You probably have heard of the Dollar Shave Club, but did you know there is something similar for feminine hygiene products? It turns out that the average woman uses 9,600 tampons in her lifetime (adding up to $5,600 worth of feminine hygiene products). This is one reason why New York City now offers free menstrual products in all public schools, shelters and jails and has carved out a sales tax exemption for tampons for everyone. Tampons are expensive and not exactly "optional." But even these tampons are manufactured with bleaches and other toxic chemicals, and the average box of organic tampons retails for about twice what conventionally produced tampons sell for - putting them out of reach for many.

Enter Tampon Tribe, the $8 per month 100% organic tampon and pad subscription service. It is disrupting this established industry by providing affordable feminine hygiene products that are toxin free, plastic free, and completely compostable. The products, according to founder Jennifer Eden, cost considerably less than anything similar and offer far superior quality.

Eden insists hers is not a company, but in fact "an energetic social impact project." As a result, the "company's" commitment to social good is impressive. Each purchase supports homeless women by providing a daily tampon pack for those in need, and a portion of each sale goes to Girls INC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping girls grow up "strong, smart and bold." The company is also committed to employing ex-felons and the homeless.

The following is an excerpt of Eden's interview with Inc.com.

Kate L. Harrison: How did you get the idea for your company? What was the need and how did you get to this solution?

Jennifer Eden: I came across the idea from both a personal health and a convenience business point of view. First of all, every woman in the world runs out of tampons each month, even if you've had your period since you were 12. It just happens. You run out and then you're rushing to the store under stress, or you're getting your partner to rush to the store to buy you tampons.

My first idea was to simply create the 'Dollar Shave Club' for tampons. Tampons are an essential item for 70% of women in the U.S. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if they just arrived at my front door every month?"

The more reading I did, the more I realized there were other issues to be addressed, like toxic shock syndrome, and environmental impact. Our search for materials changed as we segued over to the organic components, especially certified organic cotton. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if we could do this with organic products and still keep the price low enough?" We're still looking at a 55% profit margin relative to our costs, and that's only at low purchasing levels.

Secondly, health reasons became important to us. On a personal level, I went through a health situation myself. Many of my friends had been touched in some way by cancer, which does actually hit one in two people in the world. We made a commitment to organic products as we became more concerned -- and more conscious -- about what we were putting into our body or allowing to touch our skin. This focus on health helped us move forward in our business.

Then I thought, "How can we create a business that is more inclusive?" I wanted to create a great ecosphere of people who want to get involved with our charitable endeavors. In this way, I hoped to create this great tribe of people who want to give back -- and we have. We're quite different from anyone else in the market, in that aspect as well. People want to get on board become a part of Tampon Tribe. They want to wear the t-shirt. They want people to talk about tampons. They don't want this common feminine product to be a taboo anymore. It's something we should have out in the open more, to reduce self-consciousness and body shaming.

Harrison: How are you funded?

Eden​: We are currently doing an equity crowdfunding raise on WeFunder: wefunder.com/tampontribe. Tampon Tribe is a community, as well as a very viable business. It empowers women and adds to the organic feminine hygiene market in a significant way. We wanted to enable investment opportunities for both accredited and non-accredited investors, so we decided to go with crowdfunding. It's changing the landscape of investment.

Harrison: How does it work?

Eden​: Think Dollar Shave Club for 100% certified organic cotton tampons and pads that are also plastic-free and completely biodegradable and compostable. Selections are customizable: new customers sign up for a subscription, make their selection from either 4 sizes of tampons, in any 16-tampon box configuration, or opt for pads day/night. First month orders arrive in a cute burlap bag, designed to be original and attractive. Monthly refills arrive in recycled paper. For every month ordered, we give a Period Pack to a homeless woman: 2 tampons, 2 pads, a feminine wipe and biodegradable waste bag. A user account is created where Tribe members can adjust/pause/add to their monthly order.

Harrison: What's in it for consumers?

Eden​: Everything! Most importantly, our Tribe members have access to organic feminine hygiene products that are usually expensive and hard to find, or not available at all. We believe that every woman has the right to choose organic products for her body, regardless of her income, so our monthly cost of $8 includes delivery to your door. We are also passionate about completely eliminating plastics from feminine hygiene products. Our applicators are a thin smooth cardboard tube, the tampons are wrapped in recycled paper, pads are wrapped in a starch-film and the adhesive is a biopolymer. We will also be incorporating a strong social-impact employment mission that includes adults in retraining programs, older workers, vets, and intellectually-challenged adults. We know that we can really make a significant contribution to our society, and that our company will be strong and complete with a diverse team.

Harrison: How is it going?

Pontes: Our first month went great, with presales reaching almost $6,000, which we are really excited about. We are also on track to meet our delivery schedule. We are now crowdfunding our Friends and Family equity round on WeFunder. We hit our first target in our first week, and have moved up now to Tier 2!

Harrison: What has been your biggest challenge?

Eden​: Balancing everything that needs to be done in a bootstrap startup! From meeting investors to building our brand, attending events, growing corporate sales and relations, to fundraising -- it's a fast-paced exciting time.

Harrison: Any early lessons for other founders?

Eden: Listen closely to people in your target market , and segue when needed. Our pre-sale push saw us adjust our product mix to meet demand, and also incorporate a more immediate give-back so we can have a greater impact on the ground. Both of these moves were strategic decisions that greatly enhanced what TamponTribe can now offer.

Published on: Feb 21, 2017