An Idea is Born
Giana Korth (B’10), co-founder of Tampon Tribe with Jennifer Eden and Gaby Alves, credits a combination of forces leading to her award-winning business: right place, right time, right idea.
First, at Georgetown, Korth had made friends in pre-nursing and pre-med tracks who cared about women’s health. Several years ago, a close friend’s cancer diagnosis sparked conversation in the Hoya alumni friend group about the lack of transparency about ingredients used in feminine hygiene products, and concerns about unlabeled potential carcinogens.
Second, as a graduate of the McDonough School of Business, Korth was attentively watching a boom in the monthly subscription business model, including Dollar Shave Club and Birchbox. Having launched the Los Angeles office of Meltwater—a global software platform for monitoring traditional and social media—Korth knew that a brand’s story meant everything.
Third, although Korth had noticed an uptick in organic food and beauty products, she hadn’t found the same trend in toiletries. Korth grew curious about toiletry alternatives and visited a Whole Foods to seek out organic tampons. The best option she could find ran $14 a box; a price tag she knew most people would not be able to afford.
Seeing a challenge to access and affordability of organic health products, and a market with much room to grow, Korth and her Tampon Tribe co-founders synced the timing of menstrual cycles with the subscription-based model.
“We figured the one thing that happens by Mother Nature every month would be perfect for a monthly subscription,” says Korth.
Sowing Entrepreneurial Seeds
Korth credits her time at Georgetown for breaking her out of a mathematical and analytical shell. To this day, she keeps a binder holding every paper she wrote in her Imagination and Creativity course with Professor Robert Bies, her favorite class.
She also fondly remembers inventing a device called the Noggin Toboggan for a group project in Professor William Finnerty’s entrepreneurship class. The Noggin Toboggan was a pillow helmet customers could use to sleep while traveling on planes. Her project group made multiple iterations of the device to improve its ability to fold and loop on backpacks. Over the course of one semester, they practiced trial/error, financial modeling, pitching, business plans, focus group testing, and marketing.
“I think a lot about that class now as I’m pitching to initial investors,” says Korth. “It taught me to always understand your audience from a branding perspective: what they feel, what they associate, and how to communicate your mission and values to best resonate and appeal to them.”
Her time outside the classroom also buoyed her entrepreneurial spirit. Korth felt impressed when she saw her friend Bridget Holiver (B’10), née Whalen, standing behind the teller line one day at the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union (GUAFSCU). Holiver recruited Korth to join GUAFSCU, where she gained drive and confidence as the head of hiring, recruiting, and training.
“At the time, you don’t realize how impressive it is to be part of the largest student-run federal credit union in the U.S.,” says Korth.
A Social Justice Mission
At $10 per month for an upcycled burlap bag filled with 100 percent organic tampons, including environmentally friendly packaging and shipping, Tampon Tribe aims to increase socioeconomic access to organic products while reducing the footprint of single-use plastic.
Tampons are currently categorized by the FDA as medical devices, which don’t require ingredients to be listed on their packaging. Korth explains that lack of transparent information has created a problematic culture in which consumers don’t see harmful ingredients on packaging and therefore assume that the products must be safe.
“With access comes the importance of getting information in front of women to empower them to choose the brands that they feel best align with their values, needs, and bodily preferences,” says Korth.
Korth says she gained exposure to educational justice by volunteering with the pilot program of DC Prep. Through that experience, Korth learned relationship between business and social justice, and how social impact relates to budgets, federal funding, and private funding.
Today, Tampon Tribe lives the Georgetown value of women and men for others by giving back to shelters for women and the homeless in Los Angeles. Tampon Tribe also supports nonprofits like Miley Cyrus’ Happy Hippie Foundation and Girls Health Ed. Korth is currently helping Girls Heath Ed to expand their programs in Los Angeles, and will begin teaching local students in inner city schools about menstrual hygiene, body image, and nutrition.
“The future of women’s health revolves around education and understanding all aspects that go into purchasing decisions,” says Korth. “It requires us to come together—educators, policy-makers, business owners, parents, volunteers, etc.—to support the shift towards healthy and sustainable products that are accessible and affordable for all.” says Korth.
The Power of the Georgetown Network
Although McDonough only offered one class in entrepreneurship when Korth was a student, she credits the school with a massive, growing professional network. During her undergraduate studies, Korth remembers being inspired by guest speakers, including the alumni who founded Sweetgreen with similar corporate values, work culture, and branding to her own vision. Then, in April 2018, when Korth was invited to compete in the John Carroll Weekend Alumni Pitch Competition—and won—she began experiencing an outpouring of support. Jeff Reid, professor of the practice of entrepreneurship and founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, has helped her with many referrals; potential alumni investors have been contacting her since the spring.
“I wish I had tapped into Georgetown network earlier,” says Korth. “You have so much power as a young Hoya; you have this cream-of-the-crop education, network, and a community that genuinely does want to see Hoyas succeed and make a difference. It’s really important to put in the time to cultivate your relationships so later you can ask a favor with comfort. And it’s a two-way street; you should always be willing to help others.”
If Korth could advise her undergraduate self, she would tell her and current Hoyas not to put off their dreams. “It’s never too early to start thinking about your own endeavor,” says Korth. “I wish I had the guts to start much earlier.” She also advises business-minded Hoyas to gain sales experience. “No matter what you do in life you will be selling something —an idea, a grant, a product or service—or, often most importantly, yourself!”
The Future of Menstrual Health
These days, Korth get chills when she sees her products in stores that align with the values of Tampon Tribe.
“I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to bring such a valuable product—that I believe wholeheartedly is the highest quality—to women who need it,” says Korth. “I feel like I am able to have a real impact on women’s lives, for which I feel a great deal of pride.”
In its next phase, Tampon Tribe will expand to developing countries, new verticals, and corporate and institutional subscriptions. Amid a growing movement calling for tampons and pads to be categorized as necessities, university students are leading efforts to pass bills funding the distribution of feminine care products free of charge for students, just like toilet paper and paper towels. Employers, gyms, spas, and yoga studios are following suit. Tampon Tribe sees potential in institutional bulk orders to reach more people, regardless of their income level or where they live.
“The future of women’s health is at an exciting vortex that is only going to continue to spiral upwards and outwards as it continues to gain momentum,” says Korth. “To connect this momentum with our mission is a huge goal I’m dying to achieve.”