Building a business isn’t typically how high school besties spend their spare time. But for Isobel Marshall and Eloise Hall, that’s exactly how their period care brand, TABOO started.
After coming across the Social Enterprise business model back in 2016, the pair began entering local incubators and “Fish Tank” competitions to validate their idea. By 2018, TABOO had successfully raised a whopping $56,000 to purchase their first order of certified organic cotton pads and tampons.
Isobel and Eloise officially launched TABOO’s products to the world in 2019 and have now grown to a team of 4 staff, with their products stocked in stores and pharmacies across South Australia, and selling products online nationally. But their mission is bigger than simply selling pads and tampons: they’re passionate about eradicating global period poverty by using their profits to fund education and advocacy initiatives.
We chatted with these dynamic duo about what it’s like to be young women in business, their proudest moments to date and what’s next for TABOO.
You both started working on TABOO while you were still in high school. What was it like building a business at such a young age?
“Starting a business so young is a challenging undertaking because of the steep, steep learning curve that is involved,” tells Isobel.
“Eloise and I knew nothing about business when we started TABOO and so the first step was simply discovering what we needed to learn, and putting this into action almost simultaneously. Amongst other things, this involved creating and building the brand, gaining our audience’s trust, communicating our mission and putting in place all of the structures, processes and logistics required to actually deliver on our promise.
However, we have always said that starting a business as a young person is a huge superpower. Starting from a clean slate with no stereotypes, assumptions or expectations in place gave us the liberty to question everything and consider many alternatives. With youth, energy, flexibility and a lot of passion on our side, we could give taboo what is needed, when it needed it!”
What attracted you to the social enterprise business model, and what impact do you hope to have on the world through TABOO?
“The social enterprise model of business is both the way forward for our commercial future and our future toward sustainable change,” shares Eloise.
“TABOO is designed to sell period care products to Australian consumers, and use 100% of the net company profits to invest in eradicating period poverty. That is, spending the profits that would typically be distributed to shareholders, on providing practical and sustainable support to people who are at risk of period poverty.
I am so excited about the opportunity Social Enterprise has to change the world in its redistribution of the world’s wealth, to finally, support those in need, rather than making the rich richer!.”
What challenges have you both faced as young women in business, and how have you overcome them?
Isobel reveals, “as young women, there has always been a sense of needing to prove ourselves for people to take us seriously. This is especially frustrating when you have done everything ‘right’, and know that if you were an older man, perhaps you would have been received differently! If anything, the snide remarks, jokes and assumptions have just added fuel to the fire and reminded us how important it is to never assume or underestimate the capabilities of others just because of things like age, gender or background.”
Eloise echoes these remarks, explaining, “Aside from the imposter syndrome that comes from being under-qualified for my role at TABOO, in the foundational years of TABOO I really struggled to find the balance between working in hospitality, juggling full-time university and establishing the foundations of TABOO.
The first saving grace Izzy and I had was a beautiful, dedicated team of volunteers who are passionate advocates for the company’s mission. I’ve embarked on the lifelong lesson of understanding where to delegate and really understanding my strengths and weaknesses as a leader and trusting the processes and people that care for TABOO.”
What have been your proudest moments to date with TABOO?
“We started sharing TABOO’s mission and social enterprise structure with the public in 2017, but it wasn’t until August 2019 that we could actually launch our line of TABOO products,” tells Isobel.
“Organising the launch party was a huge project and we wanted to use it as a way to thank everyone who had already contributed so much of their time and skills to TABOO, and also use it as a launch pad to expand our community and customer base.
We were overwhelmed by the hundreds of people who came to celebrate how far TABOO had come, and what it was growing to be. This was the moment we fully began to comprehend how many people were invested in seeing TABOO succeed and work towards its mission.”
What’s next for TABOO?
“TABOO is still a relatively small company, selling in OTR’s, National Pharmacy and Foodland stores in South Australia. We have customers all over the country, and we’re really excited to expand our reach to each corner of the country, both online and in-store.
We certainly want to expand our range of products so our consumers have a variety of choices with their purchases. Of course, the more successful our sales are, the greater position we are in to eradicate period poverty. We certainly want to see period poverty eradicated in Australia within the next 5-10 years,” shares Eloise.