How LOLA Became a Successful Pad + Tampon Delivery Service
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 07/26/2017 | 6 Minute Read
Starting a business is easier said than done—from startup costs to finding suppliers and endless unexpected challenges. This week we’re chatting with Jordana Kier, one of the founders of LOLA, to learn more about the nitty gritty of how she and Alexandra Friedman took the idea for this pad and tampon company and turned it into a reality.
Give us an idea of your timeline. When did you first get the idea for LOLA, start hiring people, line up suppliers, etc. all the way to having physical products to sell?
- December 2013 – tampon delivery service idea is hatched… if we can get all other products delivered any time of night, why can’t we get tampons delivered when we need them??
- Business school through May 2014 – early stages of company formed. Early research: Initial market research exposes opacity of feminine care industry.
- Summer 2014 – Jordana and Alex hit it off and decide to build LOLA together. Grassroots research, focus groups, surveys galore. Start building the early brand: look, feel, and tone emerges. Engage with suppliers all across the world so we can sell the best tampon out there.
- Fall 2014 – Jordana and Alex pitch investors, dunking tampons in water at restaurants all over NYC.
- Winter 2015 – Alex leaves her job, we raise $1.2M! Road trip to Montreal in the depths of winter to build a website and eat poutine. First rounds of packaging done and sent off to the printer.
- Spring 2015 – Getting ready to launch! Focus groups in SF, LA, Chicago, NY. Spreading the brand voice, vibe, and conversation. Women love LOLA and are galvanized to tell their friends.
- Summer 2015 – HERE WE GO!! July 8, LOLA is out in the world! Women all over the country are posting about periods on Facebook, Instagram, you name it. Word of mouth and organic growth is strong—exactly how we want to build this business.
- Fall 2015 – Let’s grow this thing. Customers are super engaged with us and the brand. We are building a movement that’s no longer just about periods, but about gender equality and empowerment to own our bodies with pride. Focus on getting the word out, ambassadors, early influencer campaigns.
- Winter 2016 – Scaling and $$$. We raise $3M from VCs to build our team (still 4 full-time at this point!) and expand into new products.
- Spring 2016 – Growing fast. Team doubles.
- Winter 2017 – Series A raise of $7M! We’re investing in product development, content strategy, and customer experience.
- From now till forever – Constant dialogues with our customers, testing and questioning new products and new markets. What do women need? Every product launch matters. We are living and breathing, real-time, a case study in both building a feminist business and a movement.
Did you have investors? If so, how did you work to line them up?
Jordana Kier: We’re really lucky to have such great investors who fully support our vision. At first, we were nervous that the predominantly male investor community wouldn’t be able to relate, but when we raised the issue that most women currently have no idea what’s in their tampon and the conscious consumer trend wasn’t extending to this extremely personal category, the concept resonated with men as well and the huge market opportunity was clear. They saw the need for increased transparency and took our products home to their wives, daughters, etc. To-date, we’ve raised $11.2M and count the founders of Warby Parker, Sweetgreen, and Insomnia Cookies, as well as supermodel Karlie Kloss and actresses Allison Williams and Lena Dunham, among our amazing investors.
What was your biggest expense in founding LOLA? What ended up being way more affordable than you’d imagined?
Jordana Kier: There are clearly large expenses when you run a business, but we prefer to think of our big ticket items as investments. For example, building our website took time and a good chunk of money, but it is crucial to how we present ourselves and our offerings to women across the US. The subscription was a completely new concept for this category and the website had to be perfectly usable. So while web development is a big expense, we think of it as an investment in our brand and business model.
What resources were the most helpful in getting the business started—websites, magazines, software, etc.?
Jordana Kier: We’re incredibly fortunate to have a network of mentors who we relied (and continue to rely!) on. From our board member Kevin Thau, who led our Series A from Spark Capital, to our friends at Harry’s, Warby Parker, Sweetgreen, Glossier, Bonobos… we’ve been fortunate to have people we can reach out to for any question, big or small.
How did you go about finding suppliers that fall into line with your mission of providing chemical-free feminine care?
Jordana Kier: We searched the globe for manufacturing partners we trusted to produce our products made with 100% organic cotton. They not only had to meet our strict quality standards, but also be FDA certified medical device manufacturing facilities and certified GOTS. Our products are manufactured in Europe and packaged here in the U.S.
How do you incorporate the element of customization into LOLA for the consumer?
Jordana Kier: We provide women the freedom to easily tailor the absorbency assortment, choosing any breakdown they’d like for our applicator and non-applicator tampons, as well as our ultra-thin pads. For example, our applicator tampons contain 18 in each box—the standard breakdown is 3 light, 6 regular, 6 super and 3 super plus, but customers can choose any breakdown they’d like (even if that means just 1 tampon in an absorbency category!). For pads, customers simply choose their preferred breakdown of day and night pads. Our goal was to create a service we would want to use ourselves, so we make it easy to adjust, skip or cancel deliveries at any time.
Who did you turn to for packaging your products?
How do you feel that the packaging/branding for LOLA is successful in communicating the values and mission of your brand?
Jordana Kier: Our overall goal with LOLA’s packaging design was to create a sleek, sophisticated, simple and modern feminine care brand—a stark contrast to the overly loud, cliche and colorful packaging women are used to seeing at the drugstore. Our thinking was that we've matured when it comes to all other product categories in our life, including our beauty and clothing choices, so why not feminine care?