How many of you have had an idea – a great idea! – that never took off because you were too scared to try?
For 25-year-old reasearcher Alyssa Bertram, the idea was there – developing a way for women to always have tampons on hand when they needed them – but self-doubt and apprehension kept it from anything other than a pipe dream. Then, just last month, Alyssa’s idea came to life as she launched easy Period, a tampon subscription service that delivers a sweet little care package to your door every three months. Within each package, women receive four boxes of organic tampons or pads (three months worth, plus an extra to keep at work), as well as fair-trade chocolate and inspirational cards.
“Before I had the name for the company, I knew I wanted everything about it to be simple – the design, the service, the logo. No frou-frou bullshit, just basic,” says Alyssa. “And then one day the name just popped in my head: ‘Easy’. From there, all the branding and messaging fell into place.”
A great product is one thing, but Alyssa wanted easy Period to represent more than just convenience for Canadian women. “The statistics are so high of women around the world having no access to pads or tampons, yet we never hear or even think about it,” Alyssa explains. “We’re so privileged when it comes to this stuff that inaccessibility isn’t even something we need to consider.” So she partnered with Zana Africa, donating a portion of each subscription to the foundation, which provides Kenyan women with access to female hygenic products as well as health education.
Keep reading to see how Alyssa recognized an untapped opportunity in the Canadian market, and how, like a true renegade, built a brand out of passion and a desire to give back.
*Alyssa is offering This Renegade Love readers a free month subscription when you use the code RENEGADE – head to easyperiod.ca to sign up and give back to women in need with each subscription!
You’re a business savvy girl boss today, but how did you kick off your career?
Well, I studied psychology at Ryerson with the intention of going on to do my Masters and PhD to be a practicing psychologist. I liked the idea of helping people and knew that was something that needed to be part of my life, whatever I ended up doing. But then during undergrad, I found psychology to have a very narrow focus and prescribed way of doing things that just didn’t speak to me. So, I took a turn and I ended up going the research route. I did a really rigourous research project for my thesis and was lucky to be hired by the nursing department at Ryerson to do research right away – it was a job I had applied to thinking ‘There’s no way I’ll actually get this’. I started doing research there, then continued on working at Sunnybrook and now I work in research at Mount Sinai Hospital.
And you’ve since launched easy Period as a passion project on the side. How did the idea for the brand come about?
Really, it just came from complaining – haha! Tampons are such a pain in the ass to buy, and you always need them. The idea actually came YEARS ago – I had my dad go grab them for me several times, and I would always say to him: “Ugh, these should be delivered.” One day he was just like, “Well stop talking about it and just do it! If you don’t, somebody else will.” It’s funny – I recently came across an e-mail from 2012 and the title is ‘Business Idea’ and it had a list of everything I needed to do, from sourcing tampons to figuring out shipping. When I started actually doing my research last fall into how I would source the product, I started coming across all of the dangers of the brand I was using at the time. So that was when I decided to make it an organic-only service as well.
So you had the idea and passion for the business – how did you start the process of getting it off the ground?
Last summer was a really hard time for me – my mum was really sick and in August, she was in a coma and we had no idea if she was going to make it. She started to get better, but that experience just lit a fire under my ass – I was so determined. When I would finish work at Mount Sinai for the day, I would get to work on easy Period.
It started with a Google Doc and a list of a bunch of things I knew I needed to do – build a website, source product, create a shipping method. I reached out to friends who had started businesses as well, mostly just for moral support and to get validation that my idea had legs. A friend connected me with someone to do my website, and at the same time I was reaching out to distributors for the product. Little by little, the idea grew into an actual business.
Easy has now been live for a month and people are signing up, but it’s growing at a rate that’s manageable. My first marketing campaign will come out this month, so that’s a bit of a bigger launch. Right now I’m getting it going with a smaller subscriber base so we can work out any kinks and get the service running seamlessly for a bigger launch.
And how did you fund the start-up costs?
I’ll be honest. If I had sat down at the beginning and really thought, “Okay what will I need to spend over the next year to get it off the ground?”, I never would have started in the first place – it was too overwhelming. So I took it one step at a time – how much do I need to get the website done? How much do I need to throw a launch party? Since starting, I’ve invested a ton of money, but doing everything in portions has made it much more feasible.
The biggest investment so far was the launch party that was held at East Room – 200 people came out to celebrate. It was an investment I have absolutely no regrets about, though, because it was important for me that people get an in-person feel for the brand. That party was like my pseudo-wedding – such good energy!
200 attendees is a solid amount of people! How else have you spread the word about the brand?
I started out with my core group of friends, having them try the product and spread the word to their own circles. Social media was actually something I was apprehensive about launching – in my personal life, I’m not a massive social media person. I go through phases with it. But I knew who my target customer was, so I created an Instagram feed based on what I thought they’d like. Even though it’s still early stages and growing, it’s been really nice to engage with people who are interested in the brand.
A portion of each subscription goes towards Zana Africa Foundation – why did you choose them as your charity?
I looked into a few charities to partner with and the team at Zana Africa wanted to Skype with me, which seemed really personal – we ended up having a really honest conversation about the plans for both of our initiatives. They also had a process of vetting me, which I thought was really great. It’s an American company, but they have a base in Kenya, so they work with 21 different community centres that employ Kenyan women and men and are doing more than just supplying feminine hygeine – they provide health education, too. It’s grassroots, sustainable and connected to the people, all of which was really important to me.
Why do you think it’s important for brands to integrate a give-back model into their business?
It’s just an easy choice. I wish I could give back more than I do, but don’t necessarily have loads of money or time on my hands – selling a product gives you the perfect opportunity to do that. I personally am more likely to purchase a product or use a service if there is a charity element. The point of life is to find your passion, live it out and give back.
You’ve been working on this brand for almost a year now – what’s been the hardest part of starting up your own business?
The self-doubt. The questions of: “Will this work out? Will this happen on time? Will people like it?” It’s a constant battle against believing in yourself. I luckily have a really good support system of friends and my family – they remind me why I started in the first place. I’m also a spiritual person as well, so I find that helps in coming back to myself and reconnecting.
So what’s been the most rewarding part?
Definitely the people I’ve met. In the last six months, I feel like I’ve met more people than I have in my entire life – just the coolest, most inspiring people that are doing amazing things with their lives. Launching easy Period has given me the opportunity to go to more events and network with others who are starting their own businesses, also trying to get things off the ground. I’ve been able to build some great relationships from it.
It takes a lot of guts to launch your own business, especially at 25 – do you have any advice for aspiring renegades?
Just start! It’s such a simple mentality, but is so hard to do because we tend to get overwhelmed. Just start, in any capacity, and instead of attempting to scale the whole staircase, try taking the first step. If you have to write out your whole business plan, do it, but then break it down into little chunks so it’s more manageable. Any business that has succeeded has done so because someone wasn’t afraid to just start.
For more information on easy Period and to order a subscription,
head to easyperiod.ca & use code RENEGADE for a free month!