Welcome back to our Founder Stories series, where we sit with inspiring and influential women to dive into their entrepreneurial journey and discuss all things business (and wellness). Today, we speak with Celia Pool, the founder of period care brand Dame.
Celia Pool is the co-founder of DAME, a sustainable period care brand on a mission to make periods positive for people and planet. DAME created the world’s first reusable tampon applicator in 2019 which won the prestigious Dezeen Design Award. It’s now sold globally, alongside their organic cotton tampons, via their website and in UK stockists such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Boots, Ocado and Selfridges. DAME also launched their patent-pending reusable pads late 2020.
FLAURA: What inspired you to start DAME?
Celia: We started in 2015 as a slightly different business. We were a subscription service, delivering a range of high street period products to women across the UK, but we soon realised we were only skirting around the real issues at stake. The plastic waste from these single use, non-recyclable products was too massive to ignore. Also, we could also see that women weren’t buying the current reusable options (cups, cloth pads) that were available on the market in large enough numbers. At that point we were very much aware that the planet was in crisis and we needed to make big changes and fast. We couldn’t wait for people to catch up.
So, we went and dug deeper to find out why women weren’t using the reusable options and the answer that kept coming back was that the habit change was too big. So that’s when we decided to take matters into our own hands and design a new product to bridge the gap and make that big leap into a small easy step for the consumer. Redesigning the tampon, a product woman felt comfortable with, seemed to be the most logical solution. The only difference between our reusable applicator and disposable tampon applicators is that you don’t throw our one away. You just rinse it in cold water in between uses, that’s it.
F: What has surprised you most about the entrepreneurial journey so far?
Pretty much everything surprises me. No two days are the same, and if I look back at my emails from even last month, so much has moved on. At times that fast pace can be tough, feeling like you are constantly chasing your tail. However, it is also incredibly rewarding, realising how I am challenged and the incredible learning curve I’ve been on.
F: How do you keep your team motivated?
It’s difficult right now as we’re all working from home, some of us are also homeschooling, and so we have to work out different ways to keep the communication level high. We’re really lucky we have a great team who believe in the mission which keeps them going through these strange times. I just wish I had a magic wand and could put us all back in one room together so we could have a laugh.
F: How do you define “success”?
Still working that out on a personal level, but success for the business is converting the majority of the population over to reusable menstrual products and getting them to stick with it – and those products don’t even have to be made by DAME. 100 billion period products are thrown away every year. They are mostly single-use and non-recyclable. It doesn’t need to be this way as the sustainable alternatives are high performance and incredibly easy to use.
F: What advice would you give to other women looking to start their own business?
Remember to concentrate on the problem, not the solution. It’s easy to go solution-first and then retroactively fit a problem to it. But there has to be a genuine pain point from a valuable audience before you even begin to build the solution.
F: Do you have a favourite project you’ve worked on?
When lockdown first hit part of our supply chain was compromised. We source our zipped travel wallets from a women’s empowerment program in India, and in April the borders shut with no goods coming out. Thanks to the resourcefulness of our team, we managed to source beautiful offcuts of fabric that would otherwise go to waste from textile houses in the UK. We then partnered with Fine Cell Work, a UK charity employing female prisoners, teaching them to sew, a skill they can then use when they are released. The more we can use these types of sustainable solutions and impact enterprises the better.
F: Are you working on any new/exciting projects you can tell us about?
We’ve just launched our reusable pads which we’re incredibly excited about. Not only are they soft and slimline, but they are incredibly absorbent. The technical fabric we’ve used on them means they wick away moisture immediately. We also created a dry bag to go with them which helps people change their pad when they’re out and about or soak them when they get home. Not only that, but because our pads are designed to last, they actually start saving you money pretty quickly.
Top Wellness Habits
If you can’t switch off your screen when you get home at night (I can’t) then no screens in the bedroom.
Walk everyday. Walk everywhere.
Even if you don’t feel like it, call a friend.
If you can avoid homeschooling, then do.
Take a great big leap as if you were 6 years old.