Interview with the incredible women behind the sustainable period company, Ohne, providing “cycle care for babes who bleed”.
The innovative period company Ohne is changing the game with natural and organic period products with the mission to destigmatize the taboos around periods one tampon at a time.
Those at Ohne believe those that have periods ought to feel supported through their menstrual cycle, providing a range of organic, eco-friendly period products that includes pads and tampons, and products that ensure we are prioritising self-care during menstruation, such as pro-period CBD oils and bath bombs. It doesn’t stop there. Ohne are working to help combat the lack of education surrounding periods with their community-led ambassador programme and the blog fem space to open and continue a shame-free dialogue. The community-first company reminds us that we are “a human with a uterus every day – not just the days you’re bleeding from your vagina.”
Read on for the full interview with the co-founders, Nikki and Leah of Ohne to find out more about all the good they are doing.
Hello Nikki and Leah! It is an absolute pleasure to speak with you.
We would love to hear a little more about your background’s, and what initially inspired you to launch Ohne?
We both were organic tampon users already, but we also both fit into the 69% of women that are always unprepared for their period when it comes! Unfortunately, this meant a lot of dashing to the shops, not being able to find organic tampons and having to use conventional ones instead. We realised that there must be a better way – we have a technological answer for almost anything we could ask for these days, so there’s really no reason shopping for your period products has to be harder than finding a date! We decided to launch our bespoke subscription service to address this issue – and to do it in a way that caters to as many different people who have periods as possible. Not every person who menstruates has a 5 day cycle that lasts exactly 28 days. Our service reflects this, as well as being cognizant of the fact that many people need a variety of absorbency types over the course of their period!
Ohne is described as ‘the love child of Leah and Nikki’, best friends who met at Uni in 2010. How romantic!
Yes, we were best friends from uni and one day after a lot of wine, Nikki came on her period at mine so I gave her a pad. She then marched back downstairs, fuming at the purple heart packaging, and we got to thinking how condescending branding is with your store-bought pads and tampons. Purple hearts, blue liquid… so we decided to change it, and the rest is history!
What are some of the highlights of running a business with your BFF?
It’s amazing to have someone with you to experience the highs and the lows. We can celebrate the wins together which always feel sweeter when you’re with your best friend, but then you have someone to pick you up when the lows get you down. We bring out the best in each other, and have different strengths, so it’s amazing to know she’s always got my back.
“We wanted to create an option for people who bleed where they can be fully informed into what they’re putting into their bodies, as well as being kinder to the planet as our products are all totally biodegradable.”
What would you say is the main difference between Ohne and more mainstream period products?
The ingredients list of a tampon makes for a pretty disturbing read, tampons are basically a chemical soup with contaminants linked to hormonal disruption, cancer, birth defects. Unlike the mainstream tampon brands, OHNE tampons do not contain synthetic fibres, chemical additives, fragrance, dyes, chlorine bleach, residues of pesticides or herbicides. They also have superior leak protection, they’re hypoallergenic, unscented and biodegradable.
Unfortunately, there are actually stricter regulations for the labelling of hamster food than there are for tampons in the UK (and Europe).
When all of this comes into close contact with the skin of the vulva – which has the thinnest and most sensitive skin of anywhere on the body – it moves straight into the bloodstream, making its toxic way directly to our delicate organs.
Our products are 100% organic cotton, and that’s it. No nasty chemicals, no bleach, and no plastic. We wanted to create an option for people who bleed where they can be fully informed into what they’re putting into their bodies, as well as being kinder to the planet as our products are all totally biodegradable.
What makes you proudest of Ohne? Are there any particular moments that you could share with us?
We have had a lot of amazing moments since we first created ohne. We’ve spoken in front of 15,000 people in Lisbon at the annual WebSummit, talking about our mission and saying vagina very loudly in front of a lot of men! We also launched in Oliver Bonas and had an amazing launch party in Tottenham Court Road.. but we’re super proud of the team we’ve created, they’re so dedicated to everything we do and work so hard to make it all happen.
Ohne have a partnership with the NGO, School Club Zambia, who addresses the need for improved menstrual health and period management in low-income countries, aiding marginalised women overcome period poverty.
When did fighting period poverty become important to you? Why are you so passionate about this issue?
“We believe that every person has the right to manage their period without shame and with dignity, which is why we’re committed to supporting efforts to eradicate period poverty in low-income areas.”
We’re incredibly passionate about this aspect of our business. Nikki has personally worked with the organisation in Zambia and seen first hand the incredible work that they do. Being able to support the community in an authentic, long-term way means a huge amount to us.
We believe that every person has the right to manage their period without shame and with dignity, which is why we’re committed to supporting efforts to eradicate period poverty in low-income areas.
At ohne, our culture is in our community. Part of creating this community comes from acknowledging that, whilst in the UK we have a lack of transparency and education when it comes to the products we’re sold, low income countries struggle with gaining access to products full stop. The social impact element of the brand was a core part of our business model from the early days.
We’re big on community – and really focus on bringing our customers and supporters into our circle. Although our official partner at ohne is the School Club Zambia where we work to promote improved menstrual health in rural areas of Zambia, we also try to work with local UK organisations who are aiming to eradicate period poverty whenever we can!
“Periods are not taboo and treating them as though they are leaves a lot of people who have periods in the dark about how their bodies function.”
Ohne are working hard to ‘unf*ck the planet* with vegan, cruelty free and biodegradable products and eco-friendly packaging.
What does sustainability mean to you and the team at Ohne?
A huge part of starting ohne for us was creating an ethical and socially responsible business. For us, community comes first. We want to create space both online and in real life for people with vaginas to talk freely about periods, menstrual cycles, and their bodies without the shame and stigma that is all too often attached to these topics. Periods are not taboo and treating them as though they are leaves a lot of people who have periods in the dark about how their bodies function. Making ohne as sustainable as possible was therefore one of our core missions right from the start. We wanted to be able to practise what we preach and be able to prove that to our community. We’re really proud to say that, to date, we are the only organic tampon delivery service in the UK to have been certified by both the Soil Association and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). So you can be sure that we didn’t just slap the word organic on our product. We want our customers to always feel 100% safe and happy with the products they’re putting in their vagina.
From organic cotton tampons and biodegradable pads, all you need for your cycle self-care and CBD oils to fight that period pain, it is clear that all of your products have been “made with vaginas in mind”!
But, if you could only pick one, which Ohne product is your personal favourite, and why?
Very tough question – but Yin & Tonic is definitely one of my favourites. It’s inspired by a herbal remedy I used to use growing up which helped soothe my cramps, so I wanted to bring it to the ohne masses! We worked with leading herbalists and tincture manufacturers and created an elixir that is truly incredible. I also couldn’t get by without my ohne tampons and pads!
“We’re encouraging people who have periods to feel like they can challenge the boundaries of what is acceptable – and that they can do this in a space without judgement or shame.”
From being a brand ambassador and reading your blog, fem space, it is clear that community is incredibly important to you.
Did the wonderful community that you have created happen naturally, or was it something that you consciously tried to implement from the beginning?
When we were developing ohne pre launch, we knew we wanted to create a diverse, all encompassing community that encouraged the conversation around every aspect of menstrual and reproductive health. A lot of the issues we face in regards to our menstrual health are tied into the fact that we just don’t talk about periods enough. So that’s what we’re trying to do! We’re encouraging people who have periods to feel like they can challenge the boundaries of what is acceptable – and that they can do this in a space without judgement or shame. It’s really gone from strength to strength, and we’re so proud of the incredible people we have in our community, as well as our ohne ambassadors who shout about us from the rooftops!
From all the bloody good you do at Ohne, it is clear you are making a positive impact when it comes to the stigma around menstruation.
Despite this, there is still a long way to go in diminishing period taboos in society. In what ways do you think our society could do better?
It really comes down to people feeling like they have safe spaces to ask questions, and hearing from people who have gone through similar experiences so you can be better informed when it comes to making decisions around your period. Menstrual health is severely under researched, which leads to so many bleeders suffering in silence and having no answers to their questions because there simply isn’t the research. This is why endometriosis cases can take seven years on average to diagnose. We need to pave the way for society to put menstrual health at the top of their agenda, and let bleeders know from their first period all the information they need to ensure they don’t have to suffer in silence, or be made to feel that having a period is embarrassing.
Do you think there needs to be better education around periods for teenagers and young adults? Do you think that this would make a difference in reshaping how those who menstruate think about their period?
100%!! Girls and boys in primary schools are put into separate classrooms, with girls being taught about periods and babies, whilst boys get taught about erections and masturbation. Periods are almost exclusively only discussed with girls when they’re young, so boys get no education around it, which leads to embarrassment around talking about it and very unhelpful stereotypes of being on your period. Girls are also not spoken to about female pleasure, and are just taught about bleeding in a very clinical sense. If we reshaped the education system to include everyone in the conversations from an early age, the taboos around periods would eventually break down and those who do experience periods would feel they could share their symptoms and talk about their periods with more people. It’s a huge systemic, educational change that is needed, and with the rise of charities such as Bloody Good Period, activists like Amika George, and our own community, we hope that we’re on the right path to changing this for future generations.
“If we reshaped the education system to include everyone in the conversations from an early age, the taboos around periods would eventually break down”
For too long people that have periods have faced unnecessary adversity due to the culture of stigma and shame that surrounds menstruation.
What advice would you give to those that feel shame around their own menstruation?
I would say just know there is no right or wrong way to experience a period. Every body is different, and every body bleeds differently. Symptoms may be more severe for you than others, it doesn’t make you strange or abnormal. Accept the natural flow of your body, and listen to what your body needs rather than trying to follow what you think you should be doing.
You deserve the world, especially when you’re bleeding.
Follow their Instagram for lots of free, educational resources surrounding periods, relatable memes and updates on their products!
All images: Ohne