With the founding of Marlow, a group of young entrepreneurs take aim at a long overdue disruption in feminine care
Photo, from left: Marlow founders Kiara Botha, Harit Sohal, Nadia Ladak, Simone Godbout and Natalie Diezyn
CONVERSATIONS ABOUT MENSTRUATION just don’t flow the same way other health-related topics do. That’s why Marlow, a new medical device startup out of London, is on a mission to demystify and destigmatize periods with an innovative new menstrual product.
Led by a founding team of emerging entrepreneurs awake to society’s sensitivities about the topic, Marlow aims to deliver customer-focused products and inclusive education targeted towards a wide demographic of menstruators.
“We were all unsatisfied with our experiences in the menstrual products space,” says co-founder and CEO, Simone Godbout. “Marlow will transform the way people experience and talk about periods, starting with developing and launching the first-ever lubricated tampon.”
The tampon itself is an innovation in the industry, focused on creating an easier experience, alleviating discomfort and addressing pain out in the open. Godbout sees this venture as an opportunity for a modern brand to step into a space shrouded in overtly feminine packaging and products that too-often create confusion and perpetuate shame for users that are underserved.
“When we first started researching tampons, as consumers we didn’t even realize they were classified as medical devices,” notes Kiara Botha, co-founder and creative lead. Research conducted with friends and fellow students alerted them to the complacency that accompanied these discussions, hence the surprise at discovering that tampons are considered Class II medical devices, regulated under similar standards as contact lenses and surgical gloves.
The founders say that with this in mind, their venture’s purpose, originally born out of a capstone course project as Ivey Business School students, evolves beyond tampons alone.
“It comes down to health. There are ripple effects from not normalizing something that over 50 per cent of our population experiences,” says Godbout.
The founders say menstruation is a regular concern for a huge portion of the population, with little real innovation to serve them. Marlow’s focus on continuously improving their product and curating a responsive community is vital to the impactful innovation they’re aiming for.
“People who menstruate often drop out of sports because they’re being underserved,” continues Godbout. “Many lose confidence on the days they’re uncomfortable. Imagine the number of people who even experience pain at work, yet don’t feel comfortable telling their colleagues. Some are even hesitant to discuss it with their doctors.”
Disruption in this space, however, requires a great deal of passion to drive the mission forward. “From a consumer perspective, you wonder, why don’t you just change it? Why aren’t things moving faster?” says Botha. “But given the health requirements and medical regulations that surround product development, it’s made us realize that you have to care enough to innovate in this space.”
“The founding team at Marlow sits at a perfect intersection of entrepreneurship and social impact,” says TechAlliance’s strategic advisor, Rachel Ettinger. “There’s a big opportunity for market disruption, as the big players are not yet focused on product innovation. Marlow is bringing change to the market with a more comfortable menstrual product that is targeted to all folks who menstruate, not just women and to continue to promote discussions around menstruation.”
Marlow recently concluded a crowdfunding campaign, raising over $12,000, providing market validation by backers who stand by the product and mission. Now, the team is in the process of raising a pre-seed round, while finalizing contracts with tampon and lubricant manufacturers. According to Botha, the team aims to have the product, along with a refreshed website, out in early 2021.
In the meantime, the partners continue to bolster their online presence with educational blog content, media features and developing an IGTV series.