With orders flowing in from all around Europe, including model Lily Cole’s online shop Impossible, Tara Chandra’s cheerful, cheeky and socially conscious tampon brand is plugging the organic feminine hygiene care gap in the UK market.
After four years of touring, writing music and releasing two albums, Tara Chandra moved to London to further her music ambition. She enrolled on the Executive Global Master’s in Management course at the London School of Economics (LSE), where she met her now business partner Susan.
Sharing an ambition, ethos and eagerness for businesses which promoted wellness, trendiness and social impact, the idea for FLO was born during the management course at LSE.
Since moving from the US to the UK, Tara says she’s had a difficult time finding organic tampons in London.
With their passion for health, social justice and beautiful products, the partners wanted to create a business that could embody this.
Tells us about your business? How is it different to rivals on the market?
FLO offers healthier, eco-friendly menstrual products that are affordable, accessible and safer to use. In contrast to ‘corporate’ tampons, for example, FLO’s produces are made from biodegradable, hypoallergenic, 100 per cent organic cotton free from chemicals, bleaches, dyes, pesticide and insecticide residues or synthetic fibres that can shed inside you.
Our tampons have super soft, BPA-free applicators, each combo pack contains both regular and super strength tampons, and we package them in attractive, bright, biodegradable ice-cream tub style packaging.
Susan and I came up with our packaging style because we, like many women, crave ice cream and sweets on our periods.
Our profits also support female-focused charities, such as Days for Girls, that support the health, education and economic empowerment of girls and women.
What is a typical day for you? What does your role entail?
These first few months of launching have been about putting our supply chain in place, running the Kickstarter, handling early sales, creating a robust marketing strategy and advertising campaign, networking and attending events and trade shows. Sometimes it’s everything all at once, sometimes you do a solid week of sales followed by a solid week of supply chain and operations work.
I usually work from my local coffee shop in Hackney, London, and keep both early and late hours – I’m most productive working 8am to 3pm and 7pm to 10pm. Susan has a day-job but we speak every day and meet once a week. She handles our accounting and social media, and we work on the FLO product line together.
What are some of your company’s biggest achievements to date and what excites you most about what you do?
We were winners of the LSE Generate and City University start-up competitions this year, which was so encouraging.
Our very first order for FLO came from model and activist Lily Cole’s online shop Impossible, which gave me the confidence to approach other retailers. We now have orders from about 30 UK/Ireland retailers and four UK/EU distributors.
Most importantly, in January 2017, we launched with a Kickstarter campaign that went a bit viral and overfunded, allowing us to go into production through about 2000 pre-orders of FLO ‘Get Set Packs’.
There’s nothing like bringing to life the product you’ve dreamed up, especially when it comes together through community support.
What challenges do you face as an organisation and how have you overcome them?
Nothing ever moves as quickly as you’d like it to. Progress has been a product of hard work, collaboration and patience. We haven’t raised proper funding yet, which can make the road a bit slower and bumpier.
Creativity and good people are key – restrictions engender resourcefulness, and we are so grateful for the advice, connections and favours we’ve received.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss? What are the biggest lessons you have learned?
The greatest challenge is undoubtedly not having guidance and tutelage. The greatest reward is the wisdom and sense of accomplishment you earn through learning-by-doing.
Music taught me much of the same – ask for help, offer help and maintain a humble posture of learning. Root your confidence in your passion for your product, and you’ll always be eager to improve.
For example, I learned early supply chain management and sales from the directors of artisan tea, chocolate, cold-brew coffee and birch water companies, which I was connected to through friends who were excited about FLO and agreed to share their wisdom over (several) coffees.
What are your priorities as a business leader and how do you intend to ensure the business continues to thrive?
My priority as a business leader is to create value – for my customers, my investors, the environment and for women both locally and internationally. We at FLO are responsible to all these entities – they are my motivators, and I hold myself to higher standards accordingly.
Which other businesses do you admire and why?
London businesses like Change Please, The Dusty Knuckle, The Kettle Shed, Old Spike Roastery, Second Shot Coffee, CLARITY, Chaigaram and Luna Bakery & Café directly hire from communities in need like the homeless, refugees or the disabled while offering excellent goods and services. It raises the bar for what business can, and should, accomplish.
How important is the ‘women in leadership’ agenda to you and how you pushing it forward?
FLO is a company designed for women, by women, and gives back to women, and Susan and I are also committed to FLO being a space for women to advance in business.
Women in leadership is a high value at FLO, one we express through seeking other women to collaborate with – whether as employees, contractors or investors – but also through giving profits to female-focused charities, such as Days for Girls, that support the health, education and economic empowerment of girls and women.
With all your career accomplishments, what are the principles, philosophies and guidelines that have brought you this far?
Honesty, unity, equality, love, respect and industriousness call for us to live our lives in a way that is kind to others and kind to the planet. Being of service to others, giving back, creating a positive impact – we believe that this is the meaning of life.
What’s next for your business? What is your end goal?
All women deserve organic cotton tampons and pads free from harsh bleaches, pesticides and synthetic fibres, and we believe the only way to make a significant impact on women’s health and the environment is by reaching the mass market.
We already have interest from two major retailers and a few more in greater Europe, so our next step is to raise a seed round of investment this year to meet this demand and fund future growth. We would like to supply at least one major retailer this year.
FLO is a brand of ‘brilliantly organic’ feminine care – beginning with tampons, but will expand to produce pads, liners, wipes, washes and maternity care – we’ve got the whole line mapped out. Long term, we’d like to have a few brands like FLO that offer sustainable, ethical products that are affordable, accessible and adorable.