Chase Alderton: Welcome to Hit Subscribe, a podcast by Recharge designed to educate, inspire, and connect the subscription commerce space. This episode is guest hosted by Recharge's Senior Content Marketing Manager, Callie Hawley. We're delighted to be talking to Bunny and Taran Ghatrora, co-founders of Blume. We chat with Bunny and Taran about the origins of Blume, how they've grown their brand and the importance of de-stigmatizing women's health and personal care products for young girls going through puberty and beyond. We also learn how they give back to their community with education, charitable donations and collaboration with our most engaged customers. So let's get started.
Callie Hawley: Welcome Bunny and Taran from Blume. It's so nice to have you both on the podcast.
Taran Ghatrora: It's so nice to be here.
Bunny Ghatrora: Thanks so much for having us, excited for this pod.
Callie Hawley: Me too. So why don't we go ahead and have the two of you go ahead and introduce yourselves. Bunny, let's start with you.
Bunny Ghatrora: Sure. So my name is Bunny, I'm one of the co-founders of Blume, based in Vancouver, BC. And I kind of manage all of the like ark, shipping, product related side of things, as well as our wholesale partners.
Taran Ghatrora: And I'm Taran and I manage a lot of the marketing, fundraising, hiring. So I guess, the more forward facing side of things, and Bunny does a lot of the operations and I feel like over this pandemic we have had so much crossover in our roles and then we work on product together. So we have like a ton of product meetings weekly, and that's something that I feel like we both have a good hand in.
Callie Hawley: Fantastic. So you had mentioned when we talked before that you were sisters. So tell me about how Blume sort of came to be, how you grew this brand and then where it is today.
Taran Ghatrora: So we launched Blume in June of 2018, officially, before that we were running a different business that was very similar. It had the same mission and the same why, but that business, we actually started in 2016 part-time as students and it was just organic period products. And then from there, we just had learned so much about our community and our space. And I guess, we're just inspired to create a brand that served a point in time and with in time being puberty because our community had told us when we surveyed them that 60% of women could pinpoint that their self-esteem plummeted as they went through puberty. And obviously that's a really disheartening statistic to hear.
Taran Ghatrora: And it was one that we resonated with just finding out that the ages of nine and 12 are when most girls actually drop out of stem fields and sports. And that for me was an experience that I kind of had, I feel like getting my period, getting acne. I just, I was like, "Oh, I don't know if I can wear my white kickboxing uniform anymore." And just thinking about things where no one's really talking to you about it. Of course, my mom was, but at the same time, it was also something that was pretty taboo that I didn't really feel like I could speak about openly.
Taran Ghatrora: So really we're inspired by our community, but resonated with it ourselves because we had experienced it. So that led us to creating Blume, which is the version of our company that you see today, which has the organic pads and tampons, but we also make natural acne treatment. We make natural deodorant. We make basically all the products that we feel like you need as you go through puberty and beyond. And what's been really amazing is that the products have resonated not only with like teens, parents buying for teens, but also millennials and really people of all ages.
Callie Hawley: That's amazing. And we'll definitely dive into that a little bit more when we talk a bit deeper into this whole journey that you're talking about. And I have personal experience as well, being a woman who hit puberty and it is I think for most women the most awkward time of their lives. So I'm really excited to chat with you about that. And then the last thing just quickly we went through this life, came to altogether dealing with this pandemic that was unprecedented. How did Blume fair? Did you guys do okay? And what were some of the challenges that you maybe faced during the pandemic?
Bunny Ghatrora: I mean, I think this is just such a hard time for everybody. And one thing that was really important to us is of course, showing up for the business itself, but also showing up for the people and for us, that's our team and our community. And so we are really, really grateful that we've been able to make it now to the other side as things started opening up and that comes along with its own challenges and there's global shipping delays and a shortage of all supplies. So that's a whole other thing that we're dealing with right now, but kind of through where it was really like the lockdown and it was still super uncertain of how long this was going to be for, what this was going to look like.
Bunny Ghatrora: Even a lot of the information about the actual sickness itself was still kind of coming to light and it was just a really scary time for so many people. And so we really pivoted Blume at that time to focusing on our community and our team. And so some of the things that we did was a PPE fundraiser for our local hospitals, where our suppliers and overseas, once they had started opening up, we're able to ship KN95 masks that we were then able to supply to our hospitals.
Bunny Ghatrora: We were doing a lot of things digitally already, which I think played a big part in how come we were able to make it out to the other side. But we did things like meditation Mondays on our Instagram, which we had actually started pre pandemic, but became super popular during the pandemic. We did IT labs with our communities. We had like a paint and an artist come in and host evening with our followers. We did coloring pages, just a lot of the things to help people really take those moments for self care while they were at home and find ways to really reflect and spend quality time with themselves, while there was all this kind of stress and anxiety going on outside. And so I think in some cases, a lot of folks did take the time to take better care of their skin, drink more water, hydrate more and do the little things kind of each and every day that just made themselves feel good in kind of the four walls of their home or wherever it was that they were living at the time.
Bunny Ghatrora: And so that was really our approach. And I think the first four to six months of the pandemic, it really was just focusing on less of selling our products and more of just providing our community value during that time. And then also being there for our team and allowing them to have the time and space that they needed as they shifted to working from home. And everybody's situation of course, looks different and trying to figure out a desk and a chair that doesn't make your neck and back hurt every single day. And so that's really where we spent the core of our time. And then as we went into holiday and things started opening up, it was really just around gifting and allowing people to still show up for their friends and family in ways that they could, even if they couldn't be together.
Callie Hawley: That's amazing. So it's really, I mean, taking this mind, body approach to supporting your customers and your staff kind of no matter what the situation, which is, I mean, says so much about the mission that you talked about and have on your website and really just supporting this whole group of people. It's pretty incredible. So on that note, and when we spoke before we talked a lot about journey mapping, so I'd love for the two of you to talk a little bit about that and talk about this journey that this community of customers that you have is going through and how you really start to figure out where the specific points within that journey are.
Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. I think when we first started, we really thought that Blume would be for a specific moment in time. And that people I guess, would be buying Blume when they first started using personal care products and were introduced to them because of the simplicity and effectiveness of our products. They're not complicated, there aren't very harsh actives. Really our products were formulated from the start for both sensitive skin and skin barrier protection. And really just like having a gentle ingredients. We don't have irritating ingredients in Blume's products. And so I think they're really formulated for people with acne prone skin or teens getting their first periods and things like that. So because that was kind of how we formulated the products we did I guess, I assume that it would be for this life stage, but what we found happened is that people were really interested in buying the products at all ages. And then like myself, I'm almost 30 and I think a lot of people my age would say like, "I wish I had these products when I was growing up." But then they would be excited to use them now.
Taran Ghatrora: So I think in terms of mapping out the journey, it's a little bit tricky to pinpoint a certain inflection point or point in time. Although we did think about the fact that we didn't want people to adopt the products in their teens and then feel like they no longer resonated with them and aged out. So we did actually do focus groups before we launched with all different age groups and we showed them the branding, the packaging, the messaging, and a few different directions. And I guess, what ended up happening is the direction that we launched with is the one that resonated with the widest groups of people. And so I think to answer your question, we say the products are for puberty and beyond. And that's because we really feel like if you do get them as your first personal care products, you can really grow up with Blume, but also the products that are effective for people of all ages.
Callie Hawley: I love that. And as you mentioned earlier, millennials, so I am just a little bit older than you just turned 33. And so same thing like there's so many changes that continue to happen as we go from puberty and then we enter in our 20s and then we go into childbearing age and then they eventually menopause. There's so many changes that happen. I remember when I hit puberty, my mom gave me this book and she's like, "Okay, this is all the things you need to know." And skincare at the time was not super popular and if it was, it was basically just like big name brands that were being advertised to us on MTV. And so it's really interesting that, that's an approach that you took. So how do you support young girls during that transitional time?
Callie Hawley: I know on your website, you have a lot of education, you have a lot of fans, you have all these things that kind of help support in other ways. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. It's so funny you say that because with the skincare side of things, I felt that way too, where it's like, you would use St Ives apricot scrub, and it would just tear your skin. And then I would always be like overdrawing my skin because I would just wash my face all the time until finally my cousin, who's a makeup artist, at some point she was like, "You need to hydrate your skin. That's how you get rid of acne." I was like, "Oh, my gosh, it was a game changer." And then I discovered Meltdown or acne treatment, which is an oil, which is usually counter-intuitive, but ever since then I haven't had all the skin issues. So it was just the wrong information. But I'll let Bunny talk a little bit about the sex ed and some of the initiatives we're doing around puberty.
Bunny Ghatrora: I love this question because I think the thing that I learned probably more so once you started doing all the education around growing up is that there's still so much that as we go into our 20s and 30s, we don't actually know. And maybe we didn't learn properly during our puberty years, which is why we received so much feedback that... Or one of the biggest piece of feedback that we received is, "I wish I had this as I was growing up." Because I learned so much from the content that you put out. And even for myself, we had done so much research prior, but I'm still learning something new every single day when it comes to my body and puberty and sex ed and all these things that we never, I guess, had the opportunity to learn growing up.
Bunny Ghatrora: And our bodies changed so much as we continue to get older as well. And so the core things that we really focus on is one, the sex ed. So we actually did a fully comprehensive sex ed curriculum that we launched that was free for teachers or parents to download and really just go through each kind of section of sex ed. And so it actually followed the school curriculums that should be taught and could be taught and then in many cases they aren't often taught. In Canada, one of our provinces actually teaches abstinence only sex ed and they have the highest rate of STIs in Canada. And so there is a really clear connection between what we're taught and then our bodies and our health.
Bunny Ghatrora: And we strongly believe that also leads to self esteem where if we understand what's happening to our bodies, we feel more confident going into the doctor and saying, "I think something's wrong and I want to get X things checked out." Versus I think the shame and stigma that often follows. Things related to sex ed can then lead to further issues where you're too nervous or too uncomfortable to then talk to a trusted adult in your life for help. And I think that goes on not just through our puberty really, but that continues on as we get older and I think that's something that is just so core to us. So we do have a fully comprehensive sex ed curriculum, which is still available to download. We also launched conversation cards, which include a lot of the things related to body science and sex ed, but also include... It goes a little bit deeper and talks a little bit about mindfulness and self-esteem and having the conversations that really open up a dialogue between things that are often stigmatized and shamed as well.
Bunny Ghatrora: And those are available to purchase on our website. Additionally, we have blog content and then we try to do as much of education on our Instagram as we can. Everything from kind of mindfulness and meditation and the things that kind of make you feel good on the inside, as well as actual like the science behind your bodies and how they're changing. And then of course, it how your period works, how it ties into all the other things that happen in your life. And then going a little bit deeper on what type of acne you're experiencing and maybe what's causing it, or what are some things that you can do outside of products that can really help you heal from the inside out.
Callie Hawley: So just so much more than product, which is just so incredible to invest the time and energy in this education and making your customers feel kind of welcome that it is a taboo subject for so many people. And some people don't have parents who are supportive of having those conversations. So to be able to provide it is pretty incredible as a young woman. I mean, I'm like, "Oh." So let's talk a little bit about product though. So we talked about all of the things that are more than product and all of this education, but you did mention a lot about product development earlier. So how are you developing products? What does that process look like? How are you receiving feedback? And then how do your kind of releases go?
Taran Ghatrora: So we have co-created our original launch products with our community. So actually this goes back to the original startup where we had the pads and tampons, because at that time we surveyed people on what they wanted to see. So I'll use our deodorant as an example, but obviously there's lots of natural deodorants on the market. And at the time when we were talking to our community, they had said that they wanted a natural deodorant free of certain ingredients, but they also wanted it to be unscented, which surprisingly was really hard to find. Once we started to do our research, especially for ones that were effective, because a lot of the bigger name ones out there were scented and didn't have an unscented version.
Taran Ghatrora: So we set out to create that, we created a probiotic, unscented, natural deodorant same with our acne treatment, where our community was looking for an alternative that didn't have salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. It didn't make their skin peel or bleach their pillowcase. I think like all of us had done the toothpaste on the acne thing and just most over-the-counter acne treatments are pretty drying. And so using an oil feels pretty counter-intuitive, but it's antibacterial, anti-inflammatory so really just filling white spaces.
Taran Ghatrora: And then with like all of these new product launches that are upcoming, we have quite a few this year that we're launching. We use an iterative feedback loop with our community, where we ask them through email and Instagram, what products they want to see from us next. We kind of prioritize that into a product launch pipeline and then we create briefs. We ask for our community's input on those briefs. So like scent, texture, we use something called Blume labs where we have some of our like closest, most tight-knit community members are able to test samples and give feedback. And then once the labs send us the samples and we usually get multiple samples per product from a lab, we then go through those to find the best ones and then it doesn't end there.
Taran Ghatrora: After we've kind of figure out which labs have the best versions of the product we're trying to create, we then iterate back and forth with them sometimes up to like 20 or 30 times to get the formula perfect. And then we do have community input from there and out from everything, from the naming to what the packaging looks like. So one example I can give because it's launching very soon is clay masks. I feel like are just something that's like a staple and very timeless, but a lot of our community with COVID and everything has expressed that they don't like having a jar or a scoop because it feels unsanitary. So they've asked for having like a clay mask in a tube, so that's something different. I've never myself bought a clay mask in a tube, but it's nice because it's just kind of what people want during this time and so we're super, super excited to have our spin on a classic.
Taran Ghatrora: And there's just so many other exciting things about the clay mask that I can't share yet, but we're just excited because it fills a lot of white spaces and it's products they're like we genuinely feel like are different than what's out there and that's, what's been really important to us.
Callie Hawley: I'm going to have to get a tube of that. I love a clay mask, but same thing, you want to dip your hand into this jar that you keep using over and over again. So once you do all of this, you talk about this tight-knit community and you have all of this product development and all of this education. Do you find that there's a natural exit for your customers like as they sort of have phased out, maybe aged out of using Blume? Or found a way that essentially, do you find that there's a natural exit that they tend to gravitate toward?
Bunny Ghatrora: I think that's one thing that we think about a lot and intentionally we create our products to be something or Blume as a brand to be something that actually grows up with you. And what we're seeing instead of people phasing out or turning a certain age and stopping using the products is that they actually tends to be like a lateral up and down movement of how folks are using the products at their own home. So often we'll have maybe a mother of a teen say, "I bought this for my daughter. She was using it and loving it. I tried some out and I'm hooked and I'm using it every single day." We've had like a grandmother, a mother and a daughter, all using our natural deodorant. They tend to be products that actually, I think acne is a great example where we have this myth that acne exists while we go through puberty and then you grow up and it doesn't exist anymore.
Bunny Ghatrora: And that's totally not the case. And then all these other life changes that we experience pregnancy, acne or hormonal acne is a big thing or again, with pregnancy, many women decide to switch to a natural deodorant. And so our products actually work for women and men of all ages. And we're seeing that movement kind of within households and within friend groups where one person will start using the product and because they're so effective and they work so great. And our packaging is very neutral. It's not super age specific while we focus on education. Again, it does come to being useful for people of all ages. And so we're actually seeing that many times when the product enters a household, it actually ends up being used by multiple people and multiple ages of the household versus being something that you just use for a certain amount of time and then you kind of grow out of it and graduate onto something more. And that's one thing that's super exciting to us as well as the fact that our products are also gentle and effective.
Bunny Ghatrora: So for many folks who have sensitive skin or are looking to use kind of alternatives to maybe some of the acids and things that are out there, we use many plant enzymes or oils to nourish and hydrate your skin while still bringing activated properties into your skin. And that's kind of how our Meltdown works or how the probiotics in our deodorant work. And so we are very intentional about those products and while there is potentially folks who do see Blume very much as a teen brand, it really does work for all ages.
Callie Hawley: That's fantastic. It's like this many microcosm of influencers kind of within a family unit, which is pretty incredible. So let's kind of fast forward, what's next on the horizon for Blume? Where do you see yourselves going? Where do you see the company sort of going throughout the rest of 2021 and then beyond?
Taran Ghatrora: Yeah, so this past year we actually focused a ton on operations and just the margins in prepping for scaling more than we have in the past since we're a three year old startup. It kind of felt like this pandemic year was a good year to do that and then we also worked on a ton of new formulas. So I guess, the biggest things that are upcoming are the new launches. And then also a new focus on retail because for the first two years, we were primarily D2C and we've expanded to omni-channel and it's super exciting with the world opening back up to be able to have our customers be able to find us on shelves.
Taran Ghatrora: So we're in 550 Ulta doors right now. In July, we're launching in Sephora Canada doors. So it's actually a really, really exciting and almost feels a little bit unbelievable because we never saw ourselves as a beauty brand when we first launched. But I think beauty, personal care and wellness have become so intertwined over the past few years, more so than I think they ever have been. And so it's exciting because our mission really is to bash taboos and stigmas. And now, Sephora Canada carries are period products, so does Ulta. We're the first period brand to be in both of those large beauty retailers. So I think that's something that's really gratifying and really exciting, but... Yeah. Bunny, is there anything you would add to that for what's upcoming?
Bunny Ghatrora: No, I think you've covered everything. I'm really excited to launch these products because I think that they're going to be super loved.
Callie Hawley: Well, huge congratulations to both of you. That is, I mean, incredible to see these well-known retailers carry products that are obviously so important. And I think breaking the stigma for your community base that you talked about has been a huge part of your success. It's all over your website and it just makes everything feel so welcoming for a subject matter that can be kind of embarrassing as a young woman going through all of these changes. It's really nice to see support from other women that are like, "Yeah, you're cool. You got a place and a home here with us." So I like to close out with two questions. The first one is, what advice would you give other merchants who are kind of working with these communities of customers, or maybe they're not yet, and how you build that strong, loyal community base and sort of map their journey with them and let them sort of grow with your brand like you were talking about Bunny?
Bunny Ghatrora: I think just talk to your customer. We were doing all of our own customer service for the first like year and a half. We were actually shipping like every package out ourselves. We knew what many of our customers by name, we knew what they were going through because our products tend to be quite intimate. Folks do come to us with really opening up and being intimate too with us, knowing that we're a safe and trusted place. And that allowed us to learn so much about our customers. So we would know when she broke up with her boyfriend and moved and had to change her address or when maybe she was subscribed to her tampons and she needed to cancel because she was pregnant, we were one of the first people that find out. So really understanding our customers and what they're going through, and then learning more about how we can better support them through these life stages.
Bunny Ghatrora: Turns out those are the things that have helped us really shape our community and shape our products and really shape our journey and path forward, but only possible because we stay so close to our customer and I think that is super key. And so always talk to your customers and just stay as close to them as you can throughout the entire journey.
Taran Ghatrora: Actually, one thing I want to add to that is just if you're ever stuck talk to customers, because if you're doing that, you can never go wrong and ultimately it'll take you where you need to go. So I definitely agree with that. And then I think the other piece of advice that I always give, just because it's helped me so much is just surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. I feel like it's not even just when you're getting advice, but it's really just that moral support.
Taran Ghatrora: Someone that understands your day to day, things that you're going through. It's just nothing can really replace that I feel and it just keeps you going on this journey and it has just helped me so immensely. So I feel like that's my other piece of advice. Don't isolate yourself as a founder, things can get really lonely in this. Build that amazing support network.
Callie Hawley: That's wonderful advice. I mean, no one can know what you're going through, except if they've been through something similar, right? And then the last question is a really fun one. We'd like to ask it for all of our podcast guests, but it is what products do you subscribe to today? So we'll start with you Bunny, and then we'll go to Taran.
Bunny Ghatrora: Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime. But in terms of other brands that I subscribe to actually, Aurora James has a really cool initiative called Something Special, where it's like curated gifts from vendors internationally. And she launched it during the pandemic to support entrepreneurs in a couple of places in Kenya, as well as a few cities in Mexico. And so I receive that every month, which is the only thing I'm subscribed to right now, but I love getting it.
Taran Ghatrora: We're sisters. So I guess, we're quite similar because I actually have the same. My only subscription I think is Something Special. And then yes, Spotify, I use Bunny's Netflix or no, my is my brother's Netflix account and an Audible. I use Audible, although I'm like usually reading books, but I have it just in case. So those were my only subscriptions. And then of course, I do get some Blume products through Recharge on subscription like Meltdown and my period products.
Callie Hawley: That is wonderful. I'm going to have to look at Blume for myself because it just looks so amazing and this conversation was so fun. So I want to thank you both so much for joining us on Hit Subscribe today. It was a wonderful chance to meet both of you and your story is really incredible. And just on behalf of being a woman in a community with meeting products like this, just thank you for having a safe space for all of us to come and learn more about all the things that we maybe didn't learn properly as young women. So thank you very much for coming and joining us on our podcast today.
Taran Ghatrora: Thanks Callie for taking the time. So good chatting with you.
Bunny Ghatrora: Thank you so much for having us.
Chase Alderton: We want to thank Bunny and Taran once again for joining us. If you're interested in Blume, you can head over to blume.com. If you're looking for more of our episodes, check us out at rechargepayments.com/hitsubscribe. And to get the latest episodes, remember to Hit Subscribe on whatever platform you're listening from.