Meet the two ladies, Carol and Annabel, who started the leak-proof underwear line Diary Doll to support women no matter what time of the month!
What sparked the initial idea for Diary Doll for you and Annabel? What inspired your mission?
Annabel and I have been friends for many years and have four teenage daughters between us (and two long-suffering sons!) A chance conversation on the beach on holiday about the girl’s concerns when staying overnight at a friend’s house during their period, led to a rather in-depth discussion about our own experiences at that age, and dismay that nothing much had changed in the intervening years.
In a world where we buy underwear to make us thin, sports bra to combat bounce during sport, the most natural thing in the world, had been completely ignored.
Can you tell us a little about your business background? How has that influenced your work with Diary Doll?
I had absolutely no experience in business whatsoever! I have been a TV presenter for over 25 years, and wanted a career change in my 50s. When Annabel and I were chatting on that beach, I had a total ‘light bulb’ moment! I think we both naively assumed our public profiles would generate a lot of publicity (Annabel is an ex-British No1 tennis player) how wrong we were! Most newspapers are edited by middle aged men who freaked at the mention of periods, and refused to print anything to do with it. As a nation, we are incredibly awkward about this; it’s still an incredibly taboo subject. It’s been a long hard publicity road ever since, but it is starting to change…slowly...
How do female entrepreneurs like you confront the social stigma around menstruation? Why is it important to change the dialogue around periods?
It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or a stay at home mum, as women we need to be more open, and stop talking in hushed voices to our sons and daughters about something so natural. Obviously it’s not necessarily dinner table conversation, but if we lower our voice when talking about it, it becomes perceived as being shameful. I think boys should be taught about it too, from a young age, otherwise how can we ever expect them to understand?
Was there anything particularly eye-opening about designing and launching the product?
As we launched initially as a teenage product, we did some market research. A survey of 100 teenage girls across three schools, produced remarkable statistics. 34% said they had period leaks every month, but 91% said they were so afraid of that happening, they avoided sport, sleepovers or light coloured clothing, just to make sure!
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced while running Diary Doll? What do you wish you had known in the first place?
Biggest challenge is always educating the customers. If they don’t know we exist, how will they ever buy our fabulous knickers? Because we are first to market with something so simple yet innovative, we need to explain how they work, in what scenarios you might need them, and encourage women to share the secret amongst their female network. I probably don’t wish I’d known how hard it would be, or I’d never have had a go in the first place.
What is the most difficult part of working in the industry?
The most difficult thing is overcoming people’s awkwardness, and asking them to share information with others, when they find the whole topic embarrassing. If we were selling sexy underwear, it would be so much easier to get publicity.
What is a typical day like for you? What motivates you?
Every day seems to bring new challenges, and new opportunities. I do spend most of my days in our office, working alongside Jenni, our marketing girl, planning the social media schedule, answering customer enquiries, filling our forms for our major retailers etc, and generating blog posts. Often I’m out and about speaking at business events, networking at conferences, meeting with potential investors, media buyers or even selling at shows.
How do you define success, personally and for your company? When will you know Diary Doll has “made it”?
I’m delighted we’re now in Boots and Boots.com, the dream retailer for us. It’s early days, but sales are beginning to grow, and as a brand new idea to the market, that’s very exciting!
Who is your dream Diary Doll user?
Women of all ages wear DiaryDolls for different reasons at different stages in their lives. First timers, women with endometriosis, peri-menopausal flooding, post maternity, or sensitive bladder after having children (coughing sneezing, running jumping!) In an ideal world, I’d love to see someone like Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama wearing our brand…and talking about it!
Favorite moment at Diary Doll so far?
We’ve won four awards now, but my favourite moments are always when women get in touch to say "thank you, you have literally changed my life".
What’s next for Diary Doll?
Next up is producing our new shapes. I know that not all women would choose to wear the shape we launched with, and I’ve learned a lot about what they DO want, I just need the funds to put them into production, but we’re getting there!