Aimee Marks was just a teenager when she first came up with a business concept that would change the feminine hygiene market forever.
“I was completing a high school packaging design project when I became aware of all the toxic ingredients in conventional feminine hygiene products,” she says. “It was then that I felt empowered to create what was missing on the supermarket shelf, organic cotton products.”
The first step? Enrolling in an entrepreneurship degree which would provide her with the skills to make the idea come to fruition. And in 2009, TOM Organic was born; a company built with environmental sustainability and the health and wellness of women at the forefront.
“In the early days TOM Organic was a really small business, I was growing it from my bedroom and selling to local pharmacies and grocers with the support of my Mum,” she recalls. “I was working part-time, putting every cent that I earned into the business, it was never a question for me. With time, however, I just knew that to scale and grow I needed capital.”
Aimee began pitching her unique concept to anyone who would listen, including venture capital groups, angel investors and mentors.
“I was lucky enough to receive my first investment from a family friend, who told me at the time, ‘Pay me back in the next year if it works, if it doesn’t, I believe in you.’ So, I paid him back,” she adds. “That $10k cheque was what I used to design and create TOM Organic.”
But the now 30-year-old admits her foray into the industry wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“At one point my bank balance got down to less than $2k, the day before a big deal came across the line,” she says. “Times like that really challenged me to question everything: ‘Do I actually love what I’m doing? Is there really a need for this and is this really good for people?’”
“What got me through was the knowledge that women really do need these products and I truly believed in what I was doing.”
It’s this passion that led TOM Organic to become Australia’s leading personal care brand in just a few short years, producing products that hold a variety of benefits for both the body and the planet.
“Not only do conventional feminine hygiene products contain plastics, pesticides, bleaches and perfumes (cotton is the world’s most heavily pesticide sprayed crop); they rarely break down in the environment, in other words, ending up in landfill,” Amy explains. “Our range of certified organic cotton tampons, pads and liners are 100% biodegradable, hypoallergenic and not tested on animals.”
Now, Aimee wants to offer other young women the opportunity to make a difference. Tom Organic have launched the TOM Female Empowerment Grant - a campaign scouring the country for local and community initiatives that empower other women. The overarching goal? Raising $25k to put towards one selected project.
“The idea of women lifting each other up is what led us to the creation of the Female Empowerment Grant,” Aimee says. “The company simply wouldn’t exist today if not for the unwavering support of the strong women in my life and in turn I really want to inspire women to come on that journey of using business to influence female equality.”
While applications for the grant have now closed, there are still a handful of limited edition T-shirts and artist tampon pouches for sale. You can shop the campaign collection here.