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Tampon subscription startups boom as women seek to ease their 'time of the month' pain

Tampon subscription startups boom as women seek to ease their 'time of the month' pain

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A monthly subscription for a monthly affliction — and a multi-billion dollar market

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helloflo
helloflo

Naama Bloom has never been quite satisfied with the way tampons are sold. "For some reason, it's just something that drives me crazy," she told The Verge. "First of all, the product packaging is wrong — if you need overnight pads, you have to buy a whole box that's going to last you all year. It seems so simple to just create a multi-pack that actually makes sense."

That’s what she decided to do. Today Bloom is launching HelloFlo, a monthly subscription service for tampons. Subscription services are getting pretty popular — there’s one for cosmetics, doggie treats, underwear, condoms, you name it — and what could be more fitting than a monthly subscription for a monthly need? A steady subscription ensures a woman is never caught without the necessary supplies. The discreet packaging also means women can receive the boxes at work, and single dads with daughters can avoid having to buy feminine products at the drugstore.

"Basically, every woman I spoke to was like, ‘oh my God, that's fucking brilliant,'" Bloom said. "No one actually enjoys the experience of buying tampons."

"No one actually enjoys the experience of buying tampons."

Bloom is married to a startup founder, Ordr.in CEO David Bloom, who encouraged her to take the leap into entrepreneurship. "I had this idea and I was talking about it forever, and David was like, ‘one day you're going to see in TechCrunch that someone started this business and you're going to be so pissed off.’"

Actually, that’s exactly what happened. Bloom has a lot of competition in the tampon subscription space. In September, Juniper launched for the high-end market with a discreet box of tampons, pads, pantyliners, and "indulgences" such as chocolate and tea for $28 a month. Then in November, My Cotton Bunny launched with a box of tampons or pads and a surprise gift for $13.75 a month. Le Parcel launched in January, offering a box of tampons, pads, chocolate, and a gift for $15 a month. There’s also Sent Her Way in California, Perfect Timing in New Jersey, and Trinkets in the UK.

It’s a bit surprising to see so much action around tampon subscriptions, since the mostly male venture capitalists in Silicon Valley like to fund products they can use themselves.

It’s a bit surprising to see so much action around tampon subscriptions

However, subscription startups have caught on strong among tech investors, even though it’s a relatively low-tech game. Birchbox, which sends a box of cosmetics samples every month for $10, has more than 100,000 subscribers and has raised more than $11.9 million in investment. ShoeDazzle, the Kim Kardashian-endorsed service that delivers a new pair of shoes every month, has raised $66 million.

HelloFlo’s business model is also so dead simple that it’s hard to believe it could be an entire business. Bloom only sells Always and Tampax Pearl, and each box has a combination of tampons, pantyliners, and pads, with no frills or extra gifts beyond a couple pieces of candy. It seems impossible that such a basic service could convince women to part with $14 to $18 a month. Then again, Dollar Shave Club pulled off a similar feat selling a subscription just for razor blades.

"I've certainly had some men ask me what I would sell next, as if half the world's population that menstruates once a month isn’t a big enough business," Bloom said. "There are men out there who don't think this is a very big market, but it’s $8 billion a year in the US." Ah, so that explains why women suddenly have so many options for monthly tampon delivery.

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