Disrupting a Very Old Market with Cora Co-Founder Molly Hayward

Disrupting a Very Old Market with Cora Co-Founder Molly Hayward
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The Nitty Gritty:

  • When there is a need and an opportunity for a better product, you should not be deterred by the magnitude of the industry you’re going up against
  • How to go about entering an old market with a new product
  • Why strong customer service, including a free trial program, and flexibility with the subscription system is crucial to Cora’s success

Molly Hayward, co-founder of Cora, a premium organic tampon company that provides a month’s supply of pads to women in need for every month’s supply of tampons purchased, is my guest this week on the Profit. Power. Pursuit podcast. During our inspiring conversation, we talk about the genesis of Cora, disrupting the traditional market of women’s period products and how exemplary customer service has been crucial to their success. There is so much value in this conversation, I hope you tune in!

Disrupting a Traditional Market

I was aware, but undeterred by the magnitude of the industry that was I was going up against.

— Molly Hayward

The concept of creating a premium organic tampon for women that would also help women in need around the world better manage their periods, first came to Molly when she was on a humanitarian trip to Kenya with a non-profit organization. On the trip, she noticed that some of the girls would go missing from school and when she inquired about their whereabouts she found out they stayed home when they had their periods because they didn’t have products to manage it in public. It was a lightbulb moment.

Molly starting thinking about other companies in other industries such as Toms or Warby Parker that were successful with the one-for-one model and felt there was an opportunity to connect the purchases women in America make every month and supply women in need at the same time. Sustainability and organic products were also important to Molly, but she realized that there was no one in this space that was offering products that met her standards. She set out to design a better-for-you and better-designed product than what was offered by the traditional companies in the industry who were fearful of change.

I was so convinced that there was an opportunity here and a need for a better product experience for both women here and women in developing countries so I forged ahead and started.

— Molly Hayward

What It Takes to Change a Longstanding Industry

And so as I began to dig into the industry and look at what it would take to offer a better product to women here.

— Molly Hayward

When Molly came back home, she started research. She began to dig into the industry to look at what it would take to offer a better product to women here. First, she realized there was not a brand that represented all the values of most modern women today. Once she determined that she wanted to offer an organic product, she had to find a manufacturing facility that could do what they wanted. That translated into more research time on Google and factory visits. Molly and her team floated the idea of the one-for-one model to a lot of different people and questioned if people would accept it or just roll their eyes. Had it been overdone? Would the market react to it?

Molly’s instinct was this product category, maybe more than any other type of product category, would hit a personal chord with women. We have all had the experience by our own error of not having a product when we needed it. And, it’s a crisis. Imagine going through that every single month and have it derail your life.

Customer Onboarding and Exemplary Customer Service

Giving women options and the ability to customize their orders was a big piece of what was integrated into our model within the subscription.

— Molly Hayward

Since most women have treated their periods reactively, the Cora team built flexibility into their subscription model so that women could alter the products they receive without any weird friction or penalties as they learn more about how much and what types of products they need or as their bodies change. They also implemented a free trial program that has been crucial for getting women comfortable with testing out a new product. Perhaps the most important element underlying it all is Cora’s exemplary customer service where customers can email, text or call in to get support.

Listen to the Full Episode

There is so much more to experience with the full episode, including the reasons why the design of the product and packaging was super important to the Cora team, how customers are responding favorably to Cora’s social mission and what’s next for the business.

I invite you to join me every week to hear the honest truth directly from entrepreneurs who are in the trenches building businesses. You learn the nitty-gritty details about HOW these entrepreneurs develop their business ideas, build teams, manage their time and more. By subscribing on iTunes  you will never miss a single episode.

Making Your Business a Force for Good with The FruitGuys Founder Chris Mittelstaedt

Making Your Business a Force for Good with The FruitGuys Founder Chris Mittelstaedt

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The Nitty Gritty:

  • How “necessity being the mother of invention” guided The FruitGuys into the B2B space and the subscription model
  • How to think about growth or look for opportunity even in times of crisis
  • Why you should think about the meaning you want to have in the world all the time and how you drive business to align with that meaning

My guest this week on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast is Chris Mittelstaedt, founder, CEO and Chief Banana of The FruitGuys, America’s No. 1 and original office fruit provider.  He tells me about starting a biz in San Francisco during the heyday of the first dot-com wave and weathering the bust as a business owner, his learning experiences for how and when to expand business operations and how making a difference and being a force for good is at The FruitGuys’ core.

Necessity: Mother of Invention

It was a reality-driven strategy, and to be honest I often think those are the best strategies anyway.

— Chris Mittelstaedt

Although Chris moved to San Francisco in the 1990s because he wanted to be a poet, he was working in the business services department of the Fairmont Hotel as a temp in 1997 when he first contemplated the idea of delivering fruit to offices. He and his wife were expecting their first baby, and Chris needed to determine what he wanted to do with his life very quickly. He had a friend who had a coffee cart and mentioned that office workers would really like something healthy to eat. So, the idea of The FruitGuys was born. They opened in 1998, an incredible time in San Francisco, as a bootstrapped company among a venture capital, dot-com world.

Chris shares that although this B2B business was the only option at the time and some of his earliest business decisions such as to focus on the B2B space and to create a subscription model of business were born out of necessity, he grew to really understand the B2B space and over the 20 years in business so far they have developed a core competency for the higher service levels required for B2B work.

Grow Smart in Times of Crisis

Risk aversion is actually something I think about all the time. I NEVER want to be a deer in the headlights and do nothing. I always want to be in fight or flight.

— Chris Mittelstaedt

After an early learning experience of expanding that left the business with a significant loan to pay off during a downturn in the economy, all of The FruitGuys’ subsequent expansion has been variable cost expansion not fixed cost expansion. That’s allowed them to think about growth and about how they expand or look for opportunities in times of crisis in a really creative way so they don’t put themselves in more debt or more at risk.

A Force for Good

Business owners need to be empowered to talk about the positive value of business, what it gives back rather than something that can potentially harm.

— Chris Mittelstaedt

From day one, The FruitGuys has been an organization that has always thought about its impact on the community and the world. Even in their earliest days, when they had leftover fruit, they would go around and hand it out to people on the street. Today, they operate The FruitGuys GoodWorks Program, that supports the small sustainable farms that grow their food and aims to reduce food waste and give excess fruit to those who are hungry. In every way, Chris wants his business to be a positive influence.

There’s much more to learn and be inspired by in the full episode, including more details about growing a business in San Francisco among tech giants, a specific example of how The FruitGuys expanded in a safe, variable-cost way and you certainly don’t want to miss out on hearing about Chris’ passion project to write Harry Potter meets the anti-Ayn Rand.

Every week, I speak with inspiring entrepreneurs about how they started and grew their businesses. Please join us and subscribe on iTunes today!