Rebooting Tampons: 5 Questions With LOLA’s Alexandra Friedman

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LOLA tampons

If you haven’t heard, there’s a menstruation revolution afoot. Brands are shining a light on this formerly hush-hush area of personal care products and helping consumers get the protection they need, when they need it, with a frank and fearless open attitude. The menstrual cup has been around since the 1930s but brands like Diva Cup are gaining popularity from consumers who want an alternative and sustainable solution. Earlier this month we chatted with THINX CEO, Miki Agrawal, whose period underwear is making people think, talk and behave differently when it comes to menstruation. Next on our radar: LOLA, the brand making us admit we have no clue what’s actually in our tampons.

LOLA was started by college pals Alexandra Friedman and Jordana Kier. They decided to start their all-women company as a reaction to the lack of transparency around tampons, and they built the brand, well, sort of for themselves. As Alex puts it, LOLA was built to address the problems the founders themselves were facing, and what they would want as a solution—honest, upfront products; seamless integration into their lives; and simple, clean design. LOLA offers 100% organic cotton tampons, with ingredients on the packaging, and operates as a subscription service that you can customize so you never find yourself making a mad dash to the store.

Alexa Friedman / LOLA tampons cofounderI had the pleasure of seeing Alex (right) speak at the recent Breakthrough Brands summit in New York, which celebrated the first class of Interbrand’s up-and-coming brands to watch, and caught up with her afterwards to learn more.

So…what is actually in our tampons? And why are LOLA tampons a better alternative?

Feminine care as a product category has been very under-researched, which is scary to think about. Without the appropriate research or information around ingredient breakdown, how can you make smart decisions? Although the FDA regulates feminine care, it doesn’t require companies to list all the ingredients in their products. So most feminine care brands do the bare minimum and rarely disclose the ratio of ingredients in their tampons, which is typically a blend of artificial fibers—rayon and polyester, among others. The lack of transparency in the market is why we decided to source our own product for LOLA instead of merely building a subscription service offering existing brands.

At LOLA, we believe that if we care about everything else we put in our bodies, feminine care shouldn’t be any different. In the absence of data, LOLA’s stance is that if we have the choice between an organic, all-cotton product (an ingredient we understand and interact with on a daily basis) and one with an incomplete ingredient list, we’d choose the 100% cotton version every time. While building LOLA, we felt strongly about making a product and service that we would personally use. Our goal is to give peace of mind to women about what they’re putting in their bodies.

It’s challenging to change consumer behaviors—even when consumers say they want things better/healthier/more sustainable. How does your strategy aim to adjust old patterns of behavior?

Given that menstruation is not the “sexiest” topic, until recently women weren’t thinking about or discussing their feminine care habits or products with other women. We’ve seen a huge shift and believe we’ve started a national conversation around the importance of brand transparency as well as destigmatizing the topic of menstruation. We’ve brought not only a new product to market, but also a new way of thinking to market.

When it comes to strategy, it really starts with education, since many women assume that any fluffy, all-white tampon is cotton — which isn’t the case. We’ve found that once women are spurred to start thinking about what’s in their tampons, and come to the realization that they actually don’t know the answer, it inspires them to do research and make the switch to a product like LOLA that they can trust.

LOLA tampons

There’s something really elegant and artful about LOLA’s visual identity relative to the category. What is the design concept for the brand, product and packaging?

Our goal was to create packaging that was beautiful, modern and sleek—something you would want to leave out on your bathroom counter and not think twice about. In other categories of daily life (including our makeup, clothes and food) we had outgrown the choices of our teenage years and traded up, but realized that wasn’t the case with our feminine care. Women deserve better! The LOLA woman is cool, confident and conscious, so we wanted our packaging to reflect that.

When it comes to our product, we use a compact applicator because it’s more discreet and easier to store, and the BPA-free plastic applicator means women don’t have to sacrifice comfort. Since our main reason for founding LOLA was to create a simpler product with ingredients that are easy to understand, our tampons are 100% organic cotton — period. Additionally, the construction of our tampon is unique in that it expands widthwise instead of lengthwise, unlike most other brands.

You do have competitors who are also offering organic cotton tampons with delivery options. How do you plan to differentiate and grow your market share in this space?

We’ve always said that a key differentiator setting LOLA apart from other brands is the way we speak to our customers in an honest, real-talk way. Realistically, none of us are frolicking in a white bathing suit during our periods. So we try to infuse a lot of humor along with our more serious themes of knowing what’s in your products and owning the conversation around feminine care. If you check out our Instagram, you can see we have fun and don’t take ourselves too seriously!

Additionally, we provide the most seamless and convenient experience with the best of both worlds: a 100% organic cotton tampon in a compact plastic applicator.

With LOLA, you can customize your absorbency assortment and delivery cadence so your tampons are completely tailored to your needs. This ability to customize down to the individual tampon is unique to LOLA. We built our subscription model with the utmost flexibility to adjust the assortment, quantity, or delivery anytime, so LOLA is there whenever you need us.

I know content is a huge focus for you, particularly to engage with consumers in more organic ways beyond products. Why have so many women’s health issues been kept quiet? And how does the LOLA brand challenge this with its content strategy?

Earlier this year, we launched our blog The Broadcast, which we’re incredibly proud of. It’s a destination for information on women’s health, tips for living a healthy and balanced life and conversations with trailblazing women we admire.

We’ve already covered a range of issues that some women might not feel comfortable discussing openly, so we hope we’re helping our audience realize it’s okay to speak up more about previously stigmatized topics.

We hear from our customers every day that they are so thankful they now have a brand they can turn to for questions about their periods and reproductive health. Women call us to ask basic questions about their cycle, how to make informed product choices, and we even have the occasional woman who calls us from a bathroom!

For us, launching a blog was a natural next step to allow us to connect with women through a different channel and open up the conversation across a spectrum of women’s health topics that too often go undiscussed. Part of opening up the conversation is creating a safe space for women to engage on these topics, and The Broadcast will hopefully become that destination for many women.

Bonus question: As a young brand, you must eat, sleep and breathe LOLA. What advice do you have for other startups that want to shake up a stagnant industry? Are there things you learned along the way you wish someone had told you about?

I certainly have lots of tips and learnings from the first year in business! First, take one day at a time. Maintain a very long list of to-dos but have a clear sense of what’s high-priority and what you’ll get to when you get to it. Second, hire smart people and delegate ownership of meaty projects to them. You need to be surrounded by do-ers that feel empowered to succeed.

A key driver of LOLA’s success in year 1 was having a team that was hungry about our mission and growth plan and wanted to drive the business forward.

Things I wish I had known? I wish I had been even more picky about my time commitments over the first few years. As we have grown and attracted attention, we have been lucky that a lot of compelling opportunities (for example, partner and investor-related) have come our way. In the early days, we’d over-extend ourselves and take every meeting which wasn’t always productive. We have only recently gotten adamant about prioritizing our time.


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