In this conversation with Roz Campbell, the founder of Tsuno, we chat about her motivations for launching Tsuno, explore some key milestones and successes in the journey so far, and talk about what’s coming next.
What was your “why” for launching a sustainable period business? Has it stayed the same throughout the process?
When starting Tsuno, my “why” was influenced by a number of factors - on the very first personal level it came from a desire to create an opportunity for myself career-wise and lead a lifestyle associated with being my own boss, but doing so in a way that felt aligned with my values. I was drawn to period care from my studies in design, and a passion for sustainable products that arose from the knowledge my education gave me, an identified gap in the market and a huge sense of optimism that I could do something positive in the world. I think throughout the last 8 years I am still motivated by the same things, I’m still an optimist at heart but now I do understand my own limits and interests with a bit more wisdom. I love what I have created for myself, my community and the charities I support.
Were there any other moments that stand out to you as pivotal in starting Tsuno?
The most pivotal moment for me and my Tsuno journey was a trip to Europe I took. I had been studying furniture design at university, making and designing furniture is something I really enjoy, and I believed I was on the path to pursuing this as a career. A chair I designed at university had been selected to take part in a group show at the Milan Furniture Fair. During the fair I got quite overwhelmed by the industry, and I guess the reality of what pursuing a career in that field would look like. It was a huge come down moment for me actually, and I felt really lost for a while following that trip. On the same trip I was visiting my friend in Finland and I got my period one day. I called out to her to see if she had any pads or tampons spare, and she responded “Oh no, I don’t use those!” I was so confused, and then later informed about and shown a menstrual cup for the first time. This was a product that hadn’t yet reached the mainstream like it has now and I was so excited and inspired by it. It opened my eyes to the period product industry, the product options and the materials used. Unfortunately for me, I had some trouble getting the cup to work as it was intended. Instead of just giving up, it was the catalyst for me to try to design something that would work. Whilst doing this, that’s where the idea for Tsuno came from, and even though I am still slowly working on that new product in the background, the pads and tampons seemed to me to be a great product to launch the business with.
In your work, you seem to intersect frequently with NGOs (One Girl, Share the Dignity, Essentials for Women SA and Asylum Seeker Resource Center) - why is that so important to you?
Giving is important to me because firstly on a personal level it makes me feel good. We all want to feel good, right? The reason in particular that working with the not for profits listed is important to Tsuno is because of the work they do specifically. In the case of the local charities supporting people in Australia who are seeking asylum or experiencing hygiene poverty, they need period products, and I have a warehouse full of these products, so it’s really rather easy to give to them, why wouldn’t I? In the case of One Girl, I firmly believe in their mission to make education for girls accessible. I have been so lucky to receive a fantastic education throughout my life, it has opened so many doors for me and I really feel passionate about making that available to others. It’s an injustice to give it to some, and deny it to others simply because of where they are born or what gender they are.
In your founding story, you mention crowdfunding to secure your first shipment of pads, as banks wouldn't take you seriously. What have you learned since then as you've grown a successful business?
The learning never really ends. I’ve learnt about manufacturing, logistics, marketing, advertising, fundraising, accounting, sales and the list goes on. I don’t think I will ever stop learning, but to be honest I still am a bit afraid of banks!
Community is obviously really important to you - from the women helping to launch Tsuno via crowdfunding to the women who benefit from your work - how have those relationships changed and grown over the years?
You know, I am still very hands on in the business even after eight years. Sometimes I need to pack our online orders and I see a name I recognise from the very first crowdfunding campaign, still here getting a regular order sent. It makes me feel so supported. Sometimes with an online business, you often just see lots of names, you don’t really get to put faces and personalities to the names, but I do feel like I have lots and lots of friends all over the world. Many of the people who have been instrumental in helping me grow the business, for example, my wonderful distributors or my manufacturers, it has been so nice to have regular contact with them and to see each other’s businesses grow over time (here’s looking at Hind from Leap Loves Green ;).
You donate 50% of net profits to charities - by any standard, that’s a huge contribution. Why is that so important to you?
When starting the business, it wasn’t just because I wanted to sell sustainable period products, it was because I wanted a channel to fundraise for charity AND provide sustainable period products, so, I keep some for the business to grow, and I give some away, half seemed like the right amount at the time, and it still does!
You launched the business in 2014 - eight years on, what does Tsuno mean to you today?
Tsuno for me today means a wonderful mix of community strength, influence, success, failure, re-alignment of goals, independence, positivity, burn out, new ideas, repetitive strain injury (hehe), impact, wonderful partnerships and breaking down period stigma.
What’s in the future for Tsuno, and for you?
I hope to see sustainable (not aggressive) growth for my business. Last year I resumed designing a reusable product, which is very new and kind of a wacky idea at this stage. I would really like to see it succeed and become a working product that provides another product option to people who menstruate! There’s a lot of work to do on it, but I am optimistic!
What’s your big goal for Tsuno?
I had initially thought I wanted world domination, and millions and millions of dollars donated to charity. This of course would be wonderful to achieve, but I have had the realisation over the years that if I try to do that on my own it will be at the expense of other things that are important to me, so for now, my goal for Tsuno is to continue to be a business that is reliable, positive, manageable and most importantly fun. I would like to see my new product idea (mentioned above) come to fruition and be a product that people find useful and helpful for managing their periods.
Tsuno x Leap Loves Green, a few words from Hind
We wanted to start our interview series with Roz of Tsuno, because partnering with her to bring sustainable period products to Kuwait and beyond was a huge leap forward for me when I was developing the idea for my own business. Roz has been an inspirational force to partner with, and together we’ve done some AWESOME things over the past years. Like launching Tsuno to a whole range of new customers, getting Tsuno distributed through new channels (hello vending machines!) and our biggest accomplishment yet - a Tsuno collection featuring artwork by Arab female artists!