crowdfunded £14,200 for our first batch of FLO. It has been a brilliant journey ever since! You can find us in Boots, Ocado, Holland & Barrett, Planet Organic, Morrisons in the UK, We even supply offices and co-working spaces like Netflix, Airbnb, Accenture, etc.! It’s really amazing to see that our products appeal to such a wide range of customers and clients.
RB: How are you convincing consumers to move over to FLO?
T&S: Consumers are now really taking the initiative to educate themselves and make more conscious purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to our health and the planet. Mass-market products period products are typically made of 90% plastic materials – and come wrapped in plastic bags!
Conventional cotton is the heaviest pesticide sprayed crop, it’s bleached with harsh chemicals and has been found with pesticide residues. Moreover, traditional tampons that are made of synthetic materials can shed fibres that then remain inside the body, causing irritation.
Our customers often have learned about the effects of these products on the environment and on their health and find FLO a great alternative to those products. We also wanted a vibrant, cheeky brand voice, including the signature ice-cream tub designs of our tampons, to make us really hard to miss when put on the shelf next to our competitors. All of these elements have helped define ourselves as healthier, eco-friendlier products.
RB: What was the most challenging aspect of starting your own business?
T&S: We felt the responsibility of making the brand a success through our execution as well as through our ideas, so there was a lot of effort on our side to create products that were truly healthier and more environmentally friendly than the mainstream. We also wanted them to be affordable, as we are very committed to doing our part in alleviating period poverty, which is also why we donate 5% of our profits to The Orchid Project (who are tirelessly fighting against female genital mutilation) and to Bloody Good Period (who supply asylums, refugee centres and homeless shelters with menstrual and personal care products).
RB: What has been the most rewarding moment since starting the business?
T&S: As a young company, arriving at the stage of being able to hire more people feels incredible. Sharing our vision with new team members and to collaborating on achieving shared goals makes all the work we do even more rewarding. Launching in Boots was also an incredible milestone for us. Being able to see our products on the shelves of such a big retailer reminded us of why we started FLO in the first place: to bring affordable, healthier, eco-friendlier products to as many people as possible.