Monthlies: The customisable Irish period subscription box helping you ‘own your flow’
A period subscription box with a difference, Monthlies aims to not only supply people with products that are better for them and for the environment, but to help destigmatise conversations around menstruation too.
Have you ever heard of a period subscription box? Up until recently, I hadn’t either, but it’s a brilliantly simple idea that basically takes the stress out of, you know, having a period.
Created by Wexford woman, Jessie Bennett, she explains the concept and what inspired her to launch her own business.
Tell me a bit about you/your background
I studied Arts in UCD, then went on to study a Master’s in Social Media Communications in DCU. From there I worked in content creation and social media for a while, and that’s kind of how the idea for Monthlies came about…
What gave you the idea to set up a customisable period subscription service?
I was making a “what to keep in a period emergency kit” TikTok video, and as I was pulling products from my own stash, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if you could go into a shop or go online and choose the exact amount of each of the products that you might use throughout your period? Not only would it reduce so much physical waste, but it would help to keep costs down too.
I was always buying in bulk but then finding I’d forget what products I already had, or I’d distribute them between bags, coat pockets, my student accommodation, my home, even my car and forget about them… which basically meant that I was spending more than I needed to on period products every month. Buying only what you’ll actually use is cost-efficient and it helps to reduce the amount of waste you’re generating too, so it’s a win-win.
How does the subscription work?
So, there are a few options when it comes to subscriptions. We have what I call “pre-made” boxes of pads and tampons of different absorbencies, kind of like what you’d get in the shop. If one (or two, or three!) of these take your fancy, you can subscribe and the box will be delivered to you every 4 or 8 weeks, depending on what best suits your cycle.
Or, you can opt to use the “Own Your Flow” feature which allows you to pick the exact amount of each product that goes into the box. At the moment, we have Regular Tampons, Super Tampons, Day Pads and Night Pads and you can tailor your box to suit your needs. So, for example, you can add eight Day Pads, 10 Regular Tampons and five Night Pads – we’ll make up the box and send it you on the frequency you choose and then that’s one thing crossed off the list that you don’t have to worry about!
Customers can also use the “Own Your Flow” option in conjunction with the pre-made box if that suits them better. There are lots of different choices when it comes to taking control of your period care with Monthlies.
Why was sustainability important to you when creating this service?
In researching for a piece I wrote on sustainable period products a few years ago, I learned that there are no standards in the EU when it comes to period products – so, they’re not as regulated as other products might be. There can be a lot of harsh chemicals, bleaches and dyes present in more ‘mainstream’ products, as well as a lot of plastic. When setting up Monthlies it was very important to me that the products were better, both for the person using them, and for the environment.
Our products are all FDA approved, so they meet a very high standard. They’re also all made from 100% organic cotton, and our manufacturer is certified by GOTS, meaning that the supply chain is fair the whole way up.
Because they’re made from natural materials, the items break down much more quickly than other period products on the market. Bio-plastic replaces the more common petroleum-based plastic, and a switch to recyclable paper or cardboard has been made wherever possible. For example, our tampons are wrapped in Cellulose paper and feature a ‘twist and release’ cardboard applicator. Even better, our manufacturer is based in Europe and uses renewable energy to power their factory.
Your products are also certified vegan… what does that mean?!
Our products are certified vegan by The Vegan Society meaning they contain no animal ingredients or animal by-products, and they contain no ingredients or by-products that have been tested on animals. Surprisingly, it’s not a requirement for brands to list their full ingredients and therefore, you never really know what’s going into them.
In terms of sustainability, do you think the burden is put unfairly on the shoulders of those who menstruate?
I think anyone with a period has probably felt the pressure to opt for sustainable products – especially when it comes to reusable items. I had a conversation with a friend recently about how, not so long ago, you almost felt ashamed if you weren’t using a certain option when it came to your period. But the truth of the matter is that no two peoples’ periods are the same, and what works for one person might not work for another.
I think it’s the same when it comes to sustainability. Growing up, I never stopped to think about the ingredients in the products I was using. I got my period, my mam gave me a pad from a brand she used and that was that – and I think that’s probably similar for a lot of people. But, when you think about it, more sustainable options just weren’t all that accessible up until recently enough.
I’m a fan of pads myself, and so with Monthlies, I wanted to give people who don’t want to use alternatives to more “traditional” products, for whatever reason, a more sustainable option that they’re still familiar with. That’s not to say that we won’t branch out in the future, but I think having an option to be more sustainable when it comes to period care is a good thing!
I also didn’t want to approach the whole sustainability subject by shaming people who get periods about how “unsustainable” they’re being, because, at the end of the day, there are a lot of factors that go into someone’s choices around period products. My attitude with Monthlies is “here’s an alternative that is better for you, but also much better for the planet.” If that suits you, great! If not, that’s great too! Shame and stigma already go hand-in-hand with periods, I don’t think it’s necessary to bring it into period care.
Do you think there’s still a lot of stigma around periods/talking about periods in Ireland? What do you think can be done to help improve things?
Yes, the stigma around periods is still very real in Ireland. Remember that tampon ad and the controversy it caused here only a few years ago? Periods aren’t spoken about enough, and I feel that’s quite harmful because with a lack of education around periods there comes a lack of education around the issues that can often go hand-in-hand with periods. For example, being told period pain is “normal” or “just like” any other pain when in fact, there could be an underlying medical issue, is so damaging and can lead to delayed diagnoses etc.
When setting up Monthlies I of course thought of a social media strategy as that’s what I’ve been doing for years and it occurred to me that I could use social media to really start a conversation about periods, and not just use it to sell sell sell. I really want to create a community of people and a safe space where periods are discussed with no shame. I’m not the most confident of people but I feel so passionate about the topic, and period stigma, and so I’m really trying to put myself out there and create TikToks, and Instagram posts that highlight periods. If me posting a TikTok that talks about periods, or period products, makes even one person feel that they can talk openly about their period, then I’ll have done my job!
I also think it’s super important to be inclusive when talking about periods on social media, and something I’ve been very conscious of. I’ve had some lovely comments and messages from people saying they really appreciate Monthlies’ gender-neutral packaging, or that the fact that we use “people” instead of predominantly women when talking about periods, has really meant something to them – which is absolutely amazing.
Tell us about your charity partners.
8.5% of profits will be donated to various charities throughout the year, the goal is to split funds between causes that help with period-related issues such as period poverty, and charities that help with health issues often related to periods such as endometriosis research. We’ll also be donating to causes that are helping to reduce plastic in the environment.