19-year-old UniSA student Daisy Buckland recently sat down with our CEO babes Izzy and Eloise to discuss the beginnings of Taboo, how they plan to end the stigma surrounding menstruation and what’s happening next for the Adelaide start up. Daisy is currently studying a Bachelor of Marketing and Communications at UniSA. She has been following the progression of Taboo since it’s earliest days, mainly through social media but also through being a friend to Isobel and Eloise. Daisy says her Dziadek (grandpa in Polish) is her biggest role model and that his life story inspires absolutely everything she does.
Adelaide Teens who refuse to go with the social ‘flow’.
Periods. They’re a taboo, they’re taxed and they’rerarely talked about, yet they affect around 50% of the population every month. Enter best friends Izzy Marshall and Eloise Hall, two nineteen-year- old born and raised Adelaidians. These inseparable teens don’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary, but instead of hitting the clubs to celebrate Eloise’s eighteenth birthday in 2017, they registered TABOO Sanitary Products, a project they’d been working on for over a year, as a company. When asked to describe TABOO in one sentence, Izzy says “We see this as a chance to enable women on our side of the world, to help women on the other side of the world through the same experience.” The experience? A period.
It all began after the two girls, who were school captains at the time, attended a leadership conference in 2016. Here, they heard Daniel Flynn, the co-founder of Thankyou, talk about the 100% profit model – a social enterprise model that focuses on giving all profit made, after costs, to projects directly related to the product being sold. Here, the do-gooder girls saw an opportunity to make real change. “It made so much sense to sell a product people are going to buy in their daily lives, and turn that profit into an opportunity”, Eloise says. With around half the population in need of sanitary care each month, the girls saw a market they could potentially tap into.
After establishing their initial business idea, a little bit of research led Izzy and Eloise to discover that young girls, just like them, in underdeveloped areas are unable to attend school or participate in daily activities simply because of their limited access to adequate menstrual health care. This discovery stirred a deep passion and began a social justice journey for both girls.
Their two prong mission became this; providing girls on Australian shores with a funky brand of pads and tampons available for purchase, with the profits of these sales going toward providing adequate menstrual health care to those without the access to it. From here, TABOO was born.
Vulnerable to the enormity of the task, the two dove head first into the mammoth endeavour. “We didn’t know what was coming… and that almost helped us getting started” Eloise recalls, owing the initial confidence to their oblivion about what was to come. The two girls took a gap year, Izzy helping from her Au Pair work in Paris, whilst Eloise looked after home base. Now, with both girls studying, Eloise a double degree of a Bachelor in Business and International Studies and Izzy a Bachelor of Medicine, their schedules have quickly filled up, and more or less are set to remain that way for a while.
If their social enterprise mission alone weren’t enough, and as the name would suggest, Izzy and Eloise also hope their work will break down the taboo around menstrual health, as they remind us that periods affect absolutely everybody (yep, because without periods none of us would be here in the first place). The girls quickly noticed the ignorance surrounding periods, and made it part of their mission to start a positive conversation. “Its given females a chance to be more open, and presented the boys in our own social circles with the first real opportunity to engage in conversation and ask questions”, Izzy says, ”we hope we can do the same for the wider community.”
And how exactly do they hope to achieve this community reach? The way any teenager would – through the magic of social media. The girls have also focused on the taboo of the red and pink themed branding of the business, as they understand marketing themselves correctly is key to building success and credibility. The girls mention that a lot of their branding has happened organically, and is often inspired by the associated norms of having a monthly period.
The girls admit the commitment hasn’t been all easy. “Sometimes we’ll be sitting in our dingy little basement office, watching Snapchats of our friends at the beach, feeling like we’ve missed out”, Eloise describes, “but then we realise that the whole point of this is to ensure girls just like us don’t miss out on more important things, just because of their period.”
So what does the future hold for the pair and TABOO? “A local independent grocer has offered us shelf space, free of charge,” Izzy says; an offer like this, usually unheard of, is a huge step in their journey. They also have hopes of TABOO becoming one of the leading brands in feminine hygiene, in order to fund the menstrual healthcare of as many girls for as long as possible. But ultimately, Eloise says, “We hope our project connects all women through their shared experience of menstruation.”
Words by Daisy Buckland