Before starting a high school project, Aimee Marks hadn’t thought much about the tampons and pads she was using at that time of the month.
But the Year 12 graphic design assignment to reinvent a common supermarket product opened her eyes to what was going into tampons and inspired her to start her own organic tampon business.
Listen to Aimee Marks, Founder of The TOM Co, talk to Rachel Corbett about how she turned an idea she had in high school into 2017s Australian Organic Business of the Year. Post continues.
“We were told to go into our local supermarket, in our graphic design class, and find a product category that hadn’t been changed in over 10 years that we could innovate something miraculous within,” she told host Rachel Corbett.
“Of course I found myself standing in front of the tampon aisle thinking, ‘there’s a lot of sameness here’.”
Aimee said that at first, she wasn’t trying to reinvent the product itself, just the packaging.
“That was really from a superficial packaging perspective, where it was all just pink and blue at that time.”
“I was inspired by creating something that was beautiful and empowering and would really just break down that taboo around periods and menstruation.”
However, through this design process, something startling caught Aimee’s eye: the ingredients list.
“I was reading ingredients like polypropylene, synthetics. I had no idea that most tampons were actually made from everything but cotton.”
Meanwhile, tampons are still taxed like they aren’t the absolute essential they actually are. Post continues.
Other statistics also painted an alarming picture for Aimee, including that conventional cotton is the world’s most heavily sprayed crops and exposed to a huge number of insecticides.
“I was 18 at the time but it really felt instinctively wrong to be reproducing a beautiful box of tampons and pads with a product that was perhaps not as pure as it could be.
“So that’s where the journey began.”
Aimee said that in order to pursue her business idea for producing 100 organic sanitary items, she went to RMIT University to study an entrepreneurship degree. And in 2009 TOM Organic (time of the month) was founded.
Since then, Aimee has expanded her business to include baby nappies and wipes under Tooshies by TOM and formed The TOM Co.
You can hear more about how Aimee built her business, the mistakes she’s made and the advice she’d give anyone just starting out in the full episode of Lady Startup. Download from your favourite podcast app or listen here.