In EP12, we had the pleasure of interviewing Celia and Alec, co-founders of Dame reusable tampon applicators, about being a sustainable brand, designing tampons and how to launch a successful kickstarter campaign.
Elsie Hello everyone and welcome back to episode 12 of the Clean Beauty Insiders podcast.
Dominika We’re proper podcaster’s now!
Elsie Welcome back to anybody listening, watching on YouTube or reading on Clean Beauty Insiders. We’re back and we’ve got a great interview today with the founders of Dame, who have have launched the first ever reusable tampon applicator, alongside organic tampons and natural tampons.
Dom But first, let’s catch up! How’s your week been Elsie?
Elsie It’s been good. For those of you watching, you might notice I look quite glowing! I had a spray tan yesterday and it’s at its height today, just in case you were wondering if I’ve been in Ibiza for the week!
Dominika For those of you that can see me, I definitely have not been to Ibiza but I don’t think that there was any question marks around that.
Elsie Spray tan’s aside, it’s been a busy week for us.
We launched our new CBD beauty Booster skincare online as a pre-order, and launched it officially on site this week. This is our first foray into CBD skincare which is really exciting.
For those watching on Youtube, I’ll give you a quick look at the texture as it isn’t what you’d expect; it’s a light oil. The CBD beauty Booster is 100 milligrams of CBD in hemp oil and for skin that’s feeling congested, stressed, irritated, inflamed and red. It speaks specifically to areas of inflammation, breakouts and blemishes as it regulates sebum production so it is great for skin that is feeling oily.
Although we’re really excited to have it launch, alongside many other brands who have been quick to market with CBD skincare and CBD beauty, we’re grappling with the logistics sides of selling something that is in the world of a drug product. CBD is derived from Cannabidiol, which is a compound that is found in the cannabis plant, much like hemp. CBD is legal in the UK, providing that its content of THC (the part that gets you high) is less than 0.2% (which ours absolutely is). However, these specific restrictions and regulations of CBD skincare are hard for other bodies, such as payment gateways and advertising platforms, to monitor. Unfortunately, we have faced issues with advertising our CBD skincare on Facebook which ironically we discussed in our podcast last week! Facebook flagged that we were advertising a CBD product and have shut us down!
Dominika They kicked us off Facebook because we attempted to set live and add promotion of our CBD skincare Booster, which is banned on Facebook (which we should have checked).
Elsie Understanding the processes of getting back up and running on Facebook has been difficult, although it looks like we can. It’s a really interesting world for us and a good example of when regulations change, it doesn’t automatically mean that overnight the rest of the world changes with it. There are processes and from an advertising point of view, it’s been interesting to think about other ways to drive customers to the BYBI website and have been exploring new advertising channels. On our radar at the moment is the search engine Ecosia, who plant a tree for every search that you do.
Dominika It is so aligned to us!
Elsie We’re going to move some of our Facebook budget over to Ecosia, and will let you know how that goes. If we’re going to take a positive from this situation, which we try and do with every business challenge, is that it’s forcing us to look at new ways of driving traffic to BYBI.com.
Dominika For clarity we were thrown off Facebook’s advertising platform, but we still have all of our organic channels up and running. CBD beauty is currently legal to purchase in the US because of the farm bill that was passed in January, which actually legalized CBD and a lot of its other components. It is also legal in the EU, but it is banned in Australia and Southeast Asia which is another large territory for BYBI and we are unable to sell our CBD skincare product in those regions. But we expect for regulation to adapt quite soon, because I think CBD beauty and CBD skincare is gaining popularity and becoming quite mainstream.
Another thing that we have been tackling a lot this week at BYBI has been team and how we are going to scale out our eight person team. We’ve been speaking to so many different people about what a business of our size should look like, who should we be looking at hiring next and what will we need to have in place before we look to fundraise again. We’ve been thinking a lot about the analytic side of the business and we’re also recruiting for an NPD manager, as we’re are wholeheartedly committed to the innovation and ethics around formulation and supply chain that we’re starting to flesh out a bit more. We’re really keen to bring more expertise into that part of the business and start to build up a really strong team. Both roles (Commercial Growth Analyst and also NPD manager) are up on BYBI.com on the careers page, so definitely check that out if you are interested in joining the ever blossoming and growing BYBI team. Both roles require three years or more experience. If that is you come and join us or if you have any tips on how we can find some rockstars, please get in touch.
Elsie Recruitment is challenging, because it’s very similar to customer acquisition in many ways. How do you go about getting BYBI in in front of the type of person that’s going to come into the team and really make a difference? One thing that we’ve really found is that most of the team that are in place today have contacted us speculatively asking us if we had any roles open and they have been the ones that have been really successful and stayed with us the longest. It’s really interesting and is a way to find people that really align with your values. They’re getting up for the same reason as you are every morning, which is to save the planet!
Dominika I think working in a start-up is really challenging as well, as we don’t necessarily have the structure, the clear progression and the micro goals that you get with larger corporates. The people that join an early stage start-up have to really be driven by the values and passions around the brand, because it’s not like working in any other company and it can be quite hectic, stressful and chaotic. People that enjoy those environments and have an entrepreneurial spirit and value driven really thrive.
Elsie Come and join our chaos! If you think that your CV might be right for those roles or just contact us speculatively.
Lets move on to the very exciting interview that we’ve got lined up today. We’ve interviewed Celia and Alec, the co-founders of the sustainable tampon brand Dame, who have made the world’s first Dame reusable tampon applicator. The goal for them is to stop people using disposable, non recyclable, plastic applicators, which is probably one of those things that you haven’t stopped to think about. Every time you throw those away they go to landfill, in the same way that we’ve been demonising plastic bottles and straws, this is just as bad. The idea is to buy one of the Dame reusable tampon applicators (that last for a lifetime) and use their organic and sustainable tampons. It’s a world first in a space that’s becoming more present; there are definitely more organic tampon and natural tampon alternatives to the mainstream products that have been on the market for so long now.
Dominika The interview was great as we got to learn more about Dame and their sustainability mission, they’re so aligned with us. They are B Corp certified and have really good ethics that run throughout their entire supply chain through to the distribution partners that they’ve chosen. It was great to talk founder to founder and have conversations around our similar journeys, from a company that’s probably comparable in size and definitely comparable in the time that they’ve been in the market. It’s really interesting to step outside of beauty and have those conversations around DTC, fundraising and how to communicate the sustainable message when you’ve got a performing product as well.
Elsie Welcome Celia and Alec to the Clean Beauty Insiders Podcast! Thank you so much for joining us. We’re really happy to have you guys on the podcast.
It would be interesting to know more about the Dame story, starting from how you met and both of your backgrounds.
Celia Our backgrounds are not tampon related at all! I used to work in the art world for an auction house in the project management and logistics side. Alec and I were friends when he used to work in the city, but really didn’t want to! The idea came about with a lot of wine and a lot of banter and then woke up the next morning and decided that it was something that we wanted to pursue. But we actually started off as a slightly different business to what. We were selling anything from disposable to reusable and it got to a point where we stopped believing in what we were selling. We could see more and more people were just buying disposable products, which we’re all familiar with and hardly anyone was buying the reusables. We were so aware of the mounting plastic problem that is happening, that we decided that we wanted to make a change.
Dominika That’s really inspiring and it’s nice to hear really authentic causes behind businesses as well.
Alec It was a bit too authentic really, because we went to our investors one day and just said “Hey guys we’ve stopped believing in selling plastic products, We’re actually going to turn off our subscription”. They said “you’ve got thousands of subscribers” and we just explained just simply don’t believe we can add to this problem anymore. Women and the planet deserve better. We said to them, if you give us six months and we’ll use the money that’s left, get a prototype, get it onto Kickstarter and we’ll let the money talk so to speak and go from there. Luckily, we put it on Kickstarter and it rocked it! So we could go back to them with a skip in our step.
Alec At the time, the majority of our investors were men, so it was quite a difficult sell, talking about the niche-ness of period products. It was important for us to prove that it was actually going to work and would be commercial.
Dominika Talking specifically about Dame, what was the path to actually creating a sustainable tampon product? Both of you not coming from tampon backgrounds, as you pointed out, where do you start with a project like that? The Kickstarter campaign really got you off the ground from a funding perspective but I would love to hear more about how that was set up and the inspiration behind crowdfunding?
Alec It started off with a piece of paper, a pencil and a pair of scissors where we cut open hundreds of tampon applicators. The aim was to work out how an applicator can be used over and over again for its entire life without changing shape, injuring women, doing its job and also fit every size or tampon so that all women can use it. I felt a little bit like Leonardo da Vinci walking around with all of these sketches for, what at the time, looked like medieval torture weapons but they were actually the first prototypes of our Dame reusable tampon applicator. Celia and I would then talk through them all and see how we could develop it. Eventually we we came up with some prototypes and had something that was workable and went from there. We then partnered up with a medical engineering firm, as we wanted to make sure that this thing had all the hallmarks required to make it a trustworthy device. If you’re going to try and get people to change habits and switch to a product in a particularly intimate areas of their lives, it has to be something that is grounded in good medical research. All our materials sort of top grade and we’ve made them antimicrobial so that it’s very easy to keep clean. Tampons have been around for ages so there wasn’t a whole lot of innovation there, the only innovation is our packaging. All our packaging, is reused rather than recycled because our carbon footprint is as important to us as our plastic reduction.
Elsie Amazing. In terms of your funding journey and the Kickstarter campaign, where did the inspiration come from? How did you find that process? Would you recommend it to those that are starting out at the moment?
Celia We believed we had a good idea, but we had absolutely no idea whether or not anyone else bought into it as well. In order to do that we thought the best place to do that is Kickstarter, because you’re putting it out to an audience and it’s a very simple way to get a yes or no. It was only half way through the process, that we found out that the majority of Kickstarter is audience is a white, male 28 year old, who live in San Francisco, which obviously wasn’t our ideal demographic but we went ahead anyway.
If you’ve got a welfare product like we did with an eco angle, doing rewards based crowdfunding is amazing because you’re essentially getting people to vote with their wallets and you’re getting pre-sales in, although it is a tough process. You have to rigorously go through all your product design and videos to make sure that you get your message out, so as soon as you open those doors people are coming to you. Whilst it was a lot of work on our side, we were incredibly lucky. We came in at a time when David Attenborough just started talking on Blue Planet about the plastic problem and suddenly we got the world’s spotlight on us. We were featured in over 100 top publications around the world, trending on Twitter on day three of our 30 day campaign and overfunded by about 500 percent. It was incredible for us because it really gave us a platform and showed us that our organic tampon product wasn’t just for the UK. We sold in over 50 countries around the world and it really strengthened our resolve that we had a product that people actually want.Elsie To use it as a testing bed, as well as a fund driving exercise.
Clelia It’s a very public and if you fail, you fail publicly. We were incredibly lucky that we got the support we wanted.
Alec The minimum order concept is also a huge benefit of kickstarter campaigns, because you are getting orders in without having even made the product. You can go to a manufacturer and put in an order of five thousand, which means that your costs are better and you have a minimum order. You’ve also gain a community, the first people who join the mission, and PR. That trifecta makes Kickstarter an awesome platform to launch a business without giving away any of your company.
Elsie How much did you raise?
Celia On Kickstarter, we ended up raising about £55,000. Our funding goal was £20,000, but because we were still getting demand for orders we moved it across to another platform and we ended up raising about £120,000.
Elsie Wow, that’s amazing! Congratulations. Have you done much to track the people that initially found your Kickstarter? Are they still alive and kicking in your community? Do you still get people saying “I found you guys at the beginning!”
Alec Yes, they are our lifeblood. We love them so much! If any of them are listening, you’re awesome! We went to speak to a large supermarket retailer buyer a couple of weeks ago and one person in the meeting explained how they had been following us for over a year now, since the Kickstarter launch, and is a huge fan. It’s amazing. First of all because of how many people are aware of us because of Kickstarter, but we’ve also got a really core group of people who believe in what we’re doing and most importantly why we’re doing it. We turn to them for a job applications if we need help, we’re speaking someone at the moment who’s a photographer and is going to help with styling. They give us really good feedback on the product and having that group of advocates is really important to us.
Dominika The sense of community as well is so important in this day and age. Dame taps into real passion points as well, I imagine that your community is really passionate, loyal and a huge advocate for the brand as well. Just looking at the competitive landscape, from a consumer perspective is in the last couple of years we’ve noticed that a lot of organic cotton, eco feminine care products have come to the market. What is your point of difference? Talk us through why someone would choose Dame, over some of the other eco options in the market?
Celia What we set out to do is all about choice. We realized that every single woman is different and they all have different needs when it comes to their menstrual products. Some women can’t use a cup or won’t use a cup, some people can’t use a tampon or won’t use a tampon. Therefore we really wanted to be able to be another choice out there for women who wanted to have a more sustainable period, but couldn’t go as far as using a cup.
The Dame reusable tampon applicator is our differentiator. We are a world first and the people out there doing it. We launched it alongside organic and sustainable tampons as well, because we wanted to be able to offer a complete solution to women. If we were gonna go down this routem we weren’t going to offer the usual synthetic rubbish that’s widely available on the market. We wanted to offer natural tampons and sustainable tampons with organic cotton, which doesn’t have any bleach, dioxins, Rayon, pesticides, fragrances and also is compostable and biodegradable.
It’s amazing that there are other people in the natural tampon space as well, because there’s still a huge education piece that needs to be done. So many people that we speak to aren’t aware of the fact that the things that they’re putting into their bodies currently are synthetic and that they are leaching chemicals into their body.
It’s amazing, you think about everything that you put in your mouth yet you don’t think about what you’re putting in your vagina and it’s one of the most absorbent parts of your body. The more of us that are out there, the more of these little brands that are trying to show women that they do have another option, the better. Essentially, that’s the mind change that we’re working towards.
Elsie We feel the same within the beauty industry. We encourage and celebrate people working towards the same cause, regardless of whether they’re a competitor, because you’ll only make change when it’s done at a scale.
I’d like to talk logistics of the reusable tampon applicator and how it works with natural tampons. I imagine, as you quite rightly pointed out, there is a big education piece to be done with habits that have been part of women’s lives for quite some time. The word reusable, perhaps in the context of period, might put people off and I know that people get a bit squeamish! Can you talk us through how it works, what exactly the product is. Do we carry around with us? Is it easy to wash?
Celia These are questions that we were thinking about when we designed the product, as we knew that we needed to make it as similar to what women were already using. When we first started off designing, we had every single kind of idea out there. As Alec was saying, some of them did look like medieval torture solutions. They looked like corkscrews, catapults and we actually came back to the idea that we needed to make it as intuitive and close to the experience that women already getting. You put an organic tampon in the reusable tampon applicator, load it up and you insert it. Straight after using it, you just rinse it in cold water and that’s it. There’s no sterilizing, there’s no boiling in between uses. You just rinse it, put it away in the travel wallet that we provide and that’s it. We’ve designed the Dame reusable tampon applicator to be a product for life, because we don’t want you to have to throw this away and buy another one. We want to maintain it, so we’ve said to all our customers that if something happens to it, we want the customers to send it back to us and we’ll send a free replacement for a small admin fee, because that’s the purpose of what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to give women a long term solution. It’s a very low tech device and because we knew that hygiene was going to be an issue for women, we doubled up on that. We worked with a technology which is self sanitizing. There Zinc in it which is zinc, which is naturally occurring in the body, and it’s constantly self sanitizing the applicators. That’s the extra added bonus on top of it. We took advice from amazing experts and one anti microbiologist said to us that women have been putting things inside their vaginas for years that haven’t been that clean, so I wouldn’t really worry about that. That gave us a little bit more breathing room, but we’ve really tried our best to make sure that we’re really hitting the mark on every level for women.
Elsie Am I right in saying that there’s a part of the technology that is patented as well?
Celia It’s design registered and protected. There’s no new technology in there, but as a concept as a whole it is protected.
Dominika It’s amazing and so intriguing to hear from people similar to us that didn’t necessarily come from the science or nitty gritty product background. How does one go about developing a product and speaking to those experts? Did you rely heavily on a network that was guiding you throughout this process? How did you begin the process and build this?
Celia We asked a lot of questions to anyone who we could buy a coffee or croissant for, or just get in front of. It’s a real case of one foot in front of the other, because it was a complete learning curve for us. The amazing thing is, when you’ve got a concept that is trying to really do a big impactful thing for the world, it’s incredible how many people are open with their time and knowledge and really want to get on board and help you. We found this all across the way, that people were so behind the idea of what we were trying to achieve, that they were really willing to get on board and help us.
Alec The important and difficult thing was that we wanted to get women involved, every single step of the journey. We had some really bad experiences with our last manifestation of the business, because we were pitching to men who didn’t understand it. It became very evident that female founders and female products in this space were just not getting the attention that they deserved. We set out to make sure that this was an absolutely fundamental part of all fundraising and design process. From lawyers to engineers and designers, we’ve employed women. That’s been a very important step and even if it’s required taking a little bit longer in order to find and make sure that it was women helping us, we’ve taken that route. Somethings were as simple as Googling female designer environment and just seeing a whole list that came up and going after people who were clearly passionate about the environment and had done some design work.
Elsie What does the team look like today? I imagine fairly heavily weighted female workforce?
Celia Alec is the only guy in the office. We’re very heavily swayed in female favour, we’re a small team but we’re growing which is really great. Through the messaging and what we’re trying to achieve, it’s been amazing to see the type of people gravitating towards us.
We also won a design award for this. Winning a design award for Dame’s reusable tampon applicator seems completely nuts, but even that has meant that we’re getting incredible talent and people interested in this area and realising that actually there’s a lot of growth and a lot of work that can be done. It’s really exciting to see that attraction.
Alec I would just like to make a correction, I’m not the only man in the office, we have the amazing Ray! When we needed help packing samples into boxes we went to the local homeless shelter and teamed up with them. Ray comes into the office twice a week to help us pack the samples, he’s ex military and absolutely loves it because it reminds him of loading bullets into a magazine. He’s very good at it.
Elsie What are some of the challenges that you face scaling as a business with sustainability at its core?
Alec It’s a very good question and it’s something that we’re constantly trying to work out, because as you get things in volume and your sizes go up, keeping consistency and reliable sourcing in your material is very difficult. For example, if we wanted to make our boxes out of old cereal packets then it’s great going to the next door school and asking for cereal packets, but if you suddenly get a big contract with a supermarket, you’re going to have to find a lot of cereal packs in order to meet that. It’s a constant battle that we’re up against. At the moment, our sample packs are all made using the off cuts of our sustainable tampon boxes and we’re growing now at a rate where that it’s no longer attainable, so we’re thinking about how we’re going to find more off cuts of the same material without adding to the problem of consumption. We believe that it is possible by partnering with the right partners who believe in our cause. It might be a question of asking Waitrose if we can have some of their shelf packaging, which they just throw away or recycle after using. Ultimately, the world has got itself into this mess through overconsumption and we need to think about how we use materials and put a value on them, whilst also processing them in a way that doesn’t further add to the problem. To answer your question, it’s by speaking to the right people, who believe in what you believe in and making lasting partnerships, so that the supply chain ultimately can exist frictionless just through clever relationships.
Dominika In terms of manufacturing, you’ve talked about quite a hands on process there by collecting used materials and then reconstructing them, do you do your own end-to-end supply chain? Or do you outsource the production of your organic tampons and the reusable tampon applicators?
Alec We outsource, in that we don’t own a factory or a manufacturer, but we keep as much as possible in the UK so that we can keep a strong relationship and make quick changes where necessary. We’ve partnered with people who have very high environmental credentials, for this exact reason and they can ultimately help us out with our mission.
Elsie And you’re B Corp! Congrats! Can you tell us a bit about what it is and the process of going through that certification process?
Celia It is the most hard core certification process in the world. It took us a year and a half and a huge amount of work. It’s definitely not an easy thing to get, but so worth it.
B Corp is a certification that believes that business should be used as a force for good. They go into businesses and really assesses them on every single aspect of their business. Who they employ, what energy they use, what products they’re making. There’s no greenwashing, lip service paid to CSR, It’s really rigorous! It’s amazing and it’s a community that’s growing massively. When we first heard about it, it reflected all the things that we were feeling. It’s been incredibly helpful as a small business to show us the way of how we want to grow our business, how we want to look going forward, treat our employees and go out into the world and convey our message. I think there is still not enough people in the U.K. that know what B Corp is, they really should find out more about it! Waitrose online have made a B-Corp shop, which shows you all the different consumer product brands which are B Corp. It’s really important for people to start voting with their wallets to say this matters to me and I’m going to use companies that believe in these standards.
Alec The logo is just a B and a circle, and brands like Innocent, Ella’s Kitchen and Patagonia are some of the big brands that are involved. Look out for the logo!
Dominika Congratulations! It’s a real testament to your commitment and values and it’s great because a lot of the terms sustainability and ethical are just thrown around by companies that use it as a marketing spiel. Things like B Corp are a true testament when it comes to a company really inherently believes those values. Massive congrats, it’s really great to see that you’re getting it so early on as well.
Celia It does mean that we have to make all our decisions based on that, which it’s tough because you can’t just go for the cheapest option, you have to get the right option. At the end of the day it does make everything a lot clearer. We just made life a little bit difficult for us, which is pretty much what we seem to do the whole time!
Elsie We do the same! All we ever say is we’re always just making our lives harder, but it’s for a good reason so it’s worth it. On the sustainability piece and tying it back to consumers, do you find that there’s a tension when you’re conveying your messaging between leading with sustainability as your value proposition and also balancing that with the perceived performance of your product? I.e. do you find that people think because you’re a green brand, your sustainable tampons aren’t going to work as well as one of the mainstream brands that they’ve been using for years? Or that natural tampons and organic tampons won’t work as well as the mainstream brands?
Alec It’s a very good question and I think if you had asked us that, even as recently as two years ago, our answer might have been different. I think that there’s been a massive challenge in the sustainability area with making sure that products did perform as well, combined with the fact that people didn’t care about sustainability that much, which meant that the lead messaging would always have to be on the performance of the product and then everything else would follow. But increasingly, dare I say it, I think sustainability from a brand point of view is ‘on trend’ and long may it continue. It’s not something two or three years ago that you could imagine, the fact that people’s carbon footprint, if they give a percentage to charity or that it is plastic free is now an attractive element. On a broader scale, it shows that capitalism has got us into this mess but ultimately it is going to be the power of capitalism that gets us out of it and consumers can help the current situation by choosing wisely. It’s up to brands to let them know why their product is being sustainable and doing what it says on the tin.
Elsie I love that and totally agree. We find that with skincare, equally it feels less so more recently, people always want to know that it’s actually going to work. What we’re constantly trying to reinforce is that innovation within our space is moving at great speeds, which means that you don’t have to compromise on quality in the same way that you may have done 10 years ago. It’s a tricky balance to make sure that the messaging is always right and people don’t feel as though they’re having to give up something that they’ve been using for so long.
Dominika I just had a question on distribution, because you’ve talked about Waitrose a few times, how do you balance those wholesale partnerships with growing your own direct to consumer business? Do you find a difficult kind of like storytelling element when you switch to wholesale? How do you do that storytelling of your values?
Celia I see it like everything that’s been happening to us over the last year, it’s all been us running before we could walk. We never anticipated to go into retail this early, but the success of the Kickstarter and the high demand meant that retailers started coming to us. Now we run a dual sales channel, where we sell both on our direct to consumer and with Waitrose, who is our first partner. It’s a difficult one, because we hadn’t anticipated it. But at the same time, we went with Waitrose because we felt so aligned with them and they really wanted to properly partner with us and help us along the journey. That has been really interesting and great, because whilst we can run our direct to consumer and we can have that relationship with our customers, Waitrose is a big brand and an amazing trust market with a very like minded consumer and it means that we’re getting our product out to the mainstream. There’s footfall going past it and I think that was it was really important for us, because the biggest way that we can view this as a success is by changing consumer habits and we’re not going to do that by just staying in a niche area of the Internet. We have to get out and go public with it as quickly as possible. The partnership with Waitrose has really been instrumental to it. It’s a very different beast and it’s something that we’re learning from the whole time because if anyone has ever worked with retailers, the amount of acronyms and different types of words that they have that you’d never even known. It’s a completely different language and has been a huge learning curve for us.
Alec Although Waitrose is an except, the mission is that for the most part is that the margin and bottom line is their absolute sole focus and if you’re trying to do good or you have an angle to your product that might alter that it’s very difficult to win them over and make your values align. I think what’s been so awesome about Waitrose, is that they’ve come to us and said you are doing something which we believe in and we are going to look after you. Not only that but as Celia mentioned, they’ve now got a dedicated B Corp part of that of that online website. Fingers crossed, other big retailers will see this and realize that thinking long term is going to be a lot more beneficial than just thinking short term and how do we make money off these people.
Elsie We’re certainly seeing a shift with the large retailers, who are also aware that they have to make changes to stay relevant. I think that we’re seeing the likes of Waitrose making space for indie brands which is great and the fact they are highlighting the B Corp status is amazing as well. I think retailers as a whole are still quite difficult to work with, but there certainly seems to be glimmers of hope of them giving indie bands the space and being flexible enough to work with us in a way that we need to work with and being more flexible with terms, which is great to see. Are you in store? What’s the distribution like with Waitrose? Are you in all of their stores? Where can we go and grab a dame applicator?
Dominika I know you’re in my local Waitrose because I’ve seen you.
Alec We’re in every Waitrose nationwide, apart from Little Waitrose.
Elsie We get asked about the DTC piece a lot and it feels like we get asked about it from every angle. I think it’s still a hot topic at the moment. How do you approach direct to consumer? How do you feel about the space? Does direct to consumer lend itself well to consumers purchasing what you have? I know that you’ve got a subscription model on your website at the moment, talk to us a little bit about your approach to direct to consumer.
Alec Seventy percent of women buy their tampons in top up shops in store and we knew this from the start. Going in-store was always going to be part of our plan. With DTC the benefits are that we can have a direct relationship with our customers and we can speak to them about the product and engage with who they are and why they’re buying these things. From that point of view it’s incredibly important. Yes, most people don’t buy their tampons online and if they do they’ll buy them through an Ocado or Waitrose, as part of a bigger shop. There are still a lot of people out there who don’t buy big shops through grocers, but do need natural tampons and for that segment, offering organic tampons and sustainable tampons, which are historically quite hard to find in your local shop, on a subscription basis with free postage directly through your letterbox is a bit of a no brainer. It’s never going to be a massive play from a tampon point of view, compared to in-store, but certainly for the applicator, we are not international yet, we’re not in any other sort of stores and we’ve seen a huge demand internationally and we could only have done that and met that demand with DTC.
Elsie What did that look like then in terms of scaling further with retailers? Have you got your sights set on other retail partnerships?
Alec Yes we’ve got some exciting retail partnerships just around the corner, which we can’t announce yet, but they’re great and will help us both translate all of our hard branding work and telling our story, into getting into stores. So when people hear about us on PR or Instagram, for example, it will give more we’ll give people an opportunity to then actually be in touch with our brand and buy.
Dominika One final question on distribution, what does international look like for Dame? Is it quite easy for you to scale internationally?
Alec Plastic is a global problem and whilst many countries don’t use plastic applicators, the countries that do the big are the big countries. For us, going international is really important because it furthers our mission to effectively eliminate plastic applicators and plastic in tampons. Yes it’s very much on our horizon and we’ve had several international players come to us looking to take us abroad, but for now we just really want to focus on nailing our UK offering and making sure that our brand is strong and robust and clear in its purpose.
Elsie The website looks great I have to say! I really enjoyed it. I took the tampon calculator and I could waste up to 5000 plastic applicators in my lifetime. I’m buying a Dame reusable tampon applicator as soon as we hang up from you guys! And some organic natural tampons. To finish, it would be good to shift angles slightly. From beauty or wider personal care, what are the products that you are using at the moment? What brands do you particularly like?
Celia To be honest, increasingly in terms beauty I’m looking more and more at reusable products. For example, replacing cotton wool pads with reusable pads. I know there’s not a specific brand out there that people will know, because I think it’s very much individual. I’m looking towards smaller, niche companies and trying out more natural deodorants and natural everything else! To be honest, I’m very much in the process of it. I don’t have specific brands who I can scream about yet, because I’m still trying, but what I’m really enjoying is the fact that I’m breaking away from the habit of a lifetime of just using the same brand that’s in my local supermarket just because I’m used to all my life. I would seriously encourage other people to do the same. There are so many exciting companies coming up with great new consumer products in both the beauty and personal care space and the more that we can support them, trial them, test them and give them good feedback the better.
Alec I love Nuud Antiperspirant.
Elsie Yes! The Dutch one, I used it too. How did you get on with that?
Alec I’m obsessed with it! I think I could tell from the way that I bike and work for forty five minutes every morning and work in close proximity to three women, but none of them have said that I stink!
Elsie That was so insightful, thank you so much. If anyone has any further questions, what is the best way to get in touch?
Dominika Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to hear from fellow successful entrepreneurs, doing the hustle!
Celia and Alec Great speaking to you guys!