Deskside

They're Creating the Prettiest (& Safest) Tampons on the Market

Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman are (finally) changing the feminine care industry.

By: Alicia Cesaro
Photography:

When we’re sourcing new subjects for our Deskside series we usually focus on people who proverbially are shaking things up—and we’d like to think we cover a pretty good range, from fashion editors to coding organization CEOs and musicians. So when we heard about Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, founders of the, uh, aesthetically pleasing tampon brand, LOLA and their (much needed) rethink up of feminine hygiene products, we were curious.  
 
Here's why: hands up if you’re surprised by your period each and every month. Yeah, we’ve been getting it every 28 days for some oh, 15 years, but it still gets us every time. Which more instances that not includes us rushing to the nearest CVS to buy yet another box of tampons. And as much we don’t question it, it was this exact cycle (ha) that inspired Kier and Friedman to think up a subscription service delivering supplies every month. Yet once they embarked on this mission, they found out some pretty scary stuff. Like that most of us have literally no clue what our tampons are actually made of or where they came from.

We mean, people are genuinely concerned about whether or not their kale is double or triple-washed, and we demand to know each and every ingredient that goes into our bodies. But tampon companies aren't obliged to do this; and although we slap an all-organic label on most everything these days, tampons haven’t really changed, since, well, as long as we, or our mothers, can remember.
 
So we sat down with the LOLA founders to discuss allllll of this and a lot more. And we left thinking about how their approach to tampons (and the whole industry) is going to change everything. Oh, and how thanks to them we'll never have to worry about rushing to buy (debatably safe) tampons again. 

 

ON HOW THEY MET (OVER BEER AND TAMPONS, OF COURSE)

“We have such similar backgrounds that it was almost weird we didn’t meet earlier; we both grew up in New York and went to the same college without ever crossing paths. In early 2014, we were set up by our significant others who knew each other through work. Jordana was already in the process of building the early foundation of LOLA while at Columbia Business School and Alex was working in mobile app analytics at Flurry (an ad-tech startup). We grabbed a beer, talked tampons and the rest is history.”

 

SO WHAT’S REALLY IN YOUR TAMPON?  

“We founded LOLA with a simple and seemingly obvious idea—you shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to tampons. Like most women, we had been using the same feminine care products since we were teenagers. The initial plan for LOLA was actually a subscription service. But when we started looking into existing tampons on the market, we found out that feminine care brands aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products. Since our teenage years, we hadn’t once thought to stop and think: what’s in our tampon? To us, it just didn’t make sense. If we care about everything else we put in our bodies, this shouldn’t be any different.

LOLA was created as a modern approach to feminine care. Made from 100% cotton certified by Cotton Inc., our products are hypoallergenic and don’t contain any synthetics, chemicals, or dyes. LOLA tampons are wrapped in a BPA-free compact plastic applicator so you don’t have to compromise simple and natural ingredients for comfort. We provide women peace of mind and the freedom to easily tailor the absorbency assortment and frequency of deliveries to fit their schedules."

 

ON CREATING A UM, TAMPON COMPANY 

“It wasn’t easy! Someone once told us that to start a company you have to be a little insane, and that definitely rings more than a little true. In the early days, when we didn’t have a prototype, it took a lot of perseverance to walk into meeting after meeting ready to pitch our vision with no product to show for it. We could picture the LOLA brand and our service so clearly—we just needed a little bit of seed capital to bring our dream to life. And then of course, there are the administrative parts of getting a new business off the ground, like filing paperwork to become a corporation. Having checklists and deadlines for completing each piece of the puzzle, however big or small, kept us disciplined and focused on moving forward each day. The advice we would you give to others starting a business is, nothing is ever as scary as you think it is.

There is nothing like owning the outcome of every single decision you make. Each day is a new adventure and a new learning curve. We try to balance “taking it one day at a time” with dreaming big. In general, we feel really lucky that we have found something we can obsess over (yes—it is possible to obsess over tampons).”

 

ON THE HIGHS AND THE LOWS

“The hardest part of figuring out whether to go into this business was understanding whether women’s surprise at learning what was in their tampons would translate into buying behavior. Throughout the year before launch, we held a series of focus groups with women all over the country to talk about their feminine care habits and discuss the brand we were building. Their real-time feedback was critical to refining LOLA and our go-to-market approach, and through these conversations validated the demand for what we were offering.

That said, given we weren’t yet selling a product, it was not easy to be certain that women’s frustration with the status quo in feminine care would translate to an actual purchase. So an early and really meaningful triumph was simply making it through day one after launch. We were finally able to see that women we had talked to were purchasing. Women we had never met were purchasing. Women in New York, women in Texas, women in Virginia, were purchasing our product. Ever since that first day when we saw women spending in line with their beliefs that they deserved to know what was in their product, we have never questioned what we are trying to build and only looked forward to figure out how to make LOLA the best it can be.

It was the moment we saw LOLA in Us Weekly’s Buzzzz-o-meter [that we knew it was a success]. Right now we’re working in a shared space near Union Square with a few other start-ups (and one of our favorite investors). But when we have our own office, that’s the first thing we’ll frame and hang on the wall!”

 

ON WHAT MAKES LOLA (A LOT) DIFFERENT THAN OTHER BRANDS  

“We’ve always said that one thing setting LOLA apart from other brands is the way we speak to our customers in an honest, real-talk way. We understand that realistically, you aren’t frolicking in a white bathing suit on your period. If you check out our Instagram page, you can see we have a sense of humor, have fun and don’t take ourselves too seriously. We also know that having your period can be a drag, so it’s all about making it easier for women and sending what you need, when you need it. LOLA provides the most seamless and convenient experience with the best of both worlds: a 100% cotton tampon in a compact plastic applicator. When we first started out, we were set on creating a service that we would sign up for ourselves, so we built our subscription model with the utmost flexibility to allow you to adjust the assortment, quantity, or delivery anytime.”

 

ON THE LACK OF ORGANIC TAMPON OPTIONS IN AN ALL-ORGANIC-EVERYTHING WORLD  

“We think it has a lot to do with the demand for these options. The FDA doesn’t actually require feminine care brands to list their comprehensive ingredients, so a box of tampons at the drugstore might say something like: ‘This product may contain cotton, rayon, polyester.’ Most of us never bother to look at the labels on tampon boxes and women simply don’t know what’s in the products they’re buying because they’ve never thought about it. If women knew, we think there would be a larger demand for more natural options.  That’s exactly why we set out to educate women and start a conversation.”

 

WHAT THEIR NINE-TO-FIVE LOOKS LIKE

“A typical day in the life is a little of a lot. Given we’re still a small team, we both have our hands in a lot of different aspects of the business. On a typical day we’ll start out the day with a workout (Alex is doing core strengthening, Jordana has a spin class). At 10am, we’re meeting with a potential hire—we meet with a lot of candidates these days as each new hire has a big impact on our nascent culture. After that, we’re headed to meet with someone we admire greatly who may become an investor in our business the next time we raise capital. We spend a lot of time meeting with folks who could be powerful allies—investors, partners, influencers—and always enjoy hearing feedback and advice from different perspectives. After that meeting, we’re having lunch together and in addition to our usual shenanigans, will discuss our spending plans, marketing strategy and end of year goals. In the afternoon, we have a weekly meeting with our web development team. They are based in Montreal, so each week we have a video chat to cover the current iteration of edits to the site. If the late afternoon is surprisingly free we’ll each have a few hours at our desks, to catch up with the team, hear about any interesting customer feedback and troubleshoot any ops or marketing-related challenges. In the evening, we both usually have plans with friends.”

 

THAT WHOLE LIFE WORK BALANCE THING

“We don’t have any great secrets! We both know our priorities and have discussed them. We communicate, we set boundaries and we respect each other’s quiet time. We work hard and we make sure to set aside time for things that are important to us, whether that may be family, working out, friends, hobbies, or alone time. We are personally at our best when we lead balanced lives, so we make that a priority for ourselves and look for that quality in people who join the LOLA team.”

 

THEIR FAVORITE NEW YORK SPOTS TO TALK TAMPONS (OR NOT)

“I love everything and anything in Koreatown (both BBQ and karaoke: my go-to song is ‘Don’t Let Go’ by En Vogue). Other favorite food spots: Via Carota and Decoy (West Village), Momoya and Westville (Chelsea), Nightingale 9 in Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn). In the early days of LOLA I would spend hours at Cafe Grumpy, the coffee shop in Chelsea. 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 (I’m partial to anywhere that sells black clothes). I love TV—I’m really into Homeland and just finished the second season of Peaky Blinders (with hotties Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy)—can’t wait for that one to return to Netflix.” – Jordana

“I typically spend weekends in Brooklyn Heights—you might catch me having a drink at Henry Public, grabbing some unreasonably spicy Thai food at Pok Pok, snacking on tapas at La Vara or walking along the Promenade. 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.” – Alex

 

ON TAKING OVER THE WHOLE FEMININE CARE INDUSTRY  

“Our day-to-day goal right now is for women to feel good about what they’re putting in their bodies and have peace of mind about what’s in their feminine care products. Overall, we want LOLA to provide a better feminine care experience in a relatable, straightforward, and transparent way. Our grand vision is to provide every product for all women throughout their entire reproductive cycle. We want to empower women to make proactive and informed decisions about everything they put in their bodies.”

 

PERKS OF THE JOB  

“Unlimited free, glorious tampons!”

 

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