Written by Natasha Lawrence
It’s time for the world to realize that the future is female. There are so many female entrepreneurs who inspire us and we wanted to know more about how they got their companies off the ground. Welcome to our series: The Future Is Female, where we sit down with inspiring female entrepreneurs and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how their companies operate.
Especially due to the current situation of the world (read: Roe V. Wade), it is achingly frustrating how little information there is available with regards to female health, and how few products exist to address female issues. From painful sex to uncomfortable periods, the information available is minimal. However, more and more companies are making female health and wellbeing a top priority. One of those companies is Marlow. Founded by, Harit Sohal, Kiara Botha, Nadia Lady and Simone Godbout, the company has created the first ever lubricant and tampon designed to be used together, for a more comfortable tampon insertion.The crew of female founders aim to prioritize menstrual wellness and change the conversation regarding menstruation and sexual wellbeing.
Stay up to date all things menstrual and sexual wellness by following the brand on Instagram and TikTok, as well as their blog where they share interactive polls and myth busters on everything from cranberry juice and UTIs to post-sex hygiene routines.
What inspired you to create Marlow?
We were all having a conversation as friends when one of the Marlow founders shared that she experiences pain when inserting tampons. She’s an active individual, and she found that pads, her only alternative, were bulky and uncomfortable and limited her performance. It also prevented her from participating in certain activities such as swimming or wearing certain types of clothing. After hearing her story, we surveyed our Marlow community and learned that 86% of them have also experienced discomfort when using a tampon at some point in time.
Determined to find a solution to her problem, our co-founder went to the gynaecologist, who told her that the best solution would be to “spit” on her tampon to make it easier to insert. This answer blew away our team. Spit should be the bare minimum solution as it can harbour bacteria and isn’t particularly moisturizing. This shock factor drove us to find a better solution. That’s when we decided to create the first-ever lubricant and tampon designed to be used together for smoother and more comfortable insertion.
As we continued to learn about the menstrual health space, we were shocked to learn that the modern tampon hadn’t changed significantly in the last 89 years. In a world of AI, 3D printing, and so much innovation, we thought, why should the menstrual product space be any different? It seemed that as consumers, we were on auto-pilot, never questioning what we were putting into our bodies. Now, we wake up everyday energized and excited to shake things up in a space that impacts over 50% of the world at some point in time. Beyond our products, our goal is to change “The Talk” for the next generation from uncomfortable to refreshing. We are passionate not only about the impact we can make with our brand new products, but with the reliable and shame-free education we are providing to our community so that we can all learn more about our bodies and our health.
How did you come up with the name?
When reflecting on what we wanted our brand to represent, we decided that we wanted Marlow to be like an older sister. Someone who you feel comfortable to turn to to ask questions about these taboo subjects. Someone who will “tell you like it is” and break down these topics in an easily digestible manner. With this persona in mind, we turned to a list of baby names for inspiration and eventually settled on Marlow. It fit perfectly for the older sister bad a** persona!
What inspires Marlow the most?
The inspiration behind our brand is to foster a welcoming, supportive, and curious community and to spark conversations about menstrual and sexual health. With this community, we believe we can change the conversations around these topics for the next generation from uncomfortable to refreshing. As menstruators ourselves, we know how ridiculous it is that menstruation is a taboo subject steeped in whispers and misinformation, and we’re determined to change that. This is a natural bodily occurrence for almost 50% of the population at some point in time and we should not be ashamed of that. The lack of education & misinformation in this space can lead to people living their lives in shame, disregarding their symptoms, and going undiagnosed for extended periods because they disregard their pain as “normal”.
At Marlow, we’re building a safe space to ask the questions you’ve always wanted to know the answers to but have always felt too nervous to ask. Due to the taboo nature of this space, we prioritize meeting people where they’re at. We know everyone has their own personal comfort levels and we want to go on this learning journey with our community. We hope that this leads to supportive conversation between not only menstruators but also non-menstruators too.
What was the biggest struggle or hurdle when you first started?
I think one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is the ambiguity you face every day. There is no playbook that tells you what to do. You are completely accountable for every decision you make. You are constantly making work plans, setting deadlines for yourself, and making decisions to steer your business in the right direction. At times this can be overwhelming and tiring as you’re never just “riding the wave”, you’re constantly steering the ship. You will fail, and you will face rejection, but this provides a quick feedback loop to learn and pivot accordingly.
It is actually one of the exciting parts of being an entrepreneur as well. You are constantly putting yourself out there and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. You get to wear many hats and learn about all of the aspects of business, such as operations, fundraising, marketing, and team building.
What did your career look like before Marlow was launched and how did you get to where you are today?
Our team graduated from the Ivey Business School at Western University and spent the first years of our career in management consulting, asset management, brand management, and creative direction. These diverse skill sets have helped us to clearly define our roles and create a well-balanced team. When starting Marlow, we completed the NEXT36 entrepreneurship accelerator program which provided us with the skills, mentors, and resources to allow our business to thrive. There have been several exciting milestones since starting Marlow including our regulatory approvals, raising our angel funding round, being featured in a variety of press outlets, and building our community. One of the primary ways we evaluate our success is through the impact we’re making, and the positive messages we’ve received about our product & brand is what motivates our team to keep going. We love speaking to our community directly to learn and hear about their experiences. One message and moment that specifically stands out is the following message from a community member: “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 and struggle with tampons and it just helps so much knowing that I’m not alone and 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.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to not jump into an idea right away. Find a low cost way to test your idea and to validate your assumptions. Start by sharing your idea with your friends and family to get initial feedback. Then, you can do a customer survey to understand the problem space before building some initial prototypes. Entrepreneurship is all about continuous learning & iteration so be open to building, learning, measuring, and adjusting accordingly.