Dalston entrepreneur, Celia Pool who created what she claims is the world’s first reusable tampon applicator, has won an award which supports pioneering businesses led by women.
Pool, 38, whose company, DAME produces period products, has been given a Women in Innovation Award, which allows the business to launch a five-day programme to encourage 20 young women from diverse backgrounds to pursue their own innovative product ideas.
The Award was established by Innovate UK, the national funding agency investing in science and research. She says she will be using the £50,000 grant to realise DAME’s mission of making sure that every person on the planet has access to a sustainable period product.
DAME was originally co-founded by Pool and friend Alec Mills under the name Sanitary Owl, after a passing comment about the chore of having to buy period products each month on top of juggling her responsibilities as a mother of three. Sanitary Owl was a period subscription service, which supplied products by monthly subscription; it developed into DAME in 2019 shifting its focus to creating easily accessible, environmentally friendly period products.
Having lived in Hackney for four years, a borough which struggles with inequality and poverty, Pool has already ensured that citizens in need have access to her products.
As Sanitary Owl they donated period products to community projects, including St Mungo’s and Bloody Good Period. Pool told ELL: “We’ve always donated period products …to refugee centres and homeless shelters throughout London. It’s really important to us.”
DAME have also collaborated on work experience projects with Hackney-based education charity, Inspire. Pool said: “We want empower the next generation of girls and help them realise the range of jobs that are available to them.”
Pool said: “Teenagers have a much more sustainable mindset and haven’t had environmentally damaging habits ingrained into them. We want to use that money to get some girls on board and help us co-create a teen sanitary towel.”
The five-day programme will also help teach the teenagers and young women about innovation, design, packaging and marketing, and hear from inspirational speakers to encourage them to pursue their own ideas. The application process will start in April, with a view to starting the camp in August.
Pool said: “There aren’t enough girls in STEM subjects [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths] There aren’t enough women who believe that they can start their own business, and we really want to make sure that the young girls who are coming out of school today can really make a difference tomorrow.”
Their products are also looking to swap the single-use plastics of sanitary products and make them environmentally sustainable. In the UK, they are the fifth most commonly found item on beaches, with 14 menstrual pads containing the same plastic as five carrier bags, which at best, would end up in landfill, or, at worst, polluting the ocean. Pool said: “After we started the business in 2019, we looked at the popular supermarket brands up close, and suddenly realised when that we couldn’t, in good conscience, create more of them because of their environmental footprint.”
DAME’s award-winning design is self-sanitising, with a 70% smaller emissions footprint than disposable plastic applicators, saving up to 12,000 that a menstruating person would usually use in their lifetime.
Period poverty is something which has affected many people all over the world, including Hackney where sanitary products might not be affordable for struggling families. By pioneering reusable tampon applicators and sanitary towels, DAME are looking to tackle the issue. Pool said: “When you buy something reusable, even for a short amount of time, it starts saving you money. Having a product like ours available for lower income people is really important, because they don’t get to wonder how they’re going to fork out the money every month.”
Now, they are looking to get their products out into the communities that need them most, for as little cost as possible. “We’re still a small business,” said Pool. “But we’re taking things one step at a time.”