Eloise Hall & Isobel Marshall, TABOO
In Bending the Future, the new podcast from Future Anything, our team chats to epic entrepreneurs that started their enterprises whilst still in school. In this episode, Future Anything’s Nicole Dyson meets Isobel Marshall and Eloise Hall, Co-founders of TABOO Sanitary Products, whose 100% organic sanitary products improve the lives of people around the world.
They share their thoughts on social entrepreneurship, mentors, crowdfunding and the importance of establishing a mission-focussed brand.
Read the full transcript below.
About the podcasters:
Nicole Dyson is Founder & Director of Programs at Future Anything and Founder of YouthX, Australia’s only start-up accelerator specifically designed to support young entrepreneurs who are still at school. Connect with Nic on LinkedIn here or Twitter here
Isobel Marshall and Eloise Harris are founders of TABOO Sanitary Products, a South Australian social enterprise that sells certified organic cotton pads and tampons in Australia, to empower women and girls around the world, through the shared experience of menstruation. TABOO gives 100% of net profits to a charity called OneGirl who support women and girls in Uganda and Sierra Leone. TABOO Sanitary Products is run by a passionate, all female team of volunteers who work to see women thrive in all areas of life, all around the world. Connect with Isobel on LinkedIn here and Eloise on LinkedIn here and check out TABOO on Facebook here and Instagram here.
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Nicole Dyson meets Isobel Marshall and Eloise Hall, TABOO Sanitary Products – Full transcript:
Nicole: Welcome to another episode of Bending the Future, our podcast where we get to chat to incredible entrepreneurs who have kicked off their journey whilst juggling school at the same time. I’m thrilled to have two incredible entrepreneurs and young women from South Australia chatting to us today, Isobel and Eloise. Thanks for coming along and having a conversation with us about your enterprise Taboo and I guess your journey today.
Eloise: Thank you so much for having us
Isobel: Thank you, we’re so excited.
Nicole: Wicked. Look, things are obviously pretty tumultuous at the moment with COVD-19 and we were just chatting before about the changes with your university schedules and stuff like that. Has this given you more breath or breathing space to, I guess, be creative as well? I’d love to know whether maybe this free time that we’ve found ourselves with, whether that’s actually, if there’s any positives that we can pull out like some of the challenges that we’re sitting in at the moment for either of you.
Eloise: Yeah, it’s definitely a strange season to adapt to. I think we’re both quite busy people and this break has been a bit of a shock to the system. I was working in a restaurant before this kind of happened and, to be honest, I’ve shocked myself a little bit about how much I was doing. I was working like 30 hours, uni, I‘m running a business and in this season I’ve thought “wow, maybe that was too much”, because I’ve really had the chance to sleep and, I guess, regain my energy back and I think I’m quite a creative person so having a little bit of extra time to explore music and, I guess invest a bit more into art has been brilliant. Yeah, but I don’t think I’ll go back to working as many hours as I was before, which is a nice lesson to learn.
Nicole: Isobel, what about you? Obviously, you’re studying medicine at the moment which is, you know, a super cruisey degree that doesn’t require much application or time at all. How have you found this?
Isobel: Yeah, same as Eloise. We’re all adapting and trying to make the best of a situation that’s not the best. But, I mean, we’ve seen amazing things happen with other small businesses as well, that people having to adapt but having to do that really creatively and so taking advantage of new opportunities that have arisen and, for us at Taboo, our product is sold online so we haven’t had to change that too much. But, in terms of my personal adaptions I would say that I’ve had, yeah, a lot more time to do things I love and explore some other hobbies and stuff as well which I’ve been really enjoying. But just, honestly, connecting with the family a bit more and being cooped up at home has definitely given me an opportunity to do that so I’ve been grateful for that.
Nicole: Yeah, very cool. I want to sort of wind back the clock if I can a little bit. I know that you guys kicked off Taboo in your last year of high school. I want to wind back to primary school Isobel and primary school Eloise. I’m sure, you know, adorable, polite young people who used all of their ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ back in the day. I want to tip into that childhood, and I guess, were you entrepreneurial, like entrepreneurially minded from the beginning? Was business or, I guess, being a changemaker and solving problems, which has obviously become a real focus for you now, was that something that just was always there or was it something that just kind of emerged later?
Eloise: Personally, I think that it ran a little bit in the family. My grandad was an inventor and when I was a kid, I used to have this little book, it was like my invention book, and I invented little wheels for dachshunds to wear so they wouldn’t get back problems.
Nicole: Oh my gosh this is the best thing ever.
Eloise: It’s a very cute book looking back on it, these awful little drawings.
Nicole: Please tell me you can send photos of this invention book, like I feel like we need to see this.
Eloise: I’ll have to find it. I should actually go and find it. I remember there were always ants in my dogs’ food bowls, so I invented a little bowl with a water moat, because I knew ants didn’t like water, neither does a dog, I guess. Yeah, I think I’ve always had the invention hat on. In Year 6 I won an award at a science fair, inventing these socks that heated up. I was sat next to this guy that made like hydro-electric little stereotype thing. it was a bit funny; I had this hand-knitted woollen sock on my lap, and I won first place and this guy was saving the world. So, yeah. I’ve always been inventing things which is a bit fun and yeah, I still love thinking outside the box and seeing how else we can adapt our life, yeah.
Isobel: For me, I was so so lucky, Mum and Dad have always exposed me to what life was like around the world. So, I kind of started tapping into, or trying to learn more about how people live in developing countries and things like that. So, I was exposed to that from early on and that was very much a part of my thought processes and trying to figure out how we can, I love thinking about how the world can work together to, to make processes that, whether it be business processes or just larger-scale processes more sustainable and effective and things. Those sorts of things excite me but then my parents are also in, they’re also small business owners so that was always a very legitimate option for work for me just thinking about having a business and using creativity in that form. But, yeah. Eloise and I were both always constantly organising fundraisers or events for school, getting people involved and trying to get a whole group of people working towards the same goal, that sort of thing was always on our minds.
Eloise: I mean, we got very creative about it as well. We hosted a bingo night once, and we dressed up as old women and did like a little video skit to try and advertise the event, like it was the hottest thing the school had seen in years. We had a lot of fun doing a lot of fundraisers.
Nicole: That’s fantastic. How long have you guys known each other? So, when did you both meet and cross paths?
Isobel: We crossed paths in Miss Morrison’s class in Year 7. So, yeah, we had a joke running in math class I think it was and yeah, we laughed nonstop, almost got kicked out of class and we’ve been best friends since.
Eloise: It was a funny foundation for a friendship, but it worked.
Nicole: What other cool little hacks have you done over the years to raise money? So, like bingo being one of them, what are some of the other ways you’ve managed to generate some cash in an interesting way?
Isobel: There was one thing that we, so, Eloise and I were school leaders together in our final two years of school, and that gave us incredible opportunities to lead some, more like, well obviously fundraising campaigns and stuff, but also more culture building things for the school. One of my personal favourites was a campaign we created called Pascus, it means creating a selfless culture at school. So, that involved, throughout the semester, a lot of little activities and events and little ways for the girls at school to be able to encourage each other and put other people before themselves and create that environment of supporting each other and not having to I guess worry about yourself so much because you’re already still supported. So, that was one of my favourites.
Eloise: I’m thinking of the campaign that we ran at our school every year. The year that we ran the campaign we were raising money for a medical facility in a South Sudanese community called Bor. It was a bit of a tradition for the school to invite the boys into the school from another school, because we were at an all-girls school. Everyone loved it and the boys will sit at the front of the assembly hall and it would be a battle of the sexes. So, we’d have the older girls battle the boys in all these silly little competitions like
Isobel: eating as many weet-bix as you can and things like that.
Eloise: Yeah! It always raised a lot of money!
Nicole: High-stake stuff.
Eloise: Yeah, that was good fun.
Nicole: That’s awesome. It already, like in the few minutes of conversation with you both, it’s really apparent that you both think quite critically about the world around you and then, sort of, apply this problem solving lens I guess to the things that you see and whether that’s, Isabelle, like that worldview that your parents exposed you to from a really young age or, Eloise, like obviously that notion of being an inventor and like really problem solving things through creative gadgets has been there from the beginning. I would love to know how Taboo kicked off for you. Like, where did that start? I think, interestingly, is the current model what you started off with? Because I think a lot of the time, young people see their, or we all, see an end product of a business that we sometimes miss the pivoting and shifting and changing that happens to get to that place. So, tell us about that journey, I guess.
Eloise: Yeah. Both Iz and I think that we’ve always been quite globally minded, as you were saying, Nicole. Neither of us have really had, I guess, money or financial success at the forefront of our thinking. When we were in Year 11, at the end of Year 11, we went to a leadership conference and we heard Daniel Flynn speak, he was the founder of Thank You Water. That was the first time that we were introduced to this model of business being a social enterprise. I think we just fell in love with the opportunity that that model presented to host a product or something that people invest in frequently, and then use that really powerful profit, that comes from a high-demand product or service, to benefit people that need to, I guess, are in need of service and help and financial support in whatever way that might look. So, I guess we just thought “oh my gosh, we live in such a rich part of the world. it’s so filled with, it’s so commercial, and why don’t we tap into these commercial desires that we all have and then repurpose that money, I guess.” Yeah, so, that’s like, I guess, a blanket overview of where our idea came from and our passion for what Taboo stands for grew from there, really. Do you want to continue on that, Iz?
Isobel: Yeah. I think, Nicole, you’re totally right. Not every initial idea is going to, like, make it the big-time and not every idea is going to be received 100% in the community and things like that. So, I think what we prioritised when we came up with the idea of Taboo, so, we went to this leadership conference at the start of Year 12, and then we came up with that idea then, and then sat on it for the year while we were finishing our studies, and then as soon as we finished our studies, we got right into it and we started by speaking to a lot of mentors. I think that is where the strength in our idea was, kind of, started to develop, because we did invest a lot of time, at the start, into talking with people who had walked that road before. We spoke, we sat down for coffee with like heaps of people, heaps of different people. We didn’t even, we’d just accept these, we’d just look at these and send these invitations to these coffee dates to really and man and his dog. We figured whatever information we’re going to get, we can use, whether it be good or bad, we need to, yes, use our discernment. But the more information you can gather, the better. So, investing that time meant that we could really objectively look at our market, but also, the demand out there for the product that we were really interested in, which was the pads and tampons. Yeah, we learnt a lot from that.
Eloise: Yeah, I’d say after we heard about the model and the opportunity we had, Iz and I went for a big walk and we were like “alright, if we want to, like if this is a business model that exists, then what do we want to sell and who do we want to help”, and we started brainstorming all these things that people buy in their everyday life like coffee and yeah people that, things that people can’t live without almost. Then we were like, “oh my gosh, half the population buy pads and tampons every month, like for as long as we’re reproducing”, that is such a, I guess, vital market that we chip into. Then, once we were thinking of that we were like oh my gosh, what do people do when they can’t afford this product like it is quite expensive, and if you were on the streets or you were really short for cash, how do you afford this? How do you deal with your period when you can’t afford this product? So, that’s kind of where the research and the heart for our outreach sparked from. As soon as we started researching what women in Australia do, they use, you know, toilet paper that they can get from public toilets if they can’t access anything else or they have to reach out to charities. Then we started looking into what menstrual health looks like overseas and from there on, we couldn’t turn back. We realised so many girls don’t go to school because they don’t have access to pads. So, at the time, it was 30% of girls in developing countries were dropping out of school as soon as they get their first period. We just were thinking how on earth are so many girls not receiving an education, like a ticket to the future, just because they don’t have menstrual health products to support them in their natural, biological time of life. So, we just thought, there’s no turning back. We have to pursue this, we have to take advantage of this market and repurpose that profit for this very very good cause.
Nicole: Yeah, and how, I mean, that’s the challenge in social enterprise, right? Because you’ve got to come up with a product that, you know, can make money, and also you need to find a meaningful way, and a measurable way, to solve the problem at the same time. That’s, it’s a really delicate balance between doing those two things. How did you go from identifying this problem, unpacking it a little bit further and realising that it was something that mattered, to then coming up with a business solution and going through like all of the parts and pieces required to prototype it, put it in market, all the whilst you were juggling Year 12?
Eloise: Yeah, I was just going to say, like Izzy said, we reached out to so many mentors once we’d finished Year 12. We just thought there’s nothing to lose, let’s get everyone’s advice and see what we can do with it, kind of thing.
Isobel: Yeah, so that was after school and then it did take a long, it took longer than we expected to decide a) who was going to create our product, so our own brand of pads and tampons, b) how we would afford those pads and tampons, and c) what we would do with our profit once we started to sell our pads and tampons. So, that process of kind of answering those questions took a couple of years, and a lot of that time was spent fundraising. So, we hosted a big crowd funding campaign over the two months surrounding Christmas at the end of 2017. So, through that crowdfunding campaign, we, our Taboo community, ended up raising $56 000. So, that was the start-up capital that we needed to kickstart everything, to buy our first batch of organic cotton pads and tampons, with the Taboo branding, to get sent from our factory in Barcelona that we had partnered with, to get sent over to the Australian stores, sorry shores, and sell them from our online platform through a subscription model. So, that’s our kind of model, and it took a number of years to get that going.
Nicole: So, I’d love to ask, because I know that when, like that’s pretty, that’s not unusual in a business venture, to sort of sit in that problem space and discovering and prototyping and definitely setting up a campaign and running it, it takes time. How did you guys stay committed or motivated during that period of time where you don’t have a product in hand? Because I think that that’s a challenge.
Isobel: Oh yeah.
Eloise: Yeah. I think that there are a couple of factors that played into that. Firstly, I think we were really strong in how we wanted our business to look. So, initially, we were so committed to giving 100% of our profits to these chosen charities or programs that give the support to women overseas. The business kind of fell into place from that position. It was quite hard, we had a lot of people suggest that we shouldn’t perhaps run with this model, they thought I don’t know if it’s going to be sustainable from a directorship point of view, they were like you would want to make a profit for yourself one day. As, we did have to think about these things quite seriously, and how that would sustainably grow, knowing that, you know, in five years-time we probably wouldn’t be living at home with our parents and have bills to pay and whatnot. So, we, it took a lot of, I guess, certainty in our own direction to stick with our guns, kind of thing. I think we just reminded each other why we’re in it and what we’re doing this for, and we always came back to the fact that we are doing this for these girls who need an education and need access to this product. Then, from that position, we could say you know what, we don’t need a profit, we’ll make a wage one day and that’s good enough, that’s what we’re in it for, for these girls and not for ourselves. I think as soon as we were humble enough to put ourselves back into place, I guess it was just a no brainer to run with the structure and be strong in, in discerning and saying, to some mentors, nope, that’s not the path we want to go down, this is what we’re here for kind of thing.
Isobel: Yeah, and in a more practical sense, yeah, that, especially that crowdfunding period of two months, the platform we use is call Indie Go Go, and if you don’t reach your goal, so ours was $48 000, if you don’t reach your goal within that time, you don’t receive any of the donations. So, that was a very draining and exhausting period. We were quite run down by the end of it. But in a more practical sense, the fact that we had the two of us doing it together was really really helpful. We had to keep each other’s energy up, we had to keep, I guess, encouraging each other, but then on top of that, making sure that we each had our own support networks as well. Because it is, it would be, it wouldn’t be real if I said it was an easy time, definitely was really stressful. But that support network that we found in each other, but also in our own areas of life was super important.
Eloise: Yeah, I think, I’ll just add quickly. I found a lot of comfort knowing that people wouldn’t donate unless it was for a really good reason. If I was stressing myself out about how much effort I was putting into the campaign or not, sometimes I would just come to the fact that it’s not about us, it’s about this mission. It, kind of does the work for you, almost. We facilitated the opportunity for people to support women in this way, and I kind of knew that it would be a success because so many people do want to support in a practical way, in that, like how we set it up. Yeah, I think just again, coming back to the mission was a huge relief, I guess, when it was getting quite stressful.
Isobel: Yeah, you’re right. People bang on about mission but for a very important reason.
Nicole: That’s interesting, because I think we talk a lot with our young entrepreneurs about how they need to hold the problem tightly but the solution lightly, and it’s your commitment to the problem that will actually, I guess, create that momentum and engagement and, you know, passion, curiosity, drive, motivation, all of those elements, more than holding onto the solution will. It certainly sounds like that’s been the case for you guys, as well. You mentioned that the campaign was a stressful period of time and I think that’s true for everyone. It’s, sort of, you know, crowd funding’s, in many ways, from the outside looks like it’s easy. But on the inside, it’s actually quite an exhausting process. Obviously that $56k was crucial to securing that first lot of product and for kicking off Taboo. Would you recommend it as like a source of start-up capital for other entrepreneurs? Are there other pieces of advice you would have for people who might be potentially looking into crowd funding as a means to, sort of, get that start-up capital?
Eloise: I think it was absolutely perfect for what we were trying to achieve. Having such an outreach and mission focussed brand, it also revealed to us that people really did care about this mission and we weren’t alone, and that even in the future, the business model itself would work. So, I think it did create a lot of, I guess, what’s the word I’m trying to look for?
Isobel: Community? It created a community around Taboo.
Eloise: It did create community, yeah. Yeah, and like I was mentioning before, it just, if the mission sold itself to so many people to raise the money that we needed to make it happen, I knew that the business would be reputable as well.
Isobel: Yeah, and people donate to things they resonate with, or they relate to. I think, well half of the population bleeds, and us asking the question well “have you thought about what women who don’t have access to products have to do when they’re bleeding?” It makes, if you’re a menstruater yourself, you think about it and think wow, I actually have a responsibility in this area, because I’m standing alongside all my sisters and I need to support them because I’m so lucky to be able to support myself on my period. So, it’s very much, yeah, crowd funding is for projects that a community can be built around and that a lot of people relate to and resonate with and can feel a passion for.
Eloise: Yeah, and I think, in terms of advice, I would say give it your all because often it’s the first opportunity that the business is presented in a very practical, obvious way, and I think if you can sell the business to people to invest in it before it’s existing, then there’s, like I was mentioning before, a massive promise in it working in the future. Even things that aren’t so outreach or community-based, I know my boyfriend bought a watch on a start-up system, which is similar to crowdfunding, and they’ve made millions of dollars and they can be a huge, successful watch company now, which is something very different but I think it speaks into the fact that, if people are going to back it before the product even exists, then you can definitely make note that you’re on the right track. So, I think it’s a great thing to jump into and also, you have nothing to lose, especially as a young person. We have time on our side, thankfully. So, if you have an idea and you want to give it a shot, then there’s absolutely no harm in doing the hard work for a few months, putting it out there and if it works, it works, and you’ve got a great opportunity ahead of you.
Nicole: I want to dig into maybe a sticky question that I think, you know, you’ve mentioned that you guys have been best friends since Year 7, went through school together, worked on a number of different projects including like your Lent campaign and Pascus, and all sorts of experiences. Going through this process of launching a fully-fledged social enterprise, a $56k campaign, which I know would’ve been a challenging task, how have you coped as co-founders with this process because, I feel like, you know, there are plenty of best-laid relationships that can really flounder under that kind of pressure. Did you guys have to set up norms between each other, or were there ways of working that helped support that friendship amongst the co-founding business relationship as well?
Eloise: Yeah, it’s definitely been a learning curve.
Eloise: Everyone says don’t go into business with your partners and we were like oh no, we’ll be fine, we’re the bestest friends anyone could have, we’re never going to fight. Surprise, surprise. When you have a world of pressure on your shoulders, everyone does buckle in some way. But it hasn’t been a negative result, almost. We’ve definitely had our hard times, but they’ve definitely paid off to make us stronger together. One thing we did learn is, I guess, our differences. We played the trombone together at school, we both did volleyball, we were in the same classes up until, pretty much, like Year 11 and 12. So, we definitely, kind of, fit into each other’s moulds and I think as we started this journey, we’ve both grown so much, and we’ve both grown in different ways, as well, which I think has been a bit interesting to adapt to. But I’m very thankful for Iz and that she’s very kind and forgiving, and I think that we’ve both needed to forgive each other a lot and be kind to each other and I guess have the maturity to work through it, as well.
Isobel: Yeah, yeah and what we’ve learnt is that we need to prioritise our friendship, as well. In the times where it’s, our relationship has been the most tense, we’ve looked back, we’ve stepped back from the situation and gone “wait, we’re not even like hanging out as friends anymore, and every time we hang out we’re just stressed about Taboo, or talking about Taboo, or we’re not filling up each other’s cups,” if you know what I mean. So, we’ve, yeah, we’ve had to come away from situations and think no, we need to prioritise our friendship as well. And Wheeze is completely right, we’re two separate entities, we have different taste and different experiences, and at school it’s so easy, you’re right, Wheeze, you’ve nailed it like, we did fit each other’s mould, and now we’re going into different kind of areas and finding our own people, but there’s so much strength in that, because now we have different things to offer as well. It’s that giving each other the space to do that.
Nicole: Yeah, that’s so interesting. I guess the temptation is to work with people that are similar to you, but in some ways, having that difference of skillset or amplifying different attributes within that co-founding partnership creates a stronger organisation because you can lean into each other’s weaknesses and provide support in the spaces that the other person can’t. Have you seen that in the way that you guys have worked, where there’s opportunities and strengths that one of you can run with, and there’s other strengths that the other founder sort of really finds their own in?
Eloise: Yeah, I think as the journey is progressing, that’s becoming more obvious. Like I said, as we’re growing, we’re growing in different ways, and the longer we’re out of school I think the more obvious that is. But one thing I’ve really valued about having a business partner is that there’s someone to keep us both accountable, as well. Even if it’s simply a bad idea, you’ve got another person to say no that’s not going to work, which has been very valuable and something that, yeah, I’ve always been thankful for. But yeah, I think this year especially, we’ve both put our focus on specific parts of the business or specific parts of life and that’s given a lot more clarity knowing that someone’s in control of this and the other person’s in control of that, so you’ve got your skills better spread out, I guess.
Isobel: Yeah, and that has been reflected in our studies. So, we’re in our third year of uni studies now, and I’m kind of entering that more health scene, and Wheeze is doing the more business international studies scene. So, yeah, we’re figuring it out, and there’s definitely like, there’s no perfect guidebook for this sort of thing. We’re very much trying to learn as we go, and that’s purely because there’s been no Taboo founded by two best friends from school before that we can ask what to do. But we’re, yeah, we’re learning as we go and we’re still very young and looking to other people, definitely, for guidance but, yeah. Learning things for ourselves too.
Nicole: I’d love to, because I know that part of your process in that, I guess, unravelling what Taboo can be, was that you both did some travel and you’ve really spent a lot of time tapping into the stories of the kind of people that you’re trying to help. Can you share with us, I guess, some of the impact that your organisation has been driven by?
Eloise: Yeah, of course. In 2018, Izzy, my boyfriend and I went to Kenya and India. The trip was pretty much exclusively to research what menstrual healthcare was like in both of those countries. We shadowed some existing organisations that were doing work in providing pads for women and girls in those areas. It was honestly the most unforgettable experience that I’ve had, personally, and the stories that we heard and the girls and women that we were able to meet were so, like they have stamped my mind forever, especially in the work that we’re doing with Taboo. I think Iz would be able to remember as well, there was this one day in Kenya and we were instructed to teach these girls about menstrual healthcare and, you know, when you can expect your period and when you can have sex without getting pregnant, really practical things like that, and there was a little question time at the end, and this girl put her hand up and she said “I have really painful periods, and when I walk home from school and I am in pain, I sometimes have to stop walking home”, and she said like “what do I do? If it gets dark and I’m alone, how do I stop my period pain?” pretty much. I remember Iz and I just looked at each other having absolutely no answers and just kind of being stuck in that we couldn’t help this girl even more than we were.
Isobel: Yeah, there’s no Panadol there, there’s no heat packs. To set the scene, this was rural Kenya. We’d been driving for probably five hour or so, and there were just mountains around us and this was a Masai Mara area, so, there was, it was just arrowed. Is that the right word? I don’t really know what arrowed means, but it feels right.
Eloise: I don’t know.
Nicole: Yeah, I reckon we can run with that. Let’s double down.
Isobel: Yeah, let’s stick with arrowed. But this was a really serious situation like, this girls’ safety was definitely at risk. Just being thrown into that question and thinking “wow, this issue is very complicated, culturally and practically”.
Eloise: That’s one thing I’m really grateful for what we learnt in Kenya and India was that the importance of culture is so prominent around menstrual health care. One thing that I really value from that trip was that we learnt how important it is not to disregard culture or look over culture. It drove home the importance of, I guess not cookie cutting the
Eloise: Yeah, the menstrual health education system that we have in Australia to, for example, a rural Masai community in Kenya, because it’s just so different and it shouldn’t be, I guess, done lightly.
Nicole: I guess it’s that authentic voice, right? It’s being able to come back and acknowledge, like put ego and experience, like ego and perhaps what you know to be true from your personal experience, to the side for a moment, in order to sit down on the ground with, like and be eye to eye, with the people that are really living this everyday and be humble and open to what that experience looks like, feels like and sounds like to them.
Isobel: True, yeah. Part of our impact at Taboo is also more local, so, we’re called Taboo because we want to address the stigma around menstruation all over the world. Just you question about Taboo’s impact, it’s been really interesting to have these conversations with like men and women in Australia too. Eloise would have had very similar experiences, and I know she has, of just talking to men about what you do like they might ask “so, what do you do for work?” or something and you go into Taboo, and you mention the M word, menstruation, and they kind of seize up a little bit and they’re like “oh oh well,” they’re kind of like “oh, you don’t have to tell me”, and I’m like “no! I can tell you all about it”, and we start talking about periods for a while and then by the end of it, they’re just like, they’re quite excited, like they’re keen to learn more, they’re quite amazed that they don’t know about all these issues around the world surrounding menstruation. But that is part of our impact, it’s opening the conversation up to men and women alike in all areas of the world. So, little things like that have been really exciting and seeing little Taboo stickers on people’s cars just like driving down the street, because all of that is about the advocacy and the social movement is what Taboo stands for.
Nicole: It’s so great. I’ve got one of those stickers on my laptop too. So, I just thought I’d put that in there.
Nicole: I would love to sort of dig into that movement making, I guess, a little bit. I feel like often young people get told that they may be too young to really make a difference, that they should focus on school and think about university and what they want to be and I think that your story is fantastic because you’ve really sort of, you saw a problem and you started addressing it, not waiting for somebody else to dive in and do something about it. What are a couple of things like, you know, tangible, clear steps that a young person listening to this could take tomorrow to start their own movement, or their own social enterprise?
Eloise: Yeah, I think being young has been one of the most valuable assets we’ve had. For a few reasons, one, we have nothing to lose, like I mentioned earlier. I remember my dad being really hesitant for me to go straight into business after school, he thought it’d be better if I got a degree and did a more like, I guess, easier path to life to begin with. I kind of said “nope, stuff it, Dad. This is what I’m doing”, and then a few months into it, he looked at me and was like “you know what? I think that’s a good idea. Even if it doesn’t work, you can pick yourself up and dust yourself off and go again.” And that’s really only going to come from taking opportunities when you’re young, because, if all else fails, it’s not going to be the end of the world because you’ve got your whole life ahead of you and you can start again. I think as well, something that we took from being young was being okay with naivety and not knowing everything. So, like we mentioned, a lot of our start up success was thanks to a lot of mentors, and it took the first step of saying “hey, we don’t actually know what we’re doing, why don’t we reach out to other people who do know what they’re doing”, and we could do that because we were so young and I think a lot of adults will get to a point in life where they think they need to know everything. So, they perhaps don’t reach out as much as they could and benefit from that. So, yeah, we were just comfortable with the fact that we didn’t know what we were doing all the time and, yeah, I think that’s a really, really valuable asset.
Isobel: Yeah, I totally agree with that, Wheeze. Another thing, also Wheezy’s nickname is Wheezy, oh Eloise’s nickname is Wheezy, so, that’s what I’m saying.
Nicole: I picked up on that, I’m now going to dig into Wheezy instead of Eloise, because I feel like we’re on that level now. We’ve spent 40 minutes chatting, so, I’m going to lean into it.
Eloise: Oh yeah.
Isobel: Love that. Also, making a team is very important. So, one of our first, kind of, big decisions when Eloise and I came up with Taboo was do we share it with the world, or do we keep it to ourselves? I guess a lot of the anxiety around that was whether people would steal our idea or something like that. I think we came to the point where we thought nothing’s going to happen if we just keep it in our little, just like to ourselves.
Eloise: Or it will miserably fail.
Isobel: Yeah, like who’s it going to impact? Like, us? The two of us? So, we began sharing our idea with our friends and with our communities and our families. When we started to do that, a) it was great to see how people received the idea, like that was a little bit of research ourselves, like are people excited about this? Would they invest in it? Would they use our product? Also, it’s a lot of creating a team around your idea and when we started to get our first, kind of, really committed friends and other people that we didn’t know but we came to know through Taboo, when we started getting them involved and using their skills and their ideas and their experiences to create a better Taboo, that was when things started to really take flight. So, in terms of a tip, I would say if you can surround yourself with some like minded people, gather together some people who are really excited about your idea, then you can really leverage off of that and yeah, take advantage of that team mentality, because there’s so much power in that.
Eloise: I’ll quickly add. As shallow as it might sound, as well, but being young sells, I think, in a story. So, being, Iz and I being so young and also being female, the media has caught on to what we’re doing quite strongly, I think, because a lot of older generations get really excited when young people are doing good things. So, that’s a huge asset in being young and doing, being an entrepreneurial as well, is that people really admire it, and often it will draw attention to what you’re doing because you are so young. I’m certainly inspired by younger people that are doing great things. I remember meeting a 12-year-old who started her business in her local suburb that was thriving. She’d made like $600 and she was 12. I was inspired by that.
Nicole: Oh, I need a loan from this young person.
Eloise: Yeah! So, yeah, I think there’s great value in being young and doing great things because people who are older than you often do look toward you and are inspired. So, yeah.
Isobel: Yeah, and you touched on that stereotype, Wheeze, of when the older generations are surprised that there’s young people doing really good things because there seems to be this stereotype that our generation is really lazy and like precious and all this stuff, but I think our generation rocks. I think there’s so much good stuff happening. I think we’ve got so much creativity, and social media on our side, when it’s used for good purposes, is so powerful, that I think there’s a lot to be excited about.
Nicole: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting because often I have people, when I say, you know, I was a high school teacher or I primarily work with that Year 9/Year 10 students, I get this kind of oooh, like they’ve just eaten a raw onion, like that must be the most horrific experience. I couldn’t count the number of times that I’ve said, “look, to be fair, I would much rather spend a day working with young people, than I would like colleagues”. Because, young people are enigmatic, they’re interesting, they’re charismatic, they want to dig in and solve problems and particularly young people in this generation are passionate about the things that they’re passionate about and they’re unafraid of stepping forward into that truth, and articulating what they care about. I think that there’s something so powerful about enabling and empowering that confidence in young people because, at the end of the day, if we have a generation of young people that do something about the problems that they care about, then we’re going to be okay.
Isobel: Yeah, absolutely.
Eloise: Yeah. I’d also mention that there’s such value in being a young person in terms of inventing and entrepreneurship, because I think adults often overthink things so much. There have been so many start-up events that we’ve attended, and you will spend like seven hours focusing in on one sentence of your business. Whereas, I think young people have a lot more drive and energy to kind of come up with the whole idea and then just run with it, because they don’t really have anything to lose. So, I think, don’t be afraid of simple ideas, because often simple ideas are the ones that work, and I think young people are really good at coming up with simple solutions, because they haven’t lived so many years of life that they have any mistakes to learn from.
Nicole: Yeah, it’s beautiful being that, a little bit naïve to the risks that exist and then just embracing the challenge and being curious about a solution. There’s something really precious about a youth view on that as opposed to a bitter old view who’s worried, a risk averse and worried about consequences that may never eventuate in the first place.
Isobel: Yeah, a very wise saying I believe is “YOLO” because it’s so true. It sounds so obviously
Nicole: I was so expecting a Chinese proverb or something at the end of that sentence.
Isobel: No. I mean, it does sound like it’s in a different language. But it, I don’t know what language it would be like it, but anyway. YOLO is so true because we are like, we’re all going to die, like that’s the reality, may as well do something exciting, or try to leave behind some sort of legacy. Yeah, there’s no better time than to do it when you’re young.
Nicole: Yeah, I think that, you know, what you started, I’m going to go with Wheeze from now on because, you know, we’re BFF’s and I can do that, but what you lead with at the beginning of this around advice, and you said “at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work, you just pick yourself up and you go again”. At the end of the day, we’re always going to regret the things that we didn’t do far more than the things that we did do.
Eloise: Yep, exactly.
Nicole: So, anybody listening at the moment who’s like wow I really need to get myself some Taboo products, or tap into these guys in socials and elsewhere, like where can people find you and support you and get around you?
Eloise: So, our website is tabooau.co, not .com, a lot of people say .com, but it’s not .com it’s .co. On the website, you’ll be able to find our range of certified organic cotton pads and tampons. So, we just have the regular absorbencies on sale at the moment, and they are fantastic quality. They’re made in a factory that runs off hydroelectricity, so they’re good for you and good for the environment.
Isobel: I’m using one now, it’s great!
Eloise: We also sell t-shirts and stickers and stubby holders and those exist really for the purpose of spreading the normality of periods and addressing the stigma that menstruation has. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook if you search @taboosanitaryproducts. You’ll also find us on Google if you search @taboosanitaryproducts.
Isobel: Very key words.
Nicole: I also like think it’s, what I think is great is that you guys run off a subscription model as well and there is nothing worse than opening your bathroom cupboard and having that moment of “uh, I don’t have any tampons left, I don’t have any pads left”, and the fact that it just rocks up at your door in regular intervals means that you don’t have to run out or forget to pick some up from the shops and, you know, for something that, as you said, 50% of the population use for a significant part of their life, to take that off the table, I think is really great as well.
Isobel: And we always handwrite a little thank you note on our little packages, and they’re sent in these amazing recycled boxes that are, we’ve partnered with some various local retailers, and so they big boxes that the stock deliveries come in, we take them off their hands and send them with our deliveries. So, they’re definitely packed with lots of love and we have a brilliant community around us at Taboo which we’d love for more people to join in with.
Nicole: Amazing. It sounds like you guys have really gone back to your values when you’ve thought about all of the different parts of the business model, even from packaging all the way through to the, obviously what you’re using to put together the product itself through to the types of companies that you’re working with. Like really going from right at the beginning of the chain all the way through to the end of the chain to make sure that the legacy and the footprint that you leave is as positive as possible.
Eloise: Thank you. Yeah, we’ve put a lot of effort into the, we just love our customers and we want them to love us as much as we love them. So, yeah, we’ve really tried to think of absolutely everything possible in the whole chain of development, really. Including our manufacturing space, so, thank you that means a lot.
Isobel: Yeah, that’s so nice.
Nicole: Yeah, well, as a customer, I love you guys. So, thank you so much for taking the time to chat about your journey and your experiences and I think to sort of bring home some of the key messaging today around, I guess, amplifying that youth voice and leaning into a youth voice if you have one, sharing your idea, not protecting it, I think I really love what you said about that, Isobel, around not having this fear of somebody stealing your idea but actually sharing it far and wide so that you can build community and a movement and then using that to, I guess, gather together people who are as excited about the idea as you are. So, thank you both for sharing your journey with us today.
Isobel: Thanks, Nicole!
Eloise: Thank you so much.
Nicole: Awesome, thanks team.