HelloFlo, Hello Naama: An Interview With HelloFlo Founder, Naama Bloom
You may be familiar with HelloFlo from their viral videos that buck period-related stigmas and feature boisterous young girls celebrating their time of month. But this company is much more than these adorable videos: They're revolutionizing periods with monthly period subscriptions, period kits for various life stages, and engaging, straightforward content that educates and empowers.
FBomb editorial board members Sabrina Nelson, Lexi Van Ligten, and David Guirgis recently sat down with the company's founder, Naama Bloom, to discuss periods, entrepreneurship, and the vital importance of educating women about their own bodies.
What inspired you to start HelloFlo?
I just really wanted someone to show up at my door with tampons a couple days before my period, so I thought, 'Oh, I wonder if I can just make that person through a company.' And that was my original idea, it was incredibly simple.
But after Camp Gyno, the first video, I got thousands of emails from girls and women all around the world and they were all asking for more videos, more written content, more products like period starter kits, menopause kits, just all of these different life stages that women go through. Previously if you didn’t have a close group of female friends who were going through these life stages with you or a big sister or mom you could talk to you were kind of stuck on your own. So over time [HelloFlo] has evolved to being more about being that big sibling helping you through or the friend who gives you straight forward advice and factually sound advice. We work with a lot of doctors to make sure our information was accurate.
What was the initial response to the creation of HelloFlo, and how did you use it to influence the shaping of your company?
First of all, I was not expecting [Camp Gyno] to go viral. The most surprising thing that happened with Camp Gyno after it went viral was not that people started buying things. [There] were two things.
One of the surprising things was that even though the Camp Gyno video talked about the subscriptions, we sold a third as many of the period starter kits as we did subscriptions.
The other thing that happened, which was the most surprising, was that I got thousands, literally thousands of emails from women all over the world. They were incredibly moving. I was weeping reading half of them and I spent four days doing nothing but answering emails.
There were a few different categories of emails. There were some that were just “I love what you’re doing!” There were others that were really focused on “Oh my god you’ve managed to get rid of the shame. We’ve all grown up with shame and now you’ve managed to create a celebratory experience. I wish this had existed for me because my experience was so shameful.” And then the last third was all women asking for more stuff. The floodgates had been opened where women were saying “Yeah, we shouldn’t be told to hide everything about our bodies!”
Because of those emails, I realized that the business was not going to be just a subscription business. I realized that there was a need for content that spoke to women and girls in a way that didn’t talk down to them, didn’t make them feel bad, and gave reliable information about their bodies that was not highly clinical. You don’t always want to end up on WebMD when you have medical questions, you want to end up somewhere that is like a human being talking to you. That’s basically how it evolved from being a subscription business to being more about selling products and having a lot of content and having a safe space for women to get information about their bodies.
What has been the best/most rewarding part of founding HelloFlo?
I get emails on a regular basis from 12-, 13- and 10-year-olds asking about their periods and telling us what they’re stressed out about. The fact that they’re writing to us means that they don’t have someone else they can go to and it feels pretty excellent being able to help them.
Also parents write to us. We got an email from a dad — it’s two fathers raising a daughter — and she had all of these issues and she’s approaching puberty and they just didn’t know how to help. We wrote him a response directly and published part of it on the site. There is a lot of stuff like that.
We have a series now on the blog called “I heart my birth control” which is different women giving their perspective on why they love the birth control method that they chose. I think it’s really helpful. I didn’t have that and so it makes me happy that I can get information to young women and older women that makes us feel a little more normal.
I had my first kid when I was 36. When I was 35 I was trying to get pregnant and I bought this book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility and the book breaks down your cycle. It had this whole section about vaginal discharge. I was 35 and it was the first time in my life that I had actually learned what this white stuff in my underwear was that I had always been embarrassed about. It was such a liberating experience. I had this friend who was also trying to get pregnant who had also read the book and they had the exact same moment of liberation when they finally learned what it was all about.
That’s what I want HelloFlo to do: explain the stuff that we previously were embarrassed or ashamed about, so that rather than being embarrassed or ashamed we can be empowered and educated and proud.
Where do you see the company headed in coming years?
The thing that I aspire to, and always think about, is the book that changed my life and my relationship with my body: Our Bodies, Ourselves. I just always think about that as a model for the kind of content I want to create: by women, for women, just open conversation about health and your body.
In terms of where [Hello Flo] is headed, I want to do more stuff like that. Whether it’s classes for women or more articles celebration women or our askhelloflo column where we get questions sent in by women answered by medical experts. It’s all about normalizing the conversation about women’s bodies so that we can be healthier individuals.
Why it’s so imperative to break down the stigma surrounding periods/women’s bodies?
The reason I think it’s so important for us to know more about our bodies is that I really strongly believe that knowledge is power. In our culture, the burden of family planning falls on women, and if we’re not teaching girls how their bodies work and explaining the fact that your period is actually an ovulation cycle and is tied into your fertility, but then we’re expecting girls to somehow know how not to have an unwanted pregnancy, I think that’s crazy.
The other thing is, if we use the correct words for our bodies when we go to the doctor, it’s a lot easier to communicate what’s working and what’s not working and what feels wrong.
The other thing is I can guarantee that most women and girls have seen their discharge at some point and wondered if they had an infection, if they’re going to do something about it, and they don’t ask anyone so they just have this background worry that there is something wrong with them.
And lastly, if you look at puberty as a really critical moment in a young woman's life, girls go through puberty and we’re like, 'Oh you’re going to get breasts and you’re going to get pubic hair and you’re going to get your period,' but we don’t say, 'Oh and by the way, because you’re going to get breasts the world is going to start treating you differently and paying attention to a completely different part of your body and, oh, that pubic hair? The world also has opinions about what you should do there.'
I just don’t think we are preparing girls to make the decisions that they are actually going to need to make for themselves because we are not talking openly about what is going on. We’re lacking cultural context in how we think about our bodies and that’s creating issues.
What advice do you have for young women who want to found their own companies or be entrepreneurs?For me personally, it was really helpful not doing this right away. I had almost 20 years of work experience before doing this ... there are a lot of things that I learned to do in previous jobs that may have felt insurmountable otherwise. It doesn’t hurt to find a place to work first where you can learn a lot and build skills and get the confidence that you can get stuff done.
The other thing is that there is never a good time to take a risk like this, and if you have something that you’re talking about for years straight that you just believe should exist, just do it. You can always find a couple hours a day if you are passionate about something, and you shouldn’t start a business if you aren’t passionate about something. You can start it as a side hustle and make sure you’re committed, because once you’re in it, it’s everything.
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