How This Tiny Menstrual Care Startup Beat the Tampon Shortage

First it was baby formula, now it’s tampons. The summer of 2022 is shaping up to be the season of the great tampon shortage with both cotton and plastic in high demand and low quantity. Scarce materials and supply chain problems have left consumers scrambling to find the products they’ve long relied on for menstrual care. 

August, a direct-to-consumer period care brand, has so far managed to skirt the shortage. Launched in 2021 by recent college grads Nadya Okamoto and Nick Jain, the Brooklyn-based company has avoided running out of inventory while some of its competitors have sold out of product, and it hasn’t been due to a lack in demand. August generated more than 30 percent month-over-month revenue growth during its first six months of operation, according to the founders. Okamoto, 24, and Jain, 22, launched the eight-person company with $2 million in funding raised mostly from angel investors.

Here are three ways August positioned itself to beat the tampon shortage.

1. Stockpiling inventory.

Because Okamoto and Jain launched August during the pandemic, when supply chain challenges and pantry loading led to empty store shelves across the U.S., the pair have only ever operated in volatile market conditions. And they’ve faced their own challenges with maintaining inventory. After experiencing 130 percent growth in regular tampon sales between October and November of 2021 and selling out of product, the co-founders decided to double the amount of inventory they previously kept on hand, and to always have a backup plan for similar situations in the future.

“We’ve only ever seen [a market] this bad,” Okamoto says, adding that when it comes to the reliability of the supply chain, she and Jain “have very low expectations.”

2. Avoiding plastic.

Though traditional menstrual products are made with plastic, August cut plastic out of its pads and packaging, using it only for applicators. All of the company’s packaging is made from recycled materials, the products come in compostable polyvinyl alcohol wrappers, and their plastic tampon applicators are recyclable. Using sustainable materials and leaving plastic out of the equation led to difficulties finding vendors and manufacturers, but the decision has helped the company steer clear of the shortage, according to Okamoto.

“Unexpectedly, the fact that we are more sustainable means that we’re not experiencing the same supply chain shortages as other companies,” she says, adding that some period care brands make pads with enough plastic for three to five plastic bags. “Where they might be struggling to get more plastic materials, we’re not experiencing that.”

3. Pricing for accessibility.

August’s prices fall on the lower end compared to other direct-to-consumer brands, with a box of eight tampons retailing for $9.50. In the 27 states that have an active tax on menstrual products, August covers the tampon tax so its customers don’t have to.

“A lot of [the strategy] is pricing at what we can,” Okamoto says. “Part of it was also trying to make sure that whatever the industry standard was, we could kind of push the boundary on what accessible period care looks like.”

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