While We Bleed Red, Celia Pool Ensures We Think Green
By: Genevieve Pierre-Charles
Celia Pool isn’t your typical startup founder. In her mid-thirties with two kids, Celia transformed her passion for female issues into the forefront of her work.
Through DAME, a female reproductive health company based in London, Celia and her co-founder, Alec Mills, have innovated the tampon applicator by creating an organic, reusable product. Not only is their applicator, D, safe for women, it addresses the surplus waste of plastic that comes with traditional period products.
Entrepreneurship wasn’t always on the horizon for Celia. But once she entered motherhood, Celia quickly realized that her job as a project manager at Sotheby’s - the British art auction house - didn’t fit her new season of life. “As most mothers do, I decided to leave my old job and do something with more meaning and purpose,” she explained.
Celia found herself moving more and more towards the values that mattered to her own family, specifically women’s issues.
“I come from a family of sisters with parents who were incredibly supportive and always sort of brought us up to believe that women and men are equal. So when you encounter it in other areas of your life, it makes you cross...No, I don’t have to be cross. I can implement some change.”
The idea for DAME came to Celia when she noticed that people didn’t buy reusable products, like menstrual cups or period panties, and her curiosity led her to discover why. Most of these reusable products did not fit in with the products women normally used.
“That habit change jump was too much,” she says. “There was a sort of fear factor, basically, attached to it. They were too apprehensive of making changes in it.” Women were used to what their mothers had taught them to use, and reusable feminine health items were out of the ordinary for them.
Despite this realization, Celia knew that the environmental impact of the current period product industry was weighing on the earth - literally. “Every woman is estimated to use 12,000 tampons in her lifetime. You know, that’s a lot of plastic waste,” said Celia.
Recognizing that she needed a new product - one that would decrease the waste produced by having periods and one that would be in a familiar form. Therefore, D was born - an organic, cotton, reusable tampon applicator.
In order to get funding, Celia and her cofounder, Alec Mills, decided to go the traditional VC route. However, they quickly realized it would be a difficult journey to get an investor on board. Most investors were men, and they were usually only interested in products related to their own needs. Female products were not something most male investors understood or could easily comprehend the need for.
This led Celia and Mills to crowdfunding. Within four days on Kickstarter, they were trending on Twitter and surpassed their goal. “You never know what the reception will be like and we were completely blown away.” Based on their campaign, there was a huge demand for better products for women. “There is a massive appetite for innovation for the female sector,” Celia argued.
The Kickstarter campaign brought them their desired raise - surpassing their goal by more than 500%. They were finally ready to begin making the product. “It kind of started off with designing it and coming up with the ideas, and we went and took it out to a product designer, who took it and ran with it.”
As part of their design process, they focused on unraveling the negative connotations of having a period. This included the idea that women need to be “fresh,” along with the lack of conversation around normalizing having a period in general. Ultimately, the DAME team wanted to reframe the way women talked about periods altogether. They decided that one of the quickest ways to ‘rebrand’ menstruation was to use color theory. Red was often associated with periods negatively and green represents nature. Thus their tagline “Bleed Red. Think Green.” was finally born.
D, the world’s first reusable tampon applicator, is such a sign of progress in the female reproductive health industry. Until recently, the last major innovation in period products were the adhesive on the back of the pad added by Kotex in the 1970s. The lack of change in feminine products was before climate change was a major concern or there was any knowledge about the harmful chemicals in traditional period products. However, DAME is taking a step in the right direction.
The true value of DAME is how Celia believes in the power of education to empower women about their bodies, and the role their bodies play in the environment. The DAME site is full of information and self-use quizzes about how single-use period products are adding tons of waste to our environment.
Education was ironically also, a huge part of DAME’s success. Fueled through Celia’s desire to get her idea out there, she needed to educate herself on the history of period products, the lack of existing information on feminine reproductive health, and not to mention - learning how to build a business! “The key thing with entrepreneurship is talking to people. We went and found many people who created and made things and went and talked to them.” In a world often filled with competition and animosity, Celia knew that sharing ideas with others would only help women in the long run - even if it meant talking to her competitors.
“The more people around us who can show women that there are more natural products around, whether it be a cup or a pad, that’s amazing because that’s all showing women that there are other options - there is choice.”
The more period talk is normalized, the more girls won’t feel shame when first learning about their periods, and that reframes the narrative of what being a woman truly means. The work that these companies are doing are building up options for women while addressing their concerns - that is beneficial to everyone.