Founder Focus: Elisabeth Dewey of Mondays
Elisabeth Dewey set up Mondays with her co-founder Nancy Saddington in a bid to offer ‘environmenstrual’ friendly alternatives for women.
The pair are on a mission to take plastic out of periods and reduce the 200,000 tonnes of waste a year in UK landfill that is generated by period products.
We sat down with Elisabeth to find out what makes the company tick.
What was your eureka moment?
It was Nancy (my co-founder) who told me that the period products I used, were not made with cotton as I had assumed, but were in fact made largely from plastic. This was the game-changer for me. Suddenly, I could not bear the thought of using, or more importantly my teenage daughters using, single-use plastic products every month. It simply made no sense. As a result, I spent a ridiculous amount of time, time that I didn’t have, sourcing natural alternative period products. By that point there were three menstruating women in the house!
When Nancy came to me with an idea to make plastic-free periods easily available to all women via an e-commerce and online subscription service, it resonated with me immediately and I was on board. My excitement and energy have grown exponentially since that day over two years ago.
What is your elevator pitch?
Mondays is a 100% plastic-free period brand created for the busy modern woman, to blend her desire to save time and yet still shop responsibly. Mondays’ organic cotton products contain no chemicals, no pesticides nor bleach and arrive in a beautiful compostable box. Mondays make plastic-free periods easy. Better for you, better for the planet. As a member of 1% for the Planet, for every box you buy, we donate 1% to our charitable partner City to Sea.
How did you test your idea?
With a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve, we spent a great deal of time researching the market and running surveys with women. This helped us formulate our brand image and market strategy. The sense of shame and taboo that we came across in our discussions with women, from all ages and walks of life, overwhelmed us. We also realised it wasn’t just us that had a lack of knowledge about the plastic in mainstream products. We needed to break the taboo, to normalise the conversation and thus give women an informed choice of what products they can use for their periods. We also realised having a set of core values would be key to building a company we, and our customers, were proud to stand behind. In 2018, we won a place in a programme called Kickstart, where we were able to pitch our idea and get very valuable feedback from a variety of experts both in the FMCG and retail industry.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
Friends and family members will either tell you it’s a great idea or you are crazy. You have to be a bit crazy to start a business, but that crazy is good, it will get you started (too many don’t) and keep you going through the tough times. The most satisfying part of launching Mondays is that we have been able to combine our deep-seated ambition to bring a modern period brand to the market whilst being a force for good. I would recommend any entrepreneur to think beyond just the idea and consider setting up a company as an opportunity to give back.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
I have been very fortunate as many friends, associates and ex-colleagues volunteered to help and have connected me with their network. As a result, we are surrounded by inspiring peers and mentors, who volunteer time and expertise to either address a specific issue or hash out a few ideas with us. Though it goes without saying, I gain the most when my assumptions and plans are challenged.
What’s your plan B?
What comes after Mondays? Tuesdays!! Seriously, I focus all my energy, and more, on Mondays (when I am not obsessing over Mondays, I spend valuable time with my husband, children and dog). The reality is that I have so many, yet to be fulfilled, ambitions for Mondays, that Tuesdays will simply have to wait!
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
The Mondays team. We can learn new skills, but it is our shared values that make Mondays. We work hard to ensure we find partners and suppliers across the whole supply chain whose values compliment ours. We spend a great deal of time on relationships with our partners, as this is key to ensuring the best outcome during the inevitable tough times.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Like everyone, I have experienced many a failure. When I was about 12 years old I auditioned for the main role in a production and did not get the part, in fact I didn’t get a role at all. I look back and I realise I learnt a great deal about myself in this process. I had endlessly practised and rehearsed that when I failed to get the role I was not only very upset but also surprised. This and many other experiences after convinced me of the strength of a team, because I cannot do everything (including acting!) but I can find someone to work with who is seriously talented or skilled in that area.
What is coming up for Mondays?
We’re working on bringing to life a campaign that we feel very strongly about … watch this space! This year we want to further grow our corporate customer base. We believe that by partnering with Mondays, companies can show a tangible commitment to diversity and sustainability. I also look forward to attending and presenting at various events over the year as I really love engaging with our community and beyond.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
I love to read. Recently I managed to take some time to read ‘The Hidden Figures’ an inspiring book of strong, intelligent women, who were incredibly successful in their careers against all the odds. What touched me the most about the women, despite the hardship and racism they experienced, was their positive outlook on life. Every day I want to see the bright side.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
It is a constant battle, to be honest. I work hard at separating work and family but am not always successful. With three amazing children and a very engaged husband I have a wonderful support base and I treasure our family time. There is no doubt a run in the forest has huge physical and mental benefits. I also find a walk in the forest with our dog or a bike ride clears my mind of the noise and I can think about the business with a healthy distance. Of course dinner with a group of friends is always good and really re-energises me.