Women have been menstruating since the beginning of human kind. Though menstrual products are a boon to the society, the wastes produced by these products are humongous. Such wastes primarily contain the most harmful inorganic material, plastic. In an attempt to combat the period wastes and with a desire to deliver a hygienic reusable alternative, Celia Pool, the Co-Founder of DAME, innovated a revolutionary product D. Her concern for the social cause has driven her in establishing DAME and crafting the world’s first re-usable tampon applicator, compatible with all tampons including DAME’s own bleach-free, rayon-free and hypoallergenic tampons.
CIO Look admires Celia’s authentic ideologies and appreciates her contribution for the cause of women’s welfare. And feel honored to feature her in the Women Leader Making a Difference issue.
Below are the highlights of an interview conducted between Celia and CIO Look:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader.
In 2015, I co-founded a menstrual product subscription service, delivering a range of high street products to women across the UK. Things were going well, but increasingly we couldn’t ignore the waste produced by these products. Almost 100 billion period products are thrown away around the world each year – most of which contains plastic. We knew we had to help bring about a change in this industry and fast.
After 2 years of careful design, we launched D, the world’s first reusable tampon applicator. D works like a normal applicator, but is reusable – providing comfort, without the waste. By switching to a D, a woman can save up to 12,000 disposable applicators from reaching landfill or polluting our oceans. At DAME, we believe the only way for sustainable alternatives to have true mainstream appeal, and thus ignite meaningful environmental change, is if they are convenient to use, high performing and aspirational. These were the core principles that guided the design of D. The exciting thing is that since we first had the idea for D, the cultural context has shifted; people are waking up to the impact of single use plastic, and are looking for change. D makes that change really easy.
Our company is now growing and we’re witnessing the impact that a female-led business for a female-centric product can have. We have included women in every step of our journey from design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and branding. It has been a collaborative process which has been at the heart of what I do at DAME.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal the target audience?
Half of the global population gets their periods every month. The majority of commercial products sold globally for menstruation is of single-use, contain plastic and cannot be recycled. Great reusable menstrual products have existed for decades, but very few of our customers were buying them. Our research showed it was the significant habit change that was preventing women from switching. So we saw a need to create a sustainable solution that was really easy for people to adopt – particularly for the large portion of women who prefer applicator tampons.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every business personnel should possess.
A ’don’t take no’ attitude is key. Nothing is impossible and trying to find ways around all manner of problems is half the fun. It’s not always easy, however. For me, it usually instantly taps into my ’you’re not going to tell me what I can do’ instinct. Essentially, channeling your inner 5 year old is a good start!
As per your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges are faced by women in a corporate business? And what is your advice to overcome them?
As a female co-founder with a female-centric product I’ve faced some of the usual challenges. I’m a mother of two young kids and I’ve had investors turn me down for funding because I would be ’distracted’ being a mother. On other occasions, I’ve had male investors not able to look me in the eye and engage with my pitch purely because of the subject matter. It happens! That doesn’t mean that there aren’t incredible investors out there, both male and female, who get the product and the bigger environmental picture. After all, this plastic problem affects us all. So my advice is to persist, because if your product is solving a genuine pain point then there will be people out there willing to invest and support your growth.
Have you in any ways contributed towards the cause of women empowerment.
At DAME, it was really important to me that we build a brand and narrative of positivity around menstruation. We’re taking a stand against the idea that periods are ’discreet’, ’dirty’ and ’shameful’ – these are ideas that have traditionally been used to sell period products, and can have a huge negative impact on how young teenagers view their bodies. Rather than creating a product that is intended to be hidden away, DAME products are designed to be displayed on the bathroom shelf, alongside your other preferred brands so that we can finally normalize periods as an everyday element of life for half the global population.
What are your insights on the necessity of ‘Women in position of power’? And, how could it bring out a change in traditional male dominated industries?
How are you supposed to design effective, game changing products for women, if you don’t listen to and involve women in their creation and development? Women need to be involved in all stages of the innovation process if we are to create meaningful change. The world of AI is already highlighting the need to diverse away from male, white, Western bias, if we are to avoid skewing the robots of tomorrow. Amazon had to abandon an AI recruitment tool that was discriminating against women, instead favoring prospects that mirrored Amazon’s existing male engineer workforce. At DAME, women have been involved in every stage of the journey: we’ve worked with brilliant female designers, developers, lawyers and engineers. Women (and men) executives at the top level need to be working hard to put an end to this bias, both conscious and unconscious.
How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market?
With D, our reusable tampon applicator and organic cotton tampons, DAME is taking on one big competitor who has dominated this market for decades. This player have effectively created the most successful retention model – by selling their products through the notion of discretion, they ensured women did not talk openly about period products, and instead automatically purchased the same products as their mothers, without question. Fortunately, thanks to social media and pioneering female journalism, there has been radical change in recent years and period conversations have been pushed into the public domain. By encouraging an open and transparent dialogue with consumers about their period products, DAME is bringing something new to the period category, we are committed to talking opening about our ingredients, our processes and our mission to reduce the plastic impact of period products on our environment.
How do you upgrade yourself with volatile technological trends to boost your personal growth?
After working in front of a screen all day long I switch off as much as I can. Tech is great and has transformed the way we live our lives and communicate but to ensure that I personally don’t fall down a bottomless hole of anxiety, I make sure I step away from my phone. I run, I walk, and I lie on the floor and play with my kids. Sometimes it’s better not to follow the trend.
What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?
DAME was founded on the belief that business can be used as a force for good. We use this core value to guide every decision we make in the business, bringing great clarity to our route forward. By communicating our genuine and authentic commitment to this mission, we hope that our message will quickly be picked up by those eager to join a movement for change. To date, we have seen this happen not only with our consumers and the press, but with employees. People are increasingly drawn to companies doing well. 75% of millennial would take a pay cut to work at a socially responsible company.
All this strengthens my resolve that DAME can continue to tackle critical problems that are not openly acknowledged, that are significantly underfunded, and that have historically been controlled by giant monopolies. Today we are focusing on menstrual products, but our vision is to revolutionize the entire bathroom. These are big mountains, but having strong guiding principles makes the navigation much easier.