When Nadia Okamoto was 16, she began her entrepreneurial journey in sexual and reproductive health by co-founding a non-profit organization dedicated to menstrual care.
“I want periods to be a global conversation,” Okamoto told Insider. “That’s why I chose to be in this space – to help break this stigma and help menstruating women feel strong about their bodies.”
Today, as a 24-year-old, she’s running her life through August, a sustainable products startup. Okamoto launched the business in January 2020 with her friend Nick Jain to address a gap in the menstrual hygiene market by creating plastic-free, biodegradable, and leak-proof products for all pregnant women, especially Gen Zers. According to documents verified by Insider, the company has generated $1 million in revenue since its launch.
Most sanitary pads take 800 years to decompose, Okamoto said, but August pads take 12 months. Additionally, the bandages are made from 100% organic cotton and are plastic-free. For Gen Zers – a major concern for the environment, a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2021 – found that the focus on sustainability is one of the most attractive aspects of the brand.
“We quickly came to the conclusion that something was missing in this space,” Jain told Insider. “There are certain places where young people are basically more disenfranchised, and menstrual care is one of them.”
Okamoto’s passion for the industry stems from her upbringing – growing up in New York City, she noticed how many menstruating women don’t get the care they need during their period.
She co-founded the youth-focused nonprofit Period when she moved to Portland, Oregon, as a teen. Under her leadership, the nonprofit distributed free menstrual care products, such as pads and tampons, to underserved communities in the city, such as single mothers and women from low-income backgrounds.
Today, Period has built a national presence: It has hundreds of volunteers and campus classes across the country, and last year it helped cover more than 3 million menstrual cycles through free distribution of sanitary pads and tampons.
Six years after creating the period, Okamoto hired a CEO to move the organization forward and left it to create Augustus, which is headquartered in New York City.
Okamoto and Jain break down how to create a successful brand in the menstrual hygiene space, an area that is constantly being redefined by younger generations.
work based on General Z Customer Feedback
When Okamoto and Jain began discussing how they could bridge the gap in menstrual care—by creating more environmentally friendly and effective nappies and tampons—they turned to the broader Gen Z community to ask how best to serve their menstrual needs.
“In our day and age, for a founder to build a truly successful brand, you have to listen to your customers,” Jane said. “When it comes to menstrual period care, most brands fail to listen.”
Jain and Okamoto used the Geneva app, an organized group chat, to get direct feedback from Gen Zers about what the perfect product would look like. The duo used their community — called the August Inter Cycle of a few hundred members — to ask questions about product design, marketing tactics, and events to host. Now, there are more than 3,200 members across 12 chat rooms that Jain and Okamoto communicate with regularly. Some members of August’s eight-person team were found and recruited through the app.
“Every decision we made was made in partnership with this community,” Jane said.
Showing my period blood on TikTok was a win
When it launched in August, Okamoto posted up to 100 videos per day on her TikTok account to showcase the brand’s unique approach to menstrual hygiene.
“To me, the TikTok algorithm is like a lottery,” she said. “The more lottery tickets you enter, the higher your chances of winning or, in this case, going viral.”
The frequency of publication helped her quickly discover what the audience liked to see. She realized that most people enjoy seeing her blood during her show, wearing pads in the bathroom, and recording behind the scenes of the company. These types of videos went viral and helped grow August’s account, along with Okamoto’s personal account. Now, she has 3.2 million followers on TikTok and posts about 30 times a day.
Okamoto said it was this social media strategy that drew more attention for August and convinced more people to try the products. In fact, the first viral post on TikTok drew 400,000 people to the company’s website overnight, she said.
She said that once people entered the site, most of them bought subscriptions or contacted the company directly to find out what was unique about their brand.
“What I love the most is how many people we can get excited about our period,” Okamoto said. “This is a win for me.”