MWH Q&A WITH LOLA CO-FOUNDER, ALEX FRIEDMAN
Photo courtesy of Theory, Alex and I met when we were on the “Be Heard” panel Theory hosted during Women’s History Month.
MEET LOLA: Organic cotton feminine care in customized assortments delivered to your door.
You run one of the coolest brands right now. Did you imagine yourself running a company growing up?
I grew up in a very supportive household in New York City with two full-time working parents. My childhood was full of quirky family activities, strong role models and the freedom to experiment without fear of failure, but my parents also made it very clear that one day soon I would be expected to support myself. I have always admired my parents for creating a safe space where I could grow and learn, but then demanding I take advantage of these benefits to succeed on my own. They essentially gave me all the tools when I was growing up to one day have the confidence to run my own business.
What was your “AHA moment” when creating LOLA? What individuals and brands have been an inspiration for you?
Jordana and I were already thinking through potential business ideas, focusing on identifying any consumer pain points in existing markets, and feminine care stuck out to us. We were inspired to start this business because we couldn’t figure out what was in the mainstream tampon brands and always found ourselves running out to get tampons we already knew we needed.
The year before launch, we held numerous focus groups with women all over the country with friends and friends of friends to talk about their feminine care habits and discuss the brand we were building. We knew there was a market for LOLA, but since we weren’t yet selling a product, it wasn’t easy to be certain that women’s frustration with the status quo in feminine care would translate to an actual switch in behavior. Real-time feedback from our focus groups was critical to refining LOLA and our go-to-market approach, and through these conversations we validated the demand for what we were offering. Once women were made aware of the fact that they didn’t know what was in their tampons, they were angry but also galvanized to educate themselves and make a conscious change – that was the key indicator and “AHA moment” for us.
Jordana has been an inspiration to me since the moment we met! From the first time she asked me, “have you ever wondered what’s in a tampon?” to now, she’s always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible by not accepting the status quo as inevitable.
We are big believers in looking at ingredients in everything. Why is an organic tampon so important and what on earth were we putting in our bodies before LOLA was created?
Feminine care as a product category has been very under-researched, which is quite scary to think about. Without the appropriate research or information around ingredient breakdown, how can you make smart decisions? Many women – us included, just a few years ago – simply hadn’t thought about what was in their products or questioned why they couldn’t figure out what’s in the mainstream products we use. Before LOLA, big brands did the bare minimum and rarely disclosed the ratio of ingredients in their tampons, which is typically a blend of the artificial fibers rayon and polyester, among others.
Made from 100% organic cotton certified by Cotton Inc., LOLA products are hypoallergenic and don’t contain any synthetics, additives, or dyes. At LOLA, we believe that if we care about everything else we put in our bodies, feminine care shouldn’t be any different. In the absence of data, LOLA’s stance is that if we have the choice between an organic, all-cotton product (an ingredient we understand and interact with on a daily basis) and one with an incomplete ingredient list, we’d choose 100% cotton every time. Our goal is to give peace of mind to women about what they’re putting in their bodies.
Your website shows that there have been no studies on artificial fibers in tampons, why do you think this field has not gained serious attention before? On the flip side, what do you think makes the timing of a brand like LOLA so good?
As we began to research the industry, it quickly became clear to us that the most pressing issue in this product category was lack of transparency about the ingredients that went into tampons. Trying to figure out what went into the products we had been using since we were teenagers was a guessing game. As I mentioned before, we were shocked to learn that the FDA doesn’t require feminine care brands to disclose exactly what’s in their products, just what they may contain. The lack of transparency in the marketplace is why we decided to source our own product for LOLA instead of merely building a subscription service offering existing brands. We wanted to create a better product for ourselves and our friends.
When we launched LOLA in July 2015, the feminine care industry had been stale for a long time. I think the lack of options had a lot to do with a traditional lack of demand – but now, that’s changing. As the first to provide 100% organic tampons in a customizable, direct-to-consumer subscription model, we’re thrilled that the need for change and transparency has resonated with women all across the U.S.
You are a business run by women for women, how important is that in the day to day of your company and how has this shaped LOLA?
Like you mentioned, we’re female-founded and led. We’re consistently applying our personal, intimate experiences to our brand voice, product, and delivery platform. Our ingredients transparency – only selling 100% organic cotton products – gives us, and our customers, peace of mind about what we’re all putting in our bodies. We speak to our customers about these topics with respect – not in the hushed or belittling way we’re used to seeing in this category. And we’re approachable because we have periods, too. Additionally, we provide the most seamless and convenient experience. With LOLA, you can customize your absorbency assortment and delivery cadence so our products are completely tailored to your needs. It was important for us to build our business to be something we’d want to use ourselves.
What’s your advice for anyone reading this who wants to run their own wellness business one day?
I have a few pieces of advice that I’ve learned over the years that I think would be helpful for anyone who wants to run their own business one day:
- Develop a network where you have mentors and people you can rely on for honest feedback and advice. We’ve been very lucky to have cultivated a network of people who are supportive, but who also provide tough love and aren’t just saying “great job” all the time. They’re giving us objective feedback, and that has been invaluable and made us better entrepreneurs.
- Great people attract other great people. Find smart, motivated, talented people to add to your team. They will be your strongest asset in acquiring more talent. Our team is small but very special and hard-working. When people interview at LOLA, they leave wanting to be a part of it.
- Get comfortable with building the plane as you fly it. The learning curve stays steep, and you’re always building while operating. Proactively manage your time and energy to ensure you are able to multi-task, move quickly, and think strategically.