Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nadia Ladak, founder and COO of Marlow, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Marlow is a one-stop-shop for modern menstrual & sexual wellness, starting with the first-ever lubricant and tampon designed to be used together. Inserting tampons can be an uncomfortable process, especially for those who are new to using tampons, for those who have pelvic floor conditions like vaginismus, for those with vaginal dryness, or for those who have a lighter flow, especially towards the beginning and end of their cycle.
Our new Health Canada-approved lubricated product allows for a smoother insertion experience. This new innovative product consists of 100% organic cotton tampons with a sugarcane plant-based plastic and compostable wrapper, which are more sustainable than traditional tampons on the market. It also comes with a bottle of water-based lubricant engineered to perfectly coat the tampon in one easy, mess-free dip. The products are delivered through a subscription model so that you never have to worry about running out. The product is going viral on TikTok with over 1.7 million views, and 78K likes on one video alone. We’ve also been featured in The Kit, Betakit, Global News, and more.
Beyond our product, our team of women founders is building a community that is eager to engage in meaningful conversation and to break down the stigma around menstrual and sexual health. As menstruators ourselves, we know how ridiculous it is that menstruation is a taboo subject steeped in whispers and misinformation, and we’re determined to change that. We want Marlow to be a reliable resource for anyone looking to learn more about their menstrual & sexual health in an easily digestible and humorous way.
Pinterest released their latest trend report, which includes “mindful menstruation.” Millennials & Gen Z are driving this movement by looking to invest in period care and optimize all phases of their cycle health. We believe this is a core aspect of overall wellness, and we want Marlow to be at the forefront of this new movement.
Tell us about yourself
We started Marlow after a conversation among a group of friends. One of our co-founders shared that she had pain when inserting tampons. She was an active individual, and pads, her only alternative, were bulky and uncomfortable. In addition, it prevented her from participating in certain activities such as swimming. After hearing her story, we interviewed over 150 menstruators and learned that 86% of them also experienced discomfort when inserting a tampon.
Our co-founder went to the gynecologist to try to find a solution and the gynecologist told her to “spit” on her tampon. That shock factor blew away our team, and we knew there must be a better way. That’s when we decided to create the first-ever lubricant and tampon designed to be used together.
After doing a deep dive into this space, I was shocked to learn that the modern tampon hasn’t really changed in the last 89 years. In a world of constant innovation, I thought, why should menstrual products be any different? It seemed that as consumers, we were on auto-pilot, never questioning what we were putting into our bodies. Every day, I wake up energized and excited to bring innovation to a space that impacts over 50% of the population at some point in time. I am passionate not only about the impact we can make with our brand new product but about the education we are providing to our community so that they can learn more about their bodies and health.
Growing up, music was always a huge part of my life. I was in choirs, participated in musical theatre, and played guitar and piano. I loved that music allowed me to be creative and express myself. I actually even went on to study music in my first two years of university before pursuing the Ivey Business School program. Entrepreneurship has been the perfect career path for me because it allows me to combine the passion and creativity I learned in music school with the analytical & financial management skills I learned in business school. At Marlow, we also believe in the importance of pursuing your passions outside of work so that you can bring your whole self to work. This allows me to enjoy my hobbies of reading and spending time outside biking, hiking, and camping in the backcountry. I always get a spark of inspiration and creativity. At the same time, I’m disconnected on a hiking & canoe trip in Algonquin or Lake Superior Provincial Park!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of is growing our community. It is our goal to destigmatize menstrual & sexual health and to spark conversations about these important topics. It’s incredible to see the feedback we get on our educational posts. People say that they turn to our brand to learn more about their bodies. It is also incredible to see the product feedback from our community. Recently, we got a message from one of our community members who said, “this product is perfect for those with vaginismus. I haven’t been able to wear tampons since I had kids, and this product makes it so much easier”. Receiving these types of messages makes me so excited that we’re providing more options for our community.
I’ve also had the chance to speak at university campuses about my entrepreneurship journey. In school, I didn’t realize that this could be a viable career path. So I am very excited to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate about building purpose-driven brands that can solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I think one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is the ambiguity you face every day. There is no playbook that tells you what to do. You are completely accountable for every decision you make. You will fail, and you will face rejection, but this provides a quick feedback loop to learn and pivot accordingly continuously. It is actually one of the exciting parts of being an entrepreneur as well. You are constantly putting yourself out there and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. You get to wear many hats and learn about all of the aspects of business, such as operations, fundraising, marketing, and team building.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
My first tip would be to start with the problem, not the solution. It’s important to find a problem that you’re passionate about solving, and then the answer can come after. Spend a week going through your daily life and identifying issues that need to be solved. Think about inconveniences you face or how you can make a certain product even better. The ideas will come after that.
Find a low-cost way to test your idea. You don’t have to jump into a picture right away. Start by asking your friends and family about the idea. Then, you can do a customer survey. Next, you can start to build some prototypes and minimum viable products. You will constantly be iterating your product, so it’s important to gather as much feedback as possible.
Build your network. I have been blown away by the generosity of the entrepreneurship community. People are always willing to help out and share their lessons learned. Reach out to other founders, mentors, investors, and marketers. Everyone started somewhere, and they are happy to share lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Join our community on Instagram @marlow and on TikTok @wearemarlow to learn about all things menstrual & sexual wellness with us. We post blogs, interactive polls, and mythbusters on everything ranging from does cranberry juice help with UTIs to should you have a post-sex hygiene routine? Also, check out our website to shop & learn more about our products at www.wearemarlow.com and feel free to reach out with any product feedback you have. We’re always looking for ways to improve, so we’re all ears!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.