How we took Flex® from concept to reality
I got the idea for a feminine hygiene startup while living in San Francisco in 2014. The problem felt obvious to me: the products on the market today weren’t meeting my needs, or the needs of most of my friends, and I wanted to make one that did.
The first person I shared my idea with was a successful serial entrepreneur who had just sold his first company for over $1 billion. His advice to me:
“Don’t be afraid to tell everyone you meet about your idea.”
Looking back, this was the most helpful advice I could have received, even though talking about periods can feel… well… a little awkward in Silicon Valley.
Fast forward nine months. We’re backed by an incredible group of investors (many of whom are men) who believe in our vision, including Amplify.LA, Y Combinator’s fellowship program, and private angels. And with this financial support, I’m thrilled to share that we’ll ship our first product, Flex Disc™, to customers this summer.
How did talking about periods actually help us get here?
Talking about the problem did more than secure funding. In fact, funding was the final step and not something we were focused on until it was absolutely necessary. Talking about the problem helped overcome the other critical hurdles that I faced as an early-stage entrepreneur:
- Team — Get smart, experienced people to work with me
- Traction — Prove that women want this product (and will use it)
- Safety — Demonstrate that the product is safe and high-quality
- Capital — It typically takes at least $1M to bring a new feminine hygiene product to market
Then there’s the classic chicken or egg problem faced by founders (especially when you’re making a medical device): It costs money to create a physical product. But you can’t raise capital without customer traction. And you need a product to demonstrate traction.
If my personal savings didn’t cover the cost of creating a physical product, how could I demonstrate the traction that’s required to raise capital?
I felt stuck, but I took my friend’s advice. I decided to meet as many people as I could, and tell them all about my problem. And one by one, I was able to overcome these obstacles.
Building a team
I was really honest with myself about the areas in which I lacked experience and sought out experts in those areas. I got creative and talked to people outside of our industry who could approach the problem in a fresh way. It was amazing to see how many people in tangential fields had relevant functional expertise.
I didn’t have money to pay them, but they were passionate about our social mission and vision. And where we couldn’t afford to hire, we augmented our team with senior advisors who have formal working hours each month.
Now that I had a team, we collected data from hundreds of women over the course of 9 months (and continue to do so). These conversations led us to change everything from product design to marketing.
Assuring safety, quality, and regulatory requirements
We quickly became subject-matter experts by educating ourselves through research and speaking with other founders. We made a plan, called the FDA, and double-triple checked our plan with more experts to make sure that we took every precaution to make the safest, highest-quality feminine hygiene product imaginable. And we found a manufacturing partner with the same rigorous principles.
… All of which led to the final step: securing capital.
Sure, lots of investors weren’t comfortable speaking with us. But over time, something magical happened: we didn’t let the awkwardness of our subject matter hold us back, and we met like-minded investors.
These are the right people to be our partners. Investors who are excited by the magnitude of this problem, the team we had put together, our knowledge of the space, and our traction. Suddenly our crazy idea didn’t sound so crazy, and men and women were equally excited to invest in something that they previously might have found uncomfortable.
So to all of the aspiring entrepreneurs out there thinking about solving hairy problems: Never be afraid to talk about your idea, no matter how unsexy the problem might sound in the beginning.