The feminine hygiene revolution in a box – better for your health, and better for your world.
Most feminine hygiene products have environmental issues. They account for 0.5% of personal landfill usage, and contain plastics, chemicals and lots of artificial stuff. I’d like to think that the things we put in intimate places in our bodies are pure and natural, but that’s not the case for most tampons.
The Organic Initiative (OI) is changing that. They’ve come out with a line of Fair Trade, Organic, GMO-free, hypoallergenic tampons, pads, and panty liners. No chemicals, toxins, plastics, perfumes, dyes or synthetics, just pure organic biodegradable cotton.
Cofounder Bridget Healy is a health expert, herbalist and nutritionist, passionate about bringing healthy, sustainable products to the world. Alongside Bridget, Helen Robinson is a business powerhouse – she’s been the VP Australasia of Pivotal, the Managing Director of Microsoft NZ, started up, ran, and exited a carbon credit registry, and a director of NIWA. Currently, Helen is chair of Network for Learning, and on the boards of ATEED and a number of other companies. Helen describes her first meeting with Bridget in 2014 as “yin meeting yang”, the ideal union of complementary attributes, and in early 2015 The Organic Initiative was born. They had no trouble raising a small amount of friends and family investment, organised contract manufacturing in Europe, and they were away.
OI is essentially a brand play, and speed is critical. They’ve wasted no time at all and have executed with laser focus. Early 2015 was about securing distribution agreements, and in October they began their roll-out to every Pak ‘n’ Save and 4Square in the country with a finely branded product at a similar price to the old-school competition. Eight months later, from a standing start with no brand presence, they own 2% of the tampon and pad market in New Zealand, and are growing 30% month on month.
Helen says, “I’m excited, pumped, humbled, and scared stiff by the fantastic market reaction we’ve received. We’re on a roll, and speed is of the essence – you have a limited window of opportunity to create a brand, drive market, build scale and market share. You don’t want to be the person who says, ‘hey I thought of that, but didn’t act’.”
A key part of their success story is a great board. In addition to the two cofounders, the board comprises Dr Emma Parry (Next Magazine Woman of the Year in 2010, Gynecologist, now Chief Medical Officer of OI), Susan Peterson (ex General Counsel for ANZ bank, now on Wynyard, Trustpower, Vista Group boards), Tracey Grant (head of Risk for PWC NZ) and Sussan Turner (ex CEO of Mediaworks, pro-Chancellor of AUT, deep experience in tertiary education). How many startups do you know that have a six person, all-women all-star board? It goes further than that though – the 40-strong staff are all women too.
This team is running fast, and New Zealand is only the first stop. Although the bulk of their sales are through retail distribution, they’re selling a significant amount of their product through online direct sales in New Zealand and overseas. They’ve just organised their first distribution arrangements in China, and started shipping last month.
“Why on earth would you enter the Australian market, when for the same price, you can go anywhere in the world?”
When I asked Helen when they were going to launch in Australia, her answer was music to my ears, and reflected the advice I give many startups. She said, “Why on earth would you enter the Australian market, when for the same price, you can go anywhere in the world?” NZTE have been very helpful in getting OI into China, and the brand values are well aligned with New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand.
They’re also running lean. “Our biggest challenge is predicting and enabling growth, but not investing too much too quickly. We’re learning as much as we can as fast as we can, and trying to make our mistakes on a small scale so that we can enjoy success on a large scale. It’s a hard balance to strike but we’re achieving great results.”
Being a guy, I’m obviously not in OI’s direct target market. But the women in my life are keen on products that are ethically produced, healthy, and damage the environment less than the alternatives. Me too!
And being a guy won’t stop me from celebrating this great team’s success in taking a simple idea to the world with strong, quick, and purposeful execution. These gals are doing something difficult, and they’re doing it well.
You can buy the product online at www.oi4me.com – there’s even a subscription service, à la Dollar Shave Club – never get caught short again.