INTERVIEW: Yoni femcare launches in the UK – what are you putting between your legs?

Yoni branded tampons on pink background– this post contains gifted products –

Yoooo…it’s your girl Ella, talking about her fanny on the internet again!

Are you surprised? Probably not.

When news of an organic cotton femcare company dropped into my inbox, I couldn’t resist having a look.

Yoni has now launched in the UK and is standing up to break the taboo around periods and asking women to question what products they are using each month.

Yoni was born when its CEO entrepreneur and co-founder Mariah Mansvelt Beck saw a specialist after going through a cervical cancer scare, who advised her to use cotton products. This led her to question, for the first time, her sanitary product choices.

Yoni’s tampons and pads are made from 100% organic cotton, with no chemicals, pesticides, or other synthetic materials added (which sets them apart from the majority of available supermarket brands.) In addition, it’s all recyclable and compostable packaging.

Have you tried the products?

Yes! On first sight, the packaging was lovely. On using the products, although they weren’t worlds away from what I’ve been used to in the past, I did have a sense of clarity that I knew exactly what they were made from and absolutely no guilt, knowing that I wasn’t contributing to plastic waste. I found them to be super absorbent and as good, if not better, than any supermarket brand.

I caught up with Yoni’s CEO entrepreneur and co-founder Mariah to ask some important questions.

How did you come to question the materials that make up our standard menstrual products and set up Yoni?

The seed for Yoni was planted in a personal experience. When I turned 30 in the Netherlands, you’re always asked to come in for a health check-up. I did so and found out a few weeks later that I was developing cervical cancer.

Luckily, I was in the early stages but I had to go in and out of hospital for the next 6 months and have a couple of procedures and operations. I kept asking my doctors, what can I do to further support my health?

One of my doctors advised me to stop using normal tampons and pads and start using organic cotton tampons and pads to prevent further irritation. Immediately, that was enough for me to want to make a change. So I started to look for the products and I couldn’t find them in my normal supermarket, so I had to go to special organic-minded stores.  But sometimes, I couldn’t find these products and was faced with having to use products I no longer wanted to use.

So, one rainy Sunday in Amsterdam, I went and had tea with one of my best friends from university, Wendelien, and we started talking about this and she asked me, well what are my normal products actually made from, aren’t they just made from cotton? So we got out the boxes of products that she had and we looked at the box and that’s really when the lightbulb moment happened. We thought, there’s nothing, there’s no ingredients listed on these products. For such an intimate product, that came as a surprise. I think for any hand soap, detergent, food product, all of these things, cosmetic products, you’ll find the composition of the product on the packaging. But for these products there was nothing.

A couple of months later, we gave up our jobs and set up a tampon company! We took a few months to research what these products are made from, but we had immediately had quite a strong vision of what the brand should be. 

For those who don’t know, what do the word yoni mean?

Yoni is the Sanskrit word for vagina. I knew the word and I needed to spend a weekend thinking about whether I was going to call my company Yoni. But it makes sense, it’s what we want to do.

Do you believe there is a stigma around menstruation – and why has it taken so long to tackle it?

If you look back in history, menstruation has always been a taboo. The word taboo is actually derived from the Polynesian language I believe and means “alongside menstruation” itself.

In all of the religions menstruation was in some way a taboo. I believe that’s because the female body and the female cycle was not understood. Something that is not understood could be seen as great and powerful but could also be potentially very dangerous. Something that is potentially dangerous needs to be kind of kerbed in. So you’ve got these rules or rituals that women needed to stick to or weren’t allowed to participate fully in.

It’s not even that long ago that even in Western culture there was the idea that if you were menstruating that butter wouldn’t churn, or if you touched the flowers that they would wilt!

How eco-friendly are Yoni products? Will they contribute to the one-use plastic problem?

We’ve always said with Yoni, if you really want to have the most, best environmental option that you can use in terms of your femcare products, then I would definitely say, use a reusable product.

However, we’re saying that we’re taking you on a step in the right direction using organic cotton, having cardboard applicators, and packaging that is biodegradable, or at least as much as is possible for right now.

Our products are made from organic cotton, which is an important choice because it’s hypo-allergenic, it breathes, which is what you do not have with a pad that has a plastic layer over the top. All of our products are all certified by the Soil Association. The backing of our pads and panty liners are made from a corn starch, which is biodegradable.

Have you always been so open about female sexuality and menstruation?

No, I don’t feel like I was in particular. I don’t feel like I was overtly private about these issues, but I definitely wasn’t the friend who always wanted to talk about my menstruation, not at all.

We came to this business from a very personal story and at the start I don’t think we were necessarily aware how taboo it was, what we were actually getting ourselves into, so I’ve grown into it.

For me, not everyone has to go on stage and talk about menstruation. Not everyone needs to parade their tampons in the office, but if you’re holding it with real shame and you feel it’s in some way limiting yourself, then that’s something we need to work on.

Yoni promotional image of tampon

Which taboos are you trying to break?

Yoni is looking to break the taboos around menstruation. My whole story of how the femcare industry up until now has really built themselves upon the taboo. It’s a problem, menstruation is a hygienic problem, it needs to be secretive. We have the solution, these are our products.

What we’re doing, using the word period and to have the word vagina on the packaging. To me, these are products for your vagina and therefore your period, so it’s nothing revolutionary. But, to have that on-pack is revolutionary. For some people this may be surprising and off-putting. But the intention is to actually start speaking about something that hasn’t been spoken about. 

Yoni products are available at Sainsbury’s, Planet Organic and the Yoni store – are you hoping to expand the availability of the products across the UK?

Yes, definitely. My aim and my belief is that organic cotton products should be made available on every shelf basically where you find femcare products. At this point in time we intend to get into more pharmacies and into other supermarkets and build it up from there.

What, in your opinion, is the future for femcare and the narrative on menstruation?

There are a number of things I’d like to see change about the femcare industry.

I’d like to see that every product that goes on the shelf should be transparent about the ingredients in the products. That’s something that I think the whole industry should be moving towards and that regulators and policy makers should be also helping the industry to move that way.

I’d like to change the whole narrative of the taboo around menstruation and so that you can have the conversation with your daughters, with your sons, your friends, with your healthcare providers and don’t feel limited in their being because of something that is part of them. 

‘Impossible’ hits the West End – interview with Sabine van Dieman and Josephine Lee

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Impossible, the breath-taking magic spectacular thrilling audiences worldwide, is back by popular demand, returning to its home in the West End for a strictly limited season.

Featuring the world’s greatest illusionists live on stage in a daring, jaw-dropping display of magical artistry Impossible will electrify and amaze theatre-goers of all ages.

That’s not all! In an exclusive guest appearance, Britain’s Got Talent’s Richard Jones joins the show. I loved him on BGT (helps he is super good looking, too).

I caught up with Impossible’s Conjurer Sabine van Dieman and Grand Illusionist Josephine Lee to find out what it’s like to perform on the West End and how it feels to be representing women in the magic world – see their responses below.

Stay tuned for a review of the show when I check it out on 13th July!

How does it feel to be performing on the prestigious West End?

Sabine van Diemen – It’s amazing, literally a dream come true. Being from Holland and being able to perform on the prestigious West End is unbelievable. I love the idea that so many great theatre people performed there. Awesome I’m excited!

Josephine Lee – I am absolutely thrilled and very excited. This will be my third show in the West End but my first show as one of the leads and it’s always so exhilarating to be part of the West End community.

Sabine van Diemen
Sabine van Diemen

When did you realise you wanted to be a magician? How did you get into it?

SD – When I was 18 I was dancing in the Holland Show Ballet and there was a magician doing a piece in between the two parts of the show. One of the assistants got injured on the day of opening night and they looked around the ballet and said: YOU! I had an hour to learn 6 tricks. I was so nervous but the show went very well and the adrenaline rush was indescribable. I was instantly hooked!

JL – I was working as a dancer in a magic show touring Europe for the world famous magician, Hans Klok. I finished the contract moved back to London and 6 months later I had a call from him saying a position had become available as his assistant and would I consider moving to Holland permanently to work for him. I thought to myself Ill just go for 3 months, came home 5 years later! An audience’s reaction is so unbelievably different to that of dancing that I just couldnt give up the thrill of it.  

The magic world is dominated by men and it’s rare to see female magicians. Are you treated any differently because of this?

SD – People are always very surprised when they hear what you do, but in a very good and positive way! They instantly think you are this strong, fearless power woman. Which we are obviously (hahaha). I don’t feel that we get treated very differently

JL – This is a great question and one that I feel I wish we were more often asked directly instead of assumptions being made on our behalf. I have read a lot on the views of feminism in magic and I must say I very rarely agree with any of them. The magic industry is heavily dominated by men, not because women are not given the opportunities men are but because there are not enough women taking that step and given it a go. I have had nothing but help, advice, encouragement and guidance from the magic community which is predominantly made up of men. If we are treated any differently its definitely in a positive way, theres a lot of enthusiasm towards female magicians taking to the stage.

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Josephine Lee

You are both trained dancers. Are you still dancing when not performing? If not, do you miss it?

SD – I’m still choreographing which I absolutely love. I’m not dancing so much anymore and that’s totally fine! I always liked magic way more!

JL – Dancing is slowly starting to take a back seat in my life and I find myself starting to pick and choose the jobs I take which I believe is quite possibly the beginning of transitioning into the next stage of my career. I dont believe its something I could ever give up though whilst my body still allows me, I think that would be a huge regret of mine in later life. I would like to hope Ill still be dancing in my 90s with my walking stick!

What do you get up to in your spare time when not performing magic?

SD – A lot! I still do a lot of modelling gigs as well as choreographing and producing shows for a big events company back in Amsterdam! Other than that I do kickboxing multiple times a week. Love to travel, shop (I need to stop that) go out with friends, cook, I’m an obsessive house cleaner haha and I just wander around Amsterdam!

JL – I do a lot of Yoga, I would say its more of an obsession than a hobby! I also love to read and my true passion is for travel so Im always planning my next adventure. Im not very good at relaxing so if im not working Im working on what ever Im working on next!

What’s next for you both? Do you have any more career goals for the future?

SD – You must have career goals! Or at least goals in life! That’s the fun part to see how far you can go! As far as the West End I feel totally blessed and I would love to tour the world with the Impossible cast and crew! Who knows? Anything is possible! Let’s go Vegas, Broadway, a big Asian tour? As long as we can keep doing what we love and bring the magic to the people!

I’m very happy to be working with Jo (Josephine Lee) and bring the audience some girl power!

JL – I believe its so important to keep yourself creatively stimulated so I never stop working on reaching the next goal. Im currently working on a very exciting project. My aim is to create a very unique act and intertwining all my skills into one. Theres so much magic in the public eye now and its becoming more and more popular with all these talent shows. Its truly so wonderful because it pushes us to step it up a notch and dig deep to create pieces no one else is doing, at a time like this you have to be unique. Its such an exciting time for magic!

Impossible runs from 8th July to 27th August at the Nöel Coward Theatre – tickets can be bought here.

 

Interview || Tom Cridland

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Tom Cridland

I caught up with Tom, the 25-year-old CEO of Tom Cridland – a British menswear brand. The Evening Standard describe Tom as “a tailor to the stars”. I found Tom’s attitude and thoughts inspiring and motivational. Find out how the brand came about and get to know Tom below…

  • What ignited the spark in you to start Tom Cridland? How did the idea for your business come about?

My desire to set up Tom Cridland stemmed from my own dissatisfaction in finding the perfect pair of trousers. I thought, this is such a staple garment and really should be made easier for people to find. I also found that when I did eventually find garments that I liked, I would find myself searching for a similar product 2 years on, mainly due to wear and tear. I believe such a staple item should be crafted with care. And I was keen to do something about it.

  • Tell me about ‘The 30 Year Sweatshirt’

The 30 Year Sweatshirt is our cry against fast fashion. I wanted to make a point that clothing should be durable, especially when it comes to such a staple wardrobe item as a colour-block sweatshirt. I also wanted to encourage people to think about how their clothing choices impact natural resources.

As such, we created a sweatshirt guaranteed for 30 years – that is to say, if it should come apart anywhere during this time, we will repair it for you free of charge.

Daniel Craig in Classic Navy Timeless Chinos
  • What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

Having the freedom to be creative is definitely one of my favourite aspects of being an entrepreneur. I love finding new and innovative ways to achieve results and having the ability to experiment with several ideas.

  • What does a day-in-the-life of Tom Cridland consist of?

No day is the same. One day I may find myself working at our shop, conducting press interviews there, another I’ll be visiting a PR client in Devon or visiting my supplier in the Portuguese countryside. My hours are very irregular as well, there will be days where I have fairly usual working hours, but many where I’ll be up at 3am, whether it’s to speak to an overseas radio station or merely catching up on emails!

  • What motivates you?

I feel I work harder if I’m doing something I enjoy, so I don’t need to keep myself motivated because I love what I do!

  • What do you get up to in your spare time?

I have several hobbies – I love music and have built up an extensive vinyl collection. I enjoy hanging out with my girlfriend and we love traveling and exploring new cities together. I’m also always on the look out for new brands and products to add to my wardrobe!

The 30 Year Sweatshirt
The 30 Year Sweatshirt
  • If you had one piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs just starting out, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of failure. There will be times where you feel like you’re not getting anywhere and then all of a sudden your hard work seems to pay off. And always aim high!

  • What’s next for Tom Cridland, the boy and the brand?

We’re in the process of launching our 30-year Jacket to add to our 30-year collection. We always take customer feedback into account and use this to grow our collection. We also have plans to introduce Tom Cridland shirts and a 30-year Christmas jumper in time for Christmas!