Saskia Hampele: Starting a Social Enterprise Down Under

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LA-based Aussie actor Saskia Hampele (you’ll recognise her from NeighboursThe Gift, and this year’s A Few Less Men) has launched a social enterprise called Gift Box Organic that helps homeless women access tampons during their periods. We chatted to her about raising funds for a startup (and transcending the sanitised marketing cliches normally used by tampon brands.) By Grace Jennings-Edquist.

Tell us about the name “Giftbox Organics.” Bit of a play on words there?
Haha, yes! I’ve never understood the taboo around periods and feminine hygiene. Half of the population get periods, yet we rarely speak about them publicly! I feel like most feminine hygiene brands try to cover up the whole ‘periodness’ of their product with girly names and colourful nondescript packaging, so wanted to make a brand that was cheeky and playful, but also didn’t evoke unconscious shame and judgements onto the buyer of how they should feel about the product (that’s it’s something they need to hide away in their handbag). So the idea of tampons being ‘a gift for your box’ and also a gift to another woman, hit a chord with me and it stuck.

How did you recognise the need for the service?
As soon as I realised what was going on for homeless women (46,000 women sleep rough across Australia on any given night), and the kinds of things they were using in place of sanitary items (like newspaper and toilet paper), I knew there had to be a better way. I felt so confronted and upset that such a simple item such as a tampon was not being made available, and that in Australia we were relying on donation drives to give women something which should be a basic human right. I have always loved supporting social enterprises such as Tom’s Shoes that find a way to give back to those in need by re-channeling their profits. So I explored the possibility of doing this with a tampon range. The outcome was that the markup on tampons is high enough to make a one-for-one model possible, and at no extra expense to the customer.

A subscription service for tampons is a cool idea. What’s the customer response been?
Women so far are loving the subscription option! I mean, who really enjoys that late night trip to the pharmacy with toilet paper shoved into your undies! Plus it’s free, so there’s no extra expense for the convenience of home delivery. In the first week we already had over 100 new subscribers.

The less obvious reason I wanted to provide a subscription service, is to ensure that there is a regular flow (pardon the pun!) of donations going out. Our donation recipients get their periods monthly, and so each donation is essentially flushed down the toilet or thrown in the bin every month. So having regular and ongoing purchases ensures that women are getting all the product they need every month, as opposed to a one-off donation. My goal is to sign up 46,000 subscribers, with every one of these customers directly impacting one of the 46,000 homeless women in Australia.

How does the business/revenue model work?
The initial funding for Gift Box came from a crowd-funding campaign, where we raised over $45,000 in pre-sales and pledges to purchase the first shipment of 250,000 tampons. If all goes to plan, the model will now fund itself as a sustainable enterprise – so the profits will be channelled into the next shipment, and so on and so forth. Whilst charity ‘donation’ campaigns are great for one-off or annual fundraising, I didn’t see this as a long-term solution to the problem. I figured that as long as women are choosing to buy Gift Box Organic tampons every month, then every month we will have product to donate without the need for fundraising.

Find Gift Box online here; on Facebook here; and on Twitter here.

Original image: Instagram. Digital design: Nina Abrahams