In this episode, we speak with the founder of LUÜNA, Olivia Cotes-James on how she overcame stigma and loneliness and created community-driven and purpose-led business.
Have you struggled with your period? Olivia Cotes-James, through her own experiences and extensive community research, decided to create LUUNA, a period care company. She shares about her journey thus far; community building, the loneliness of entrepreneurship, fundraising as a female founder and of course overcoming stigma.
Listen to this episode of the Good Business podcast now.
In this conversation we learnt…
– How Olivia built LUUNA in her mid-20s, first as a product company and then an educational platform by listening to the needs of the community and society (02:49- 13:58)
– How she faced the loneliness in entrepreneurship and created a support system and team that energise and champion her (19:37 – 23:36)
– The myths around fundraising and how for LUUNA, it wasn’t just about the vanity metrics but finding people who bring more than just the money (26:14 – 31:40)
– About capitalising on uncertainty and how it can be a source of opportunity (32:01 – 34:53)
– How community is her superpower (36:29 – 38:28)
– Why Olivia finds fulfilment in building a company and team she’d want to work for (40:13- 42:22)
“But it just means that for LUÜNA, there’s even that much more emphasis to both respond to the needs of our community, the needs of society, but also do so in a way that strategic to set us apart from this increasingly competitive crowd.” (13:00)
Olivia shares about how LUUNA as a business evolved from first being in the period products business and then in the educational service sector. By being closely connected to their community, they have been able to respond to the needs seen. With a growing number of brands popping up in the period care sector, LUUNA is ahead of the curve by ensuring that they stand out and are profitable.
“I think what I say to other particularly first-time founders, when it comes to the challenges that you face is that it can be a really lonely, lonely ride, but it really doesn’t have to be.” (19:37)
As a first time founder during the uncertainty in 2019-2020, one of the biggest hurdles Olivia faced was loneliness. Not only was it harmful for her mental and physical health, it also hindered her performance. So, now it’s something that she is really conscious of and works to avoid by ensuring she has a support system with amazing advisors, investors and community.
“We’re moving into an environment that’s going to be very challenging for people to raise funds, it’s going to be even more important that we stop looking at things like vanity metrics, and we start looking at the core principles of what makes a healthy business.” (28:34)
There is a lot of conversation and hype around fundraising with regular news and updates about raising millions of dollars and having a crazy valuation but for Olivia and LUUNA it is about having aligned investors on board. Plus as an investor it is important to look at the foundations of a business such as margins, strong pipeline and good product market fit.
“I just feel like our community, as in some of my more challenging moments been the boost and the reminder that I needed to not to not quit.”
Olivia finds that the community she has built over the years, first while doing market research and holding workshops, as well as more recently working with corporations and schools, has been her superpower. When feeling like everything is going against her, or things are super challenging, when she goes out and hosts a workshop or meets consumers, she is reminded that there is no way she can quit now, because what LUUNA is doing is so important and needed.
Chris Edwards (02:21)
Olivia, thanks for joining me on the show. I’m so stoked to have you as a guest. This is a topic I’ve been really keen to get into. So thank you.
Olivia Cotes-James (02:30)
Thank you for having me. I haven’t done a podcast in a long time. So it feels good to be back at it.
Chris Edwards (02:35)
Yay. Well, I mean, I really want to unpack your journey at LUUNA and creating LUUNA. So you were in your mid 20s, when you created it, how did the idea to come up with a period care product come about?
Olivia Cotes-James (02:49)
It’s quite a long story. So I will try and give the abridged version but in my early 20s, I moved to Hong Kong. So my mum was born and grew up here for the first few years of her life and that really inspired me to move to Hong Kong after graduating from university. And I moved here with no thought in my mind to be an entrepreneur that had never occurred to me at any stage during my life. And really what happened at that time was the symptoms, the negative symptoms that had been really impacting my life due to menstruation for around a decade by that stage, for the first time really started to overwhelm me.
And I thought for the very first time in my life, which is wild because again, these had been troubling me for so long, I thought how is this the status quo for so many of us today? You know, how am I in my 20s still dealing with symptoms that I have nowhere to turn to, for support for and ultimately, no solutions and feeling really quite alone in an experience that half the world share. So it was really that thought and my own personal issues that lead me to initially just start having conversations with other people around me. So initially started with friends and colleagues. And it was through these, I guess, very casual conversations around menstruation that my eyes were then opened to just how deep this problem ran.
And I then kind of between Hong Kong and then got a job in Shanghai in 2016. When I moved over there and by that stage, these casual conversations and everything that I had unearthed, really evolved into I guess more I say formal research. You know, I don’t have a research background, but certainly you know, I was putting painstaking time and energy into crafting focus groups. and hosting workshops, you know, on the side of my full time job. Back then, really what was so amazing is that as I started to use tools like WeChat, for example, to advertise for people coming to talk to me about very taboo topics, so yes periods, but we did other workshops around body image, and basically things that I felt were incredibly stigmatised, but that played such a vital role in the well being of, of women and individuals.
And the amazing thing was that absolute strangers turned up. So I started hosting sort of, you know, coffee, tea meetings, for five to 10 people. And then that really evolved into events that were kind of 30 people plus. And again, ultimately, just strangers coming into a room together to talk about these stigmatised topics. So it was really through that, that I started to build this community. Again, still, at this stage, I had no desire to start a company whatsoever, it was really about community, and providing the kind of support and education that I myself needed, that I started to see was so vitally needed in the lives of other women at the time. And it was only sort of around 2017, I suppose, when I started to realise the role that the kind of traditional feminine care industry, had played in creating and deepening a lot of this stigma.
And I was working in branding at the time, so initially, my attention was just drawn to the kind of identity of these brands, the fact that in my view, they kind of stood for nothing other than just selling products, and had sort of kept us in the dark about our bodies, rather than empowering us with education. And the real, I guess, sort of moment that brought that community and education together with what is now LUUNA today was when that research into these brands revealed to me that one of my most debilitating symptoms, which was my recurring yeast infections, was actually being caused by the pads and tampons that I had been using for over a decade. So that was that, I guess, sort of a lightbulb moment that made me realise, okay, there’s so much to be done here. And I now need to go into the physical product space and create products.
Basically, I can use them to alleviate these symptoms and feel, feel that I know what they’re made of and feel comfortable and confident in them. And I started to realise just how many other people’s comfort and well-being were also impacted by these products. Obviously, I couldn’t go into product development for an issue that I alone face, but as I’m sure you can imagine, this really isn’t an issue that I was dealing with alone.
Chris Edwards (07:51)
Yeah, right. That’s an amazing journey of you having the problem yourself, and then through your coffee mornings or talks really validating that, I suppose there are two problems there, isn’t it? One being the quality of the product and the other being the education piece. Why is it in Asia that there’s not more range of products?
Olivia Cotes-James (08:17)
Yeah. So when I talk about Asia, I suppose the issues and challenges that we see are specific to this location. I always like to emphasise that the stigma around menstruation is present everywhere around the world. I’ve talked to my mum, for example, about this, who used tampons her entire life. Her entire adult life had basically been spent living in the UK, where she was inserting these products into her body with no idea what they were made of.
I think that’s a really troubling stigma that exists more specifically, in places like the UK where tampons are more predominantly used versus of course, in Asia, tampon adoption is so much lower for other issues, cultural and social issues, combined. But you know, I like to always emphasise that it’s not my view, that Asia is much more behind or stigmatised than other parts of the world – these stigmas manifest themselves in different ways.
I suppose in Asia, one of the things that we do experience is less awareness around things like the menstrual cup and tampons. That is growing and growing quite quickly, but still proportionately to again using the UK as an example, adoption of alternatives other than pads is still a lot lower. And that’s the answer to why it is quite complex. There are many different reasons I think you know, one of the big questions we get today when it comes to products that you insert in your body is things like the virginity question. The virginity myth purports that if you insert these products into your body if you’re a virgin, it will take your virginity, which again is very complex to unpick and rooted in both cultural beliefs. And I guess the lack of body literacy as well. So these are the kinds of misconceptions that LUUNA works to overcome with the objective of not saying to anybody, you should be using tampons, or you should be using a cup, we make pads as well, I love our pads, they’re brilliant. Our goal is to remove all of the misconceptions that prevent individuals from trying every possible available option to them and then being able to make an empowered and informed choice about what best suits them in their lives.
Chris Edwards (11:04)
And just before we went live, you were telling me that LUUNA is moving to be more than just a period-product business, but also an education business. Tell me more about that. I mean, I imagine that education is really needed. And that’s one of the things you learn at the very beginning. But tell me about your move from being a product business to product and service.
Olivia Cotes-James (11:28)
So when I was building the idea for LUUNA back in 2017 to 2018, and we launched only in 2019, I should say, but obviously, there were years of sort of preparation that came before that. At the time, I wasn’t aware of many disruptive period care companies. So the idea of being what we called ourselves at the time, a social impact driven periods care company, was, to me, a unique proposition, particularly in the part of the world we were operating in. And that was really exciting. And that was essentially how we defined ourselves and our mission. But for a few different reasons, I guess the value proposition of what LUUNA is today looks very different.
So, one of those reasons is sort of responding to changing needs. So, I think we’ve seen so much more since launching about how deeply needed the kind of education and platform and service, as you put it as needed in different areas of society. So specifically for us, we do a lot of work in the workplace. We are today the leading provider in APAC, of period care amenities, and alongside that, we have a proprietary, DEI curriculum surrounding menstrual equity that we deliver to major corporate schools and universities across the region.
So that’s really us responding to a need that we saw. But of course, anyone that knows this space will also know that even in the last one to two years, that kind of social impact period care space has become very saturated. We see brands popping up a lot of the time now who are you know, working with factories, white labelling products, putting a nice branding on top of it. And I think that’s great, it really is. It means that change changes afoot, and people are responding to the demands of consumers and our communities. But it just means that for LUUNA, there’s much more emphasis to both respond to the needs of our community, and the needs of society, but also do so in a way that’s strategic to set us apart from this increasingly competitive crowd.
Chris Edwards (13:58)
And I imagine in your industry, there’s a lot of brand loyalty, and people probably find a product they like and don’t switch. So it does make a lot of sense strategically to have a really deep first connection with your consumer and get them to know you and trust you and love you and then you have them for life.
Olivia Cotes-James (14:18)
You’ve hit the nail on the head. I mean, this is what people say to be a very kind of sticky category much like toothpaste, you don’t think about it, you grab the one off the shelf that you’ve perhaps grown up where it was introduced to you in this case by probably your mum, and, in that sense there with traditional behaviour. It’s not even loyalty, I would say necessarily, I can speak from my own experience. You know, I was sort of blind when I would pick up my period products off the shelf. I grew up seeing my mom using a certain brand of pads and a certain brand of tampons and that’s just the one I would grab, when I would, would be out shopping.
And, so what we want to do, again is kind of shift that consumer behaviour to make sure as I said earlier, that there is this kind of informed empowered choice, when you pick that product deal period of product, one that’s inspired by obviously, how high performing that product is, how comfortable you feel, but also really, as we do with so many other brands and so many other areas of our life, one that really reflects your personal values as well be it your values towards sustainability, or you know, gender equity. So we are trying to, I guess, change what can typically be quite like a blind choice into a sort of, yeah, an empowered choice that we hope will foster really long term loyal relationships with our community, for life.
And for life, I really do mean life because, yes, we might stop menstruating at 40 or in our 50s. But LUÜNA now is working to through our education, but also our product evolution creates products, wellness products that can really support our community through those different life transitions. So from menstruation through to menopause, I think that’s a really important life transition, that we are now kind of there with some of our community members for and having the resources and products to support that is really important to us as well.
Chris Edwards (16:33)
And your product ranges from reusable to single use. I’m really interested to see what are your views on the impact of disposable products. And what do you see your role as a business in trying to get people to move to more sustainable choices?
Olivia Cotes-James (16:51)
So again, we really emphasise, we don’t have this ideal consumer journey in mind. I am somebody who, for so many years, was very squeamish about the notion of the menstrual cup. So that shows you how far I’ve come as somebody who now uses a combination of different products depending on what my day is going to entail. So for me, I can really attest to the fact that products like the cup, and certainly the tampon when I was a teenager, definitely are responsible for some very personally empowering moments in how I understand and interact with my body.
Ultimately, I like to use the word intimacy when it comes to these products and intimacy with ourselves. Because I had a very, again harking back to those challenging symptoms I used to get one of which was like bleeding so heavy that it was ultimately very debilitating, can’t do sports and can’t socialise. And so those products allowed me to really, yes, have a more convenient lifestyle where I don’t have to stop doing the things I love. But they also created this intimacy between myself and the experience of menstruation that I just think is so, so powerful on so many levels.
So in answer to your question, we don’t see ourselves as a brand that’s trying to convert ‘x’ percentage of people from pads to cups, we really just want to redefine the industry where people can choose, try all the products that are available to them, and then make a choice about what feels the best, knowing that behind the product is a brand that’s constantly working to be more sustainable and giving back to vulnerable communities who need support in this space as well. So I think, there’s no ideal journey that we have, we obviously hope that anybody, regardless of what product in our range they try, has a very positive experience and falls in love with LUUNA. To us, that’s just the most important thing.
Chris Edwards (19:13)
It’s just so good having more choice, isn’t it? You know, so I think it’s wonderfully empowering to have options and more options than what we had even five years ago. So I think that’s a very great thing to be able to bring to women. So it’s been a pretty, full on last four years. What’s been the biggest hurdle so far?
Olivia Cotes-James (19:37)
I can’t pinpoint one specific thing, but I would say looking back at 2019 and 2020, I just remember those years have been really really lonely. And what contributed to that loneliness is perhaps not having the right support network. Now, that’s absolutely not to say I didn’t have amazing advisors, and investors who I have to this day, but if we look back at 2020, everybody’s lives were disrupted, and everything was chaotic. And I think largely, you can say that for 2019, in Hong Kong as well, where we were facing, you know, challenges prior to COVID too.
So I think perhaps you could pinpoint this as the symptom of being a first time founder. In no sort of today, I would ever allow myself to fall into that kind of level of loneliness and, experience the negative consequences of that, because I’ve learned how to overcome that and I’ve learned the importance of turning to people. I’ve built this incredible support system, and the world is not as chaotic as it might have been, in many ways in 2020, at least from my perspective. So yes, I think what I say to other particularly first time founders, when it comes to the challenges that you face is that it can be a really lonely, lonely ride, but it really doesn’t have to be. And loneliness is not productive for anyone’s mental health and physical health. So I think it’s something to be really conscious of and we have to work to avoid.
Chris Edwards (21:29)
Yeah, that’s a really good shot. And I don’t think we talked enough about that. I think, traditionally entrepreneurships spoken about by men. Well, I don’t know, I feel like there’s a lot of airtime for the challenges of everything else. But the mental challenges and the feeling of loneliness is not spoken about enough. Because I do think the biggest challenge is the mental challenge. And everyone is in the same boat, and everyone’s trying to do something they’ve never done before, in an industry they’ve never worked in before, usually. And so everyone’s in their own little lonely boat.
Olivia Cotes-James (22:05)
And I think there’s an amazing increase in how much we’re talking about mental health. And to be honest, this, it might not be the same for people going into this journey. Now to the same degree. I, I prior to even those years of loneliness, you know, I’d been in a real hole of like, and I’m not even saying a bad hole, but I basically had just like, disappeared from public life. For, for, for the people around me, at least in because I was so obsessed with the research, the community building and, and what Luna was becoming. So I think I just forgot the tools to kind of overcome this kind of isolation. And it became kind of habitual to me, in a way and I sort of went into the early, early days of LUÜNA story, just thinking you kind of had to like battle through and push forward and push hard. Rather than appreciating that, you know, to take a step back to breathe to focus on yourself. That, it’s an overused phrase, but I think it really does resonate with me so much. You can’t pour from an empty cup. And as a founder, of course, particularly one with a small team, a solo founder, your cup cannot be empty. And I just look back to those years. And I think what I was trying to do is very much pour, pour from an empty cup, which, you know, we’re still here, we’re still standing today. But I again, I wouldn’t let myself get to that point again.
Chris Edwards (23:36)
Yeah. And I also think spending time with other entrepreneurs or networking or doing anything like that’s a waste of time when you’ve got so much on your to do list or you can be overwhelmed with the mountain you’re trying to climb. But you don’t realise that that is an investment in your mental health, just having those connections and reaching out and meeting people.
Olivia Cotes-James (23:56)
Yeah, for sure. I also on that point, and I am still learning this to this day, there are lots of things you can say yes to that you shouldn’t say yes to. And I perhaps think that was part of the problem for me saying yes to so many things. And you don’t really in the early stages have the luxury of saying no that much I would say because anything could be an opportunity. But what that means is that the little time and energy that you are honestly or the precious, I should say time and energy that you have is therefore expended in, in sort of, often the wrong places. So I do, I do like to also highlight that everything you spend your time on should count. And that doesn’t mean it has to be productive in terms of making a sale or something sort of commercially valuable, but it should be something that energises you and pushes you forward. So it’s not always hard to know what that is, but I think Even to this day, I mean, even last week, I kind of I’m sure you feel the same way. I said yes to just one too many things and then realized at the end of it, you know, I’m my, I’m feeling a bit depleted now. And I just need to, you know, sit back and remember, like, what are my priorities? What’s important to me this week, this month, this year, and make sure you’re not sort of letting yourself be pulled in too many directions as well.
Chris Edwards (25:25)
Yeah, yeah, that’s a good shout. For me, I have three kids, so they pull me away from my work a lot, which is good. It’s I needed.
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So I wanted to talk about funding, especially as a female entrepreneur can be very hard to access. I imagine it would have been even harder to raise funds for a business in a period care category. Tell me about that.
Olivia Cotes-James (26:14)
So for anybody who’s listening to this, I find fundraising a very, a topic, I like to approach very carefully. Because I had never done any kind of fundraising before I entered this journey. I didn’t have the option to sort of bootstrap and those early stages. I bootstrapped, obviously, the research period, the concept testing all of that, but, but to go into production and design of these products for something at sort of at 24/25 I absolutely could not afford to do myself. So I always knew I had to fundraise in the early stages. But you know, I look back at where I was getting my information around sort of startups from back in that in those days, sort of 2017, 18, 19. And a lot of it, I look back, and I think it was quite toxic, in a way, you know, people, people see fundraising, as the kind of end game rather than the means to the to the to the greater end, and and you still see it to this day, right, like so and so’s raised 20 million, x valuation and so on. And there’s so much hype around it. And I think it’s really important to both recognize that fundraising is an amazing achievement. But it has to be for that for that end goal. Right? We need and ultimately, I’ve realized that when you see these headlines about people raising funds and these valuations, you know, you don’t know the backstory behind it, and I can think of a multitude of examples where the terms were, were crappy, you know, the businesses weren’t profitable, they were raising, because they had to, and so on. So I just want to say that because if there’s any sort of, you know, early stage founders listening to this, I really want to shift the dialogue around fundraising to make sure people are more cautious around how we talk about this particular topic. Now, that said, any woman business, any minority owned business, who does raise funds, that is an incredible feat, because we all know the statistics around how frequently that happens. I think it was 2021, the data showed that 2% of VC funding went to women owned businesses, you know, the percentages of black owned businesses or other minority owned businesses are vastly lower as well. So for anybody within those categories that does that does raise I think that’s an incredible and phenomenal achievement. And I suppose LUÜNA, we have done done well, in that area, I would, I would consider, you know, we’ve raised funds when we’ve needed to. We’ve got great supportive investors on board, which I think is another really important thing to point out. We’ve said no to sums of money that we needed when the investor was kind of didn’t feel like a red fit, or right fit or in some cases, showing sort of very concerning red flags, which again, isn’t always easy to do when you you know, you need funds to ramp up your business. So yeah, I think I think fundraising is it’s, it takes a lot of time, a lot of energy. I definitely didn’t appreciate that when I set out in those in my for my precede round. You know, I thought the beauty of of sort of being that passionate, and I suppose that ultimately that naive when you’re a first time founder is that you think your idea is so amazing, that people are going to jump at the opportunity to put money into it. And obviously that’s not the case. There are a lot of a lot of things to consider and today we’re moving into a into an environment that’s going to be very challenging for people to raise funds into it’s going to be even more are important that we stop looking at things like vanity metrics, and we start looking at the core principles of what makes a healthy business. You know, it margins, if it’s a if it’s a product business, you know, like a strong pipeline, good product market fit all of these things that perhaps, you know, harking back to those days that I was mentioning, where I was digesting all of these kinds of podcasts online. And that was my knowledge of that. And that’s what built my knowledge of kind of the startup ecosystem. Those things weren’t really pushed as being that important back then.
Chris Edwards (30:36)
Yeah, no, I could not agree more. I find it fascinating, the obsession with fundraising and I have not raised any funds. So I feel quite grateful that I haven’t had one. I feel like when you speak to people who are fundraising, it sounds like they’ve got two jobs. You know, they’ve got to run a company, and they’ve got to fundraise. So I might, who I really dodged a bullet, I reckon.
Olivia Cotes-James (30:59)
Yes, absolutely. And, and yes, and no, I think the ability to not fundraise is absolutely incredible. I would say, our investment team has is now also full of people who bring, you know, really important knowledge and advice to the table. And so if you can find strategic investors like that, then that’s the absolute dream. So any fundraising we do in the future? I’m just hoping we can do with that with that end goal in mind, people who bring more than just the money.
Chris Edwards (31:40)
Yeah, yeah, totally. So I’ve got one more question before I jump into my rapid fire questions. And that is changes the only constant in business. I’d love to know. What do you think we have our eyes wide shut on right now? What do you think people are assuming that is safe and stable, that you feel is misguided?
Olivia Cotes-James (32:01)
That’s a really interesting question. And my answer today is probably very different to what it would have been a few months ago. But I don’t think we’re all assuming everything is unstable. I mentioned to you before we, before we started recording that, even at my team, Christmas party recently, we had to really avoid talking about the future in a way just because this time last year or last year Christmas party, there was a dip in COVID, we talked with so much excitement about the pipeline we had and what was just around the corner for 2022. And then, obviously, the fifth wave of COVID hits in Hong Kong, followed by the Shanghai lock downs, which was, you know, perhaps one of the most challenging periods for our entire business to date. So from where I’m sitting, and I’m now you know, talking to some potential investors and everything, I think everyone is feeling that the future is uncertain. And that things are going to constantly be changing. And honestly, there are so many challenges that come with this uncertain future. But linking back to what I just said about sort of having the right foundations for your business in place. I definitely see some positives coming from this uncertain future. Like I said, the return to those strong foundations rather than all these vanity metrics being being just one of them. So for me, there’s a definite I don’t want to say silver lining, obviously, what we’re facing is, is really tough economic uncertainty, amongst other factors. But I think that there are some positives that can be seen about the shift in mentality that this is brought forward.
Chris Edwards (33:51)
Yeah. And I suppose in your industry, there’s been a massive change in the last five years with perception and understanding and awareness and education. And you know, like, you’ve created a company in the right place at the right time. I suppose, you know, the uncertainty also comes opportunity, right?
Olivia Cotes-James (34:11)
Yeah, for sure. And I think it’s amazing to see how much is happened in the women’s health the fintech space? Yeah, I was I was completely dismissed by so many people four years ago during that first that first fundraise that this was just an absurd notion, and that there was no there would be no demand for disruptive companies in this category that it was just taboo, too taboo to touch. So to see that shifted so dramatically, is so wonderful, not just from a brand perspective, but for me, sort of as a woman, as a menstruating person. You know, I think the future that we’re building looks a lot brighter for people with periods.
Chris Edwards (34:53)
Yeah, that’s awesome. Isn’t that? All right. I’d love to ask some rapid fire questions. Firstly, do you have any business advice or mantras that you, you roll around in your head, and you really keep coming back to?
Olivia Cotes-James (35:05)
I don’t know about sort of a sort of succinct mantra. I mean, I mentioned somebody the other day. I don’t know if it’s a bit cheesy, but I really liked the phrase, you know, “If you feel like there’s not enough room for you at the table, build a new table.” I feel like that’s really what we did with LUÜNA. I encourage people to kind of think that way. If they feel like that isn’t that isn’t the space for their for their ideas or their disruption, then make sure that you carve that out?
Chris Edwards (35:35)
Ah, I love that. Now, tell me which of these expressions resonates for you? Do you believe luck favours the open mind or Fortune favours the bold?
Olivia Cotes-James (35:46)
Oh, another great question. I don’t know, I think it might have to be a combination of the two, honestly, because I just so I deeply believe that you’ve got to be bold, you’ve got to you’ve got to really go after it. If there’s something that you want to achieve, but ultimately, we can’t con ourselves into thinking that boldness is enough. It’s a combination to have a successful business, you absolutely, I think have to have a combination of being bold, luck, timing, like all of these different factors. I’d have to say a combination of the two.
Chris Edwards (36:23)
Great answer. Tell me what does community mean for you and your business?
Olivia Cotes-James (36:29)
I believe community sits at the heart of everything we do. And I see this being a principle that is employed by a lot of brands today. And but I think you can listen to Luna’s story. And you know, the origins of where of the company to understand that community has from day one been the foundation of of what it is that we do today. So it’s it’s really to us, it’s everything.
Chris Edwards (37:02)
And does that give you a superpower? Because you can lean into this? You know, even with your education piece, your direct facing customers and hearing from them firsthand what’s what’s working, what’s not and what they want.
Olivia Cotes-James (37:15)
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, having a very highly engaged, loyal community. And we always say this directly to our community members, you know, tell us what you need, tell us what you want. And if we can, we’ll make it happen. So from a business perspective, obviously, that means that we’re doing things that people actually need and want, which is so so important. I would also say community feels to me personally, as a founder, like my superpower, in a way, there are so many instances I can remember when, you know, really challenging times over the last few years, even prior to launch, you know, when we were just working on the preparations of, of the company, when, you know, you’d be feeling like everything was against you, that it was just too hard. And then I would go out and I would host one of our workshops. And I would be reminded through that event that absolutely there’s no way you can quit now, because this is so so needed. I just feel like our community, as in some of my more challenging moments been the boost and the reminder that I needed to not to not quit.
Chris Edwards (38:28)
That’s awesome. That’s really awesome. What has been your most successful or best business collaboration or partnership that you’ve done?
Olivia Cotes-James (38:37)
Am I allowed to say every sort of workplace partnership that we do?
Chris Edwards (38:43)
Yes, you are allowed to say that.
Olivia Cotes-James (38:45)
It’s not that I’m not picking favourites. It’s just to me, I am just after so many years of hard work, and really pushing so hard to convince organisations that this is necessary to be in a position now where companies and organisations are reaching out to us honestly on a daily basis to inquire about or launch our workplace programs. It’s just one of the things I’m most most proud that we’ve been able to do is really start to normalise the provision of these programs, be it the amenities be at the training. So I think any any workplace or university or school that comes to us I just have so much love for.
Chris Edwards (39:33)
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I love the way your business has evolved from the product into the education space and you know, talking to you, you can see that it’s it’s driven by not just a good business decision, but obviously by where you get your energy from and where you are feeling like you’re having amazing impact and you probably would do it for free. You know, that is the goal. Golden Goose of business, right? Finding something that you love so dearly that you’re like, it doesn’t feel like work. I’m happy to do this, whether I get paid or not, you know, but Oh, wow, we’re making money too. You know, like, that’s, that’s the dream.
Olivia Cotes-James (40:13)
Definitely I like to say, and I’m sure you feel this way. But we’ve we’ve built and this isn’t just down to me, obviously it’s down to the team and investors and partners, everyone that LUÜNA is somewhere that even if I didn’t own this business, I would want to work. And I think that’s, that’s just really what you want to be aiming for in both the impact your business makes and the team culture that you build.
Chris Edwards (40:36)
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest privileges. Being an owner of a business is you can create a workplace that you’re so proud of, and that you are like, for me, I’m just like, yeah, totally, I would love to work in Honeycombers, as if I was not the owner, because it’s just a beautiful place to work. And yeah, I don’t know, it’s just gets better every year. I don’t know. It’s yeah, it’s really special, to have the privilege to be able to create the culture and, and really do it the way it should be done. So um, many experiences you have in your working life where it’s just jarring, or it’s awful, or it’s just inconsiderate, or they don’t trust you, or this moment, this is weird, actually, how many workplaces get it so wrong? And it’s not that hard?
Olivia Cotes-James (41:23)
It’s one of the things I didn’t appreciate about starting the business is that one of the things, and by no means that I always get it right, I say, the building of the culture and the creating the team culture is one of the things that I love and I’m actually most proud of with the team and the business that we have today. But linked to that I did not appreciate how, how much knowledge and strategy and and like, you know, careful planning that does take learning about how to foster that culture that doesn’t just come naturally. That doesn’t just come from as a result of having an impact, purpose driven business. Finding the right people is, of course, incredibly challenging. So finding people who aren’t just passionate, but are willing to do do the dirty work as well, because there’s so much of that. So I think it’s been one of the biggest learning curves for me. And like I said, one of the things I’m most proud of.
Chris Edwards (42:22)
That’s really cool. I want to ask, Do you have a favourite business book, or a favourite business podcasts that you’d like to share?
Olivia Cotes-James (42:29)
That’s you might, as you might be able to tell from some of my earlier comments. I became really averse to listening to podcasts after I spent so many years it feels like listening to the wrong ones that built up this kind of wrong view of business and the startup ecosystem in my mind. So I’ve kind of just started getting back into it to be honest. And I would say I don’t have a go to recommendation, I listened to a lot of FEMitech industry insight podcasts now, but but really, rather than listening to sort of business podcasts, I really try and carve out time with my advisers and our investors, who to me just had the wealth of knowledge that I want and need. And sort of, and I don’t get enough time even with them to sit down and talk. So can I say that my answer to that question would be would be, I don’t have a recommendation. But I do I do recommend building that team of advisers that you can go to and get your insights from
Chris Edwards (43:37)
Nice. Okay, I will accept that answer. My last question to you is at Launchpad, we believe a rising tide floats all boats. So I wanted to know if you have an entrepreneur that you recommend, we should interview on this podcast, someone who is an inspiring leader who’s creating a good business.
Olivia Cotes-James (43:55)
So someone if you have an interest in sort of the stigmatizing women’s health, sexual wellness and so on. I have an incredible friend who’s one of four female founders, who has started the O collective, which is a sexual wellness brand. They have created their own line of sexual wellness products, but they do a lot of education around specifically sexual wellness. And I think they are an amazing team of of yeah, for founders who don’t do something really, really special in my space as well. So I’d recommend the O collective team.
Chris Edwards (44:35)
They’re based in Hong Kong?
Olivia Cotes-James (44:37)
They are pretty spread out now. They are between Thailand, I think Mainland China, Europe. So yeah. You could speak to one you can speak to all four I can put you in touch.
Chris Edwards (44:51)
Thank you very much, Olivia. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I feel like I could chat to you for hours, but maybe I’ll have to hunt you down to come and talk at a Launchpad event because I feel like you’ve obviously learned so much so quickly. And I love what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. So it’s been an absolute pleasure sharing your journey.
Olivia Cotes-James (45:12)
Chris Edwards (45:13)
Thanks so much.