Feel free to join in the chorus on this one ladies – periods aren’t fun. Whether it’s cramps, sugar cravings, breakouts or avoiding white pants, I don’t know one woman who would list it as a highlight of their month.
But when you really think about, we have it pretty easy in the Western world.
We can wake up, grab a pad or tampon, perhaps pop a pain killer and head about our day as normal. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for millions of girls and women around the world.
“A majority of women in Sierra Leone don’t have a hygienic way of managing their period. Women may use five pairs of underwear, kitchen sponges, old cloth and other makeshift materials to manage their menstruation. Due to the unhygienic nature of these materials, women experience rashes, sores and bruising.” – One Girl
What’s worse, is that a lot of young girls in developing countries will miss one week of school every month – simply because they have their period.
But what can we do to help? Cue Roz Campbell.
Roz is the twenty-something entrepreneur behind Tsuno – beautiful, sustainable and socially responsible bamboo fibre sanitary pads that make periods a lot more pleasant for yourself, the environment, and your bathroom cupboard (they’re just so pretty!).
The best part? Tsuno donates 50% of its profits to projects that focus on empowering women, from health to education and beyond.
So by choosing Tsuno, you’re kind of saving the world. Pretty cool right?
Whilst I could praise Roz endlessly on what she’s doing and how she’s doing it, how about I let the woman herself do the talking?
I’ve been following your journey for a while now and think you’re absolutely brilliant! (I also really love your Do It In A Dress story! It’s super cringe-worthy and eye opening all at the same time.) Can you tell me where and when the idea for Tsuno was born?
The idea came when I was in third year university. In a class in my industrial design degree called Design for Sustainability, I did an assignment on condoms; I had to pick a product that had a big impact on the world and research the manufacturing process and history. That’s when I became aware of social enterprise. I learnt about a condom business in America that does one-for-one donations and I just fell in love with the idea. I thought “Why isn’t every business doing this; it’s amazing!”.
The week after in a guest lecture, Chantelle Baxter from One Girl told us she was in her early-20s, living in Melbourne, going shopping and partying, not feeling satisfied with her life, and all of a sudden ending up in Sierra Leone on a volunteer project. When she came back, she realised she had to do something different. She told us about the process of starting her own charity; you don’t have to have studied for years or have heaps of experience. I thought, “If she can do it, why can’t anyone else?”. She also told us a lot of girls getting scholarships from her charity weren’t attending school when they got their period, and that’s what stuck with me.
It was also around the same time I’d been to Finland to visit a friend and I got my period. I asked if she had any pads or tampons and she told me she used a menstrual cup. I bought one and started using it, and I was really amazed at how this product existed, but I’d never heard of it before. I was a bit inspired by it; as a result, I started looking at sustainable sanitary products.
All of those things kind of tied in together. I was at a bit of a loss with what direction I wanted to go in in life. I had a small business selling jewellery and I just wasn’t feeling that satisfied with it. I decided Tsuno was the idea I should follow through with and it was a good one, so I started putting all the research in to make it possible.
Were there any moments where you thought ‘What the heck am I doing?’
I forced myself to make it work. There’s something about social accountability – if you want to achieve something, make it known and say it out loud, because if you don’t tell anyone, it’s really easy to let it slip behind and find excuses for why you shouldn’t do it.
I threw myself in the deep end and said “I’m doing this”. I told everybody about it and thought “If I don’t do this I’m going to be so embarrassed”. I just had to make it work. I never thought ‘I can’t do this’, probably because my pride was on the line as well.
You crowd funded over $40,000 to get Tsuno up and running – how was that experience? Would you recommend crowd funding to others wanting to get a business up and running?
With crowd funding, I had nothing to lose. I was testing the response and in my mind, it was only 2,000 women pre-ordering $20 worth of pads – that’s not a lot of women. I’d broken it down in my head not to be a big deal, but it was a lot of work. I did all this work leading up to the launch and then I thought I’d be able to relax – I thought “Everyone knows about it now, the money will just roll in!”. But Pozible were like “Now you’ve done your homework, the real work begins”. It was a good learning experience.
I think I reached the $40,000 target with two days to spare. I did a lot of hassling and I had friends volunteer; we wrote to everyone personally who had liked my Tsuno Facebook page. We spent a whole day spamming people – it was pretty awful, but it worked!
For the majority of the campaign, I was getting one or two pledges a day, but towards the end I was getting a couple of hundred. It was exciting! I woke up the morning that it reached the target and I had all these messages; I had a lot of friends that were checking in anxiously too.
I would totally recommend crowdfunding if you have the network and an idea that’s good enough, especially for creative people; it’s so good to have an alternative. Most banks wouldn’t look twice at me – even after the Pozible campaign, I went to the bank about getting a loan to cover extra costs and they weren’t interested, even though I’d managed $40,000 worth of pre-sales. Crowdfunding is a great alternative; it makes things possible that wouldn’t normally be.
In a world where a lot of people are (sadly) in it for the money, you donate 50% of your profits to organisations that support and empower women around the world. This is personally a major drawcard for me to use Tsuno. Can you tell me a little bit more about why it’s so important for you to contribute to this cause?
It makes me feel good. When it comes down to it, I could have a job doing anything else that doesn’t contribute to making the world a better place in some regard, or I could do this. In a way it’s a selfish thing; I realised a few years ago that helping people makes me feel good, and I knew I needed to nurture this because I liked feeling good. I know what I’m doing is important, rather than just contributing to the consumer society.
I’m earning a comfortable wage that I can live on. I have no issue with paying myself a wage because if I wasn’t, I’d have to be paying someone else to do it. I’m still able to function in Melbourne and pay my bills and live a comfortable life; I’m just not being greedy about it.
There would be no point starting a sanitary pad business, in my mind, if I wasn’t doing this. That’s the reason I’m doing it – so I can provide a product that’s giving back. It’s not because I love sanitary pads or because I just really want to sell them for the rest of my life; it’s because I saw a gap in the market and thought this could be done better. It’s a product you need to buy and if you choose this one, you’re doing something good and hopefully that makes you feel good about yourself.
You’re young, competing against multimillion dollar companies and doing it all seemingly on your own. What motivates you, and what would you say to other people who want to turn their own ideas into reality, but feel like the odds are stacked against them?
I just ignore the big companies. Obviously what they’re doing wasn’t satisfying for everybody. People want something refreshing and different; they don’t want the same old stuff all the time. I want to do something original. I don’t need to take on the whole industry, and I can make a massive impact with a pretty small section. I want to start small and grow – my point of difference is that I’m a small dude.
I was getting really put off before I started; I was following all of them and thinking I wasn’t going to be able to compete with them, but I ended up not paying any attention. It’s probably naïve of me, but I don’t care; I can’t have that noise going on in my head, otherwise I won’t do it.
I know there’s been talk about producing Tsuno tampons (YES PLEASE!), so is that the next step for you?
I hope so! Nearly everyday I get someone asking me ‘Do you do tampons?’. Getting it approved to sell is much more involved than sanitary pads. There is a lot more risk involved and the business isn’t ready for that yet. I’m starting to look into it, because I know it’s really important to be able to make and donate more money. It’s probably cutting out 60% of my customer base, but I had to start somewhere. I do want to Tsuno to be a brand that has lots of options.
Your product obviously revolves around what can still be a taboo topic for many people, so much so it’s got plenty of nicknames – Aunty Flow, Shark Week, That Time of the Month – list goes on! You, on the other hand, are very open to talking about your period, especially on social media (I think it’s great!). Do you find some people are still awkward or taken aback when you talk about it so openly?
My grandma loves it! She tells me so many stories about what she used to use. They used to go to the shop and have to ask for a bag of chips – it was like a code and they’d get pads in a brown paper bag. I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with that!
I’ve always been very comfortable talking about stuff like periods. I like pushing the boundaries and finding out why people think it’s taboo. It’s something we all have – why aren’t we talking about it? Until I came up with the idea, I never really thought about my period much. Now I’m very involved in the conversations going on around them.
During the Pozible campaign when I was trying to get a lot of promotion, I had a lot of resistance from a lot of media organisations. They were like “Yeah it’s a good idea, but we don’t think our audience will like that”, so that was really surprising to me. That really just added more fuel to my fire. I was like “Alright then, I’m going to talk about it more”.
I like that boys are getting involved. Most of the men in my life are very open and really welcoming to things like periods and sanitary pads. It’s an essential item like toilet paper or toothpaste. It’s a normal thing that half the population have, so why is it such a problem?
No matter how you dress them up, periods really aren’t enjoyable – although using Tsuno does make the experience a little more bearable! What are your tips and favourite comforts to help girls get through their period?
When I have my period, my body definitely doesn’t feel good. I eat whatever I want and a lot of it – I’ll lie in bed and not feel bad about it. Having the comfort of my boyfriend is really nice. He’s really sensitive and loving; he’s my hot water bottle. So basically chocolate, lots of carbohydrates like pasta and pizza, and watching Seinfield. The day before I get my period I have no energy at all and I have to have a nap in the afternoon. I love it – I think it’s important to just chill out sometimes.
You are my inspiration for International Women’s Day this year – do you have any women in particular you look up to and inspire you to achieve your own goals?
I’m inspired by every woman. People who are doing what they want to do; putting in the effort and making it happen. It’s cool to see people doing that all around me. I don’t want to pick out one person because I’m always seeing inspiration.
And last, but not least – the plug! Why should all women in the world use Tsuno and where can they get their hot little hands on them? (I personally recommend the regular deliveries – I’m never caught short any more and getting parcels > shopping at the boring supermarket.)
I’m providing an alternative product to others on the market that’s chemical free, made with a sustainable material, beautifully packaged and giving back to women who go without. I think it’s a no brainer, and it costs the same…well maybe a little more than the home brand ones! They feel good – I think they make a shitty situation a little bit better.
Roz from Tsuno has partnered with myself and Barany Naturals, a small family run business making natural soaps, bath bombs and more, to offer an exciting giveaway – the Ultimate Period Pamper Pack! There are two packs up for grabs and all you have to do is like all three Facebook pages (Tsuno, Barany Naturals and whatshorthought.) and tell us:
“What is your favourite way to pamper yourself when you’re not feeling your best?”
The two most creative answers will win and yes boys – you can enter too! (Comments on this blog post AND whatshorthought.’s Facebook page will be counted.)
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!