New gen bosses: Valentina Milanova on founding Daye and giving women what they truly need––CBD tampons

By SCREENSHOT

Updated Jul 13, 2020 at 12:54 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

New gen bosses is a new series created to guide and inspire more people to go out there on their own, either as new business founders or freelancers. And what better way to do that than to ask the ones that already succeed at it? We want to know about big fuck-ups and even bigger successes, and the risky decisions they had to make along the way. We want to be the last little push you needed.

Job title: Founder & CEO
Industry: Female health
Company founder or freelancer: Founder
Company name: Daye
How long have you been doing it: 2 years
Age: 25
Location: South London

What pushed you to start on your own?

The breadth of the mission of Daye. From the impact we have on local communities by employing women, who used to be in the prison system; to reducing the reliance on pain-killers to deal with menstrual cramps; to removing plastic from the supply chain of tampons—the ambition of everything we want to achieve at Daye is what inspired me to plug my nose and dive into entrepreneurship.

What was the very first thing you needed to do to set everything up?

User research. It’s always been incredibly important to me that we see our users as co-creators of our products. So the first thing I did was to set up shop in the tampon aisle in Planet Organic and observe consumer behaviour around tampons.

What was the riskiest decision you had to take?

I think it was the decision to start Daye. It was the riskiest, because it meant I would be dedicating my entire life and sanity to one thing. It meant I was agreeing to lose sleep and friends and make a million mistakes. Starting Daye was like committing to a marriage with someone you don’t really know—I had never been an entrepreneur before. But I’ve enjoyed how steep the learning curve has been!

What was a skill you didn’t foresee needing that you had to learn?

I had to learn to recharge my own batteries, so I could charge the energy of those around me.

I was raised by a mother who worked in a bank, and worked such crazy long hours that she had the same security clearance as her office building managers—she would work so late, she would often lock up for the night. Having her as an example throughout my childhood years taught me many valuable lessons—discipline, selflessness, that working hard can get you out of most unpleasant circumstances.

And while I still disagree with the saying ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ (I think it’s a marathon with many sprints), I now force myself to find time and purposefully switch off.

When I first started Daye, I had an idea of what entrepreneurship would be like that entailed working around the clock, all-consumed with email and speed of execution. Two years later, I’m more conscious of harnessing my creative, not just operational, energy. I didn’t anticipate that learning to have my mind focused on things different from Daye would require much more discipline than learning to work like a dog.

At what moment did you realise that this was going to work out?

Two moments. First, when the first tampon prototypes worked on me and my friends. And secondly, when I read the results of our first clinical trials—one woman had likened Daye tampons to walking into a sound-proof room after being at a rock concert (the tampon had turned the volume down on her cramps).

Valentina-Milanova-Daye

Everywhere around us, new gens are founding businesses and redefining their careers. New gen bosses is here to inspire those who might want to do the same, this time with extra tips, some lols from those who have been there, done that, and £20 in your new ANNA business account if you dare to take the leap.

What did you spend your money on?

Building a team, building machines for our production, completing clinical validation, building a strong creative brand for Daye.

Also spent too much on legal fees in the early days of Daye, I should have been a more stringent negotiator with legal firms.

What was your biggest fuck up?

I speak my mind too frankly and often not in the right context, which means I frequently end up saying something too direct in the wrong setting. I do like to think that my strangeness lends legitimacy to disavowed sides of the people I spend time with.

What was your biggest success?

Launching a medical device to market, 12 months post first fundraise. Setting up manufacturing in the UK. We’re launching Daye in 8 Planet Organic stores in March and it feels poetic that we’re going back to where Daye originated.

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

The saying ‘this too shall pass’ applies to the moments you feel glorious, just as it does to the moments you feel like crap. The most important quality in a leader is consistency—this includes not letting the highs sweep you off your feet, or the lows put you down.

What are three tips you would give someone who wants to start on their own?

One: Enjoy the early days. Even though they are the most uncertain and painful ones, they are the time of pure creation and they pass by incredibly quickly. The early days of building a startup are like the early days of motherhood—there’s only so many months in which you can do things like breastfeed or watch a baby learn how to crawl. In startup building, like in motherhood, we’re always looking forward to the next phase, to the next milestone, which means we forget to enjoy how fleeting today is.

Two: Persistence is key. There’s no challenge you can’t solve with persistence. I’ve noticed that in the UK, a lot of people shy away from persistence for fear of being branded ‘pushy’. Own your grit and dedication.

Three: Read the great Eastern and Western philosophers when you get stuck. I find that between Matsuo Basho and Donald Winnicott, I can find answers to all people and strategy challenges I face at Daye.

Feel like you’re not one to speak out of context? There’s only one way to find out. Take the leap, open an ANNA business card completely free of charge for the first 3 months and get £20 in it, too.

Want to discuss taking the leap with other new gens? You’re in luck! We’ve created New Gen Bosses, a Facebook group to continue and expand the conversation started through this new series.

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