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Nadia Ladak’s Vision for a More Comfortable Tomorrow

In an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Nadia Ladak, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marlow, shared her inspiring journey from conceptualizing Marlow during her university days to establishing it as a gender-inclusive, eco-friendly menstrual care brand. Nadia’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited by the personal frustrations she faced with menstrual products while being an active swimmer. This led to the innovative creation of the first-ever lubricated tampon, designed to offer a comfortable and hassle-free menstruation experience, ensuring individuals can continue their activities unimpeded. Through Marlow, Nadia is not just providing an alternative in the menstrual care market; she’s at the forefront of a movement to make menstrual care more accessible, comfortable, and sustainable, addressing a deeply personal issue with a universal impact.

Nadia Ladak is a bold and creative entrepreneur, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marlow.

When a university project prompted her to create a product she was passionate about, she co-founded Marlow, a gender-inclusive, eco-friendly menstrual care brand offering the first lubricated tampon. Nadia has since raised $1 million in funding to fuel the brand’s growth, earning $400,000 in grants, including from the Entrepreneurship World Cup, the Canada Post Tales of Triumph contest and the Visa She’s Next Grant Program.

Nadia sees her success as an opportunity to support future generations of women business leaders; she does this by volunteering to mentor high school-aged young women on entrepreneurship and advocating for the needs of women entrepreneurs on Startup Canada’s Women Advocacy Network. Additionally, she has contributed to international entrepreneurship policy as a member of the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance and has spoken globally at the G20 Youth Entrepreneurship Summit in Germany, the Young Entrepreneurs of the World Summit in New York, and the Ontario Student Leadership Conference.

Nadia, your journey from a university project to founding Marlow is both inspiring and remarkable. What was the defining moment that led you to create a gender-inclusive, eco-friendly menstrual care brand?

Marlow actually started in our last year of the Ivey Business School program at Western University. We were taking an entrepreneurship capstone course and our professors told us that in order to create a good business, we needed to find a problem that we were passionate about solving. Growing up I was a swimmer and I became so frustrated when every single month I felt like I had to pause on life because I didn’t have period products that worked for me and my lifestyle. Tampons were uncomfortable to use but pads, the only alternative, didn’t allow me to swim and impacted my daily activities. And I’m not alone. Puma Athletic Brand did a study and discovered that 1 in 3 girls drop out of sports due to their period. This inspired our team to create the first-ever lubricated tampon to make it easier and smoother to use a tampon. We wanted to ensure that everyone could live life comfortably and not be held back on their period.

As a co-founder and CEO, you’ve navigated through numerous challenges in the entrepreneurial landscape. Can you share some of the barriers you’ve faced as a woman entrepreneur and how being part of the Stacy’s Rise Project Class of 2024 has supported Marlow’s growth and mission?

Like many women entrepreneurs, one of the barriers that Marlow has faced is accessing capital. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of women investors in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Many of the investors we pitched to during our fundraising process were people who don’t menstruate themselves and didn’t understand the problem we were trying to solve. Being a part of the Stacy’s Rise Project Class of 2024 couldn’t have come at a better time and the funding and mentorship opportunities will help support Marlow as we continue to grow and expand. The $25,000 grant will help launch Marlow’s newest pad lines. And the mentorship connections with PepsiCo Foods Canada executives will help us as we expand across more retail outlets such as Whole Foods, and further develop our marketing capabilities. The Stacy’s Rise Project has also enabled us to expand our network with other like minded women entrepreneurs so we can continue to empower, uplift, and help foster a community of inspiring women entrepreneurs in Canada and North America.

Image Courtesy: Marlow

Social media has played a significant role in Marlow’s success, particularly in spreading educational content and growing ‘The TMI Club’. How have you strategically utilized social media to foster this community and what impact has it had on destigmatizing conversations around menstrual care?

Periods impact 50% of the population for one week every month for 39 years of our life and I found it so ridiculous that we were always so ashamed and nervous to talk about it. When we started Marlow, we wanted to build an entire community around the brand and start the modern menstrual movement through social media and blog content so that we can reduce the stigma around periods and provide easily digestible education to learn more about our bodies. Marlow has grown to be a big sister to 75,000 women across North America and our content is going viral with over 100M views on TikTok. Now, we’ve started to take our community off of social media and onto our own platforms with The TMI Club educational platform, podcast, and series of educational events.

How will the Stacy’s Rise Project support Marlow’s future business objectives?

It is such an honour to be part of the Stacy Rise Project and to connect with other women entrepreneurs across Canada and the US. Marlow started as an online DTC e-commerce brand, however, this year we’re expanding into retail locations including Whole Foods, The Well, Healthy Planet, Nature’s Emporium, and more. The Stacy’s Rise Project will help us roll out into these stores and the mentorship we get from the Pepsi employees will help us accelerate our retail growth to ensure we launch into these stores successfully.

One of Marlow’s main business objectives is to spark conversation, to make the uncomfortable topics, in both menstrual health and entrepreneurial business, comfortable. With the help of the Stacy’s Rise Project, we can continue having these discussions, which will help revolutionize both menstrual health and what it means to be a women entrepreneur and operate a small business in Canada.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs who aspire to apply for this program? Are there specific strategies or insights that helped Marlow stand out?

When it comes to applying for grant and mentorship programs, I always encourage other founders to be as specific as possible in their application especially when it comes to sharing how they will use the funding and how they can benefit from the mentorship. Rather than saying you’ll use the grant funding for marketing, say you’ll use it for SEO, a pop-up, or another specific idea. As well, try to share how you will contribute to the program and the expertise you will bring. With grant programs, as much as you’re gaining access to funding and mentorship, you’re also gaining access to an entire community of like-minded entrepreneurs and if you can share how you will contribute and provide value to this community, that will go a long way in making your application stand out.

Looking ahead, what are Marlow’s upcoming plans, especially with the launch at Whole Foods at the end of March? How do you continue to innovate within the menstrual care space while ensuring your products remain environmentally sustainable?

We’re very excited about the upcoming milestones coming up in 2024 and the continued momentum we’re experiencing as we grow our brand. Our product innovation has always been driven by our community and their needs. One piece of feedback we received from our community was that they were using our tampons during the day but wanted to switch to a pad during night. Therefore, we’re excited to launch 100% organic cotton pads that are plastic free, ulta soft, and free from chlorine bleaching, dyes, and fragrance which the typical pads on the market have. You can shop them on Amazon and get them delivered with Prime Free Shipping!

We’re also excited to continue to grow our TMI Club community including launching season one of our podcast where we sit down with gynecologists, pelvic physiotherapists, sexual health educators, and more to discuss topics that are typically considered “TMI”. As well as hosting a series of events every month to bring our community together in-person. You can check out our upcoming events by registering for the TMI Club here:  https://the-tmi-club.rarecircles.com/ 

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