This Cofounder Taught a Group of Male Investors About Periods to Start Her Business

Have you ever wondered what’s in your tampons? Yeah, me neither. Alex Friedman of LOLA feels the same. Upon first meeting her cofounder, Jordana Kier, the two got to talking and eventually landed on tampons. LOLA was their solution to that — create a natural tampon with ingredients you know, can pronounce, and don’t harm the vagina. Sounds amazing, right?

Four years later and LOLA has branched out from amazing natural condoms to sexual health products, creating a mission to be a lifelong brand for each stage in a woman’s life. Alex took us through the process of founding LOLA — from teaching male investors about female anatomy and differentiating from the competition, to starting a business with a friend and branching out into a different category.

 

Name: Alex Friedman, Cofounder of LOLA
Age: 37
Current Location: New York City
Education: Undergrad at Dartmouth, MBA at Wharton

 

What was your first job, and how did you land it?

 

I had a lot of jobs as a kid and teenager and always had an entrepreneurial spirit! My favorite job was when I was hired as a calligrapher to address 100 wedding invitations. I had great handwriting and practiced calligraphy all the time. I also babysat regularly for kids in my building and neighborhood.

In high school, I was eager to start applying for positions. I was a waitress at a small Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side, which I got by simply walking in and asking for a job. I was also a greeter at Polo Sport on 72nd St. and Madison Ave., which consisted of standing at the front of the store (in a golf outfit!) and welcoming people inside.

My first job out of college was at a private equity consulting firm called Investor Group Services in Boston. I went through corporate recruiting in college which involved wearing and sweating through many skirt suits during high-stress consulting case study interviews. It took a lot of hard work to prepare for each case a lot of networking to land the job I wanted!

 

 

Do you feel like college prepared you to own a business? What is something you wish entrepreneurs would learn before they start a company?

 

I left business school feeling incredibly inspired and learned a lot about the foundations of being an entrepreneur, but the most valuable learnings have taken place in real time throughout my experience of founding LOLA. One of the biggest things I think entrepreneurs should keep in mind is that you shouldn’t just start a business, you should solve a problem. We didn’t want to just start a company, we wanted to create a modern solution for our reproductive journey. It’s a must to be fully and empathetically committed to the issues you’re working toward solving.

 

How did you and Jordana meet, and how exactly did you get to talking about tampons?!

 

Jordana and I met in the summer of 2014 — we were introduced by friends who had a hunch we’d hit it off. Jordana was in grad school at the time working on the early concept that would become LOLA, and I was at a tech startup. After a drink (or two), she asked me, “Have you ever wondered what’s in a tampon?” I, like many women, hadn’t. That small question sparked a big idea. After all, if we care about the ingredients in everything from our food to our face cream, why should our feminine care be any different?

 

 

One of the biggest things I think entrepreneurs should keep in mind is that you shouldn’t just start a business, you should solve a problem. We didn’t want to just start a company, we wanted to create a modern solution for our reproductive journey.

 

 

 

How has starting a business together affected your friendship?

 

What’s great about being so close with your cofounder is learning from and mentoring each other in so many ways. Jordana and I work side by side every day, and we each bring individual strengths to the table. Since we’ve gone through so much together as cofounders, we trust one another to provide constant and clear feedback on how to be the best versions of ourselves. It’s been fun to experience new life stages together as well — we’ve both become moms since starting LOLA!

 

What was the first step you took after the idea was in formation?

 

We held focus groups all around the country, confirming that most women (just like us!) had no idea what was in their feminine care products. That was the lightbulb moment. We wanted to start the conversation and create an environment where women could ask questions about their reproductive health, and then create better solutions for them.

 

Did you get investors? At what point did you start to see the brand truly take off?

 

Yes! Pitching such a female-focused product to investors was definitely an interesting experience. We found ourselves walking male investors through “Vaginas 101” powerpoint slides and even dunking different tampons in water to demonstrate various absorbencies.

Since launch, we’ve been encouraged to see a major shift in the way women are equating their reproductive care with their overall health and wellness — that, I think, is how we know we’ve truly been successful.

 

 

Tell us a little about LOLA’s mission.

 

LOLA is the first lifelong brand for your body. As a brand founded by two women, we know that each new reproductive stage brings questions. We aim to offer women the transparency and candor they deserve when it comes to products and content they need for their reproductive health. We also believe strongly that conversation is the first step in driving change, and we’re always encouraging candid conversations with our community about the experiences we have as women throughout our entire reproductive lives.

 

Why are natural tampons so important?

 

The FDA doesn’t require companies to provide a comprehensive list of ingredients for tampons, pads, and liners, so companies don’t. We believe women deserve better and have been committed to providing our customers with quality products and ingredient transparency since day one.

We think it’s ridiculous that there’s still a lack of transparent guidelines around what goes into a tampon — something that has been going into a woman’s body for 40 years. We would never put something in a product that we wouldn’t be comfortable using ourselves. As a majority female company, we develop products from our own personal journeys as women, and the pain points we’ve experienced throughout our entire lives.

 

The FDA doesn’t require companies to provide a comprehensive list of ingredients for tampons, pads, and liners, so companies don’t. We believe women deserve better and have been committed to providing our customers with quality products and ingredient transparency since day one.

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the common tampon brands have been out for decades. How did you differentiate yourselves from the competition?

 

We certainly had moments of doubt about whether others would understand our vision or feel motivated to change their purchasing habits after using the same brands for years — brands that their mothers, sisters, and friends had also been using. We think it’s crucial to have women at the forefront of companies that address women’s reproductive and sexual health, and leading the product innovation for such incredibly personal products — including tampons and condoms.

As women, we purchase and use these products too, and we’re able to engage with our customers openly and authentically as two women experiencing the same life stages as we grow with them. We’ve both shared our “first period stories” with the world on LOLA’s Instagram to spark a candid dialogue, help others understand how necessary this is in answering women’s questions, and bring attention to the lack of transparency in our industry.

 

 

We think it’s ridiculous that there’s still a lack of transparent guidelines around what goes into a tampon — something that has been going into a woman’s body for 40 years.

 

 

LOLA has started making sexual health products! What made you want to do this?

 

We know that each new reproductive stage brings questions. This was especially true when it came to the products we use for our sex lives. Beyond not knowing what we were putting in our bodies, we didn’t feel like we had the resources to address our questions and concerns (embarrassing, informational or otherwise!). With the launch of Sex by LOLA in May 2018, we’ve designed a line of sexual health products — lubricated condoms, personal lubricant, and cleansing wipes — designed first and foremost for women. Our products are stripped of unnecessary, irritating additives and deliver the sensation and reliability women expect and deserve. Sex by LOLA is the next step in our mission to become the first lifelong brand for women’s bodies.

 

How did you know you were ready to start offering more products aside from tampons?

 

The evolution of the LOLA brand into new categories has been a really natural progression. We’re actively listening to our customers and are committed to bringing them the products they need and deserve. One in four LOLA customers are engaging with us via email about highly personal topics (oftentimes before/over their doctors). We value this feedback loop and develop products to specifically address their concerns and desires. This trajectory of product development is a direct result of the open and trusted dialogue we’ve created with our customers, which is really special.

 

 

LOLA donates feminine care products to low-income women and girls across the U.S. This is amazing! What made you want to do this?

 

We’re fortunate enough to be able to afford menstrual products each month, but that’s not the case for everyone, so in 2016 we launched LOLA Gives Back. We’ve worked with nonprofit distribution partners to donate over one million feminine care products to low-income, underserved women and girls across the U.S.

Shelters for homeless women, domestic violence survivors, and foster care children often don’t stock the feminine care products that are everyday necessities, meaning the women who rely on these services have no one to ask and nowhere to turn. As a company by women, for women, we knew this was a problem we wanted and needed to help solve. Our mission is to start a conversation and provide women with access to information to make sure they feel informed and confident when making decisions on behalf of their bodies. That doesn’t just mean women who can afford these products — it means every woman.

 

 

Did you feel prepared when you started LOLA? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who feel like they’re not ready?

 

I don’t think you’ll ever feel 100 percent prepared to start a business. Everything about getting a company off the ground is one step at a time, which can of course be frustrating. It feels like you’re standing at the foot of a mountain trying to figure out how to get to the top. One day, we’d be asking where to source products. We would do a big deep dive, and after answering that question, the next day we’d wake up and wonder how we’d go about building our website. Understand that you’ll never be an expert on everything, but you can lean on friends and contacts across industries to figure out how to get from one hurdle to the next.

 

What can we expect from LOLA in the future?!

 

Our day-to-day goal right now is to provide peace of mind about the products women need in a relatable, straightforward, and modern way. And as the first lifelong brand for your body, our grand vision is to address every life stage with a commitment to product transparency and a community built on candid dialogue about all of the things we don’t openly talk about. In our mission to create the products and content women need throughout their lifetimes, we are committed to empowering women to make proactive and informed decisions when it comes to their health.

 

 

Our mission is to start a conversation and provide women with access to information to make sure they feel informed and confident when making decisions on behalf of their bodies. That doesn’t just mean women who can afford these products — it means every woman.

 

 

Alex Friedman is The Everygirl…

Favorite way to workout? Weight training (specifically I like core strengthening), swimming, and – most importantly – stretching!

What’s your go-to beauty product? Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Face Butter

Dream vacation? A three-week trip that combines the beach, the city, and the outdoors – ideally 2-3 destinations, because I like to explore and also lounge! The only thing I need planned in advance are my flights and hotel – everything else I figure out as I go.

Your camera roll is full of… Thousands of photos of my 1-year-old daughter, Vivian!

City you’ve always wanted to move to? Tel Aviv

If you could have lunch with one woman, who would it be and why? Serena Williams! We’re huge fans of her at LOLA – I admire her speaking up for women and sharing her experience as a new mom to advocate for postpartum care.

 

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