Interview with Olivia Cotes-James
Founder of Loona feminine products
Originally from the U.K. Olivia moved to Hong Kong after university, and two years later she relocated to Shanghai. Working at an advertising agency, she enjoyed her life and was busy building her career. She happily embraced the lifestyle of the East. However, she became aware of the lack of quality feminine products available. She also realized that feminine health was still very much a taboo in China. Olivia was inspired by the opportunities and felt that she found something where she can make a difference in people's lives.
She quit her full-time job and started her journey of entrepreneurship. She set out of developing Loona, her feminine product brand. We talk with her about her inventor journey and ask about the challenges and difficulties of producing goods from scratch.
How did you start thinking about the idea of developing tampons?
I've worked in an environment where I had lots of Expatriate colleagues, and most women brought their feminine products from their travels in Europe, USA, etc. It was surprising and strange to see that in a fast developing society, especially in a city like Shanghai, there isn't a suitable quality solution for tampons.
According to various research, currently, only 2% of Chinese women use tampons. I started a (never-ending) research and realized that up to today Chinese women receive very little education about their bodies and in general about feminine health. A woman's period is still a cultural taboo and girls receive conflicting information from older generations instead of being taught in school. I felt that not only there is an enormous market opportunity in China, where women are open to new ideas but also there is a need for a positive, modern shift and education.
What drives you to develop new Looona products?
Business is just one of them. Of course, I would like to see myself in a successful concept where millions use Loona products on a regular basis, but that just isn't it. I am coming from a social mission perspective and would like to provide education and information to Chinese women.
We are a female-driven business, working on a female product for female consumers. In general, the China market is receptive and interested in new ideas, modern concepts as far as there is information from a relatable person or organization. For this reason, we are starting to work with an ob. gyn to bring a professional element to the concept.
What is your concept?
I would like to create a product that looks great and makes ladies feel great too. I offer 100% organic cotton-based feminine products that are affordable, accessible to a wide range of women. Also, would like to change the conversation about women’s health and establish and foster a community where women get to ask questions and receive information, education, and build confidence through personal hygiene. I want to create products that are pure and help to avoid various health problems that regular feminine products might not be able to handle.
How is your production journey so far? What have you learned as a creator?
Creating something new requires a lot of legwork. Research, meetings, talking to people, finding expertise, understanding mistakes (making some of them) and learning all the way. Any creator with new ideas will face a similar experience. Our future goal is to develop a bio-degradable applicator. However, it is not easy to find the right material and factory where this material can be processed in a hygienic environment. Of course we want to preserve our target price point too.
What are the most challenging parts of the creation so far?
Solving practical issues is undoubtedly one of them. Creating the actual product, committing to an expensive mold and a very high minimum production quality can be a challenge for any new product developer.
I suggest to Hubbe.rs inventors to always look behind just developing a product because the work that goes into branding such as visual identity, creating a concept and a story followed by sales and marketing campaigns, finding distributors, etc. is where the continuous work starts. Thankfully in our case, the story about tampons and feminine products is the starting point, and the product development was the second step.
When you have a good product idea, make sure you do your research on how the market may react to it and how you can capture the attention of your target market.
Follow us on www.hubbe.rs to read about Olivia's journey of feminine product development in China.