The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Nikki Michelsen of Ohne
The Fund is a founder community and early stage fund, by founders for founders.
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. This week the spotlight is on Nikki Michelsen, co-CEO and co-founder of Ohne, the world's first membership for menstrual care, providing the products, support and community for babes who bleed.
Every day more than 800 million people are “Ohne” (pronounced “on'') their period, and those who menstruate know the effects and symptoms extend beyond just the days of bleeding. For something so normal, there are still many taboos that need to be broken, which is exactly what Ohne co-CEOs and co-founders Nikki Michelsen and Leah Remfry-Peploe are aiming to achieve. Their membership service provides customers with a community, education, and sustainably produced menstrual health and wellness products. The membership is tailored to each individual and delivered to their doorsteps exactly when needed and includes access to a range of member benefits including content, videos, wellbeing events and other perks.
Nikki has a background in international relations and development and has spent time in diverse parts of the world including South Africa, Zambia, Denmark, and Vietnam. After working on various social projects, she decided she wanted to make a positive impact from a business standpoint. Ohne contributes to CSR causes, including donating to one of the organizations she worked with during her time in Zambia. Ohne is also dedicated to providing 100% organic period products and cycle care supplements. For example, store-bought plastic tampon applicators take 500 years to decompose, whereas an Ohne tampon decomposes in just 3-6 months. Bloody amazing!
How did you come up with the idea for Ohne and why now?
My co-founder, Leah, is my best friend and we've known each other for over 11 years. At the end of 2016 we were having a glass of wine - as all good stories start - and I came on my period and didn't have any products with me as per usual. I was borrowing a product from her bathroom and you get used to the outer packaging being really childish and a bit garish, but I opened this particular pad and it was covered in purple hearts on the actual pad itself. I remember feeling very angry so I went running down the stairs and asked Leah, "Why do we buy stuff like this?" In every other element of our lives we can buy into a brand because it speaks to us, because of sustainability, or the founder story, or the brand identity, yet for something that happens to us every single month, that's actually quite intimate, we've got no choice! So we basically started brainstorming what it would take to build a brand that could actually relate to us and our peers and is something we would be proud to use.
What makes Ohne a “must-have” vs. a “nice-to-have”?
Every single person is the result of a uterus that at some point bled. Every single person with a cycle will go through over 540 of them in their lifetime. We believe that as we’re growing up, we’re not given the information and education regarding how the entire menstrual cycle affects your ability to work, to exercise, to thrive, and what those hormonal changes actually mean. You’re always at some point in your cycle and having the support and products on your terms can be pretty powerful. For us it's a necessity because owning and understanding your cycle enables you to thrive in other parts of your life.
What sets Ohne apart?
We're not just looking at the 5± days that the women and people who bleed are on their period. We're really focused on the holistic approach, 360 degrees on the cycle itself. We help with the bleeding, mood swings, fatigue, pain, and education. We provide products that are good for you, good for the environment, and a community that grounds all of that together. We make sure whatever the reason you’re coming to Ohne, we’ve got your back.
What drives you to go into startup battle day after day?
I think one of the biggest things is working with my best friend on something that we are both so passionate about. I think that she holds me accountable and we keep each other excited and driven towards the bigger mission. I think it would be a lot harder as a solo founder to overcome all those challenges on your own, but having that support makes a big difference for me.
Do you have any advice for people who are starting their own company?
One of the most helpful things that a mentor once told me was, "Every time you fail you build resilience, and it's resilience that builds companies." By reframing failure in the early stages, means you pick yourself up a lot faster for the next time.