30x30 Women Who Lead

Meet the 30X30: Marlow is Empowering Menstruators to Live Life on Their Own Terms

Our sixth annual Bay Street Bull 30X30 guide showcases a group of incredible individuals who are redefining the way we do business, championing their communities, and cultivating entirely new industries. From tech and environmental pioneers to cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and media trailblazers, each of this year’s inductees is challenging Canadians to think (and work) differently for a brighter future.

In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and best advice. 

Q&A

Simone Godbout, Harit Sohal, Kiara Botha, and Nadia Ladak

Co-founders, Marlow

What is your elevator pitch to the world? 

Marlow: Marlow is the newest menstrual wellness brand that has launched the first-ever lubricated tampon experience. We want to empower menstruators to take charge of their menstrual health with comfortable products and reliable education. Inserting tampons is not always the most comfortable process, especially on the first and last day of a period when the flow is lighter. For some, this process is even more uncomfortable including first-time menstruators, individuals with medical conditions such as vaginismus, and those with increased levels of vaginal dryness. We want to continue to push the standards for products and create comfortable solutions, starting with the first-ever lubricated tampon. We combine 100 percent organic cotton tampons with a water-based lubricant to create a smoother, more comfortable insertion process. The products are purchased through an e-commerce channel and are delivered on DTC subscription model. Beyond our innovative product, our mission is to reduce the stigma around menstrual and sexual health. Through easily digestible education & conversation, we can begin to normalize menstrual and sexual health as key aspects of overall wellness. 

What excites you most about the work that you are doing? 

Simone Godbout: Pinterest released their latest trends report and reported that “mindful menstruation” is one of the top trends to watch in 2022. Gen Z consumers are looking to optimize all aspects of their wellness from physical wellness to mental wellness, and now are shifting their focus to menstrual and sexual wellness. This is proven by an increase in key category search terms such as “period care” and “cycle tracking” being up three times in search volume from the previous year. The market is beginning to recognize these trends as well with companies such as Indigo, Sephora, and Bloomingdale’s launching their own sexual wellness categories for the first time. This space is becoming more normalized as a key aspect of an individual’s wellness routine and we are excited to be at the forefront of this growing movement, at a really pivotal time. 

Where do you think you have made the most impact in your community?

Simone Godbout: I was shocked when I learned that the modern tampon hasn’t changed significantly in the last 90 years. I thought in a world of so much innovation with AI, 3D printing, and more, why should the menstrual product space be any different? We are transforming the menstrual care industry by bringing innovation into this space and raising the standards of what is offered. We are empowering menstruators to live life on their own terms, not the time of the month. 

What kind of problems are you trying to solve? What’s wrong with the current status quo that you’ve taken on as your mission to solve? 

Simone Godbout: Historically, the menstrual product space has been dominated by a few select competitors. This lack of competition has minimized any incentive to innovate products, ultimately reinforcing the idea that menstruators should simply continue to put up with the products that are available. This has led to millions of menstruators feeling that there is something wrong with them if they can’t use a tampon because there are no other options available. At Marlow, we believe we can be a part of changing this narrative. Through education and conversation, we want to prove to menstruators that there are tons of reasons for uncomfortable tampon insertion and you shouldn’t have to put up with the pain. We’ve worked to create a product that reduces this pain and discomfort. Now, menstruators who previously have had pelvic pain, vaginal dryness, or a lighter flow, are able to use tampons with ease and not be held back by their period. 

How has the word “impact” manifested in your work? 

Kiara Botha: When we surveyed our community, we discovered that 98 percent of individuals felt that their sex education didn’t prepare them for real life. In school, we typically only learn about the basics including anatomy, STIs, and contraception. So if you didn’t land the “goldmine” with open parents who were willing to teach you the rest, young individuals were often turning to unreliable resources to learn about their bodies. As menstruators ourselves, we know how ridiculous it is that menstruation and sex are taboo subjects steeped in whispers and misinformation. Our goal with Marlow is to smash the stigma by providing easily accessible and shame-free education. Through our community, we provide a safe and welcoming space to spark conversations and ask the questions you’ve always wanted to know the answers to. 

What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away from your work?

Nadia Ladak: Growing up, I didn’t realize that entrepreneurship could be a viable career path. My parents immigrated to this country and strived to get stable jobs to keep our family safe. Pursuing something as risky as entrepreneurship never even crossed my mind. Now being in this space, I am blown away by the unparalleled career development and learning opportunities that I’ve had. Every day I wake up energized and excited to bring innovation to a space that affects 50 percent of the population at some point in time. I hope that others can see how valuable the entrepreneurship career path is and that I can inspire individuals from underrepresented groups to become the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders. 

What has been your proudest moment as entrepreneurs? Your biggest milestone?

Kiara Botha: We are motivated by the impact we can make with our educational community and innovative product. We love speaking to our customers and hearing their feedback and experiences. One moment that stands out to me, in particular, is the following comment from a member of our community:

“I just wanted to say thank you because you make me feel so normal. I have felt so insecure and so broken for having so much pain with tampons and it helps so much knowing that I’m not alone. The fact that my problems are acknowledged and seen is so wonderful.”

Reading comments like this has been so inspiring and validating to know that we are making a difference for menstruators everywhere. 

Why does your work matter? 

Harit Sohal: According to a research study done by Puma, one in two girls quit sports due to their period. There are many reasons for this including the stigma around menstrual health, the lack of education, and uncomfortable period products that prevent individuals from actively participating in their lives. Accessibility to comfortable period products is a huge priority for us, so we developed a lubricated tampon to provide a smoother and more comfortable insertion process, allowing menstruators to not be held back by their period. Everybody has a unique body with unique needs, and we recognize that the current products don’t serve everyone equally. Beyond the product itself, we are excited to change the stigmatized narrative around periods to a more refreshing and shame-free one. 

What have you learned about yourselves as you’ve built your company and raised your voice? 

Harit Sohal: We’ve learned that we are capable of being so resilient. From unexpected supply chain challenges to regulatory hurdles and raising financing, we never could have imagined how challenging this journey could be but we are so proud of everything that we have accomplished and the impact we have made to date. We have a diverse team and have established a strong team culture that allows us to push each other to dream bigger. 

What is a major career goal that you have set your sights on and hope to accomplish in 2022? 

Nadia Ladak: Now being in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, I have grown increasingly passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs. I am a member of the Start-up Canada Women Advocacy Network where I have the opportunity to speak at government roundtables and advocate for resources and support to propel our female founders forward. My goal is to increase access to funding, especially for early-stage entrepreneurs who may not have hit specific revenue metrics and customer velocity yet. I know there are women building incredibly innovative businesses and we need to provide them with the platforms and resources to be able to grow and scale. 

What is your ultimate north star? 

Nadia Ladak: Our north star is to make sure that no menstruator is held back because of their period. We want to empower menstruators to live life on their own terms and to have access to reliable education to take charge of their menstrual health. We want to continue to push the standards for products and create comfortable solutions. We believe lubricated tampons will be the “new normal”. Imagine if from the start, lubricated tampons were introduced to the market, it would be silly to use a dry tampon when smoother and more comfortable options existed. So, similar to how Kleenex became synonymous with tissues, we want Marlow to be synonymous with the new normal of lubricated tampons, allowing individuals to actively participate in their lives, regardless of the time of the month.

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Feeling inspired? Meet the rest of Bay Street Bull’s 30X30