The recent rise in feminine healthcare subscriptions has led to the development of various companies, but one business that has caught investors’ eyes is Athena Club, the direct-to-consumer tampon subscription startup. This startup isn’t your typical subscription; it sends high quality, organic tampons directly to your doorstep for less than $8 a month and shipping is always free. This subscription service has also created an inclusive community called Owl Periodical, a blog where women can candidly discuss their periods and read fun, relevant articles.
AlleyWatch chatted with cofounders Allie Griswold and Maria Markina about launching Athena Club.
Athena Club is launching with $3.8M in seed funding from investors including Henry Kravis of KKR, Philippe Laffont of Coatue Management, Cue Ball Capital, and Desmarais Group.
Tell us about the product or service that Athena Club offers.
Athena Club is a new direct-to-consumer tampon subscription company giving women more for less. We are revolutionizing the subscription feminine care market by delivering high quality organic and premium tampons directly to consumers at a fraction of the price of competitors. Delivering convenience and quality straight to women’s doors for under $8 a month – always with free shipping – Athena Club is making periods simpler and more affordable for every woman.
What inspired you to start Athena Club?
We were intrigued by the new entrants into the feminine care products market, but shocked when they found that prices ranged from $10 – $25 a month, two to six times the price of picking them up in a store. Spurred by curiosity, the former McKinsey consultants, and our third cofounder, Charles Desmarais, started looking into if we could make a superior product at a lower price.
How is Athena Club different?
We did our research, and we’re pulling back the curtain. There is no good reason for how expensive it currently is to have a period. We spent over a year researching the materials and operating model to bring high-quality materials – without harsh chemicals or additives – at a fair price. We’re building Athena Club to be the high quality and affordable option for women.
We are also excited about building a brand focused on our customers rather than ourselves and giving women the option to choose what’s right for their bodies. We want to build an honest and inclusive community where women can talk about their periods without shame and engage in fun and relevant articles through our blog, the Owl Periodical.
What is your strategy for user acquisition in a space where there are large incumbents as well as startups that are well capitalized and have had a head start?
We’re focused on offering a new solution to the market- one that brings together convenience, quality, and value. We’re excited to make the subscription model accessible to more women than ever before, without making any sacrifices on quality. We spent over a year researching materials and developing a lean operating model, so we can offer women top quality products at a fair price.
Second, we’re passionate about building a community where women feel they be open and honest about their periods without shame. We built a blog called the Owl that houses fun and relevant tips and stories about periods and period health.
What market does Athena Club target and how big is it?
Anyone with a period (in the US for now)!
What’s your business model?
Athena Club is a new direct-to-consumer tampon subscription company. It is also sold at select retail outlets like Free People.
What was the funding process like?
We spent a lot of time and research developing our business model, understanding our customers, and building a brand feel that felt open, honest, and fun.
When we had the opportunity to pitch to potential investors, we focused both on our passion about the brand and the mission, but also on the operational side about the research we did on our customers, the lean processes we had developed, and the projected growth.
We were excited that several investors were interested in investing in our first seed funding round and partnering with us to build Athena Club.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
As females coming to investors – many of who have never had a period before – we had to really think about how to communicate the need in the market and the benefit it would have for women. There are many things about periods that are not openly talked about- the different types of tampons, the varying needs of different women, and the awkward experience of going to a store to buy tampons. We wanted to break down those barriers to have open and honest conversations with our investors about how Athena Club works, and why it’s an exciting option for women.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We believe it was a few things: first, we did extensive research both on the materials we’re using and our operating model to offer women a new solution: high-quality tampons straight to your door without breaking the bank. As former business consultants, Maria and I have seen a lot of different business models and pulled that expertise into building Athena Club. Second, we’re very focused on the customer – and what’s best for her. We’re building a brand and a community that empowers women and offers them the freedom to choose. We are passionate about our mission and our values- to make women’s lives simpler, to create an open space to talk about periods, and to give women the freedom to choose what works best for their bodies.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We have a wide range of plans! Between looking into expanding into other products, constantly improving current processes and increasing brand presence and awareness we are constantly moving forward with exciting new goals.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Tell a clear and concise story: Be ready to talk about the details – all of the thorough research and analysis you poured over – be ready to receive difficult questions; identify several key points that are most important to why you think the idea will be successful.
Take every opportunity you have to pitch your idea: The more chances you have, the better your odds are and the more comfortable you get telling your story in a clear and compelling way. Many people think that you should not talk about your idea when you are starting off, but you actually should! You might receive some very valuable feedback that will change the course of your business.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our goal is to connect with as many women as possible- we’re excited to explore additional products and partnerships that help us accomplish this.
One piece we’re also very excited to grow in the near term is our social impact partnerships. Right now we’re working with Period.org, which is a fantastic organization that provides menstrual products to women in homeless shelters. We’ve already donated over 10K tampons to start, and we’re excited to build it from there. Our referral process gives women the option to donate the free bag they receive for referring a friend, and we’re excited to further expand our impact. Periods are hard enough as it is- we want to make it easier for all women everywhere.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Friend of a Farmer – amazing brunch and the best chicken pot pie in the city and Cafe Select – Cheese fondue, always!