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March 22, 2019

Let’s talk, period. A chat with OHNE founder Leah Remfry-Peploe

Emily Messenger

We should all be talking about periods. As a woman, they form a large part of my life and with the stigma still existing in many cultures, being open and honest about one of the most natural things we go through is so important. That’s why I was so excited to speak to the inspiration women behind the brand taking the period world by storm, OHNE – a company that creates organic tampons, and so much more.

To quote the words of Leah, one of OHNE’s founders, “community comes first” and to be creating a flourishing community around a brand and its social responsibility its pretty bloody cool – pardon the pun. We’re pumped to partner with them on two events they hosted with us this week, a sesh on demystifying CBD oil, and an edgy naked life drawing class – where our members become the models. We got to know Leah a bit better.

Emily: OHNE is the child of you and your co-founder Nikki. Tell us how your journey started.

Leah: There are so many reasons to why we started OHNE. Beginning with an ever-growing love for all things organic and our frustration at the way periods are still treated as such a shameful thing, when they’re just a bloody fact of life – cheesy pun intended.

But the real lightbulb moment for us came when Nikki and I were hanging out at my house and talking about periods, as we do. We were complaining about how much we hated the designs of traditional period products – all flowery, pink, infantilising designs that we just couldn’t relate to. Nikki pulled out a pad to illustrate her point and we were suddenly struck by just how much plastic was all over it. Not just in the wrapper, but the actual pad itself is quite obviously made of much more than just cotton.

It bothered us so much that we started doing more in-depth research and discovered stats like the fact that your average sanitary pad contains the equivalent of four shopping bags worth of plastic. After we realised the period product company of our dreams – organic, environmentally conscious, no excessively girlish branding – simply didn’t exist, we knew we had to build it ourselves.

After we realised the period product company of our dreams simply didn’t exist, we knew we had to build it ourselves.

Emily: Periods and sanitary products are a massive topic of conversation at the moment. What makes OHNE different from other tampon companies?

Leah: We’re not just about selling period products – no matter how great we think they are. A huge part of starting OHNE for us was to create an ethical and socially responsible business. For us, community comes first. We want to create space, both online and in real life, for women and people with vaginas to talk freely about periods, menstrual cycles, and their bodies – without the shame and stigma that is all too often attached to these topics.

Periods are not taboo, and treating them as though they are leaves a lot of people who have periods in the dark about how their bodies function.

Emily: I love your branding, and your ‘tell it how it is’ aesthetic. Where does this come from?

Leah: Before we launched OHNE, we spent a long time on branding because we wanted to create something that really matters and makes a difference. We were tired of companies putting out period product advertising that claimed to de-stigmatise menstruation, but never actually discussed it. They were using the buzzwords of period activism while still profiting off the shame and secrecy surrounding menstruation – tampons wrapped like sweets, come to mind?

The stigma around periods affects women’s menstrual health, as the lack of conversation leads to miseducation. We wanted to challenge this, but do it in a way that was authentic and relatable – dealing with real issues around periods.

There’s a serious lack of transparency in the period product industry. Women don’t know what’s in the products they’re using because we’re not talking about it! So OHNE is about more than making it easy for people to access organic tampons; it’s about starting these conversations we need to be having, educating people, and giving them the freedom of choice they deserve to have when it comes to how to manage their periods.

Emily: I have been lucky enough to attend your event with Graces, who focus on CBD as a form of pain relief for periods. What are your views on CBD?

Leah: I used to be really skeptical of CBD.  I thought it was just the latest wellness fad that would soon die out, and I also didn’t really understand that it wasn’t actually weed (ie, it cannot get you high). Once I found out that a family friend was using CBD oil in his cancer therapy treatment, I started to take it a little more seriously.

Obviously you know how this story ends, because I love it so much now that we decided to launch our own OHNE pro-period CBD oil. I’ve found CBD to be amazing for helping me with my period pain in a way that no other method has. I’ve been trying to avoid mainstream painkillers since getting into a more plant-based, organic lifestyle, so the fact that CBD is all-natural is a real plus for me.

Emily: Period poverty is a real issue in society and communities all over the world. Tell us more about the work you are doing to support those who really need it.

Leah: We work with an incredible grassroots social enterprise called School Club Zambia (SCZ), whose Girl’s Programme was set up to improve the lives and education of young girls living in rural Zambia. We’re big on sustainability, so we knew we wanted to do more than a one-for-one donation scheme involving single-use, disposable period products (though of course, those are great too). We want our customers to know that, for every box of OHNE tampons they buy, they’re directly contributing to long-term, sustainable change in rural Zambian schools.

So for every school that SCZ work with, they install a brand new, squeaky clean toilet block so that the kids have a safe, clean environment in which to manage their periods. They also equip the girls with the skills they need to make their own reusable, sustainable sanitary pads from local resources.

But that’s not all. They also prioritise menstrual education, so they run workshops for all the school kids (boys included!) to learn about female anatomy and menstruation. We’re big believers in education being integral to the eradication of period poverty. More education mean reduced stigmas and taboos, which in turn means that periods, and everything we need to manage them safely, can be more easily discussed and provided for. We’re never gonna affect change about a subject we’re all afraid to talk about!

The girls that SCZ work with are total babes and I can’t tell you how happy it makes us that they’re not only being given the skills and equipment they need to have the easy periods they deserve, but they’re also starting to shout about their periods with as much boldness and pride as our OHNE babes in the UK.

Emily: To end on a lighter, more fruitier note… another topic close to our hearts – spirits. I read that you’re a fan of organic prosecco. Do you have a favourite that you want to share with the world?

Leah: I do actually! It even has a period story to go with it too. A while back now, Nikki’s body totally flipped out – we still don’t really know why – and she didn’t have a period for a whole year. It was obviously a big topic of conversation for us, so we decided to celebrate the day when it finally showed up again! We had to celebrate in style – which means bubbly, obviously. Our student budget back then took us to the drinks aisle in Aldi where we spotted organic prosecco and I fell in love – Aldi Organic Prosecco, £7.99. It’s still our go to!

OHNE hosted Demystifying CBD: Today’s trendy painkiller and Naked life drawing: become the model at The Collective Old Oak. See what else we’re up to.

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