The average American woman uses approximately 16,800 tampons in her lifetime. Most women know little about tampon ingredients, despite the fact that anything touching the skin, especially on a regular basis, is absorbed into the bloodstream. The FDA classifies tampons as “medical devices” and does not require the materials to be disclosed on labeling.
Yet four to five days every month, women might be using products that contain chlorine (from bleaching cotton white), GMOs (from cotton), polyethylene, polypropylene, and propylene glycol (from the odor neutralizers and fragrance).
“Once you hear what’s in a tampon, you can never un-hear it,” says Sara Shake, co-founder of Kali, a new Fort Lauderdale-based organic tampon company. “We’re always trying to eat organic and make the right choices for our bodies, but we never thought about what we’re putting inside our bodies 24 hours a day, four to five days a month.”
Shake and her business partner Jonna Piira have always loved monthly subscription boxes, like Birch Box and Dollar Shave Club. They used that concept to create Kali, a monthly subscription box that delivers organic and biodegradable cotton tampons, wipes, and a rotating third pampering product, like rosewater blends or brown sugar body scrub. They shipped their first box on December 15 from their office in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
“We always run out of tampons and are running to the drug store at the last minute,” Shake explains. “We just thought: How great it would be to have them delivered to your door every month?”
Shake, a Fort Lauderdale native, was excited to see women all across the nation order her product. Since launching last December, Shake has seen a 30 to 50 percent increase in subscribers each month, she says. “It’s been amazing. Everyone seems to really like it, and not just the tampons. We hear of women throwing the wipes in their gym bags and beach bags and using the third pampering product to take a little bit of 'me time.'”
The name of the company, Kali, comes from a Hindu goddess. Subscription is $19.95 a month and boxes arrive on the first of every month. Another subscription option delivers boxes every other month. Fourteen tampons come in the box and users can specify the absorbency in the order.
Shake admits that menstruation isn’t an easy topic to talk about. Most women feel embarrassed by it and most men cringe thinking about it. Speaking to investors about Kali was difficult. Shake and Piira would find themselves making disclaimers, warning people they were going to talk about their periods.
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“Then I realized: I am proud of myself as a woman, and of this cycle, and I want to help bring this conversation to the forefront,” Shake says. “Now I talk about menstruation all day long.”
Saturday is National Menstruation Hygiene Day. To give back, Shake and Piira are teaming up with #HappyPeriod, a nonprofit that provides menstrual hygiene products to homeless women. So far, they’ve collected piles of tampons and pads. On Saturday, teams of volunteers will distribute products at the Miami Rescue Mission and at Broward Partnership for the Homeless and Women in Distress.
“These are two things people are uncomfortable about,” Shake says. “People like to pretend homelessness doesn’t exist, and when girls talk about their periods, people just prefer not to think about it.”