Interview with Celia Pool, founder of DAME, as part of our weekly Sextech Salon, on organic tampons & the world’s first reusable tampon applicator.
What is DAME and how did you get into it?
I co-founded DAME, and we’ve just launched the world’s first reusable tampon applicator, called D. We’re selling D alongside our organic cotton tampons which are biodegradable, and don’t contain any harmful chemicals.
Our previous business used to sell period products on subscription to women around the UK. The more products we sold, the more our eyes were opened to this enormous waste coming from these small everyday items.
We were selling reusable alternatives (cups and cloth pads) on our site but no one was really buying them. So we investigated more and discovered that the habit change was one of the biggest barriers to women switching.
Millions of women use tampons, so we wanted to offer them an alternative that already fitted in with their current preference. Choice is the key.
We launched D on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter in March this year and the global response was overwhelming. We ended up trending on Twitter and selling in over 50 countries around the world.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Never in a million years did I think I would be a tampon distributor!
I recently found myself standing next to a tampon-making machine, wearing a hairnet and wondering how on earth I got there… but also really loving it. I always knew I wanted to do something female-centric.
The taboo nature of menstruation when I was growing up, and the harmful messages that still surrounds it massively drew me in, particularly as it is an area I feel I can help to make a valuable change.
What are the key trends you’re seeing at the moment that influence your work?
The rise in reusables is amazing. From coffee cups, to water bottles, to shopping bags, we’re all finding ways to dramatically reduce our single-use plastic intake which is encouraging.
There is a lot more to be done though, and this is where we feel businesses come in. They can help consumers not have to make the choice between the products they are already happy using and the environment.
It’s challenging but incredibly exciting to see what can be done. We cannot wait any longer for change. It needs to happen now.
What is your vision for the future of DAME?
To get as many people as possible to switch across to reusables. It doesn’t have to be our products – cups, cloth pads are all brilliant too – but some people can’t or won’t use them so we want to be there to offer another choice.
We won’t just stop there. We want to continue to innovate and help women use products that are beautiful, effective and environmentally friendly.
What’s the biggest surprise you’ve had since starting to work in period technology?
How open and excited people are for change. There has been relatively low innovation in this sector for decades as the industry giants have held a monopoly. It’s been a great monopoly for them as they knew everyone would come back, month after month, like clockwork.
However now there are great new companies emerging, and new products like ours that put the consumer’s body and planet first; and people are incredibly receptive to it.
When we launched D on Kickstarter it blew up beyond our wildest expectations. We have been featured in top international publications, getting viral videos with millions of views, and we ended up over-funding by nearly 300%.
How do you think the industry has changed in the past 5 years?
In the world of menstruation, a voice is finally being found. We’ve recently had spotlights shining on the tampon tax and period poverty. We’ve had someone run the London marathon free-bleeding, and outrage when Instagram censored a woman’s period photo.
This all creates incredible discussion around this subject matter which wasn’t happening before. It allows people to become more aware of their bodies and question what they are putting inside them and why they are doing it.
When it comes to periods, what’s the one thing you wish everyone knew?
That menstruation is totally normal. There are horrendous reports of young teenage girls in Nepal being banished from the house every month and forced to sleep in exposed huts when they have their period. That’s just not okay.
Even in the UK, we hide tampons up our sleeves and are sold marketing messages using shameful language like “discreet protection”. Getting your period is a normal part of life, and the more this is taught to both young girls and boys growing up, the better.
What are you currently working on that you are willing to share?
We’re now in the production stage and will get our first batch of D’s in the autumn which is incredibly exciting. These will be sent out to all the wonderful people who backed our crowdfunding campaign, and to whom we’re massively grateful for their support.
Everything about our packaging is designed to reduce waste. D comes in a beautiful reusable tin which can sit on your bathroom shelf and be used to store your organic tampons in. Our organic tampons, which can be bought on subscription through our website, come in compostable packs. We’re putting the final touches on these ready for launch.
We’re also in talks with some exciting retailers about stocking our products nationwide which is mind-blowing as we would love reusable options to be a mainstream choice. There’s a lot going on but it’s all heading in the right direction.