When Michele Wilson and Kylie James launched their period-proof underwear business via Kickstarter at the end of 2018, they each applied lessons learned from their first businesses. James shared the secrets behind an effective launch with The Register.
A former social worker, James had previously founded Kai Carrier, which sells reusable food pouches. Wilson founded skincare company Frankie Apothecary. This experience meant the pair were able to hit the ground running with I am Eva.
“We knew what to do differently for this, and do it right,” James says.
James and Wilson chose to fundraise on Kickstarter before launching I am Eva’s ecommerce website. James says she and Wilson decided to use Kickstarter because it produced both funding and publicity, and allowed the pair to test their concept without much penalty if it failed.
“We thought, okay, let’s see if there’s a market for this,” James says.
Fortunately, the I am Eva Kickstarter hit its $27,000 target within 24 hours of launch. James and Wilson had engaged in additional publicity work with PR releases and media integration which meant that on the Kickstarter’s first day in action, it was featured on MediaWorks’ current affairs show The Project.
Off the back of The Project, I am Eva garnered more media, producing rolling momentum that continues to carry the business.
I am Eva sells its period-proof underwear online direct to consumers (D2C), and wholesales “a small portion” to retailers like Commonsense Organics. This is a deliberate decision, James says – I am Eva’s supply can only keep up with its D2C demand, so it’s better off selling its limited stock direct so it can collect a better margin and customer data.
“We’re literally approached every day by stores who want to stock our products,” James says.
There’s plenty in the pipeline for the next few months, with new styles and ‘teen packs’ coming out. I am Eva also sells a book – Ngahuia Murphy’s Waiwhero,which discusses Maori traditions around periods.
James says the book is symbolic of the wider mission behind I am Eva, which is about destigmatising periods for the benefit of the next generation. She and Wilson collectively have four daughters, one of whom inspired I am Eva’s name.
Cultural attitudes about menstruation have changed significantly in the last two generations, says James as she recalls feelings of shame around periods as a child, but she says there’s still work to do – menstruation should be celebrated for its role in reproduction.
“It’s more than just us selling underwear, we’re trying to smash that taboo.”
That purpose-driven inspiration also feeds through to I am Eva’s marketing strategy. The company uses influencers – albeit those famous for their achievements rather than commercially-driven individuals – and doesn’t cosmetically alter the images of the women they use on banners and collateral.
Consumers notice this and respond positively, says James. She says at a recent expo, a woman approached to say, “We use your brand because we see real women in your banners.”