Today I’m chatting with Taran Ghatrora, co-founder of Blume.
We’re talking through the decision she made early on to completely pivot the brand into a new direction, how to finance your company using an angel syndicate, what happens to 60% of girls when they go through puberty and who their first hire was.
If you haven’t heard of Blume before, it’s the outspoken skin, body and period collective for Gen Z and beyond. Made with gentle, safe and effective clean ingredients, their community-curated self care essentials are made for all skin types, with sensitive ones in mind. Blume celebrates real skin as they continue to amplify acne positivity, healthy skin, and skin barrier protection. This women-led team of 11 is on a mission to make periods and self care easier and healthier, while smashing taboos about acne, periods, puberty, and sex ed—nothing is off limits).
At the end of this episode Taran talks about the importance of network and surrounding yourself with other female entrepreneurs who are building businesses. That’s why we’ve launched our private network for women who are building product based ecomm businesses. If that’s you, pop your name on our waitlist to claim a Founding Member spot when we launch at Femalestartupclub.com/waitlist.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
So my name's Taran and I am co founder of Blume. Blume is a directed consumer startup that creates self care products. All of our products are vegan cruelty free and most important of all their effective And we started Bloom to change the stat that 60% of women told us that they could pinpoint their self esteem plummeting as they went through puberty. And so we really wanted to create a brand that not only makes products, but also changes the narrative and bashes taboos and stigmas and ultimately changes the stat. So we always show real skin in our campaigns, we never retouch photos, we do lots of education, everything from sex ed to skin care education, we do things like meditation Mondays on our instagram and yeah, really just our whole mission is geared towards building self confidence and self esteem through products that truly work and that you can trust, but also shifting the narrative, that's that is so crazy, it's so much higher than I would have thought.
00:04:37 Yeah, most like what we found out was that most girls drop out of like the age group that they drop out of stem fields. So science technology engineering and math, The age group that they drop out of those fields is between nine and 12 and it's not the same for boys. So it's just like when I think back to being a teenager and like when I got my first period, like started to get acne the insecurities that I felt, it definitely affected my hobbies and just things that I was looking forward to because it kind of in some ways like if you're not getting the right education at that time or like if you're not talking about those things, it can kind of hold you back from playing sports or you know, that kind of thing. So I think, you know, it's definitely not the case for everyone thankfully, but it is something that's super common and I with like the school system in the US and everything, only nine states across the U. S. Mandate medically accurate sex had to be taught to students.
00:05:38 So that's another big thing as goal. Yeah, it's pretty and nine Did you say? What? 9? Yeah, I don't know what it's like in the UK but pretty abysmal in the US. So yeah, it's interesting. But I think, you know, in some ways things are getting a lot better and you see like all of these amazing educators on Tiktok now, which is fantastic, like gynecologist, dermatologist, but then at the same time on, on the flip of it, there's like this like, you know, so much use of like instagram filters and retouching in Photoshop and all of that as well, which contributes to that step that we talked about. So yeah, just wanting to bloom to be like a voice in that world and really meeting our community where they are and supporting them to that time period? Yeah, totally, wow, can you take us back to the time when this was just the ah ha moment, like what led to, were you reading about this statistic? We're asking people like what made you actually think like oh this is what we're going to start here.
00:06:42 Yeah so we actually started a slightly different version of the company before we launched bloom. And so how that company started was I was in law school and I was in my third year, I was actually in the U. K. Was in Wales and I lived there for three years. And yeah in my final year I was learning about girls in developing countries, missing school due to their period and not having access to like the right hygiene products. And so like this was kind of like a thesis where it was like optional topics that people could pick. But because I was like focused on human rights at the time I kind of just ended up like choosing this topic in a roundabout way. Anyway so he stumbled upon this topic and then I was super shocked to find out that it was like 25% of girls in developing countries that were like experiencing this. Obviously it has huge repercussions on their future and everything and through that because I was going down the rabbit hole of learning about that, I then also started reading about periods in North America and just the lack of transparency around ingredients in pads and tampons especially around this time which was like 2016, And so I started a subscription box company.
00:08:00 I called my sister with this idea and started a company where we were delivering organic pad and tampon subscriptions just in Canada because it was hard to find those products at that time. They weren't that accessible. And so we were still students. We were boot strapping the company packing boxes in the evening. I moved back here like back to Canada shortly after and just was working on the company with her. But we still had our jobs and everything and we were like using our credit card debt to fund the company. And so that was kind of the first aha moment that started me down this path of starting the company. And then through that we had surveyed our community, found out that stat found out that it was actually congruent with a larger study that the american Medical Association had done. So that's kind of what led us to starting bloom because our community had shared with us like other products that they wanted to see in the personal care space to fill white spaces and just like they, they loved the boxes that they were receiving so much every month.
00:09:03 But because we were so close to that community, we did so much like research, talking to them about what else they'd want to see from us. Got it. So was this the first version of the company? Was it still cold bloom? Like did it look the same or was this like totally different business? It was a totally different business. Got it right. And how many customers are we talking about? Like was it, had it kind of started to take off or was it kind of in a point where you were happy to be like, yeah, okay, we're going to pivot and start the next thing. So I mean it was a real business. Like I think we were doing like maybe $30,000 a month in revenue, which is obviously a lot smaller compared to bloom. But at the time because we had bootstrapped it and we were students like it felt like a very real business to us especially because like we didn't expect it to be anything, you know, so it was actually really, really hard and not an easy decision to like shut down that business and start bloom. I remember it's actually being like the hardest thing ever. Like we were so nervous but what we did was we built bloom in the background while we were still very much running that company and then once bloom was ready to go and be launched, we wrote a letter to our customers and actually we still offer pads and tampons.
00:10:20 So they were able to like switch over and we just like grandfather people's pricing and gave them like, you know, special discounts if they had been with us before and everybody was really supportive and excited. So it worked out, wow. Holy molly. That's so cool. I'm really interested to understand more around like how you actually made the decision, like what was the lever to pull to be like, yeah, okay. We think there's a bigger opportunity here versus this thing that's already seemingly doing quite well totally. And that's like when I look back and I'm like, I don't even know how we it was honestly like a bit of a gut feeling, but also from talking to our community, just kind of having a vision of what bloom would look like versus the company we had. So it was like, you know, knowing that to reach more people, we wanted to launch more of like, ok, an example is when we were talking to that community of customers and asking them or what they wanted. They were asking for things like, okay, when I get my period, I also break out and I get acne, but I want an acne spot treatment that isn't going to bleach my pillowcase or like dry out my skin because most acne treatments on the market or benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid or they're like self for based like they kind of crack all over your bed.
00:11:37 And so we set out, we spent a year and a half creating an acne treatment that you could wear under makeup that was actually oil based anti inflammatory antibacterial. It's like such an incredible product and then like they asked for a natural deodorant that was unscented, which surprisingly you would think that that there was a lot more of those out there. But most of the natural deodorant that were available were with fragrance or scent it in some way. And so our community actually helped us shape that first line of products and because we could tell that these were things people really wanted and that we wanted as well. It just felt like the right decision, wow, that's so cool and so interesting. I love that for you. What kind of money did you need to get started to invest into this year and a half of developing the new products that you are going to release and how were you financing that in the beginning? A great question. So for the first business it was, I think we started with like $5,000 between myself and my sister and we use our credit card debt or like parents let us use the basement to like packer boxes and everything.
00:12:56 So I think we're very fortunate we weren't taking a salary basement. Yeah, exactly. We're super fortunate that our parents let us live at home free at the time and um use their basement and all of that. So I think, I mean how we funded it was with our part time jobs really and then our credit cards and stuff. So we funded that business that way and it was honestly, we didn't use a lot of money. it was very bootstrapped and then we just tried to recycle all of the revenue each month. And then when we knew that we were pivoting the business, we did go out to raise some financing and actually this incredible angel investor, his name is Armando, we met him in san Francisco and he just really believed in what we were doing even before we had launched bloom and he gave us the funding along with some of his community. So they did like basically an angel syndicate, which I'm not sure if you know what that is or like if your community does and I'm happy to dive in a little bit too that yeah please do. So basically what it is is there's a website called Angel List and it's actually really cool, it's kind of like crowdfunding but it like the investment appears as one line on your cap table, so it's almost like a private crowdfunding in a way.
00:14:10 So Armando has like a group of other investors that he knows and they together they invest in different startups and so they formed a syndicate to invest in hours basically. So they created like an investment vehicle where you know maybe there's an angel that has like 10-K. Not 250 so they're able to contribute that but still invest in our company. So everyone in the syndicate contributed different amounts And it added up to 250K. So that amount is what really helped us get the business off the ground. So we used it to create the website, launched the first round of products, which had much simpler, more affordable packaging than the products we have now, that kind of thing. And so what that can look like is using like label stickers instead of three printing, for example, for the first iteration to just save money, right? Yeah. So we were able to make that 2 50 K go a really long way and that's how we had the money to first launched the business and get it off the ground, wow.
00:15:11 When you say you met this guy in san Francisco, how did you meet this guy? And like, did you have to meet loads of different people to find him or was it just one of those serendipitous moments where right timing, right place kind of thing? Yeah, I mean it's yeah, it probably sounded really strange the way I worded that, but it was through so we did this tech accelerator and the tech accelerator, What's called 500 startups. So lots of people have probably heard of that one. There's a couple big ones in the valley, like Y Combinator. So we were in 500 startups and what they do is they actually introduce you to different mentors and investors and Armando was one of the mentors that they had introduced us to. He had actually done the program for his own start up a few years earlier and then had sold it and he's building another company now. So was, there's just a lot of incredible entrepreneurs that we met out there that have this wonderful pay it forward mentality where they truly want to see you build something that you believe in and of course if they believe in they would invest.
00:16:15 And so that was kind of the experience we had and I just remember like meeting him, telling him about the business and actually I think there was another entrepreneur who had introduced me to him as well, she was a female founder and he had invested in her company a while before. But yeah, he, I have since introduced him to other like entrepreneurs in my network and you know, he's supported them in ways or invested and you know, as is, it's that whole community, I would say of so many wonderful people. Hmm, well that's so interesting and I love how you went from bootstrapping this business and you know, doing really well, but then you've totally pivoted and been like, hey, we're actually gonna raise money. We're going to go down a completely different pathway this time and see where it takes us obviously to great places growing a lot faster. I imagine I want to talk about that kind of early time where you had obviously customers that had come from your original business through to the next phase of the journey.
00:17:15 But how did you then, you know, spread the message further and get it out there even further to the new network of people. Yeah, it's a great question. I think lots of different ways for sure. I mean we did in the early days especially, but also now we did a lot of education. So we built a whole sex ed program, lots of content. I think instagram has been a huge channel for us for sure. In those early days when you were sort of trial and testing all the different things. What was it that was driving kind of that significant growth and putting you forward into leaps forward instead of incremental steps forward. Um I think press helped a lot too, we did get a lot of press in the early days and that just helped us get the word out. People remember people were telling us like I see bloom everywhere and like we were so surprised at the reach that we were getting. So that press for sure and our instagram um we didn't do a lot of like sponsored posts. We could do like Some paid ads and things actually in 2019 they took over the New York Subway.
00:18:26 So that was really exciting. Oh my gosh, that's amazing. Yeah, it was really fun. It was a dream come true. It was pretty incredible. But I will say at that point we had raised like more funding, Right? Because you did a seed round in 2019, right? Yeah, exactly yeah. Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show, you'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business and I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now. You also know that so many of the entrepreneurs I speak to have mentioned facebook and instagram ads as a crucial part of their marketing mix From today onwards, I'm really excited to be able to offer our fsc small business owners and entrepreneurs and no strings attached, our long chat with leading performance marketing agency amplifier, who you might also remember from our dy course, Full disclosure amplifier is my husband's business.
00:19:44 And what's really important to know is that I've been able to witness first hand the transformation of so many businesses going from as low as $10,000 a month all the way to $300,000 a month. And in some cases upwards to seven figures. So if you're listening in and you feel like you're ready to take your business to the next level, Jump on a no strings attached call with amplifier where you can ask all the questions you have about performance marketing and whether it's the right time for you and your business to get started, Go to female startup club dot com forward slash ads? That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S. And booking a call today, let's talk about taking over the subway. What's the kind of cost to do something like that, like huge scale, you know, mass exposure. I'm sure there's thousands and thousands of people that go through that subway, whichever subway station it was every day. What's it like? Yeah, I mean it was scary because it was definitely the biggest marketing expense we had ever invested in.
00:20:51 So that was, that was for sure scary. I think in terms of like the creative and everything, it was just so much fun like putting it all together, seeing the brand really come to life on the subway. So that was cool. Yeah, that was just incredible. Around the same time, we had like a press event party in new york for our sex ed campaign. So I think the timing was just really great because we got a lot of coverage. So that was very cool. Yeah, I mean it was definitely our biggest marketing investment ever. So it was all kinds of nerves, but it was also just very celebratory. Our team was so excited. It was super, super cool to see, wow, amazing. That would be so much fun when you look back at just after that time, were you able to see the R. O. I. You know straight away or was it more something that was a brand building peace that led to more press more more, everything else over time? Yeah that's such a good question. I think it was a bit of both like it was a gradual ramp up but we definitely saw like our C.
00:21:55 P. M. S fall and like lots more people were searching for the brand and I think over that period of time like we like with all of our efforts we kind of had a big marketing push across a lot of channels and we definitely saw an increase in sales at that time. I think also like the ads were up for quite some time I think a little bit longer than we even expected. So that was quite cool. Um Yeah I mean even just for like a while after the period of time that they were supposed to be running people were texting me saying that they were still seeing the ads so I think like that was really cool to see as well. I think they just kind of, the way the Subway ads work is they don't take them all down at once. It's like as the cars come in like some ads go down. So I think for all brands they just some of the ads live on the subway for a little bit longer so that's just a cool nice thing. That's so cool. So this was in 2019 when you think about, you know, from 2019 to now, what have been those key moments of growth or like the key turning points in your business moving into the next level?
00:23:01 He turning points in business such a good question. I think like hiring the right people on the team, like just really finding the people that truly believe in the mission and are just incredible and so much better at certain things and funny and I, that's definitely just a milestone I think for any business and a huge turning point because you really can't do it all alone and like for so like for quite some time it was just funny and I, and so I think that's a huge thing going into retail for sure because we started to become on the channel and not just to see, and that's obviously a big turning point, like being in indigo urban outfitters. And then just last month we launched in oversized new doors and alta. Oh yeah, so congrats, thank you Such a Big one. Um, and it makes such a difference to like, you know, our approach to marketing and everything, like lots of things have to change, but obviously be very pivotal in our growth as well. And then I would say probably new product launches because we haven't launched many new products since we launched the company, we've only done, I think one real product launch since our original line?
00:24:13 And so what's so exciting is that for the rest of this year we're launching back to back products that we've been working on for like two years. So I think some of our most exciting times are to come and during the pandemic, we really wanted to just be there for a community, be there for a team and we didn't Necessarily want to launch 10s of products and so we held a lot of our launches and just worked on them and refined them and so we're super excited that those will be launching soon. Yeah, I'm excited. I can't wait to see. I want to just go back to you were talking about the team and the importance of the people that you bring in. I'm always curious who was the first person that you hired and what have been some of those key people that you've brought in in terms of role. Yeah, that's a great question. I think the first role that we hired for was actually social media and that's because it was just such a key, like it's something that for me, I think it's so important for blue, like our community really interacts with us there.
00:25:15 They talked to us, they get educated about our products, it's just such a huge channel for us and so instagram I was spending a lot of time on in the early days. And so our first hire was really focused on that and it just took so much off my plate, but also she was so incredible that really, it gave the community the attention that they deserved, you know, at that time. And so that was awesome. I think that was like, yeah, I don't know if a lot of people would make that their first higher, but for us it was the right one and then um that first higher, she also focused on like partnerships as well. So bunny and I continued to do like the other things like the operations and the product side and all that. And then from there, I think other key hires I think definitely like ahead of growth and ahead of email marketing. Like those were big ones partnerships I mentioned we have an influencer lead now wholesale of course customer service. Yeah. So many key roles. Yeah. When you were talking about your partnerships, what are some of the partnerships that have been most successful and most exciting to you?
00:26:24 Oh my gosh, my favorite partnership we've ever done is with an artist named Sarita Walsh and she's a designer and she's also an artist and we created this water bottle with her art on it and it's kind of like an old school now jean bottle and it has like all of these beautiful shapes and self care like reminders. So it's almost like you can have it on here does, it's really beautiful. Yeah, it's so nice. It like reminds me to drink water and stretch and all of that and our community absolutely love it, it's sold out twice. We're waiting for third restock. Um Yeah so that's probably my favorite partnership. She was so great to work with her art is just so so incredible. Yeah so that one was probably my most favorite. I love that sometimes we can get caught up talking about all the highlights, all the good stuff that's going on. But obviously as an entrepreneur there are so many hurdles, there are so many challenges. There are so many mistakes. Is there a time you can share when things haven't really gone to plan and you were like holy shit like are we going to keep going kind of thing?
00:27:32 Yeah I mean all the time. So I think it's sometimes hard to think of a specific example but let me think about that it just happened so much. I feel like as a founder you're constantly problem solving like just on a daily basis, there's always something, I think this year has been really tough with Covid the supply chain issues and even now with you know I know the media is kind of talking about Covid like it's over or just like the pandemic I guess but it very much from a business perspective we're still seeing a lot of the effects, the ports are very backed up lead times are longer M. O. Q. S. Which are minimum order quantities have gone up. So for an example of that would be you know in the past if you were to order a certain type of packaging the minimum order quantity might be 10,000 but now they've upped it to 50,000 because they just have so much demand and prices have gone up.
00:28:33 Yeah it's honestly I think that those things have been really tough on the operational and supply chain side this year and even the cost of like certain raw materials has gone up. Things like that. So I think definitely still seeing the after effects of the pandemic in that sense For sure and just a strain on global supply chain because that's been very tough like planning for that because forecasting you know as a small business that's growing can already be quite tricky but you know when you throw these kind of supply chain issues into it it's like okay do we Overstock or bestsellers like do we how do we think about order quantities to be changed the packaging up? Like that kind of thing? That's been quite challenging. Do you have to also then think oh we might have to raise our prices or do you have to be like we just have to sink the cost and you know I hope we can move forward like what's the kind of standard thing to do here in a time? That's obviously not standard. It's a good question. Exactly. Yeah exactly. I think for us we are kind of waiting to see if things stabilize a little bit or you know, some of these price increases are permanent in some other ways.
00:29:42 This year we've actually become more efficient at bloom because we've just been able to streamline, we took some time to just streamline other parts of our supply chain more and our shipping and fulfillment. So for us the cost kind of balanced out in that sense, but you know, if things kind of continue to trend in this direction that I'm not sure like I'm really hoping that we don't have to raise any prices so we'll see and this is across the board right, Like it's not just affecting you as a brand and and as founders it would be affecting everyone who's got a supply chain overseas. Yeah, exactly and that's I think from what I'm hearing it is like every space like I don't know if you've heard but there's like a lumber shortage and things like that. So hopefully, you know it's just the way things are right now and then they'll obviously start to get back to a better place. But yeah, I think it's also there's lots to learn from this time period as well and you know, just lots of things that maybe we all took for granted before that we can appreciate so much more going forward. I feel like I shop local a lot more now.
00:30:45 I was just gonna say that. Yeah, yeah, I'm much more mindful of like who's behind the businesses that I'm shopping from and you know, wanting to really support small and local businesses as much as I can and that felt really good, especially being a small business owner myself, I know how much it means. Absolutely, and I think making more intentional choices overall, it's just you learn more about brands, you get educated on what your contribution is to the planet based on what you're buying, all that kind of stuff. And I think that it's so true now that we're starting to understand that so many small brands are suffering, you need to really support by putting your dollars there so that our favorite brands don't go away. Mhm totally. Where is the business today in terms of size of the team, how big you are? Um what's kind of coming up that you can shout about and let us in on Yeah, so we have a team of about 10 people right now we are launching, I think the most exciting thing is that we're launching more retail relationships and products for the rest of the year.
00:31:56 So we've really been working hard on on these launches and I feel like for me what energizes me the most is launched days and honestly a lot of people on our team to, that's what we look the most forward to. It's just so exciting seeing people's reactions and getting new product in their hands and hearing what they think of it. And we've really been working hard to create products that we feel like our truly fulfilling white spaces that don't already exist and can just like to our line for people with sensitive skin and acne because that's really what most of our products are geared towards. And they just provide a lot of hydration and like calming for like sensitive skin issues in general. And our products are very much anti inflammatory and use ingredients like black cumin seed oil and Camille. So all of our products have that common thread in mind where we're really focused on creating products that are great for people with sensitive skin mm and an acne prone skin as well. So yeah, that's what's up on the horizon.
00:32:57 Super excited about this omni channel approach and expanding retail as well. For sure. Absolutely. Well you have to go towards like another raise in the