This piece was originally published in the Veeda.co.uk, 12th April 2016. Full story here.
We order food, taxis, even personal assistants using the web and mobile applications. But why not even for the most intimate of products? Why not tampons and towels?
Amazon doesn’t remind you if your period is coming, it doesn’t get delivered to your door and it definitely doesn’t come with a fun treat.
Here at Veeda, we love chatting with innovative, inspirational women—especially when it comes to getting real about women’s health — and our friend Maryrose Simpson from My Lady bug is exactly that.
What is My Lady Bug? What is the story behind the name?
MyLadyBug is a monthly subscription box that delivers women their period products. Whether you prefer tampons or pads (or both!), you can pick n’ mix brands and absorbency of your choice. We also include some comforting sweets and treats just when you need them the most. At MyLadyBug.ie, we don’t use euphemism for periods, we don’t whisper about ‘your aunt flow visiting’ or ask if you ‘have the painters in.’ Instead, we’ve decided to make getting your period a little bit nicer and easier to deal with, because let’s face it getting your period can be a total pain and we’re not just talking about the cramps. Our mission is to take the drama, out of Period Drama and to say hello to a stress-free organized period instead.
My younger sister and I actually grew up calling our periods our MyLadyBug’s – like a tummy bug that women get, but as we grew up and went on to boarding school we adopted new slang words from the older girls. I was 16 before I got my period (a late bloomer as mum used to say) and spent most of my time asking questions and anticipating the arrival of my first period. I think at one stage the whole boarding school knew Maryrose Simpson still hadn’t got her period and I was constantly asked “did it happen yet”. When it did finally arrive I was delighted and I remember standing up on my bed in my dorm room and saying “Guess what” and the whole dorm irrupted in “you got your period”. If there could have been confetti it would of rained tampons everyone was delighted for me. I think it’s this positive experience that has stood to me about embracing and understanding my body and never been embarrassed or shy to talk about periods. Every girl has that story of there first period and when it came to naming the business I found myself remembering all these little memories and it just felt right to call it MyLadyBug.
What made you start a monthly subscription period box?
The idea originally was born out of the frustration of never been prepared when my period arrived. We’ve all been there. Our period arrives and there’s not a pad or tampon anywhere to hand. Cue you running out to your nearest shop, promising you’ll never let yourself run out again… until it somehow happens again next month. The solution came from the straightforward idea of ‘having your monthly supplies come directly to you and why not put in some sweets and treats to make getting your period ‘a little bit nicer?’ Plus, why not make the entire process ‘as easy as ordering your favourite beauty products?’ And so MyLadyBug.ie was born.
Can you tell me a little about your education and career background? How has that influenced your work with My Lady Bug ?
I graduated from college in 2012, with a degree in Visual Communications. I went on to work with a number of start-up companies helping communicate ideas that inspired, informed and captivate consumers. While working as a freelance graphic designer I completed a postgraduate in Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Enterprise with the Innovation Academy at University College Dublin (UCD) in 2014. It was here where I came to validate the idea of MyLadyBug. I also have a degree in Digital technology, design & innovation with a practical focus on UX and UI design.
How did you go from inspiration to implementation with My Lady Bug?
While I was working as a freelance graphic designer, the idea for MyLadyBug was always floating around in my head, but questions like, how do I start, who do I trust etc, had all stopped we pursuing the idea sooner. It wasn’t until I heard a conversation on the radio about the Innovation Academy did I begin to realize there where a number of supports that exist to help people thinking about setting up a business. I applied to the innovation academy and was selected and through a series of modules I began to break apart the idea, adapted my idea through customer discovery, whilst gaining valuable insights that greatly influenced how I put it back together to create a minimum viable product. I have a huge love and interested in all things tech, I continue to learn new skills by researching and keeping up to date with emerging technologies and web trends in order to be able to deliver the most up-to-date solutions to my customers.
What are the challenges behind finding high-quality products to include in the box and creating on-going collaborations?
I don’t recall any challenges in regards to finding high-quality products; if anything it was how do I narrow down the selection that’s available with the feminine hygiene market. Through my research I surveyed over 300 women and asked questions about their current buying habits in regards to brands they buy, how often, how much they spend etc. It was this information and customer discovery that prompted me to supply the brands we now offer to our customers. In regards to our on-going and future collaboration we have been lucky enough that we have rarely had to reach out to brands, they come to us which again gives MyLadyBug great validation within the market.
What kind of reception have you received from your customers and how are you building your brand in the online and offline world?
Since launching MyLadyBug in July 2015, I have been blow away from the positivity and feedback from our customers and the media. Seeing our customers tagging us in photos on instagram and reading testimonials from our customers makes it all worth while. 2015 was dubbed the “The Year of the Period” as main stream media started talking more about periods, from a simple photo of a period stain Instagram took down to the outcry over the Tampon Tax. When I began researching my business, this content didn’t exist and only a few niche areas online where talking about these subjects. However women are more and more becoming the forefront of the conversations, women are striving for more equality in life and fast becoming hot topics of conversation around body shaming, consent, cat-calling, the pay gap, abortion, menstruation and the tampon tax. I never could have imagined the movement that now exists and feel fortunate enough that I launched MyLadybug within this exciting and important time for women.
We have collaborated with a number of bloggers over the past few months to build our brand awareness. Each collaboration a little different from the next but our main message been all women are different and we all experience things differently and our collaborations are all about given our bloggers the opportunity to tell their story. To help Encourage women that its OK to talk about their periods “the good, the bad and ugly” Every woman has a different story to tell, these stories are full of impact, rawness, truth and honestly that other women really empathizes with.
Periods are a topic that’s been taboo for a long time. Why do you think there is still so little good information on the subject and why do you think it has taken this long to start a conversation?
I believe over the years advertisements have really impacted women, many ads still use the words ‘whisper’ and ‘secret’ and ‘discreet’ and create ambiguous packaging. Ad companies continue to use words like “cleaner,” “fresher” “easier to manage,” and “embarrassing” to give off the notion that having a period is un-natural something we as women should hide — words and tactics that have been used for over 80 years to imply that periods shouldn’t be discussed. We often see absurd imagery of women, doing sports, twirling, happy expression and wearing white spandex yoga pants in advertisements. Fem-care brands can’t even mention the V-word in advertisements. Think about it have you ever heard the V-word mentioned in Feminine hygiene ads…. Um, no wonder we don’t feel comfortable about this topic. What!!! How exactly are we expected to talk openly about our feminine health without using the word vagina? Duh, that’s where tampons go, The V- word is like the voldemort of advertising. Women are still having to hide their symptoms, talk in code and hide tampons up there sleeve these habits start at an early age in school and continues to the work place. A message that Society is telling each generation that periods are something that should be kept hidden and a secret secret. Although I do still think there is huge work to be done, their have been fantastic efforts in areas to help shine a light of these issues recently. Thankfully things are changing. Organizations and concerned individuals are taking action. They are talking openly about menstruation and acknowledging the need for all women to have access to basic feminine hygiene. Initiatives at the forefront like “Menstrual hygiene day” are helping to further break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential. I believe technology has been a great tool that has helped women research, understand and become advocates of their own health and body. Solutions like period tracking apps that give women a complete picture of there health by tracking their menstrual cycle, moods, headaches and cramps, sleep, sex drive and energy level are empowering women about their bodies and health.
Do you feel like My Lady Bug is having a social impact? What do you think it has been?
Our monthly care packages make getting your period a little bit nicer and easier to deal with (and save you the last minute dash to your local store), but we also promote a powerful message. “That it is okay to talk about menstruation—it’s a natural thing and happens to half of the world population and there should be nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to our bodies, our emotions, and our health as women.
What are the highs and lows of your job? If you could go back to the start, what advice would you give to yourself?
If I was to go back and tell myself anything it would be to have more confidence in myself and to share my ideas and concepts more openly. My journey to becoming a young entrepreneur has definitely not been a smooth journey, but the lows have helped me to recognize the highs. Starting your own business, as a young entrepreneur can be very daunting, but there are some great supports, individuals and networks and that have helped me along the way.
What’s your motivational mantra?
If you’re not challenging yourself you’re not learning – The most powerful lesson i have learnt throughout setting up my own business is to step outside your comfort zone. For me this was not taking opportunities, not saying yes, dismissing ideas in my head, and the fear of public specking. When you’re all cozied up in your comfort zone, you become numb and stop seeing what’s really around you and opportunities that exist, but every time you do something new and begin to challenge yourself you grow as a person and become that much more knowledgeable and skilled.
What hopes do you have for My Lady Bug? What’s next?
Our aim is for MyLadyBug brand to be recognized as a brand that supports women and girls to embrace their bodies and health through inspirational content and expert advice and information about women’s health. We are currently in the progress of building a blog that will have fresh original content for women and girls having a central theme of empowering women about their bodies and health.
More information for My Lady Bug can be found here.