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The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Phoebe [Seoyeon] Choi, Camryn Ross, Mary Woo, and Helena Kim of Fillow
Phoebe [Seoyeon] Choi, Camryn Ross, Mary Woo, & Helena Kim are co-founders of Fillow, an innovative menstrual product that combines the ease of use of tampons with the reusability of menstrual cups.
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. The Fund is a founder collective and early stage firm, by founders for founders.
Fillow is disrupting the feminine hygiene industry by giving menstruators a product that satisfies all their needs: long-lasting, leak-free, comfortable, transparent, and easy to use. Their innovative product design is a disc that is inserted with an applicator and removed with a pull-string. The company is led by friends and co-founders Phoebe [Seoyeon] Choi, Camryn Ross, Helena Kim, and Mary Woo. Phoebe, Camryn, and Helena studied economics at the University of Chicago and Mary has a Biological/Biosystems engineering degree from MIT. They share how Fillow is providing menstruators with a voice in a historically stigmatized and stagnant market.
What’s the Fillow founding story?
We are a group of friends and after COVID our long awaited reunion got cut short because one of us had a period leak. This led to a very long conversation about how so many people still have to deal with period leaks and that there’s got to be a better way. Through more research, we realized the current period products are based on the designs and products that are nearly a century old, with close to zero innovations or iterations made on the products themselves. So with the idea of actually creating THE innovative product, we entered the UChicago Booth College New Venture Challenge and became the first all-female team to win, with the largest investment amount and that's how we officially got started.
What’s Fillow’s Northstar?
Our mission is to place the power on each individual to make the choices that best empower the relationship they have with their own body. And we don't want a period product to compromise making these choices, which we realize a lot of times that is the case. The period market itself is extremely gendered, and has historically tiptoed around the subject of menstruation. This often resulted in menstruators feeling shame around their period, and also left people uneducated on the process of menstruation in the name of keeping periods discreet. We wanted to create a safe space where self discovery is encouraged, while also offering a product that doesn't sacrifice personal comfort and meets all their needs.
Tell us about a recent milestone Fillow has crushed.
We recently launched our landing page where you can sign up to receive our product. We’ve begun advertising ahead of our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter next month and have seen some great interest! We started publicly sharing our product less than a month ago and have already received more than 2,800 email subscribers and 700+ requests to join our VIP group on Facebook.
What sets Fillow apart from other menstruation brands?
Our product addresses the two main concerns that menstruators talk about which is longer wear and convenience. Current period products only offer one of these features at the sacrifice of the other. Pads and tampons are very convenient to use, but they need to be changed frequently, every 4-8 hours. Then we have the cups and discs category that can last up to 12 hours, but they are notorious for being inconvenient due to the difficult and messy insertion and removal. We are recapturing this unique space in the market by bringing the first ever disc with an applicator combination, combining the easy application of tampons, while also maintaining the reusability and longer lasting feature of menstrual cups. We’re creating a product that is not only innovative, but familiar, so the transition between the current existing products to ours is very smooth.
What makes you a unique founding team?
We were friends before being co-founders and three of us actually lived together for a year. We're all very young, driven, dedicated women who began working on Fillow full-time right after graduating from college. We’ve all made personal sacrifices to take the risk to start a startup. We have complementary backgrounds, as we’ve worked in different fields with a focus on business, marketing, and product development. Our unique skill sets blend well together to bring Fillow to the market.
Any words of wisdom?
Phoebe: Don’t be afraid of asking questions. There are so many mentors and advisors out there who can really help you on your journey, especially as first-time founders.
Mary: Build trust within your team. It allows for easier delegation and makes everyone’s workload more manageable.
Camryn: Be well educated and researched in the problem and the market. As young women, people doubted our level of knowledge quite often, so it’s very important to be able to pull numbers and answer questions eloquently and professionally.
Helena: Be shameless in asking for connections because networking is so, so important in this space. On a personal note make sure to protect your sleep.
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