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
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).
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.
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.
Scrolling through Goop, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the coconut flavoured floss that’s supposed to transform your daily dental experience. The same applies to turmeric lattes, mushroom matcha coffee, and a stone diffuser for your crystals. It’s fair to say I’m somewhat of a sceptic to the majority of what wellness offers and to whom. Yet with organic and sustainable menstrual cups, ‘period pants’ that soak up 8 hours of blood, the wellness industry has moved to our nether regions and is finally trying to make our monthly bodily trials a fair bit easier.
Meet Daye, a female-owned and led sustainable CBD-infused and 100 percent cotton tampon company that is in sync with your cycle and delivers to your letterbox. It sounds like the epitome of millennial convenience, with a pro-feminine lens on what women and non-binary people need. Screen Shot spoke with Valentina Milanova, the founder of Daye, about what inclusivity, CBD and wellness should look like for the majority.
“Daye started when I got my first period, at nine years old. No one had sat me down and explained what the menstrual cycle was, so when I started bleeding I thought I had a rare and shameful disease”, recalls Milanova. After hiding it for a year until she was taken to the emergency room by her father, who suspected something was wrong, her early experience of shame cemented her interest in calling to dismantle the taboos surrounding female health.
Reading research papers and anything she could get her hands on, Milanova discovered industrial hemp and in her words, “had a Eureka moment”. The fibres of the hemp plant are more absorbent than traditional cotton tampons, plus the extract from the flower are pain-relieving and thus help women who suffer from painful menstrual cramps.
Launching with two products—naked tampons and ultra-soothing CBD-infused tampons—the main question on everyone’s mind is: do they really work? Or is it no different than popping into Boots for a pack of Tampax and Paracetamol? “All our tampons are made from sustainably-sourced cotton fibres that are batch tested for cleanliness and pesticides”, explains Milanova. Keen on making sure there is no bacterial residue (seeing as tampons are not considered medical devices the regulation of feminine hygiene products are lax), Daye ran a microbiological analysis on various mainstream and organic tampons and found them bacterially contaminated. Tampon manufacturers aren’t even legally obliged to disclose the ingredients of their product.
Daye tampons also use a cotton protective sleeve that covers the whole tampon and prevents fibre loss so there is a smaller chance of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and Toxic Shock Syndrom (TSS) happening. Yet when it comes to any CBD-infused wellness products, many medical experts have rejected the use of CBD as its thought that only a high dosage of the ingredient is needed to have any kind of a palpable effect.
Daye’s CBD infused tampons have 150mg of 30 percent concentration of CBD, with the THC extracted. “Since they’re administered vaginally they have a much higher bioavailability than if the compound were administered orally”, explains Milanova. “If you were to ingest CBD, the compound would have to go through your digestive tract and be metabolised before reaching your bloodstream, so your gut and liver take a huge chunk”.
When asking what the results showed, Milanova has stated some women felt their cramps subside after 15 minutes and some after an hour. Have I mentioned that all packaging is biodegradable, sustainably sourced, compostable, and water-soluble too?
Is Daye helping women? Tick. The planet? Tick. Heightening our expectations for menstrual products? Tick. What about inclusivity? When heading to the brand’s website, there is a glossary of terms explaining everything from ‘period poverty’ and LGBTQI+ to burnout and pelvic inflammatory disease. Daye also has its own platform for women’s health called Vitals where conversation and transparency around its research will be audio-recorded and published.
Daye, therefore, looks like it’s made for women. That said, as cultural practises and lack of sanitary aid has meant pads and cloths are more familiar in the east, making tampons significantly more common in the west , what kind of woman is the company targeting?
Founder Milanova says plainly, “We don’t want to force tampons on anyone. We’re simply here to raise the standards in period care and upgrade the tampon, a product that has been overlooked for way too long”. Raising standards in female health and bridging the gender gap in medical innovation seems to be the intention behind Daye.
Daye plans on manufacturing locally in places like China and India, where femcare is almost non-existent. The brand’s micro-monetisation in these areas could result in local commerce and entrepreneurship for women, because it’s crucial that women get invested in helping other women. CBD-infused tampons are just the beginning.