Nikki and Leah are the two bad ass babes making periods personal and we are so OHNE board. Elle Ayres chats to them about abolishing period poverty, tackling menstrual taboo and the hurdles they faced starting the organic tampon delivery co.
OHNE is a company that has got your back. They don’t want any nasties going anywhere near your vagina, you can personalise your order to suit your cycle, and they deliver their tampons straight to your door (so you don’t have to leave the house in your PJs at some ungodly hour and curse the world). Finally, a company that gets it. We spoke to the duo behind the brand.
What’s the driving ethos behind OHNE? How did it begin?
Nikki: We were looking at what’s available in the menstrual health industry and were just completely uninspired, especially by the lack of transparency concerning what’s actually in these menstrual products. There was something missing from our perspective. We felt like the companies out there which were discussing periods were doing it in hush tones and so although it was all about empowering women and selling period products, no one was actually talking about periods or creating content that resonated with us and our real experiences of what it means to have your period every month. We wanted to do something that was authentic and relatable and create a diverse community around what we were doing so that anyone who has a period can come and learn more about their cycle and see cool content that is pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in the menstrual health world.
“We wanted to create a brand that women and other menstruators could relate to and that was personable; because having your period is personal.”
Leah: Looking at companies, even newer companies, who brand with such archaic images, like a lady in a fitted white dress in a meadow swanning around, is just so frustrating. We wanted to create a brand that women and other menstruators could relate to and that was personable; because having your period is personal.
How did the name OHNE come about?
L: We were trialling with a lot of names and we wanted something catchy and something that summed up the company. We stumbled across the word when we were in Germany, in the German language it’s actually pronounced oh-nay but we thought hey we can steal this because it means ‘without’. So without all the crap that goes in tampons, without the synthetics and plastics, the list goes on. We figured we could turn it around and play on the word pronouncing it as ‘on’.
How do you approach curating your social media and the identity of OHNE? The website has a very distinct tone, like you’re chatting to a friend, is this an important aspect of what OHNE is?
L: The voice came very organically, you’ve nailed it in your question. We wanted it to be like chatting to a friend. The branding was something which we trialled a few different routes and basically came to this one because we want to be bold, we want to be daring, we want to bust the taboo around periods and go full force. In terms of the curating going forward, there are so many smaller brands with similar missions who we love working with and often share each other’s content.
Let’s talk about the photoshoots and the Papaya.
N: Before we’d even started developing a lot of the brand we had our first photo shoot and I think everything came quite naturally after that. We basically got 6 friends of friends together who didn’t really know each other and who we’d never met, and asked them to get into leotards. We had this incredible day with all these women feeling really shy and self-conscious in the studio at the start, to then be strutting around so confident and happy at the end. It was amazing to see. That same sentiment behind the photo shoot is what now drives the content we create. We don’t ever want to use Photoshop to edit the girls because we want to promote natural bodies and the female form in its natural state.
L: The Papaya shot kind of happened accidentally. We were all having a lunch break and Inina was sat on the floor playing around with sultry poses and this Papaya between her legs. We instantly thought this is great we need the photographer to capture this.
Talk us through the work you’re doing in Zambia
“we didn’t want OHNE to be a standalone service, we wanted it to be something bigger than that”
N: Our work with School Club Zambia (SCZ) came about because we wanted to create a community, we didn’t want OHNE to be a standalone service, we wanted it to be something bigger than that. This is why we’ve committed 1% of our revenue towards CSR (Corporate Social Sustainability). SCZ is an organisation I’ve worked with in the past and they were my first thought when we thought about partnerships because I have seen first-hand the issues they’re facing. The girl’s programme which is the programme we’re supporting doesn’t look at providing disposable products, it’s not a one for one model where for every box we sell we donate one to them. We’ve found that those models aren’t sustainable, our approach is more holistic. It’s an approach that brings together improved menstrual education in these schools, because a lot of these girls don’t know what a period is or what to expect, and because of the taboo they can’t talk to anyone about it. It also teaches them to make eco-friendly and reusable pads from easily available local materials so that they can manage their periods on their own without having to depend on external donors and suppliers for products. Finally, they improve sanitation. A big thing for us is, yes it’s great if girls have these products, but if she doesn’t have a clean place to change and a clean supply of water then her hygiene and sanitation is going to suffer and she won’t be able to manager her period properly. SCZ helps to construct toilet blocks in all of the schools they work in so there’s always a place for girls to go and manage their period safely in private.
Do you have any plans to help tackle period poverty in the UK?
N: Yes absolutely. We really want to grow the CSR component to the business and as we grow, we’ll have more funds to invest into other programmes. Our next step is to find a partner in the UK. We already do some small stuff but in terms of taking on an official partner we’re thinking about that for next year.
What’s next for OHNE?
N: We only do tampons at the moment but we are aiming to expand our range and one of the things that we know our customers are looking for are organic pads. We only just launched about 4 months ago so we’re just getting started.
What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learnt from starting and developing OHNE?
L: I was very sceptical about how real the bias against women raising money was, until it happened to us. Being two young women pitching, in the male dominated world of the financial industry, about periods, vaginas and why we should be tackling this taboo, the majority just didn’t get it, at all. To the extent that they wouldn’t even accept tampons as samples to give to the women in their lives. That was really hard. I think having each other meant that we were even more committed to the cause and the mission, and to ultimately the company itself.
N: We’re not saying that you can’t go out there and do these things on your own as a woman, because that’s definitely not the case. More that, in our specific situation it really helped having another person. Especially because in the industry that we’re trying to make change in we did have a lot of hurdles and it was so helpful to have that support going through it with you, not just as your business partner but also as your friend.
L: I would say surround yourself in a community of likeminded individuals who believe in your mission. Even if you’re going at it alone, make sure you surround yourself with the people that believe in you.
N: You need the inspiration from people doing similar things and facing similar hurdles because it can be hard to branch out if the people in your immediate circle are all doing 9-5 jobs.
“I’m already starting to see a change in society and I know we’ll get there.”
L: One of the biggest things I’ve learnt from OHNE as a brand is how little people know about menstruation. And I have to admit that before we started this, I was one of them. There’s so much to learn, especially that the taboo isn’t separated by gender at all. We’ve spoken to so many women who are repulsed by the topic of their period. I think we have a long way to go in changing attitudes around menstrual health but I’m already starting to see a change in society and I know we’ll get there.
Words by Elle Ayres