Simply forgetting about having your period while it's happening?! The two founders Kati and Kristina are making it possible - thanks to their self-developed period underwear. The two moms came up with the idea in Berlin and did lots of researching into the technology, ultimately coming up with a finished product named “ooia”. Now, they want to take their project to the next level with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.
In our blog series #GOODTHING, we talk to women who dedicate themselves to making our planet more sustainable. We love the products they create and want to know the story behind them. We hope to inspire each other with these interviews and believe that women should support and encourage each other whenever they can. In this edition, the two entrepreneurs Kati and Kristine talk about how their ooia period panties work, and what they do to make the planet more sustainable.
ooia founders Kati & Kristine
Kati and Kristine live with their kids and partners in Berlin. After many years working in consulting (Kati) and leadership positions at Zalando (Kristine), their dream to build something themselves began to grow. The two started to talk to each other about how they could create a sustainable business with a positive influence on society, while still finding lots of time to take care of their kids.
With ooia, they made this vision a reality.
No tampon, no pad and no menstrual cup - ooia is a slip that absorbs the period. How did you come up with this idea that completely innovates female hygiene?
We heard about period panties (or period underwear) from a friend, who knew them from the US. When we realised how much potential there was in this idea - the positive influence on society, the empowerment of women, and also the business case - and when we developed ideas on how to improve and adapt this international product to a European customer, it became clear: we have to start a business with this!
We're in the year 2018. For over 100 years, there have been no meaningful innovations in the area of female hygiene - even though one quarter of the world's population menstruates each month, and many women for different reasons are unhappy with the products that are available right now. At the same time, sustainability is a big issue when it comes to female health: a woman uses around 12.000 tampons in her life. They end up in waste dumps where they usually take hundreds of years to decompose, due to their unnatural ingredients. And if they do decompose, they turn into micro plastic that ends up in the wrong places like in our oceans. It's long overdue for something to change!
How exactly does ooia work? Can women be sure that nothing passes through?
In many months of product development, we created the ooia “magic membrane system”, which we built into the ooia period panties. The membrane absorbs fluids away from the body, stores them and prevents them from leaking, while at the same time providing a dry and antibacterial surface. Our tests show that an ooia period panty can absorb the equivalent of 3 full tampons before you even start to notice that something is wet - and even then nothing can seep out, because everything is secured through innovative fabric and weaving.
And how exactly does the washing work?
We developed the ooia period panties so that they would fit to the way that people normally wash their clothes in Germany. After wearing, the ooia is best rinsed shortly by hand with some cold water. Afterwards, you can wash it in the machine at 40 degrees - you can even put it together with other dark clothes - this will cause no harm, we promise! After drying outside, the panties are ready to be used again.
If you treat them well, ooia period panties can be worn for around two years. You can even keep wearing them as “normal” panties after - another benefit when it comes to sustainability!
You offer two different styles. Is the difference here simply about design or also about functionality?
True, we have the more feminine and elegant “ooia-Slip” and the sporty and casual “ooia-Hipster”. Both have the same membrane and the same functionality built into them. But we did actually already design other absorbency levels and ooia-shapes, which we can soon start with if the Kickstarter campaign is successful! It's also very important for us to speak to and learn from to our community - we will gather feedback and find out what wishes our customers have for future ooia-versions. We're excited to find out what they want!
Those sexy undies are ooias period panties
What questions do people ask you when you tell them that you make period panties?
Women: “That's genius - how does it work?!”
Men: “Why has nobody done this before?”
What's even greater than the many questions we get, is the openness from the people we meet. Kristine always says that it's like poking a balloon - there's a big interest from women to talk honestly and trustfully about the topic of menstruation. Almost every person talks about challenges with their own period or with that of their partner. We learnt so much from this for ooia - and hopefully we've already helped some people with our bundled knowledge on this topic.
What does sustainability in fashion mean to you?
Sustainability for us means to keep our footprint low, and also offering acceptable working models and conditions to those involved in making our products. In our private lives, we've changed our behaviour in recent years, for example by having 'keep cups' as constant companions for our coffee. For our kids and for ourselves, we buy from the many great flea markets that Berlin has to offer and we've explained to our kids why we don't use any balloons or straws at their birthdays anymore.
ooia is so great because it in itself is an extremely sustainable product because you can reuse it. With ooia, many women can do completely without disposable period products - a huge contribution to reducing waste!
The magic membrane system of the ooia period panties is made of high-tech fabrics that are only available from a select few manufacturers. We've tested hundreds of different types and variations and ultimately went for the suppliers that best matched our quality expectations.
All materials are eco-tex certified and all the materials with contact to the skin are made of natural fibres. The merino wool, which is woven directly in the crotch area, is produced mulesing-free. Our goal is to step by step make all components of the ooia underwear even more sustainable than the production currently allows - in order to make an even bigger contribution to saving the environment.
Where do your materials come from and where do you manufacture your products?
The materials / ingredients of the first ooia generation all come from Europe, and our production also takes place in Europe. We have a really close relationship with all our suppliers and partners and we've met most of them personally as well, that's something that is very important to what we do.
What has been the biggest challenge so far working on ooia?
ooia is completely self-financed and bootstrapped - that's a challenge every step of the way!
The product and brand development was very exciting and challenging as a result. But thanks to our previous work experience and our network, everything was manageable - even though it did take a lot longer than we initially hoped! We have very high expectations when it comes to quality and functionality - so we had to do lots of testing and trying along the way.
The biggest challenge is to tell the world that ooia period panties exist and how they make menstruation a lot more comfortable, as well as sustainable. We are so convinced that an unbelievable amount of people can feel better with ooia - we just have to reach them. That's why we are grateful for any support!
What are your goals for ooia in the upcoming months?
Our focus now is fully on running a successful Kickstarter campaign, and sending out the first ooia period panties at the end of fall, plus getting the sales started on our own online-shop afterwards. Next year, there will surely be new models based on the feedback we get from our customers - we will get to work on this this year if everything works out.
At the same time, we want to make sure that we build a company that has a positive influence and does good - for the society, for our customers, but also for us (and our team if we build one).
What other products and innovations inspire you?
We are really interested in innovative ways of working - everything around the topic of New Work. From the very start, we've thought about how to integrate new approaches to our work and experimented with lots of things - such as parts from the book “Getting Things Done”, like a weekly review, minutes of silence before meetings and a very open feedback culture between the two of us.
When it comes to products, Kristine is really into fashion and Kati is into coffee, and both of us love reading books, especially non-fiction literature on femininity.
Kati, you have three sons and Kristine, you have two daughters. How do you manage to balance daily life as a mom and being an entrepreneur? Do you have any special advice that you can share with other moms?
That's a very good question and to be honest, that's something where we do reach our limits in stressful weeks like this one, right before the start of the sale. Basically, one of the main reasons why we founded ooia was to have the flexibility of space and time to actually LIVE our lives with our families - but at the same time have a challenging job that has a positive impact on the world. Everything in the working culture of ooia is focused on that: no “facetime”, but regular personal meetings. No set working times - but dedicated deep work phases where we really get things done. Lots of freedom to make individual decisions - but exchanging ideas together when it comes to the essential things. Flexibility in designing processes - but clear time and process plans that structure our approach.
I`m not sure whether this works for every person, but that's actually the only advice there really is: Become clear on what your priorities are and what you are ready to “give”, how you prefer to work, and design your business in such a way. Check in with yourselves if everything is working out - if not, change something.
What is your biggest sense of accomplishment?
A specific moment was definitely the first message of someone who was not directly or indirectly involved with us and who wrote us saying how much she looks forward to the ooia period panties - that was fantastic!
And in general, all the love and all the encouragement we receive from other founders and mentors - it inspires us so much and was not something we expected like that.
By the way, after not even 24 hours, Kati and Kristina reached their financing goal on Kickstarter! You can still support them on Kickstarter until October 22, 2018 and get your period panties for special prices. We are absolutely convinced that your period panties are the future alternative to conventional menstruation products.
And we are really looking forward to our ooias! Thank you so much for this wonderful and in-depth interview!