An Inspiring Chat with Aimee Marks, the Founder of TOM Organics
What inspired TOM to start?
I actually came up with the idea when I was at high school, I’ve always been interested in design and it started out as a purely functional design project – how do I solve the problem of tampons falling out in my handbag? But it quickly evolved into something far deeper as I discovered the synthetic ingredients used in traditional tampons; I realised there was a direct correlation between the ingredients in tampons and their effect on our bodies and environment. Health, environment and design became the epicentre of the TOM Organic vision. I was horrified by what was in my tampons (polypropylene, viscose rayon, bleach, dye) and I knew I had to find an alternative as a responsibility for the women in my community! There are chemicals and insecticides being sprayed onto cotton that you wouldn’t let near you if you knew what they were, and the processes involved in turning tree pulp into rayon not only have health implications, but are incredibly detrimental to the environment too. I was committed to ensuring only the purest imaginable organic cotton touches the most delicate area of a woman’s body, which means there is not a single chemical in any part of the process, from the air, water, soil and local waterways of the communities that grow the cotton all the way to your bathroom. I am committed to closing the loop on a women’s lifecycle of products, a trusted brand for each life stage from periods, to birth – with the recent launch of TOOSHIES by TOM (a range of eco nappies and wipes that exist to ensure optimum performance without compromise on the environment). There are some exciting products in the pipeline for the future. The most exciting piece around TOOSHIES is the environmental impact. We are committed to using over 45% plant derived renewable materials in our nappies and 100%biodergradable materials in our wipes. Given we use over 5.6 million nappies a day in Australia (times this by 10 for wipes) just imagine the impact we could have if we all made the switch.
What makes the TOM brand so special?
TOM Organic is an Australian owned business that exists because of the local community we exist in. There is a passionate team of women behind the brand who care about the good work that we do. TOM is a no-compromise brand for the betterment of women’s health. It has always been important to me that we offer products which don’t compromise from any angle, be that a health and performance perspective, environmental perspective (our pads and tampons are 100% biodegradable) or from a design perspective. When women bring TOM into their homes it’s a reminder of the collective impact we can ALL have as a result of shopping more consciously especially via the incrementally purchases we make each week. I’m proud to be part of collective of certified B Corporations in the world who are committed to measuring success against non-financial metrics (those that positively influence health, community, environment). This unique group of companies competes to be the best for the world, not the best in the world.
Why do you think the world needs TOM?
There are so many conventional brands we’re competing against. We’re still the only certified organic cotton range of feminine hygiene products in major grocery outlets in Australia. It’s so incredibly important that we are there to offer women an alternative to conventional products, which are either made from synthetics such as rayon and polyester or conventional cotton, which happens to be the world’s dirtiest crop. When talking about the most absorbent part of a woman’s body, there is no room for compromise.
What is your philosophy?
TOM Organic was founded on the philosophy that women should never have to compromise their wellbeing or the health of the planet. As an Australian, female owned company I’m proud that all our products have been developed by women, for women. One of the most rewarding aspects of the business is the knowledge that our products have improved the wellbeing of so many women and their children. I’m often grateful I didn’t compromise my values and had the foresight to build TOM on foundations that matter to women. My philosophy is also deeply supported by my business partners, Danny and Berry of Small Giants who are committed to investing in businesses that are positive disrupters – measuring success not only on financials. It was so important for me as a young female entrepreneur to have my values reinforced at every stage of the journey (when it can be f-ing tough) by the people closest to me, My Mum, husband and business family.
Tell us about your work/life balance/juggle.
I don’t believe the word balance exists in my universe, I have always been an extremist at whatever I have committed myself to and have had to re-navigate what that means since having twins two years ago. One learning for me is that the first things to go when you get really busy are the last that should go; exercise, time with friends / family, creative inspiration for business (podcasts, pinterest, mentors, networking with other business leaders). A mentor once told me that you’re the best leader you can be when your bucket is full with the things that make you happy. I often reflect that I do my best quality of work when I’m creating the time for the above. I am not even close to being there yet with a balance, but I’m learning, listening and trying to laugh when shit hits the fan. Once I settled into motherhood, I slowly introduced new layers of work into my life and gave them space to settle to ensure I could give equivalent value to both work and family. I work best in short bursts, once I have exercised. I have really productive work sessions while the girls sleep and also have my designated office days where I pack in as much as I can.
Can you share some favourite moments from your business journey so far?
Getting the call from Woolworths to say our range had finally been accepted was a pretty exciting day. The impact that sat on the other side of those 800 stores was exciting, I felt like I had reached a goal that seemed a long way away for a long time – women in Australia could now access TOM Organic everywhere. They knocked me back multiple times before finally saying yes, and everyone told me I wouldn’t get a second chance to meet with them. Together with Coles, it is now one of our strongest and proudest retailer relationships. Even though we are a small business, they have provided us with lots of support to provide accessibility to Australian women. A more recent favourite moment came about in August last year when our new baby range, Tooshies by TOM hit the shelves in Australian supermarkets. I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment that I was able to offer trusted products which people could purchase with confidence within the baby space. The Tooshies range includes a range of eco-nappies (from newborn through to walker sizes) and 100% biodegradable baby wipes which are made with organic ingredients.