Ladies of Australia. Imagine a world where your period doesn’t stress you out.
Imagine that, when Aunt Flo pays you an unexpected visit, rather than being a woman in distress, you calmly find a bathroom and then reach into your purse and retrieve an organic tampon that was mailed to you last week.
This is the world envisaged by 23-year-old Melbourne entrepreneur, Radha Perera.
Not many women dream of going to university and completing a Bachelor of Science with a Honours in medical research -- and then starting a tampon delivery business.
It’s come as somewhat of a surprise to Perera as well, but she is very driven to make her dream of an organic tampon subscription service a reality and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her business, S. Rosa Organics.
As part of her business model, Perera has sourced certified organic cotton tampons made in Spain. Having organic products became central to her plan, after discovering research revealing what tampons are usually made of.
Periods aren’t considered polite conversation so it’s no wonder we don’t often chatter about tampons, much less discuss what’s in them. And nor are the manufacturers taking part in the chat either -- there is no regulation that requires them to publish what’s actually in them on the back of the tampon pack, which Perera says would frighten many women.
“A lot of the current tampons do contain a lot of synthetic ingredients and synthetic fibres including wood pulp, a derivative of wood, which comes from a bleaching process,” she told The Huffington Post Australia. “There’s another ingredient called rayon which is part of a bleaching process too.
“So a tampon has all these sideline ingredients and chemicals and synthetic fibres but we don’t really know about it because no ingredient list is provided for any of the current tampons.”
Perera says it’s pretty “shocking” that there is no transparency in the industry.
“We have been using tampons, pads and any sanitary item for 10-20 years, probably longer,” she said. “We are talking about items that we put into our bodies, there is a responsibility to provide a list of what is actually in them.”
Radha Perera, second from left with siblings Shenali, Kavinda and Palinda, wants to make organic tampons easily accessible to all Australian women.
But Perera says what will set hers apart is her delivery model -- subscribers to her website can order 3, 6 and 12 month supplies of regular tampons for a set fee, and they’ll be delivered right to your door. A 3-month subscription will cost $24 for 48 tampons and, if her campaign is successful, Perera will also introduce a custom order option.
Indeed, the genesis for her business idea came one night at uni when she got her period at 3am and, upon finding her bathroom cupboard bereft of sanitary products, drove to the local convenience store and paid an arm and a leg for a small box.
“I suppose the nature of the period is really random -- we just don’t know when it will happen,” she said.
“A lot of the time I really wasn’t prepared -- and that was at uni, if I was at the gym or overseas and it never occurred to me that it would be nice if there was a better way to access them. But that was the beginning of the business, that moment, the midnight run.”
The tampon packs come with a zippered pouch designed by Perera that holds 16 tampons so you can take them anywhere -- and safely.
“The pouch is so that you won’t get embarrassed if your tampons fall out of your purse -- it’s happened to me before and it’s so embarrassing,” she said. “It was, like, at Oporto where I bought some chicken and a tampon fell out. It was awful.”
Perera created the business idea while still studying and working a part-time job and admits it was a challenge. She still wants to pursue a career in medical research but, if the Kickstarter campaign is successful, plans to run the business as well.
“They are two very different things and both require a lot of time, but I will find a way to do both,” she said.
She is taking a year off to focus on S. Rosa Organic and has been inspired by her parents, who both own small businesses, and her boyfriend who just started an online men’s fashion accessory store.
“I never really thought small business was something I’d want to do,” she said. “Everyone says ‘oh you’re the science person’ so it never really occurred to me.
“But in the last few years I did start to like the idea of working for myself. I guess I thought I could do it because I have seen people around me do it successfully.
“Once I started, I found that I was really really passionate about it. I thought if I put my head to it and give it a try it will pay off, and so far it’s going well.”