When Nadya Okamoto was 16 years old, she began her entrepreneurial journey in the sexual- and reproductive-health space by cofounding a nonprofit devoted to period care.
“I want periods to be a global conversation,” Okamoto told Insider. “That’s why I chose to be in this space — to help eliminate that stigma and help menstruators feel empowered about their bodies.”
Today, as a 24-year-old, she’s continuing her life’s work through August, a sustainable-period-product 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 period products for all menstruators, especially Gen Zers. The company has booked $1 million in revenue since its launch, according to documentation verified by Insider.
Most pads take 800 years to decompose, but August’s pads take 12 months, Okamoto said. Additionally, the pads are made from 100% organic cotton and are plastic-free. For Gen Zers — a top concern for whom is the environment, a 2021 survey by Deloitte found — the emphasis on sustainability is one of the most attractive aspects of the brand.
“We both quickly came to the conclusion that there was something missing in this space,” Jain told Insider. “There are certain spaces where young people are fundamentally more disenfranchised, and menstrual care is one of them.”
Okamoto’s passion for the industry stemmed from her upbringing — growing up in New York City, she noticed how many people who menstruate didn’t have access to the period care they needed.
She cofounded the youth-focused nonprofit Period when she moved to Portland, Oregon, as a teenager. Under her leadership, the nonprofit distributed free menstrual-care products, like 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 college-campus chapters across the country, and last year, it helped cover over 3 million menstrual cycles through the free distribution of pads and tampons.
Six years after creating Period, Okamoto hired an executive director to take the organization forward and left to create August, which is headquartered in New York City.
Okamoto and Jain broke down how they created a successful brand in the menstrual-hygiene space, an area that is continuously being redefined by younger generations.
A business built based on Gen Z customer feedback
When Okamoto and Jain began discussing how they could fill the gap in period care — by creating more environmentally friendly and efficient pads and tampons — they turned to the wider Gen Z community to ask how to best serve menstruators’ needs.
“In today’s day and age, for a founder to really build a successful brand, you have to listen to your customers,” Jain said. “When it comes to period care, most brands have failed to listen.”
Jain and Okamoto used the app Geneva, an organized group chat, to get direct feedback from Gen Zers about what an ideal product would look like. The duo used their community — called August Inter Cycle and made up of a few hundred members — to ask questions about the product’s design, marketing tactics, and events to host. Now, there are more than 3,200 members across the 12 chat rooms whom Jain and Okamoto communicate with regularly. Some members of August’s eight-person team were found and hired through the app.
“Every decision that we made was made in conjunction with that community,” Jain said.
Showing period blood on TikTok was a win
When August launched, Okamoto posted up to 100 videos a 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 put in, the more chances you have of winning or, in this case, going viral.”
The frequency of her posting helped her quickly discover what the audience liked to see. She realized that most people enjoyed seeing her show period blood, put on pads in the bathroom, and record behind the scenes of the company. These kinds 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 that this social-media strategy was what drew more attention to August and persuaded more people to try the products. In fact, the first viral TikTok post drew 400,000 people to the company’s website overnight, she said.
She said that once people were on the website, most of them purchased subscriptions or contacted the company directly to learn what’s unique about their brand.
“What I love the most is how many people we are able to get excited about periods,” Okamoto said. “That’s the win for me.”