5 Minutes With ... Aimee Marks, TOM Organic

Thank God for Dr Earle Haas who in the 1930s created the first tampon for his ballerina wife. He has given women for generations the freedom of choice – the ability to live life, whatever the time of month. In recent times we have become more aware of what we eat, what we put in to our bodies and what beauty products we use - but have you thought about your sanitary hygiene products? Many women unknowingly use pesticide sprayed cotton and synthetics on the most delicate and absorbent parts of women's bodies. Surprisingly, all non-organic feminine hygiene products are commonly made from synthetics, plastics and conventional cotton (the most heavily sprayed crop in the world, using more than 25% of the world’s total insecticides).

Aimee Marks is an inspirational, forward-thinking female and owner of certified organic feminine hygiene brand, TOM Organic. It began at university when Aimee was required to make tampon packaging more sustainable and user friendly. Aimee was shocked to discover the harmful ingredients used in tampons. To think that these products are used - and trusted - by women around the world. In 2009 Aimee Marks introduced women to TOM Organic, named TOM to refer to that Time Of Month. Made from the finest organic cotton – free from perfumes, chemicals, pesticides, bleaches and genetically modified cotton, and the first of its kind in Australia. 

TOM Organic gives women the purest choice for freedom, comfort and above all: health. Feeling inspired by TOM Organic and the woman behind the brand, we sat down with Aimee for 5 minutes...

Aimee we love TOM Organic. How did the concept eventuate?
Thank you - much appreciated! The concept of TOM came about when I was re-designing tampon packaging, as a part of a project to solve the problem of tampons falling about in our handbags. I was shocked to find that these white fluffy tampons were not just made from cotton; but were made from a combination of polypropylene (plastic silk ease cover), viscose-rayon (synthetics; core), conventional cotton (the worlds most heavily sprayed crop drenched with over 25% of the worlds total insecticides); I began researching to find alternatives - and came across the benefits of organic cotton. At the time, organics in Australia were not readily available in supermarkets. I also knew that if I felt frustrated about the discovery of chemicals in my tampons - then surely there are other women who would feel the same way. So I began creating an alternative that would be available to all women in a mass market - it was important to me to create a product with respect to women's health and our environment.

How long has it taken to prepare, create and launch the brand and its products?
I decided to take a measured, well researched approached to launching TOM; I first came up with the idea 8 years ago whilst at school; I graduated from high school knowing that I wanted to launch a tampon company but didn't know where to begin - so I studied the Bachelor of Business in Entrepreneurship Degree at Melbourne's RMIT university for three years; this was like an incubated environment / launchpad to research and develop new business ideas. It was also a brilliant opportunity to network and gain feedback from mentors.

In a woman's lifetime, we use approximately 12,000 tampons. What are the risks?
We don't claim to be doctors or scientists, but there are so many testimonials and anecdotes from women who connect with us who tell us about their allergic reactions to some of the ingredients (chemicals) in conventional brands of feminine hygiene products. Some women have even had to stop using tampons and pads all together at the Time Of Month; this seemed contradictory, for a product that was invented to allow women a new sense of freedom. We are talking about putting plastics, synthetics and chemical sprayed cotton in the most sensitive part of our bodies vs TOM's certified organic cotton (guaranteed to be chemical free). To us, TOM just makes sense; there are too many women's health issues (in this part of our body) that are still largely unexplained, so why would you want to risk putting foreign chemicals into a part of the body, they were never designer to interact with?

TOM's packaging is colourful and feminine! Being the first thing we see sitting on the store shelf, was it difficult to choose packaging?
Yes! But this is the part of the business that I most enjoy - I am obsessed with packaging). Our new packaging concept is all about taking our customer on a visual (educational) storytelling journey about the TOM brand. This is refinement number 1 million (literally created every possible shape and size from a structural perspective with regard to practicality - ensuring the tampons don't fall about in our handbags).

Funnily enough, the first tampon was created by a man. Are you thrilled to be introducing Australia's first certified organic tampon?
Absolutely!! It's incredible how many males are behind such an intimate female product. I guess it's a bonus (and almost essential) to be able to test and use your own product before taking it to market!

How do prices compare to other sanitary products currently on the market?
Organics in general sit at about a 20-30% premium - this cost accounts for the labour intensive growing processes. TOM sits at a slight price premium - we are talking $20-30 more a year to keep the most intimate part of our bodies chemical free!

Lastly, let's touch base on sexual health. TOM Organic supports the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation. How important is it to have regular pap smears?
Pap smears are critical - and literally save lives. 80% of women who die from cervical cancer do not have regular pap smears. Even if women have had the cervical cancer vaccine - they must still have a regular pap smear. 

Tom Organic: Website.