The August period mark emphasizes that the periods are powerful

TTalking about and understanding periods has never been a sexy or easy topic for centuries – stigma and shame have dominated the conversation about periods almost always. Working for change has been Nadya Okamoto’s MO since the age of 16. In just seven years since then, the Harvard graduate has accomplished a lot in a speech that many have long gone away from, such as launching a website, writing a book, and co-founders of startups (NBDs) like August, a period brand, community and educational resource created by and for Generation Z.

Okamoto recalls being exasperated and catalyzed as a teenager by learning about menstrual poverty and talking directly with homeless women about things they used as menstrual products when they couldn’t get their hands on a tampon or pad. towel – toilet paper, socks, grocery bags and cardboard. Food stamps do not cover period products and taxes existed on them in 40 states at the time. “This was a problem I had never thought about before, and at the time my family was dealing with housing instability, so learning about menstrual poverty made me think about privilege – it triggered this anger and this pure passion, ”she recalls.

This passion drove her to write a book: The Power of Periods: A manifesto for the menstrual movement in 2018. It was during his research for this book that Okamoto learned even more about the history of the commodification of period products, the long-standing “negative stigma” around the rules and tradition of the period. vintage marketing that makes people “ashamed” about, and want to “hide or forget”, periods. (She experienced these cultural stigmas: “I get violent threats because I speak so openly about the rules.”)

She met her August co-founder Nick Jain, working at JUV Council, a Gen Z marketing agency that Jain co-founded at the age of 16. The couple became best friends and roommates, and “naturally when you live with me you’re going to hear a lot about rules in the context of my work and stuff,” she says. also shared their frustrations with the limits of their job: “she said. While working with healthcare companies from both a nonprofit and brand perspective, “it became very, very clear that we could make more durable tampons and pads at a better price, from a better brand that really stood for something, “Okamoto Elle and Jain started working in August in January 2020, raising money and building community for a year and a half before launching the product in June 2021.

Before the pandemic, Okamoto was on a plane once or twice a month for three years on a book tour for Power period while “balancing going to school at Harvard full time, being the executive director of my nonprofit, being a brand manager at JUV Consulting and modeling,” she explains. -the weather was a bit impossible when COVID-19 hit; suddenly my schedule was quite clear because most of the work I was doing before was face-to-face work, and it was really great for me to take time for this transition. “

With much of daily life and the world at a standstill, Okamoto and Jain had “space to build our passion for what we were doing, because the rules don’t stop with a pandemic, obviously”, she explains. Another silver lining for the pandemic? Prioritize people over the product by starting a conversation and (digital) space to connect about menstruation before rolling out period products. “Building our virtual community when people really wanted community was really wonderful,” Okamoto says. (Even the staff got to know each other virtually, for the most part: “I never met most of our team in person, we only met on Zoom,” she says of one interesting point. of inadvertently starting the business properly before a pandemic.)

But wooing investors as COVID-19 continued to hit the world took over a year and was fraught with “obvious hurdles,” she says: It would have been a faster process if face-to-face meetings had been possible , and of course without the funding uncertainties of 2020 (and 2021). “A lot of the advice we got was, ‘How could you even think about fundraising right now? We are in a pandemic, no one knows what is going to happen! ‘”Explains Okamoto.

Another factor that extended funding, she says, was the type of investors they were looking for. “We wanted to make sure we only got money from value-aligned investors,” she says. “We turned down a lot of offers from people we thought were not aligned with our values, from investors who said, ‘We love what you do, but we would like to establish a rule of not showing period blood,'” Okamoto “

They didn’t connect with female angel investors in the first six months of their attempt. “He was still a gruff old white, which was disappointing, but I can’t say it’s shocking,” Okamoto says. Having female investors was “really important, and we weren’t going to settle for that,” she says. had an oversubscribed round but made a lot of changes to make sure we not only put them on the line but that they could come in and lead, ”Okamoto said.

She was also working on personal issues in the process. “I took a few months off over the summer and was admitted to residential rehab for six weeks for work addiction, depression and PTSD,” Okamoto explains. The ability to get away to take care of yourself was sort of a silver lining to the pandemic. because she couldn’t imagine “starting a business and then having to tell your investors you’re making up” for mental health reasons. “It was really worth it, very necessary, and Nick [Jain] was such a supportive co-founder and friend; I’m really grateful, ”she says.

The first August products were discontinued in June 2021 and were largely determined and vetted by his Gen Z adolescent “inner cycle” community that Okamoto is “constantly in touch with” in Geneva, an app . “Everything we do from a product and brand perspective begins with our community,” she says, whether it’s choosing a logo and color scheme, selecting products or to make traceability a priority. “It’s a mentality that came to me from my nonprofit work,” Okamoto says. “What’s the point of doing anything [if you’re] censor the voices of the people you serve? “

This participatory contribution has also shaped the orientation of the types of products to offer; they considered menstrual cups, which are more durable than pads or tampons because they are reusable “but over 90 percent of our whole community is not yet ready to use them, they use tampons and pads”, she says. Learning “ridiculous” statistics about the environmental impact of menstrual products, such as the fact that most menstrual products take five to eight centuries to break down and some sanitary napkins contain the equivalent of three to five plastic bags , drove some environmentally conscious production decisions, like making August tampons that are non-toxic, 100% cotton, and biodegradable, and also creating BPA-free tampon applicators.

“When you talk about periods and hormonal changes during a pandemic, you talk a lot about loneliness, mental health, personal life experiences, social changes, so this community has really flourished – it became a question. of general well-being, and in fact not about the rules or the product “- Nadya Okamoto

Okamoto says they “really underestimated” what this inner cycle cohort could be, not realizing that “when you talk about periods and hormonal changes during a pandemic, you talk a lot about loneliness, sanity. , personal life experiences, social changes, so this community really flourished – it became about general well-being, and in fact not on the rules or the product, ”she said. Inner Cycle’s demographics are “super inclusive,” with around 10% gender or transgender non-compliance, and are “surprisingly truly international,” spanning over 40 countries. There are three to five (so far) weekly virtual events, some run by members, that have included video game sessions, study sessions or homework appointments, as well as a channel. discussion in Geneva town hall with “a team of really dedicated people.” always on ”, to answer questions.

“All of our team are Gen Z, so we’re very used to being sold to and being sold to ‘the community’ – brands saying, ‘we care about you, we love you’, but everything is really all about the product, “Okamoto was a consideration when looking for investors with aligned values ​​who” would understand that we were going to do things that maybe didn’t make sense at the time, but would establish a deeper connection, “she says, and also the freedom to” completely pivot and change our strategy, depending on what interests our community. This is precisely how the Ask August, a free searchable database of hundreds of menstruation health questions such as “How much is too much blood during menstruation?” The idea came from an Inner Cycle Zoom call in fall 2020. Each question has two explanations: Generation Response Z and a response from the idiot medical eil, the combination of which helps translate the type of medical jargon that a Google search produces into real, relevant people. terms, while providing accurate expert advice.

Even after seven years of hard work helping normalize periods, Okamoto still wants to do so much. “Every day we are exposed to more stigma” about it, which resonates in the messages August receives almost daily, such as middle school students sharing fear and anxiety of having their first period. These types of messages are just one of many, many motivations and reminders of Okamoto’s passion for all things period education and empowerment: “I feel it more than ever. “

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