CEO and inventor of FabLittleBag, Martha Silcott designed these biodegradable bags to make it easier for people to dispose of their sanitary products whilst out and about. Here is a Q&A on everything Martha and FabLittleBag and how this amazing little product is helping people menstruate with a little less stress.
What inspired you to create the FabLittleBag?
I was at a friend’s house for dinner and I went to change my tampon in their downstairs loo. I duly did the Loo Roll Wrap and went to put it in the bin…but there was no bin. So I had to sneak it out and put it in my handbag to deal with later. I was distracted and uncomfortable the rest of the evening.
The next day I went to buy a disposal solution for binning tampons only to discover that there weren’t any. Then I got mad about why people who were trying to do the right thing by binning their tampons were put in this situation.
I did research at The British Library and found there was no info at all about tampon-binning products. It became clear that this was a subject that was never discussed, and was one that was ignored by the manufacturers. I was also aware of the negative consequences of flushing sanitary items. Both tampons and sanitary towels that go down the toilet not only cause blockages but they can end up in our rivers and oceans, and can wash back up on the beaches. I found it unbelievable that there was not an easy, hygienic, and environmentally friendly disposal solution.
So I invented one myself and FabLittleBag was born!
How have you found the process of creating and manufacturing FabLittleBag?
The process of inventing FabLittleBag was quite an enjoyable process that I fitted into my existing life. I would snatch five minutes thinking time here and there, largely on buses as I travelled for work around London. It was something that I could ponder in my own time, though it did become a bit obsessive. The thrill of the Eureka moment itself was incredible and exciting!
If only I could say the same for bringing my invention to market…from the point of invention onwards it was quite a different story. Whether it is the patent process itself, or having to learn a plethora of new skill sets, I cannot hand on heart say that manufacturing a product is a joyful experience. It is full of unknowns, insecurities, delays, overpromising and under delivering and somehow things never quite being as you would expect them to be! I have, however, learned an incredible amount about many new subjects.
What has been the hardest obstacle to overcome?
I don’t believe that just because it is a period product that only those who have periods will either understand it, or will be supportive of it. I have also learned during this process that some men have periods. One of our earliest supporters was an Intersex man who told us that we have really changed his life as there were no sanitary bins at work and it was a daily struggle. It was exciting that this struggle was something that we could help this person resolve with FabLittleBag.
Probably the most challenging experience is when dealing with a buyer who really doesn’t get it at the outset and needs a lot of convincing and/or doesn’t particularly want to know. Similarly, with some potential investors who will see the word ‘sanitary’ or ‘period’ and simply shut down and turn off without realising the huge business potential of FabLittleBag.
Aside from some practicalities around manufacturing, the single most difficult thing to overcome with FabLittleBag has been that there is an educational step that needs to be made in order to get mass awareness quickly. If it were a new type of lipstick, for example, it would be a lot easier and the branding and packaging could be focused purely on the brand rather than also providing education.
FabLittleBag isn’t just about period products, either. We also have Hygeeni bags, which are for bigger items such as nappies, incontinence products, and ostomy bags.
Do you believe you have helped normalise periods and sanitary products into everyday discussion?
I would like to think that FabLittleBag has played a role in helping to ‘normalise the norm’ that is periods. We may not have the loudest voice at present, however, we know that we have converted thousands of Flushers into Binners, and we know that we have made being a Binner a much more relaxed, confident and better experience for many more thousands of people. Simply by talking incessantly about periods and disposal in particular we have heightened the education and awareness of many. Breaking down the “off-limits” vibe around periods is a wonderful consequence of incessantly having the conversation.
What would you say is your greatest strength? And your biggest weakness?
Probably my greatest strength is a curious mind and my ‘never give up’ internal default position. My biggest weakness, I have many I am sure, probably a lack of consistent focus on the detail. But that’s why it is essential to have a business partner who has strengths where your weaknesses are and in Penny I have that.
What one piece of advice would you give to other people wanting to start up their own business?
Starting your own business is bloody hard work. Take off any rose tinted glasses you may have on and really examine whether you have the energy, the tenacity, and the passion, all of which you will need in order to succeed. There is no shame in being an employee and sometimes I worry that working for yourself or running your own business can be over-glamorised. It is anything but glamorous in my experience so far. However, if you have that drive and that desire, do your research, know your customers, surround yourself with positive people (ditch the ones who suck all your energy), learn from other people’s mistakes, use their shortcuts, play to your strengths, don’t forget your good friends.
What has been your proudest moment so far on your FabLittleBag journey?
Hmm, hard one as there have been a lot of important miles stones:
Getting my patent granted was a huge deal – it is rare to get a patent granted full stop, I had waited 7 years and almost gave up hope. I am proud of that.
My first sale, which was to a UK Water company, before I even had the finished product ready, that was amazing.
My first ever online order, from a lady called Clemency based in Brighton, that was a wonderful feeling too. The customer emails we receive telling us how they love FabLittleBag gives me a proud tingle, every single time.
What is your vision for the future of FabLittleBag?
We want FabLittleBag to be an essential, just like your Vaseline tin, or pack of tissues. We want disposing of sanitary items to be a confident experience.
Massive thanks to Martha for her time, and for making disposing of personal health and period products just a little bit easier.
Written by the Killing Kittens team.