How Marlow’s Female-led Startup is Disrupting the Menstrual Industry

Disrupting a monopoly-driven market is never easy but that’s just what Marlow is aiming to accomplish. These young entrepreneurs featuring an all-female team spoke with us on their challenges and advice for new startups trying to do the same.

The Starting- Point

Market gaps may exist in unexpected places. Often, they can be created by cultural shifts which open up potential for innovation in areas which have long been  dominated by established products and companies. Such untapped opportunities may be larger and more developed in markets which involve  products for bodily functions which are considered embarrassing or difficult to discuss. When the founders of Marlow began discussing their own experiences with existing menstrual products, they were surprised to find not only many issues with existing products, but a striking commonality amongst them concerning those issues. Subsequent research revealed similar commonalities in a large section of the target market group.

In particular they found issues with: discomfort of application, reliability of supply and access to product in the home environment (perhaps mediated by the same taboo which makes discussion of product deficiencies less likely); concern about sustainability and environmental impact, and a growing disconnect between traditional marketing and emerging cultural norms.

In the words of one of the development team:

“We had all identified different things about the menstrual product industry we didn’t like; whether it be looking for more sustainable options, more gender neutral and inclusive branding or how some menstruators experienced pain when inserting tampons – and that’s what really drew us in”  

A trigger point for one of the co-founders was the experience of describing to their gynecologist the pain and unease with using tampons, only to be recommended simply spitting on the tampon before insertion. Realising that similar difficulties confronted many who found it likewise difficult to discuss, and that this must represent a sizeable chunk of the total global market amounting to some 2 billion menstruators, the team decided that there had to be a better option for the millions of menstruators who felt underserved in these various ways by the existing menstrual product industry.

Go-to Market Strategy

Energised by the possibilities, the team worked with medical advisors to develop their product  which is the first-ever lubricated tampon kit delivered through direct-to-consumer subscription. The tampon is 100% organic, has a bio-based applicator, compostable wrapper, and a lubricant bottle engineered to perfectly coat the tampons with each dip, all free of fragrance and any harsh ingredients.

 

The direct-to-consumer delivery to home approach has significant form among companies seeking to disrupt markets once thought to be impregnably dominated by corporate behemoths. Direct-to-consumer marketing has in recent years seen a big rise with companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s making striking inroads into the men’s grooming markets traditionally monopolised by giant brands such as Schick and Gillette. Indeed, Harry’s has utilised an equally largely genderless approach. Marlow’s team aims to achieve a similar effect, riding the wave augmented by the recent COVID-19 crisis, which has likewise seen a major move away from traditional retail towards home delivered goods and services.

 

Despite the emphasis upon gender neutrality with regards to its branding and marketing, Marlow is nonetheless proud that they are a company with an all-female team. As such they can all contribute from personal experience. They state their conviction that the currently all-female environment carries other advantages, for example helping to foster an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual celebration of talent. They find celebrating all their individual successes to be important and empowering:

“It’s a common theme amongst women to minimize their wins and achievements, this is something we’ve tried to be aware of. If someone does something really well we like to share those accomplishments during team meetings, we take a moment to call them out and recognize that they did something really well. We believe its super important to reflect on that otherwise we pass by each individual’s contribution and wins, we use this as fuel to empower the team”  

Social Media Success

In the modern world social media is key to creating a successful brand. In this capacity Marlow believes it has a strong suit, with a good track record of generating engagement across various platforms. They believe they owe their success thus far chiefly to their posting of relatable content, which appeals to their target demographic. They’ve had people reach out directly stating that this is their new favourite social media account, also receiving praise for covering sensitive topics that they argue aren’t spoken about enough. They also don’t shy away from humour and will playfully utilize humour to their advantage, helping to make difficult topics more approachable.

Key Take-Aways From Marlow’s Approach:

When asked what the biggest learning curve has been, the co-founders Nadia and Kiara laugh and playfully say: “Everything!” They also state that for them so far the best part about entrepreneurship is learning every day and personally growing with the company. With an enterprise so clearly founded upon intimate personal experience, it is not difficult to understand their sense of connection.

As with most entrepreneurs sourcing funding and negotiating the funding landscape has been a big part of the learning curve. In regards to this, their recommendation is to stay true to oneself and seek the right partners for growth.

Their chief advice for other entrepreneurs would be:  

“Take the leap and take action when you can! A lot of it will work out on the way! And make sure to enjoy the process, celebrate every win and take pride in your work, mission and vision.”  

For more about Marlow and their product please visit : https://www.wearemarlow.com

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only.

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