Guest article | Bruna Rodrigues
I was introduced to Bruna through a close friend who said, “You just have to meet this woman. She is simply incredible. Bruna is one of those rare formidable entrepreneurial forces with an unerring passion for change and a drive to match.” And he was right! When I first met Bruna I walked away energised and delighted by her vision, passion and laser-focus. Bruna is changing the world and I think she would make change at whatever she puts her hand to. I asked Bruna if she could share her journey and the challenges of birthing a new Kiwi business in COVID and how she managed to grow and gain traction in an uncertain environment faced with so many challenges. I can’t wait to watch Bruna and her business grow.
For many Kiwi businesses, 2021 was one of the worst years for growth. With skyrocketing shipping costs, closed borders limiting workers, and lockdowns leading to market downturn, small businesses were hesitant to make changes, let alone launch new products. So why did this entrepreneur decide to launch her period underwear brand in the middle of a global pandemic?
After a significant career in retail product management, Bruna Rodrigues started to learn about the impact of period products on the environment. She researched period underwear and ordered three pairs for herself from From Amazon USA to see if she would like them. They were so comfortable and made it so easy to significantly reduce the amount of waste produced that she told all her friends and has not touched a pad or tampon since. Bruna realised what a game changer period underwear could be, and knew she needed to make them affordable and accessible to all. Thus, Mint was born.
Bruna’s goal is to eliminate plastic-based, disposable period products from Kiwi shelves by 2025. “Tampons, pads and panty liners along with their packaging and individual wrapping generate a huge amount of waste. On average, a woman goes through 11,000 disposable tampons and/or pads during her active menstrual life. If we stop using them, it will save about 3,000 tons of waste per year in New Zealand alone,” Bruna explains.
Bruna knew she had no time to waste, so she started researching suppliers and ordering samples immediately. Despite the pandemic, she was able to negotiate with suppliers online, and her existing network at major New Zealand retailers were happy to discuss the product’s potential.
Mint was launched in May 2021 on a tight budget amidst a major covid shipping crisis, with only Bruna’s former commercial experience and her strong conviction to improving women’s access to reusable period products to fuel it. However, even in the face of the pandemic, market interest was high and retailers began to enquire.
“Due to COVID shipping delays, we had to fly a lot of stock, pay premium for freight, so we avoided empty shelves at the warehouse stores. We had to be commercially wise and invest now for return in the future.”
The global market for period and incontinence underwear is expected to grow to to $495M (USD) by 2026*. With no significant local players, large New Zealand retailers jumped at the chance to stock a locally-owned product in the sustainable period space. After only 5 months in business, Mint achieved a coveted spot on the shelves at The Warehouse, and they are currently in negotiations with other major retailers.
Despite a successful launch, the cost of freight and rapidly rising materials costs posed a threat to the commercial viability of the Mint brand. Although cheaper materials were available, Bruna was committed to the brand’s principle of sustainability so would not compromise on the quality or the fabric. Where other period underwear are made of cotton, Mint has opted for bamboo, which is not only a more sustainable fabric, but also longer lasting and much softer.
“Bamboo is a sustainable alternative that grows fast and effectively without the need for pesticides, fertiliser, or subsequent harvests. Cotton, on the other hand, requires heavy use of pesticides and fertiliser for a substantial harvest.” she says.
Now that the product concept has been proven in New Zealand, Mint are looking forward to launching a range of new styles in 2022. Alongside their classic black range, Mint will launch their signature pattern in a range of colours and a thong style, perfect for wearing to the gym or under jeans. Encouraged by their local success, Mint also plan to launch into Australia in May.
Bruna and her passionate team are working tirelessly toward creating a period and incontinence care revolution. Not only are the products extremely high-quality, they are also sold for about half the price of their competitors. By opening the market to as many people as possible, Mint will be able to make the biggest environmental impact.
“Period underwear and menstrual cups can be expensive, and the initial cost can be a reason for customers to not make the purchase. We want our product to be accessible and affordable for everyone, which is why we’ve decided to keep the profit margins low. It’s all because of the goal – for everyone to make the switch.”
Mint focuses on their core brand pillars of sustainability, people, and affordability. They have big plans for the future, including period education for school-aged girls and potential partnerships with environmental charities to give back. Whilst they are a small company, their focus on quality and community has quickly made them a formidable player in the period underwear market.
Reuse Reduce Recycle Revolution
We’re a fresh approach to sustainability. Join us in eradicating plastic-based disposable period products from shelves by 2025. Be part of the Mint. Revolution. Tampons, pads and panty liners along with their packaging and individual wrapping generate about 3,000 tons of waste per year in New Zealand alone. On average, a woman goes through 11,000 disposable tampons and/ or pads during her active menstrual life. The decision to go with Period Undies, Cloth Pads or Menstrual Cups can save 1000+ disposable period products from going to our landfill. We believe our planet and future generations deserve better, and we want to be the ones to help drive the change.