It was an idea that originally arose during a catch-up between lockdowns. Now Riley has evolved into a subscription company offering periodic products to both individual customers and more than 40 corporate customers.
The three founders have now made it their mission to make eco-friendly period products available to everyone who needs them.
“One of us got our period and that naturally got us talking about how we’re all women in our 30s and why we’re never prepared for it,” co-founder Lauren Duggan tells me in a video call.
“They would swear we didn’t know it was coming.”
The company was officially launched in April last year when Duggan, along with her co-founders Fiona Parfrey and Aine Kilkenny, opted for a subscription model so users aren’t faced with the common conundrum of running out of products when they need them most .
Between January and April 2021, the three founders devoted themselves to research, planning and procurement. By July, they had all quit their jobs to work full-time on Riley.
The company has since hired two more people, with the team now split between Dublin and Cork, where Duggan tells me they had just moved into their new offices that day.
Riley currently offers consumers a range of organic tampons and pads that allow its customers to create a personalized pack online.
Conversations about period products have gotten louder in recent years. In this year’s budget, Treasury Secretary Paschal Donohoe announced that all remaining period products that still had the 9 percent sales tax rate would now be reduced to zero. Scotland is the first country in the world to offer period products free for everyone.
Specially designed products have also emerged in recent years – earlier this year sports giant Puma teamed up with Modibodi to launch sportswear and underwear for the period.
Adidas also designed period proof leggings.
This growing interest in providing new products was evident to Riley as well. The company raised almost 400,000 euros in its first round of financing in January.
In the beginning, Riley also dabbled in crowdfunding. “Our early clients became our investors,” Duggan recalls.
“We don’t plan on doing any more fundraisers until the end of this year, early next year,” she tells me. “Right now we are growing organically month by month.”
One area of particular interest comes from the business world, where 40 organizations are now signing up to offer products.
“Vodafone was our first corporate customer to reach out to us,” Duggan recalls.
Now, Riley products are stocked at a number of universities across the country, as well as Accenture and Sky offices. Many corporate contracts now come from referrals. “They buy them in bulk and give them away for free,” she says.
One area where Riley wants to differentiate itself from its peers is its sustainability expertise.
Early on in the research phase, Duggan, along with her co-founders, discovered the environmental impact of period products that were on the market.
“Once we started looking at what was available, we were a bit shocked at the quality of the products we had used and how much bleach, pesticides and chemicals were in them,” she says.
She recalls when the team learned about the amount of plastic in some historical products, with one pad taking up to 500 years to decompose. “From there it went from a nice idea to ‘we have to do that,'” she says.
Duggan believes period products “should be treated like toilet paper, available anytime, anywhere” — a belief that drives the company’s work to end period poverty.
According to Riley, 61 percent of teenage girls miss school during their period, and more than 80 percent said they don’t feel comfortable talking to their father or a teacher about their period.
A government report last year found that between 53,000 and 85,000 women in Ireland are at risk of period poverty and that those affected by homelessness or addiction are particularly at risk.
Lidl Ireland is now offering period poverty free products to customers affected by period poverty through its app.
Riley has also partnered with Positive Period Ireland to donate products to homeless relief and direct care centres.
Meanwhile, Riley is donating €1 for every box sold to Development Pamoja, a charity in Kenya where, according to the ZanaAfrica Foundation, more than a million girls attend school for up to six weeks each year because they don’t have access to menstrual products.
The start-up is now concentrating on product development and plans to expand its offering in the coming year.
“Our ultimate goal is to be a lifelong brand for women’s health,” concludes Duggan.
“We want different touchpoints throughout the female life cycle.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/irish-period-products-startup-riley-targets-expansion-as-corporate-numbers-rise-42034224.html Irish period products start-up Riley is eyeing expansion as company numbers pick up