The goal for many an entrepreneur starting out with a new business is, of course, to build a thriving venture where they get to do what they love every day. For some of those who make it, however, there’s often a particular detail that doesn’t make it into the well-rehearsed story to tell friends and clients about running your own business: just how much of a slog it can be.
This was certainly the case for Siobhan Komander, who founded events agency Xphyr Brand Experiences in 2004 with “a laptop, no clients, and a name only an owner could spell”. Having worked for companies including APRA, Sony, and the Sony Foundation before launching her own business, Komander was able to attract big name clients including Google, Spotify, and Twitter.
With offices in Sydney and Singapore, Xphyr turned over around $20 million in 2016, certainly fitting most definitions of thriving – but Komander was “a mess”.
“I was stressed, I was anxious, my diabetes wasn’t under control, and I had absolutely no life. I was, for all intents and purposes forced to really make some changes to my life, one of the key things being moving from a very manual business to a more automated one in the long term,” she explained.
“I love working with clients and doing events, but it was time to pull back on the volume and size I was doing.”
In thinking about her health, Komander began to consider what she was putting inside her body, from food to tampons, and it was here that her idea for Liverpool St, a service delivering organic tampons monthly, came to life.
Komander felt so passionately about the idea that, along with scaling back Xphyr, she pumped $40,000 into the new business, which aims to address two main issues: health, and convenience.
“The idea came from difficulty finding exactly what I was after: a clean, organic, natural, cotton tampon delivered to me every month. Being an executive in my own company, ordering online is second nature and it was frustrating not being able to find what I was after,” she explained.
This frustration was replicated in the search for a manufacturer, with a bulk of the work of setting up Liverpool St going into sourcing the product. Komander eventually found a partner whose tampons are important from Spain; they are natural cotton, and registered as organic in the European Union. The startup then assembles and packages deliveries locally.
Komander originally wanted to look beyond just tampons, however soon decided to start with a focus on one product before expanding.
“Liverpool St plans on expanding into all those monthly needs women have, from organic panty liners to organic cotton face wipes and cotton buds, lip moisturisers, and skincare products…[but] it made sense for our cashflow and to keep the model as simple and useful as possible from the start,” she explained.
“We also realised that everyone’s cycle is different so rather than distributing every week, we decided the 1st of the month would ensure that women had their stock lined up for the month ahead.”
With the service set to launch in the coming weeks, customers will be able to select from three product categories – regular, super, and mixed bundles. As with most other subscription box services, they will be able to buy a one-off, or subscribe for monthly or bi-monthly deliveries. A box costs $8.90, each consisting of two packs of tampons (there are 8 tampons in a regular pack, 7 in a super pack).
To get customers on board, Komander said the startup will be targeting women who are “active on social media, are tech savvy, and health conscious”, with a particular focus on women in regional areas and the time poor.
The market is significant: Roy Morgan found in an average of four weeks during 2014, around 3.2 million women aged 14-54 across Australia bought sanitary pads, 2.1 million bought tampons, and 1.6 million bought panty liners, with around one in 10 women in this age group buying all three.
Given these numbers, Liverpool St isn’t the only subscription box startup playing in this field, with Love Lois one competitor. The service, which offers an organic option, delivers subscribers either pads or tampons, along with some chocolate and a few other goodies.
“While there is an organic tampon company in existence in Australia, there is lots of room for growth in this sector and Liverpool St offers an alternative solution for the consumer, conveniently delivered to their door,” Komander said.
“The feminine hygiene market hasn’t been shaken up in a long time and it’s time someone did, and at Liverpool St that is our aim.”
Image: Siobhan Komander. source: Supplied.