Marlow is bringing a revolutionary tampon in a space that hasn’t seen much innovation over the years. This is a menstrual health brand that has created the first-ever lubricated tampon delivered through a direct-to-consumer subscription model. We recently sat down with Nadia Ladak to learn more about her story and how she’s changing the FemTech space.
How did the idea of Marlow come about?
Marlow started in our fourth year of university as part of an entrepreneurship capstone project. Our professors asked us to identify a problem that we were passionate about solving and after reading an article about how the modern tampon hadn’t changed significantly in the last 90 years, my friends and I (who are now my co-founders) were immediately drawn to the menstrual health space. We started to dive into this space and realized that there were several problems to solve including the limited product innovation, overly feminine and outdated marketing, and lack of community, conversation, and education. The primary issue we decided to tackle was the painful insertion of tampons. My co-founder shared that she had a lot of pain when inserting tampons. She’s an active individual and a swimmer and felt that pads, her only alternative, limited her in her daily active lifestyle while on her period. She went to the gynecologist to try to find a solution, only to be told to “spit” on her tampon. We were shocked and knew there must be a better way to solve this problem, which led us to creating the first-ever lubricated tampon.
What further inspired you to take the idea to the next level to say you really had “something”? What was the launch like?
After hearing my co-founder’s story, we went on to interview over 200 menstruators and learned that 86% of them had experienced tampon insertion pain or discomfort for a variety of reasons. This included being a tween that just started menstruating and experiencing high levels of anxiety when trying to insert a tampon, individuals with lighter flows (usually caused by birth control), those who were post pregnancy and experienced higher levels of vaginal dryness, or those with medical conditions such as vaginismus that increased friction upon insertion. We also turned to our online community and had a TikTok video about tampon insertion pain receive 8.2 million impressions, 1.2 million likes, and 7000 comments from menstruators around the world sharing their experience and the need for a product like this. Once we realized how widespread of a problem this was for millions of individuals, we decided to take the leap to build Marlow full-time.
What was it like in the beginning to develop the first product?
We started with the minimum viable version of the product which was a tampon and squeeze package of lubricant. We sent this prototype to 100 menstruators and received feedback that while the lubricant made the tampon much easier to insert, the application process was messy and felt like “arts and crafts in the bathroom stall”. This inspired us to create our current design which is a bottle engineered to perfectly coat the tampon in one easy mess-free dip facilitated by the cross-slit valve. After developing this design, we partnered with a research lab to conduct testing on the safety of the product and also went through relevant regulatory body approval processes. Now, the product is in the market, and we’re so excited to see the traction and feedback that it’s been getting.
How is Marlow reshaping the menstrual care industry?
At Marlow, through education & innovative products, we are spearheading a movement for people to get off of auto-pilot and take their menstrual health into their own hands.
The modern tampon hasn’t changed much in the last 90 years and in a world of 3D printing, AI, and boundless innovation, why should the menstrual product industry be any different?
We’re revolutionizing the period space by launching brand new first-to-market innovative products, starting with the first-ever lubricant & tampon designed to be used together for smoother, more comfortable insertion. We’re pioneering the new normal when it comes to using tampons while simultaneously prioritizing environmental sustainability and clean ingredients by using 100% certified organic cotton, a plant-based plastic applicator that formulated with sugarcane instead of petroleum, a compostable wrapper, and glycerin-free, pH balanced, & water-based lubricant. As we grow, we’re looking to continuously reinvest into our products to create even more sustainable and innovative alternatives, while actively growing a community that’s changing the narrative and conversation around menstrual and sexual health.
Your growth with Marlow has been tremendous. How’s the traction been so far?
It has been so exciting to see the growth of Marlow over the past two years. What started as an idea in a fourth year university class has now grown to an incorporated startup with a product in market and a growing community of over 35,000 individuals. One of our biggest channels for growth to date has been social media, particularly TikTok where the product has been going viral with a cumulative 30M views and 3.5M likes. We’ve also received a number of press features from the likes of Global News, Betakit, Vancouver Sun, Canadian Living, The Kit, and more. We were recognized as some of Canada’s top 30 under 30 leaders by Bay Street Bull and part of the top 29 women leading the modern menstrual movement. We raised a $500,000 pre-seed round and received $100,000 in non-dilutive grants. But above all, we’ve been most proud of the impact we’re making with our community. Almost daily, we receive positive feedback from our customers about how this product is changing their lives. So many individuals thought that there was something wrong with them or that they were “broken” because they couldn’t use a tampon. We’re proving to menstruators everywhere that there isn’t anything wrong with them while providing the tools, community and education for them to take charge of their menstrual health.
What’s next for Marlow? Any exciting updates?
We are excited to continue to grow our Marlow community through products and reliable education. We’re excited about the opportunity to expand into new geographic markets such as the UK, to expand our product offerings, and to continue to form partnerships with universities and menstrual health organizations to educate individuals about their menstrual health.
What challenges do you see in your industry? What does the future look like?
One challenge that we see in the FemTech space is that the industry is still viewed as stigmatized and “niche”, despite the fact that 50% of the population experiences this normal and powerful bodily function. Our goal is to change “The Talk” for the next generation from uncomfortable to refreshing. As menstruators ourselves, we know how ridiculous it is that menstruation is a subject steeped in whispers and misinformation, and we’re determined to change that. This lack of education & misinformation can lead to people living their lives in shame, disregarding their symptoms, and going undiagnosed for extended periods because they disregard their pain points as “normal”. At Marlow, we foster a welcoming, supportive, and curious community which has allowed conversations about menstrual and sexual health to flourish. We’re building a safe space to ask the questions you’ve always wanted to know the answers to but have always felt too nervous to ask. Due to the taboo nature of this space, we prioritize meeting people where they’re at. We know everyone has their own personal comfort levels and we want to go on this learning journey with our community. We hope that this leads to a future of supportive conversation between not only menstruators but also non-menstruators too.
If you had to go back in time, what would you do differently for your startup?
One thing I would do differently is to build my network of advisors and mentors even sooner. As
an entrepreneur, you may think you need to do everything yourself and could be afraid to ask for help. However, as a founder, one of the most important skills you can have is the ability to be resourceful and form connections. So many of the opportunities we’ve had to date have come from our network of advisors and mentors. Whenever you have a challenge, put out the ask to your network. While they might not be able to help you themselves, they may know someone who can; you never know where it may lead you.
What is one piece of advice you have for founders and aspiring entrepreneurs to grow their businesses?
One piece of advice I have is to not be afraid to throw something at the wall and see what sticks. As a startup, one of our biggest advantages is our ability to move with speed. Therefore, you need to get comfortable launching ideas quickly, collecting feedback, and iterating based on that feedback. You may launch things that are not perfect and you’ll likely make mistakes several times throughout this process but that’s also the exciting part about entrepreneurship. You learn so much in a short period of time about all aspects of business and leadership.
How can people find out more about Marlow?
To learn more about our products and educational community, visit www.wearemarlow.com. You can also follow our TikTok @wearemarlow or Instagram @marlow. Feel free to reach out to any of our founders on LinkedIn or Instagram; we love connecting with our community, other founders, and members of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.