Have you ever wondered what’s in your tampons? Yeah, me neither. Alex Friedman of LOLA feels the same. Upon first meeting her cofounder, Jordana Kier, the two got to talking and eventually landed on tampons. LOLA was their solution to that — create a natural tampon with ingredients you know, can pronounce, and don’t harm the vagina. Sounds amazing, right?
Four years later and LOLA has branched out from amazing natural condoms to sexual health products, creating a mission to be a lifelong brand for each stage in a woman’s life. Alex took us through the process of founding LOLA — from teaching male investors about female anatomy and differentiating from the competition, to starting a business with a friend and branching out into a different category.
Name: Alex Friedman, Cofounder of LOLA
Current Location: New York City
Education: Undergrad at Dartmouth, MBA at Wharton
What was your first job, and how did you land it?
I had a lot of jobs as a kid and teenager and always had an entrepreneurial spirit! My favorite job was when I was hired as a calligrapher to address 100 wedding invitations. I had great handwriting and practiced calligraphy all the time. I also babysat regularly for kids in my building and neighborhood.
In high school, I was eager to start applying for positions. I was a waitress at a small Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side, which I got by simply walking in and asking for a job. I was also a greeter at Polo Sport on 72nd St. and Madison Ave., which consisted of standing at the front of the store (in a golf outfit!) and welcoming people inside.
My first job out of college was at a private equity consulting firm called Investor Group Services in Boston. I went through corporate recruiting in college which involved wearing and sweating through many skirt suits during high-stress consulting case study interviews. It took a lot of hard work to prepare for each case a lot of networking to land the job I wanted!
Do you feel like college prepared you to own a business? What is something you wish entrepreneurs would learn before they start a company?
I left business school feeling incredibly inspired and learned a lot about the foundations of being an entrepreneur, but the most valuable learnings have taken place in real time throughout my experience of founding LOLA. One of the biggest things I think entrepreneurs should keep in mind is that you shouldn’t just start a business, you should solve a problem. We didn’t want to just start a company, we wanted to create a modern solution for our reproductive journey. It’s a must to be fully and empathetically committed to the issues you’re working toward solving.
How did you and Jordana meet, and how exactly did you get to talking about tampons?!
Jordana and I met in the summer of 2014 — we were introduced by friends who had a hunch we’d hit it off. Jordana was in grad school at the time working on the early concept that would become LOLA, and I was at a tech startup. After a drink (or two), she asked me, “Have you ever wondered what’s in a tampon?” I, like many women, hadn’t. That small question sparked a big idea. After all, if we care about the ingredients in everything from our food to our face cream, why should our feminine care be any different?
One of the biggest things I think entrepreneurs should keep in mind is that you shouldn’t just start a business, you should solve a problem. We didn’t want to just start a company, we wanted to create a modern solution for our reproductive journey.
How has starting a business together affected your friendship?
What’s great about being so close with your cofounder is learning from and mentoring each other in so many ways. Jordana and I work side by side every day, and we each bring individual strengths to the table. Since we’ve gone through so much together as cofounders, we trust one another to provide constant and clear feedback on how to be the best versions of ourselves. It’s been fun to experience new life stages together as well — we’ve both become moms since starting LOLA!
What was the first step you took after the idea was in formation?
We held focus groups all around the country, confirming that most women (just like us!) had no idea what was in their feminine care products. That was the lightbulb moment. We wanted to start the conversation and create an environment where women could ask questions about their reproductive health, and then create better solutions for them.
Did you get investors? At what point did you start to see the brand truly take off?
Yes! Pitching such a female-focused product to investors was definitely an interesting experience. We found ourselves walking male investors through “Vaginas 101” powerpoint slides and even dunking different tampons in water to demonstrate various absorbencies.
Since launch, we’ve been encouraged to see a major shift in the way women are equating their reproductive care with their overall health and wellness — that, I think, is how we know we’ve truly been successful.
Tell us a little about LOLA’s mission.
LOLA is the first lifelong brand for your body. As a brand founded by two women, we know that each new reproductive stage brings questions. We aim to offer women the transparency and candor they deserve when it comes to products and content they need for their reproductive health. We also believe strongly that conversation is the first step in driving change, and we’re always encouraging candid conversations with our community about the experiences we have as women throughout our entire reproductive lives.
Why are natural tampons so important?
The FDA doesn’t require companies to provide a comprehensive list of ingredients for tampons, pads, and liners, so companies don’t. We believe women deserve better and have been committed to providing our customers with quality products and ingredient transparency since day one.
We think it’s ridiculous that there’s still a lack of transparent guidelines around what goes into a tampon — something that has been going into a woman’s body for 40 years. We would never put something in a product that we wouldn’t be comfortable using ourselves. As a majority female company, we develop products from our own personal journeys as women, and the pain points we’ve experienced throughout our entire lives.