Possibly the world’s first feminine hygiene product purveyor, Alyssa Bertram shares how a big life event gave her the push to create Easy., and her model for small business success.
Starting your own business is no slide into warm water. The process more often resembles an icy plunge into a stream of sleepless nights agonizing over where funds will come from and what success will look like. Add another serious complication to the pile – how to develop a marketing plan for a product nobody wants to talk about – and you have the special kind of challenge Alyssa Bertram faced in creating Easy., a subscription service that delivers 100% organic tampons and pads.
No, creating Easy. didn’t live up to its name, but Bertram’s lingering feelings of discontent with her previous career path, coupled with a family health scare, kept her on track. “I was conducting healthcare research at a hospital and was feeling stifled, like I increasingly had to check my personality at the door. I had a lot of friends who were making a living doing creative endeavors that they loved – and I envied that. But I was comfortable in my job with its healthy salary and potential for upward mobility, so I had no intention of doing anything about creating the lifestyle I yearned for,” she explains.
Then in the summer of 2015, Bertram’s mom became very ill and went into a coma for eight scary and uncertain days. Her mom ultimately made a full recovery, but the lasting side effect for Bertram was the awareness that things truly can change in the blink of an eye – that was all she needed to do something that she was really proud of and passionate about. “I had this idea for a delivery service for tampons. I thought it was practical. I wished it existed. It solved a problem. Then that experience gave me the push I needed to start taking action on making it a reality,” Bertram says.
Once she started looking into what it would take and how she would source the tampons, her background in healthcare research led her to some disturbing literature. “I learned that the brand I was using didn’t disclose the ingredients of their products, and that often those ingredients were quite dangerous to women’s health,” Bertram says. With this knowledge, she found a new drive.
“I felt almost angry that I hadn’t been aware of this information. That inspired me even further to offer an organic option, and to encourage people to be curious about the products they are using and what’s in them.”
Bertram was all in with her idea, but she had no history of business education, minimal capital, and no pre-existing model for a subscription business like this. She found her sweet spot through a mix of e-commerce through Shopify and face-to-face interactions by hosting events through thisopenspace. The combination gave her opportunities to both create and educate in ways most small businesses don’t have.
“As somebody starting out with very little business acumen to draw on, having a platform like Shopify that basically builds everything I need into one service and offers apps that make running a business possible for someone who didn’t go to business school – I can’t speak enough about the value of that.”
After building her store online and gaining a following through social media, Bertram started hosting events to meet the people supporting her brand, and to open the floor for discussion and education about periods in an uncommon setting.
“We did our first event a year ago for our launch, and since then we’ve done two dinner parties and a one-year anniversary party to bring people together and discuss topics that don’t always come up, in an intimate way. Our events haven’t been about selling the product but creating an experience for people to let them know what our brand is all about, in person. There’s something really special about getting to meet these people who have taken an interest in what you’re creating.”
By keeping her invites open to the public and sharing the details through social media, she’s had some surprising attendees. “It’s pretty awesome when we get men out to our events. They are not necessarily even a potential customer, but something about the movement and the content we’re sharing has resonated with them enough to show up and be open about a typically uncomfortable subject,” she says.
With no previous event experience, she has a newfound appreciation for what these interactions do for her brand.
“I think being able to host an event in a space that I’m extremely proud of and have my guests walk in and be blown away adds a level of credibility to what I’m doing. There is something about seeking out a space that’s really unique, that people have likely never been to before, that allows you to create an experience that is brand new and memorable. For my product in particular, I can create a comfortable and beautiful environment to talk about something that is not typically seen as so. It builds buzz around the whole event and causes people to share pictures and want to talk about it after the fact which, when you’re building a brand, is obviously invaluable.”
Easy. will be joining the Mary Young and Friends pop up in Montreal this summer starting August 20th. Come visit Bertram and other small businesses to see their wares and hear about how they took their business ideas from online to reality.