Periods, bladder care, and sex may be flush-inducing topics for some, but for Here We Flo founders Susan Augustin and Tara Chandra, injecting humor into often embarrassment-filled product categories is the basis of their business. With the tagline “shamelessly natural care for life's messiest moments,” they have created ranges of sustainably manufactured tampons and pads (FLO), bladder pads (glo), and condoms (XO!). The latter, and newest, product is made in conjunction with the Regenerative Rubber Initiative—which aims to counteract the deforestation, loss of biodiversity, unethical working conditions, and environmental damage of growing the tree—of which Here We Flo are founding members. The result is carbon-neutral condoms made from sustainably sourced rubber, produced at a solar-powered factory.
Most recently, their company scored a collaboration with the Netflix show Sex Education, launching a set of period-proof underwear and retro-inspired, limited-edition packaging on their existing products. They were recently announced as a recipient of Sky’s Zero Footprint Fund, which accelerates business-driving sustainability. The prize? $400,000 in ad spend, with plans to release a national television campaign next year. These achievements place Here We Flo into the wider development of recent cash flow into the period care space, from Yoppie's £3.4 million seed funding to Callaly's procurement of £1.7 million via equity crowdfunding.
Rewind the clock to 2017, and life looked very different for the two. Augustin hailed from the world of social justice and human rights, while Chandra’s background was in the music industry. Their paths crossed while studying management at LSE (London School of Economics). “We were in the bathroom in between classes and Susan said, ‘We should start the feminist PayPal mafia.’ We wanted to do something that gives back, around wellness, and is female led. Following that moment, I realized I couldn’t find organic tampons anywhere,” Chandra explains. “That conversation ended up being my Master’s dissertation, exploring the whole business case for what became Here We Flo. We realized there was this gap in the market for a company that took all these intimate moments in life and dealt with them in a cheeky, but also matter-of-fact way.”
“Not every company needs to be VC backed, angel investment is perfectly fine, even though it's not fashionable in Silicon Valley."
By Tara Chandra, co-founder, Here We Flo
Chandra and Augustin deep-dived into consumer surveys and focus groups, not only exploring menstruation, but also sensitive bladder care. A Kickstarter campaign raised $20,000 in pre-sales, which allowed for the first batch of product, then only restricted to period care, with a subsequent angel investor round adding more funds. It’s only in recent months, with the momentum of industry and consumer support, that the duo has been approaching VC firms. “Not every company needs to be VC backed, angel investment is perfectly fine, even though it's not fashionable in Silicon Valley. It's also okay to start a company, get some investment, and actually try and achieve profitability,” Chandra adds.
Described as “funny, feminist, and fierce” and “affordable, accessible, and adorable,” Here We Flo is bold and colorful in its messaging and visuals. “We often say that mess is the mission, but laughter is the vision,” Chandra explains. All branding, design, and packaging is done in-house, with personal roots informing their choices. The ice cream tub packaging for tampons is an inside joke between the two founders about Chandra’s craving for Ben & Jerry’s during that time of the month. The expansion into bladder care was inspired by Augustin’s own battle with bladder issues during her third trimester of pregnancy. “The more we talked to our friends or other women, we realized that it was quite common, but no one spoke about it,” Augustin explains. National Health Service research shows that 34% of women across all ages have sensitive bladder issues. “That’s just what is being reported to the doctor, so we can just imagine that people just deal with it and don’t say anything to anyone because of embarrassment,” Augustin adds.
The company began with stockists like Planet Organic and Whole Foods before expanding into WHSmith, Boots, and Holland & Barrett. Interest from the likes of Ralph’s and Costco motivated them to expand their warehouse operations to the West Coast. Today FLO is one of the best-selling sustainable period care brands.
From fashion retailers like Urban Outfitters to media enterprises like Netflix, Augustin and Chandra recognize the wisdom of peering over the walls of your product kingdom. “The idea that there's no barriers to this anymore and this is a chance for you to learn, to reach your target consumer in the place where they're shopping, that's been really important to us,” Chandra comments.
Gender-inclusive language and inclusion of the trans/nonbinary experience is another important cornerstone of the brand’s messaging, even if some consumers may not have followed the lead. “We get emails from women asking that when we say ‘For people with periods’ in our ads, if we mean women. Freedom feels like oppression to the privileged, and so it might seem uncomfortable for women to see inclusive language, but what is the harm in including everyone?” Augustin asks.
“Being social justice advocates is important for us as a brand, but there's a limit to what you can do and what you can know as a company,” Chandra adds. “Interacting with the community is an important part of that, respecting the voices within that community.” 5% of all profits go to supporting people and the planet.
From their sustainability initiatives to destigmatization efforts, Augustin and Chandra have crafted a personal care empire that has demonstrated great growth (and potential). Their forward-thinking marketing strategies, and unwavering commitment to help consumers open up about life’s most intimate moments, is sure to secure a bright future ahead.
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