We were inspired to start LOLA when…
JK: Alex and I met in the summer of 2014, introduced by friends who had a hunch we’d hit it off. I was in grad school, working on the early concept that would become LOLA, while Alex was at a tech startup. The original idea was focused more on convenience than transparency, but we soon realized that the more pressing issue was lack of transparency about ingredients in tampons. After a drink or two, I asked Alex, “Have you ever wondered what’s in a tampon?” Turns out, she hadn’t.
AF: That small question sparked a big idea – LOLA. If we care about the ingredients in everything from our food to our face cream, why should feminine care products be any different? We were inspired to start this business because we couldn’t figure out what was in the mainstream tampon brands and always found ourselves running out to get tampons we already knew we needed! LOLA was born when we realized all of the other women in our lives also wanted a better feminine care brand they trust, delivered directly to their doors.
How is LOLA disrupting the feminine care industry?
JK: We initially set out to solve what we thought was the main problem with feminine care: delivery. We were able to get our groceries, our beauty products and our dry cleaning delivered to our door, so why not our tampons? As we began to research the feminine care market, however, it quickly became clear to us that a more pressing issue than convenience or delivery was an obvious lack of transparency about the ingredients in tampons. Trying to figure out what went into the products that we had been using since we were teenagers was a guessing game — a result of the fact that the FDA doesn’t require feminine care brands to disclose exactly what’s in their products, just what they may contain.
AF: This lack of information inspired us to develop our own product, made from a single ingredient we know and trust (cotton), and create a new transparent women’s health brand. LOLA provides 100% organic cotton feminine care products delivered right to your door in customizable assortments.
What methods did you use to research and gain insights about the market before launching?
JK: In addition to extensive market research and surveys, we held numerous focus groups with women all over the country the year before launch with friends and friends of friends to talk about their feminine care habits and discuss the brand we were building. We knew there was a market for LOLA, but since we weren’t yet selling a product, it wasn’t easy to be certain that women’s frustration with the status quo in feminine care would translate to an actual switch in behavior.
AF: Real-time feedback from our focus groups was critical in refining LOLA and our go-to-market approach. Through these conversations, we validated the demand for what we were offering. Once women were made aware of the fact that they didn’t know what was in their tampons, they were angry and galvanized to educate themselves and make a conscious change – that was the key indicator for us.
How did you decide you were the right match as co-founders?
AF: When we were introduced, Jordana was working on the initial concept for LOLA. We had a beer, became friends and after spending the next two months working together on the concept, it was clear that our working styles were complementary and our dynamic was special. We had fun the entire time and felt even more excited about what we were building. So, we didn’t overthink it and simply went for it! The rest is history.
JK: When we initially set out to raise money for the business, four months after first meeting, we heard rumors that investors didn’t like to back co-founders who didn’t have long-standing, proven working relationships. Somehow we overcame that obstacle with our initial chemistry as business partners and have now been working together for over two years!
What is your best advice for pitching to investors?
JK: Always ask for live feedback at the end of a pitch – what are you inspired by and what are your biggest concerns about our plans, brand or business model? We take a lot of meetings and when we start to hear the same themes over and over from seasoned investors, we start to recognize patterns they’ve seen from other investments and use these insights to craft our own approach.
AF: Sell the dream! The first time we ever formally pitched LOLA to a potential investor was when we met Susan Lyne, President and Founding partner of BBG Ventures. When we reached the final slide featuring our forward-looking financials, we told her where we would be 3 years out. With a crinkle in her brow, Susan asked, “That’s it?” We asked for clarification, to which she replied, with an enormous smile, “Well don’t you think you can grow it bigger than that?”
Susan taught us to sell the dream, and for that, we are eternally grateful. It’s so important to convey the big vision to investors because we as founders can picture and describe it best. At LOLA, our big vision is to be the first life-long brand for your body.
What have been some unique challenges in building a direct-to-consumer business?
JK: Encouraging women to think about their feminine care the same way they do with other health and wellness products. Historically, we think of tampons as transactional products that we need in order to move past our periods and get on with our day. But given that tampons, pads and liners are such intimate products, we should approach our consumption of them with the same mindset as we do when we think about the food we eat or amount we exercise.
What are your top 3 tips for entrepreneurs in their first year of business?
AF: My top tips are…
- Develop a network of mentors and people you can rely on for honest feedback and advice. We are fortunate to have cultivated a network of people, who are supportive and provide tough love when necessary. They provide us invaluable, objective feedback that has made us better entrepreneurs.
- Great people attract other great people. Find smart, motivated, talented people to add to your team. Existing talent will be your strongest asset in acquiring new talent. Our team is small, yet very special and hard-working. When people interview at LOLA, they leave wanting to be a part of it.
- Get comfortable with building the plane as you fly it. The learning curve stays steep and you’re always building while operating. Proactively manage your time and energy to ensure you are able to multi-task, move quickly and think strategically.
You have unique packaging compared to other brands. What inspired you to go a different direction, and this direction specifically?
JK: Our overall goal with LOLA’s packaging design was to create a sleek, sophisticated, simple and modern feminine care brand – a stark contrast to the overly loud, cliché and colorful packaging women are used to seeing at the drugstore. Our thinking was that we’ve matured when it comes to all other product categories in our life, including our beauty and clothing choices, so why not feminine care?
Tell us about your blog, The Broadcast. What are your tips for developing a content strategy for your brand?
AK: The Broadcast is a destination for information on women’s health, tips for living a healthy and balanced life and conversations with trailblazing women we admire. We launched it to tackle stigmatized topics and personal questions that we’re all independently thinking about but not necessarily engaging with each other on.
JK: 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 reproductive health. Women call us to ask basic questions about their cycle and how to make informed product choices. 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 we’re thrilled that The Broadcast is that destination for many women.
Best career advice you have received …
JK: No matter how old you are, it’s important to start developing your network. Even if your gig is babysitting, spread the word to parents’ friends and potential clients in the neighborhood. As you get older and grow in your career, a network becomes a group of mentors and people you can rely on for feedback and advice. Always give more than you receive – karma is real, and aside from that: it’s nice to just do the right thing and help someone without expecting something in return.
AF: Get comfortable with learning as you go! As I mentioned, the learning curve stays steep, and you’re always building while operating. Proactively manage your time and energy to ensure you are able to multi-task, move quickly and think strategically. It’s better to make mistakes while trying something new than not try anything at all. Mistakes are all a part of the fun.
How are you using technology to improve your business?
AF: LOLA is direct to consumer and sold only online, so technology is essential to our business. Our site is where the brand lives and is the customer’s first interaction with us. We provide the most seamless and convenient experience, allowing you to customize your absorbency assortment and delivery cadence so our products are tailored to your needs. Technology also allows us to engage with our customers (via social media, chat, etc.) and collect ongoing feedback so we can continue providing women with what they want, when they want it.
What is the LOLA Gives Back program and why did you decide to launch it?
JK: LOLA Gives Back was first announced in October 2016 to make periods better for everyone. Working with our wonderful nonprofit regional partners Support the Girls, Distributing Dignity, and Simply the Basics, we provide tampons, pads, and liners to shelters for underserved homeless women, domestic violence survivors, and foster care children across the country. Since these groups focus specifically on collecting and distributing feminine care products to their partner shelters, we know our donated LOLA product will end up where women need them most. We’re proud to have donated 500,000 feminine care products to date.
AF: We chose this cause for a simple reason: shelters often don’t stock feminine care products, meaning the women who rely on these services have no one to ask and nowhere to turn. We saw an opportunity to make a tangible difference. Our partner organizations have already made huge strides in taking on menstrual equality and we’re excited to work together and help keep the momentum going. Long-term, our goal is to continue expanding our program by onboarding more partners as we grow our business, reaching more women in need.
When it’s time to relax and take a break from work, what do you like to do?
JK: We always make sure to set aside time for things that are important to us, whether that is family, working out, friends, hobbies, or alone time. Now, my favorite spot to hang is my couch. If I’m not there, I might be out biking in the park or walking around SoHo.
AF: I typically spend weekends in Brooklyn Heights and if I’m feeling adventurous, you may find me on a neighborhood eating tour (Flushing is my favorite and the NY Times actually has an interactive map that documents the best spots to go). During the week, I’m usually in Manhattan and I’m pretty low key. If I have free time, I like to walk along West Street, take long swims at Equinox, and eat Szechuan at Legend or Italian at Bianca.
What does #EmbraceAmbition mean to you?
JK: Nothing is ever as scary as you think it is. And, if not now, when? Sometimes you just have to rip that Band-Aid off and try something new that’s been itching at you. What’s the worst that could happen? Alex and I had only known each other for a few months before starting LOLA, but we trusted our instincts and just went for it! More than two years later, we’re still going strong.