When you think of great ideas born at business schools, chances are a better tampon doesn’t spring to mind.
But for a group of London women, that was just the point.
Recent graduates of the Ivey Business School at Western University, the five entrepreneurs have turned a class project into a startup company to sell a lubricated tampon kit they say is better for women.
Little-changed in nearly a century, the commercial tampon is a staple in the multibillion-dollar global feminine products market, but one that still causes discomfort and inconvenience for many women.
“We kept hearing, time and time again, that people didn’t want to be doing arts and crafts in the bathroom stall,” said Simone Godbout, co-founder and chief executive of Marlow, the startup firm.
“They (women) were looking for a mess-free process, and either resorting to homemade (options), going to the drug store and buying a tub of lube . . . We’ve engineered a unique product to make it a really easy process.”
In a market dominated by big blue-chip companies, the Marlow women — Godbout, Kiara Botha, Nadia Ladak, Harit Sohal and Natalie Diezyn — have a long way to go make a dent in the industry.
But with nearly $500,000 in financing from six different angel investors — people with capital to help fund startups, often in exchange for a piece of ownership — the women plan to launch their product line in June.
With a tampon manufacturer in Europe and the lubricant made in California, the product will be packaged and prepared for shipping in Toronto through a logistics company, Ship Apollo, and mailed directly to the consumer.
Godbout said she and her team worked with medical advisers to create a “forward-looking product” with ingredients that wouldn’t cause any harmful reactions to consumers.
The product they plan to sell is a fragrance-free tampon made of organic cotton with a plant-based applicator and compostable cover, making it more sustainable than the standard product, Godbout said.
It can be bought alone or with the water-based lubricant, MarLube. The tampons will be sold 18 to a box and be available by mail subscription, three boxes delivered every three months.
Godbout said the prices still are being finalized and will be on Marlow’s website for the product launch in June.
Born of a project at Ivey, in which students were asked to identify a problem and create a solution-based business idea, the women landed on the idea after recognizing what they saw as a product gap in the market.
“We were frustrated with the products available to us,” Godbout said.
“One of my co-founders was describing how she was taking a week off of the gym every month because she couldn’t find menstrual products that worked for her.”
When she asked her doctor for a solution, she was told to spit on her tampon. “We thought, there must be a better way to do this,” Godbout said.
After a year of speaking with researchers, medical experts and community members, her team hopes to go beyond selling their product to educating consumers through their online blog, she said.
“I think the more education, and information and conversation there is, the more people will feel comfortable advocating for their needs, and that will spark and drive a lot of innovation.”