People 04 November 2016
For Jordana Kier, disruption of the $15 billion feminine care industry meant a focus on differentiation.
The impetus for her innovative subscription-based feminine care company, LOLA, which was backed with a $1.2 million investment without even a prototype, came when Kier and her husband had a brainstorming session on what bothers them as consumers. “It [my period] is the one predictable thing that I know is going to happen to me every month," she says. "...but it always catches me by surprise." Offering 100% cotton tampons delivered to a consumer's door each month, LOLA was born during Kier's tenure at Columbia Business School. "I took this weird detour in a passion that [I] didn’t even know I had," says Kier, who founded LOLA with her business partner and friend, Alex Friedman.
Having casually mentioned the idea of a subscription-based tampon company during class, the response was laughter from her peers. Clearly, it was no laughing matter, as the business, which is now in its second year, is re-imagining what is already a familiar part of a woman’s life: the ubiquitous tampon.“Starting, building, and growing a company, [and] managing people” is not something Kier could do alone. “Honestly, having a co-founder is like having a spouse,” which is why Kier recommends “dating” your co-founders before marrying them."The goal is to provide any product that a woman needs throughout her whole reproductive life, from the moment you get your period all the way through menopause. We want to be there for her," says Kier, who is equally laser-focused on bringing attention to women’s health issues. "We have products but it’s much more than that. It's a movement, it's a mission around getting women comfortable talking about these topics, making it easier for women to know what's in their [feminine care] products.”
It was also her surprise at the lack of information provided to customers that lead Kier to create LOLA. “The FDA doesn’t require companies to disclose the ingredients in these products,” she says. “I’m putting this in my body and yet there’s more regulation around organic kale than there is about this product.”
For Kier, cotton was the obvious choice for her line, because it was a material consumers could trust. “Because there’s so little transparency in the general feminine care industry, we decided to go with a 100 percent organic tampon, which is a fiber we understand,” she says. “It’s a fiber used in hospitals. It’s what you wrap your babies in. It’s natural, and we feel ten times better using something we understand vs. something we don’t."
Additionally, the fact that many tampons boxes feature the phrase “may contain” with a host of undesirable ingredients like polyester, is another thing that enforces her mission. “It’s sketchy,” she said about the nameless ingredients that tampon companies aren’t owning up to using. “If we are going to sell a product that we are also going to use it needs to be something that we are 100 percent safe using ourselves.”
Changing the conversation is also an important element of Kier’s vision.
“A year and half ago when we were doing this phase of customer discovery, it really was about women just starting to get comfortable talking about these topics,” she says. “Never was I sitting back and thinking, ‘What is really my purchase behavior?’ or ‘How many tampons am I using in a cycle?’ There is so much lack of inventory management and ownership that goes into this thing that’s really emotional and hits you typically by surprise, and then you want to forget about it.”When it came time to get funding for her idea, Kier says she was galvanized to action due to the fact that the feminine care market has been under-innovated in recent years, and only "stale" products are available.
“We had this amazing opportunity to educate,” says Kier, about her interactions with male investors. “We were put in this position where we had this domain expertise and could educate men. We said look this is a pretty big market, it is an inevitable thing that happens to women. We think we can do it better because we are in our thirties and we are our own customer .”
The fact that her product was a commodity, much like razors, mattresses and eyeglasses-all industries which have seen incredible disruption in the past few years-Kier said investors got understood her vision. “They saw lot of similarities [to companies like Harry's, Casper and Warby Parker], even if they couldn’t use the product,” she says, adding that the transparency movement is also hot, as evidenced by companies like Everlane, which strip away the secrecy of product creation.
Clearly the Millennial-driven trend of proactive consumerism has become the new norm, and those companies like LOLA that embrace it rather than fight it will come out winning. Looking to the future, Kier is looking to continue her mission of solving woman's problems, but is open to expanding into complementary directions.
"We're still really small, and we're starting to see that those first challenges of how you step outside of what you've been used to," says Kier, who closed her second round of funding, $3 million to be exact, in February. "You say now that I have a little more mind space to think of the bigger challenges that we face, how can I tackle those?"
Jordana Kier. Photo Credit: Annie O’Neill
3 min read
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist