TABOO’s journey began in January 2016 as Eloise Hall and Izzy Marshall walked up the stairs of Manly Beach, Sydney, “We had recently taken part in a leadership conference held at Bond University, and had been inspired by various professionals and their work, particularly that of Daniel Flynn.” Daniel is the co-founder of Thankyou Water, a social enterprise designed to sell bottles of water in developed countries, to make a profit that is donated to water projects in developing parts of the world.
“On our walk home, we began brainstorming other products that are in high demand in Australia, so that these products could also be sold to generate profit for a related cause. Eventually, we came to pads and tampons! 50% of the population require these products and each individual woman spends $19,000 on these products throughout their lifetime. What an awesome market!”
As the girls’ research deepened, they were alarmed by what they discovered, “We then started researching the flip side; What do women in developing countries use when they are menstruating? To say the least, we were shocked with the answer. We learnt that an astounding number of women had never even heard of a pad, let alone used them. Women are forced to use kitchen sponges, tree bark or even cow dung during their period. Many girls must leave school for a week every month, which leads to approximately 30% of girls in developing parts of the world dropping out of school as soon they hit puberty.”
“According to dignityperiod.org, ‘73 percent of interviewed Bangladeshi garment workers reported they miss work for an average of six days per month (resulting in unpaid work days) due to vaginal infections caused by unsanitary menstrual materials’. There are many more shocking statistics around this topic, so if the subject impacts you, please further inform yourself about this tragic reality.”
“We had to put our curiosity on hold for a year, as we focused our energy on year 12 studies. Almost the day after finishing our exams though, we were back to brainstorming ways that would change those scary statistics that had been on our mind all year.”
“At this pivotal point, TABOO entered our lives. We developed a social enterprise model that would allow us to sell a range of sanitary products on this website to generate profit that would then be dedicated to providing sanitary products and menstrual health education in developing countries.”
“At the beginning of 2017, we were fortunately introduced to a not-for-profit event called Startup Weekend. We met a brilliant team of professionals and were provided with the resources to evolve our dream into something real. The support, encouragement and prizes we received from that weekend gave us a determination to pursue our idea further, and so we decided to defer our uni courses for a year to commit our time fully to TABOO.”
In July, TABOO held a fundraiser at the General Havelock Hotel in Adelaide in order to help secure the funds to reach their goal of placing their first order of TABOO branded sanitary product by the start of 2018, “The Red & Pink fundraiser at The Havelock Hotel was incredible! We weren’t sure how much financial support we would receive, and were absolutely stoked to learn that we had raised over seven thousand dollars. The fundraiser was really important for us to also convey TABOO’s mission, values and goals to the 150 people there. TABOO was well promoted throughout the night and it was an amazing opportunity for us to launch this season of fundraising! Amongst many other groups, The Havelock hotel and The Adelaide Set were especially generous to us over this night and we are so grateful for their support.”
And backing for the project seems to be gaining momentum both locally and further abroad. “The support that TABOO has received has quite literally blown us away! It is honestly so amazing to drive through the street and notice TABOO stickers stuck on the windows of cars and on the backs of so many phone cases! When we made a social media post promoting the fact that we were sending off stickers to followers who wanted them, we received an amazing number of messages from people all over the country - even overseas! We have just launched an ambassador’s program, which is designed to empower our followers to host their own fundraisers for TABOO, and already we are in contact with a number of amazing and passionate young women who are planning their own fundraisers in their communities.
“From a practical and advisory perspective, we have been so blessed by the number of generous professionals who have been willing to share their skills, wisdom, guidance and experience with us. We have developed some amazing relationships with these mentors and they have played crucial roles in helping us make decisions and keeping us on track.”
“Because TABOO strives to be a movement as well as a brand, we would say that the number of positive responses and passionate encouragement that we have received from people all over the country has probably been our most exciting success so far! Being given the opportunity to take part in, and win a competition called StartUp Weekend definitely showed us the huge potential for social impact that our brand could have. As well as providing us with experienced mentors, workspace facilities and practical support, winning this competition really encouraged us to take the idea more seriously and acknowledge how many people were willing to back it up and support us!
The greatest challenge for both of us has been learning how to manage all the complexities of a start up business, while on the job! We are both quite young and definitely not as experienced as a lot of others in the start up space, so we are most definitely relying on our strong passion for the cause to drive our success.
“Trying to start conversation and earn respect from suppliers and manufacturers has been an interesting experience. Considering our age and the age of TABOO as a company, it is very easy for large companies to assume that TABOO isn’t committed for the long haul. It has taken a lot of persistence to gain this respect from larger companies but that is all a part of the journey.”
“Our passion for the outreach most definitely comes from our Christian based values. Jesus’ teachings make it clear that every person is extremely valuable and deserving of love and community. Jesus loved people by serving them and constantly reminding them of their worth and unique beauty. We want to serve these women in a practical and sustainable way that will see them empowered and prepared to look after themselves and the people around them. Above all, we believe that every woman deserves to feel ‘clothed in strength and dignity (and able to) laugh without fear of the future’ Proverbs 31:25.
“Our passion for the ‘business’ end of the social enterprise primarily comes from knowing how our profits would be able to support women in Developing Countries. The fact that so many people vocally express their excitement for TABOO’s mission is super encouraging to us, and definitely gives us the enthusiasm to keep going.”
“We are incredibly humbled and grateful to groups and people like the team at Guardian who are giving us these opportunities to share TABOO’s mission and reach more people. Thank you so much! If anyone reading this would like to make contact, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website tabooau.co which will also lead you to our social media accounts (@taboosanitaryproducts). We are currently selling TABOO merchandise (T-Shirts and stickers) which are an amazing way to help TABOO raise the funds we need as well as promoting the movement.”
“A lot of hard work, passion and a heap of support from awesome people around us has led us to where we are today.”